The across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to hit Friday unless Congress agrees on an alternative would be devastating, defense officials say: $46 billion over the next seven months, leaving many units unready for combat even as the U.S. winds down its longest war.
• Afghanistan withdrawal: Some 66,000 U.S. combat troops are supposed to be out by 2015, a huge logistics undertaking in a land where attacks continue. They are to leave behind a residual “support” force, but its makeup is still to be determined.
• “Transformation”: That's a Pentagon buzzword for the mammoth task of reorganizing a Cold War-oriented military into a modern force more suited to 21st-century foes, such as terrorists.
• “The Asia Pivot”: Another buzzword. It's the Obama administration's strategy of shifting some military forces from their traditional focus on Europe to the Asia-Pacific region, to help counter Chinese assertiveness.
• Women in combat: Now that the Pentagon has formally lifted its ban on women serving in combat roles, the military branches must figure out how to carry out the policy. They have until 2016 to seek exceptions.
• Veterans' care: Over the past decade, some 2.4 million Americans have fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, pushing the number of veterans past 22 million, about 7 percent of the U.S. population.
• Nukes: The Obama administration reportedly hopes to negotiate a further one-third reduction in nuclear arsenals with Russia, an idea controversial to defense hawks.
• Cyberwarfare: It's a cutting edge of 21st-century combat (and a main responsibility of U.S. Strategic Command, headquartered at Offutt Air Force Base). Preparing to wage computer war and protecting the country against it will be a Pentagon focus for years to come.
Compiled by World-Herald staff writer Roger Buddenberg from World-Herald archives.