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The U.S. military is rethinking its war plans for potential conflicts from the Middle East to the Pacific, as commanders adapt to a future of dwindling numbers of ground troops, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Plans that had presumed the availability of large U.S. forces for invasions and occupations are being redrafted, the Journal wrote in its Friday editions. Plans will incorporate strategies such as quick-reaction ground units, air power and Navy ships, according to officials. A big part of the new plans will be options for the use of cyberweapons, which can disable enemies’ offensive and defensive capabilities.

Pentagon proposals unveiled this week for possible deep cuts in the size of the Army and Marine Corps have given added urgency to the effort to rewrite war plans, which began this spring.

Testifying before the House on Thursday, Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke broadly about the effort to revise the plans, saying the military wanted them to be more “innovative.”

“We don’t want to fight the last war,” he said. “We’re always accused of fighting the last war. I don’t want to do that.”

The Pentagon has long maintained contingency war plans for dealing with hypothetical conflicts around the world. All such plans are highly classified, and officials wouldn’t discuss details.

But officials, according to the Journal, said that the military had looked at existing plans for conflicts in the Middle East involving Iran, as well as conflicts in Asia, particularly in the South China Sea and East China Sea, where U.S. allies and partners have conflicting territorial claims with China.

The push has been spearheaded by Winnefeld, who was dissatisfied with many existing plans, officials told the paper, as they were too dependent on large ground forces, and hadn’t incorporated newer fighting concepts or technologies.

Citing people briefed on the effort, the Journal wrote that the Pentagon hasn’t fundamentally altered plans for U.S. participation in an all-out war on the Korean peninsula — which could require a large number of forces — but that the military has looked at other potential crises in North Korea, such as a regime collapse allowing nuclear weapons to get loose. Some plans had called for the Army to mobilize multiple brigades based in the U.S. to aid any effort to secure North Korea nuclear sites.

Pentagon officials told the Journal those plans required too much time and new plans were needed. Defense experts said the new plans likely would rely more exclusively on special-operations forces and Army and Marine forces already in the Pacific.

news@stripes.com


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