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Obama vows 'best forces' after cuts

President Barack Obama has insisted that the United States will maintain what he calls the best-equipped military in US history despite deep and looming defence budget cuts.

But Pentagon leaders acknowledged the changes carry additional risk.

"Our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority," Mr Obama said in a rare appearance in the Pentagon briefing room.

Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and a row of top military brass lined the stage behind him, underscoring Pentagon support for cuts that Mr Panetta and others said they know will be criticised as too drastic.

Mr Obama said the strategy is designed to contend with hundreds of billions of dollars in budget cuts and refocus the United States' national security priorities after a decade dominated by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The strategy, devised through a comprehensive review by civilian and military leaders, centred on the military the country needs after the "long wars of the last decade are over", said Mr Obama.

Mr Panetta said smaller military budgets will mean some trade-offs and that the US will take on "some level of additional but acceptable risk". But he said the Pentagon would have been forced to make a strategy shift anyway and the money crisis merely forced the government to face the shift that is taking place now.

The administration and Congress are already trimming defence spending to reflect the end of the Iraq war and the drawdown in Afghanistan.

The massive 662 billion US dollars (£427 billion) defence budget planned for next year is 27 billion dollars (£14 billion) less than Mr Obama wanted and 43 billion dollars (£28 billion) less than Congress gave the Pentagon this year.

The Pentagon announced no specifics on the size of expected troop reductions; the army and marine corps are already set to shrink beginning in 2015.


From Belfast Telegraph