(Adds details, more Obama comment)
WASHINGTON, Jan 5 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama,
rolling out a new defense strategy to shrink the country's
armed forces at a time of tight budgets at home, pledged on
Thursday to maintain the United States as the world's dominant
"Our military will be leaner but the world must know - the
United States is going to maintain our military superiority with
armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full
range of contingencies and threats," Obama told a news briefing
at the Pentagon.
Emphasizing the American presence in the Asia-Pacific
region, where there is growing U.S. rivalry with an increasingly
assertive China, Obama cautioned the military would remain
vigilant in the Middle East.
U.S. troops last month completed their withdrawal from Iraq,
which was invaded in 2003 to topple dictator Saddam Hussein, and
are winding down their presence in Afghanistan.
Obama, focused on boosting economic growth and curbing
stubbornly high U.S. unemployment as he fights for reelection in
November, said that ending those two wars was an opportunity to
rebalance national spending priorities after a decade of
Noting the defense budget had witnessed "extraordinary"
growth after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States,
Obama said that pace of spending would slow but continue to
"I firmly believe, and I think the American people
understand, that we can keep our military strong - and our
nation secure - with a defense budget that continues to be
larger than roughly the next 10 countries combined," he said.
Obama has already earmarked defense budget cuts of $489
billion over 10 years. The defense budget faces an additional
$600 billion in cuts after Congress failed to agree to broad
deficit reduction after an August 2011 debt ceiling deal.
The president's budget proposal for 2013 will be published
in early February.
"Some will no doubt say the spending reductions are too big;
others will say they're too small," Obama said. "After a decade
of war, and as we rebuild the sources of our strength - at home
and abroad - it's time to restore that balance."
(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick and Alister Bull; Editing by Paul
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