Army must brace for high-tech future war, Panetta says

Military must straddle traditional, next-gen battlefields, secretary says

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down while cyber warfare heats up and budgets shrink, the military must plan carefully, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.

“Today we find our military, and the Army in particular, at an important inflection point,” Panetta said Oct. 12 at the AUSA conference in Washington. “We face an international security environment that is growing in complexity and uncertainty. This is not as if we’ve come out of a major war and everything is fine.”

The United States faces a range of threats, and the military must prepare for both traditional and cyber warfare despite budget pressures, he said.

“We are facing reductions at a time when we confront real threats in the world that continue to face this country. We are still facing the threat of terrorism and violent extremism,” Panetta said. “We also face the prospect of cyberattacks that could inflict tremendous damage on our nation’s infrastructure while operating with relative anonymity and distance. This is very much the potential battlefield of the future.”

Future military planning must focus more on high-tech defense, he added.

“The reality is there aren’t a lot of countries out there building massive tank armies – it is unlikely that we will be re-fighting Desert Storm in the future. Instead, I see both state and non-state actors arming with high-tech weaponry that is easier both to buy and to operate, weapons that frustrate our traditional advantages and freedom of movement," Panetta said.

“As we draw down in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army will gain finally some much needed strategic breathing space,” Panetta said. “This breathing space will provide an opportunity to think about how best to reset the Army – both its equipment and its people.”

Panetta said the Army must not waste the opportunity to use that space.

“As welcome as it is, it comes as we face an extraordinary fiscal pressure on the military, on defense and for that matter on the country,” he said.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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