Washington's previous plan to train and arm so-called moderate Syrian rebels to fight Daesh was an utter failure and an ongoing source of embarrassment for the Obama administration, as last October the program was suspended due to the Pentagon's inability to field enough qualified candidates.
According to Austin, the new program will be based on hiring less people so that they can be encouraged to perform with better quality in a shorter period of time.
"And as we reintroduce those people back into the fight, they will be able to enable the larger groups that they're a part of," he said. "The training would be shorter. But again, I think they would be able to greatly enable the forces once they're reintroduced."
After the program canceled, the US army cooperated with the Syrian Democratic Forces, a group 80 percent comprised of Kurdish militants.
US cooperation with Kurdish YPG in Syria makes its NATO ally Turkey furious and concerns Congress. YPG is also known to attack US-trained rebels and cooperate with Russian forces.
Austin said the new program would take into consideration the previous failed effort as a lesson.
"We were being effective, but we were slow in getting started, in generating the numbers that we needed to generate," he said.
"Part of that was because we were taking — trying to take large numbers of people out of the fight and keep them out for training for long periods of time. We've adjusted our approach," he said.