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Leaner military, weaker military? Obama must tread tricky line. (VIDEO)

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The strategy announced Thursday takes a large step back from the counterinsurgency operations that America has been conducting in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past decade. Instead, it turns its attention towards the broader Middle East, cyberwarfare, and the Pacific as the epicenter of the new security challenges that the United States will face.

As a result, the size of the Army and Marines will shrink. The force "will be smaller and leaner, but its great strength will be that it is more agile, flexible, ready to deploy, innovative, and technologically advanced," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said. 

At the same time, the US military will focus on projecting its power in the Pacific, and for that, defense officials say, it will need aircraft carriers and stealth fighters – in other words, the star of the Air Force and Navy will be on the rise. 

Secretary Panetta warned that the array of threats is “growing.” He then offered a bracing litany, which included:

  • Extremists who “have the potential to pose catastrophic threats that could directly affect [US] security and prosperity.”
  • An unstable North Korea that is “actively pursuing a nuclear weapons program,” according to the document.
  • China, which could “affect the US economy and our security in a variety of ways,” the document notes.
  • The strategy also ominously points to “opportunistic aggressors” who could take advantage of the reduced US force presence to make a play for power.
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