WASHINGTON– The next 12 to 18 months are critical to the success of the new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, a senior military official said Friday.

There will be new ways of applying resources in the region, said the official, who spoke on background and also addressed budget recommendations and the “Don’t ask don’t tell” policy.

The nomination of Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal to be the next NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan highlights the “whole of government” approach that must be taken for success in the area.

In the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Defense Department officials are looking at different ways of basing troops in the region, the official said. The approach would be to create a cadre of experts in Afghanistan and rotate them in and out of the region.

For example, a person might spend a year in country, a year at home studying the situation in Afghanistan, and then return to the region for another tour. This would allow American servicemembers to cut the learning period when they first arrive in Afghanistan. The military cannot waste time in overcoming a learning curve in the region, the official said.

The same sort of rotation could be done with units, the official said.

Turning to the new defense budget recommendations, the official said the Quadrennial Defense Review and the Nuclear Posture Review may present a good opportunity to lock the defense strategy in place for the long-term.

He applauded Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ recommendations on the fiscal 2010 budget request. The secretary has made far-ranging decisions that will reshape the military. Taking care of people, balancing the military missions and acquisition and procurement reform are at the heart of these recommendations.

In the past, single cancellations — such as those for the Army’ Comanche helicopter and Crusader artillery system — caused consternation in industry and on Capitol Hill. The Gates recommendations are more far-ranging than those, the official noted.

The official also discussed the so-called “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law that prohibits leaders from inquiring about servicemembers’ sexual orientation in the absence of disallowed behavior, but allows action if a servicemember discloses homosexuality by words or action. President Barack Obama has made his strategic intent very clear, the official said, and at some point he will go to Congress and ask that the law be changed.

“When the law changes, the military will move out [and implement the changes],” the official said.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have held discussions on the issue, the official said, and they are working through how to implement changes if a new law passes. Implementation must be done in a deliberate manner so there not be a firestorm over the issue, the official said.

The military has regulations and policies in place already to ensure people are treated well and fairly, the official said.

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