The Defense Department’s new, 10-year strategy will ensure the U.S. remains the world’s strongest military power, DOD leaders emphasized in weekend interviews.
In an interview with Bob Schieffer that aired Jan. 8 on the CBS news program “Face the Nation,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said the department is changing to respond to a new global reality.
The strategy announced Jan. 5 outlines defense priorities for the coming decade and emphasizes trimming the force while investing in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance programs, combating anti-access technologies, countering weapons of mass destruction and prevailing in all domains, including the cyber world.
“Clearly, we face the constriction of having to reduce the budget by almost half a trillion dollars,” Panetta said. “We developed a strategy that said (the military) is going to be leaner, it is going to be smaller, but it has to be agile, it has to adaptable, it has to be flexible, quickly deployable, and it has to be technologically advanced. That’s the kind of force we need for the future.”
The department’s plan calls for priority emphasis on the Pacific and the Middle East, while maintaining a presence elsewhere, Panetta noted.
“The bottom line is, when we face an aggressor anyplace in this world, we’re going to be able to respond and defeat them,” he added.
Dempsey said a popular misconception about the new strategy assumes the nation’s forces will no longer be able to fight more than one conflict at a time.
“In fact, we were pretty adamant that we must be able to do more than one thing at a time, and by the way not limit ourselves to two,” the chairman said. “The threat, and the environment in which we find ourselves in this decade of the 21st century, suggests to us that it’s likely to be more than two.”
The strategy aims to build a force capable across the military operational spectrum with the leadership, manning and equipment to provide options to the national command authority, Dempsey noted.
One point that may have been underemphasized, he added, is that the military has “learned an enormous amount over the last 10 years about how to wage war.”
Dempsey said the military has developed strengths unforeseen a decade ago, noting its capabilities in special operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and cyber.
“What we’re looking to do here is not constrain ourselves to a two-war construct, but rather build a force that has the kind of agility the secretary mentioned, that is a learning organization that will adapt itself to what it confronts,” he said.
The military has seen a decade of high demand, and defense leaders are working to ensure the force size remains adequate and adaptive to future missions, he said.
“We do have a … significant, capable (National) Guard and reserve component, and we do have an active component that has learned a lot over the last 10 years,” Dempsey noted. “What we’re trying to do is break the template and think about different ways of accomplishing the task, to give more options to our nation’s leaders.”
The geopolitical and economic challenges of 2012 demand a shift in military power, the general said.
“What we’re trying to do is challenge ourselves to respond to that shift and to react to that strategic inflection point,” he said.
Dempsey said his concern is that in light of changing strategy and budget issues, some will see the U.S. as a nation and a military in decline.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” the chairman asserted. “That miscalculation could be troublesome … it could cause even our close partners to wonder, what kind of partner are we? So what I’d like to say right now is, we’re the same partner we’ve always been and intend to remain that way.”