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Loh: Airpower Key to Strategic Military Cuts

In response to the Jan. 5 article headlined “Obama Wants Defense Cuts as Wars End,” if anything, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta overstates the risks of changing strategy to focus on a smaller, nimbler force that can deal with global adversaries and asymmetrical opponents.

He understates the value of airpower that enables this new strategy. With overwhelming airpower from modern fighters, new long-range bombers, global surveillance from air and space and the precision weapons that go with them — we can handle threats wherever they arise without the cost in blood, treasure and senseless nation-building that marred the past decade.

But that means building a force that fits the strategy, and the first step toward that is undoing the foolish “budget sequestration” mechanism that automatically falls on all systems across the board — cutting the very programs needed for the new strategy. Defense has already seen deep cuts under Secretary Robert Gates, but we can save still more without imperiling security by shrinking the overall force and targeting cuts to obsolete systems while investing in the capabilities we really need, especially next generation fighters, bombers, satellites and drones.

The president and his team have delivered a good strategy if they follow through with airpower as the enabler. But across-the-board budget cuts will kill it before liftoff.

— John Michael Loh, general, U.S. Air Force (retired), former commander of Air Combat Command

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