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Dunford Discusses Challenges to the Joint Force, Need for Defense Reform

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, March 29, 2016 — Challenges posed by Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and Islamic extremism have implications for the joint force, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies here today.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford discussed the challenges and how the joint force must change to confront what many people consider the most complex and volatile security environment since World War II.

The first implication for the joint force is foundational, the chairman said. “We need a balanced inventory of joint capabilities that are going to allow us to deter and defeat potential adversaries across the full range of military operations,” Dunford explained. “We actually don’t have the luxury of choosing between a force that can fight [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] and one that has a modern nuclear enterprise, robust cyber capabilities, robust space capabilities, [and robust] conventional and special operations capabilities.”

Complete Inventory

The United States must have a complete inventory of capabilities, the general told the audience. “The current inventory, from my perspective, doesn’t have the kind of depth that I would like it to have,” he said. “And getting the balance right in addressing the lack of depth in areas like ballistic missile defense, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and certain logistics enablers, frankly, I think is going to be probably one of the biggest challenges during my tenure.”

Through all this is the ongoing recovery from the fiscal challenges imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, Dunford said. “Frankly, although the Bipartisan Budget Act is going to get us through fiscal year 2017, we still have $100 billion of sequestration looming over us and a bow wave of modernization requirements,” he added. “All of that will kind of come together. At the same time, we're trying to get out of a fairly significant readiness trough, and managing that over the next few years I think, again, will be a significant challenge.”

The second implication to the joint force is to decide how to best use the military instrument of power to develop more effective methods to deal with Russian behavior in Georgia, Crimea and Ukraine, or Iranian malign influence across the Middle East, or Chinese behavior in the South and East China seas, Dunford said.

Peace of Conflict

The traditional U.S. approach is that the country is either at peace or in conflict, the chairman said. But adversaries seek to advance their interests while avoiding American strengths, he added. “As an aside, I don’t find the current phasing construct for operational plans particularly useful right now,” he said.

Phase 3 is conflict, and most combatant commanders believe their area is in Phase 2.5, the general said. “I call it competition with a military dimension short of a Phase 3 or traditional conflict, but the activities that they’re taking with regard to employment of cyber, unconventional capability, space capabilities [and] information operations are absolutely not associated with what we would call Phase Zero shaping,” he said.

The military needs to develop a framework for deterring cyber threats and attributing cyberattacks, he said.

The general said he believes one of the most significant implications of the current trend is “the high likelihood that any future conflict will be transregional, multidomain and multifunctional.” This is a marked shift from the past, he added, and he used the situation on the Korean Peninsula as an example.

Contained to Korea

Fifteen years ago, he said, planners assumed any war in Korea could be contained to the peninsula, but now North Korea has developed ballistic missiles, so it now involves the region. “Today, if you think about a conflict with North Korea, you have to quickly factor in not only ballistic missiles, [but also] intercontinental ballistic missiles, cyber capabilities [and] space capabilities in addition to the traditional conventional threat that we confronted on the peninsula.

“If I talked about a Korea scenario right now,” he continued, “I can quickly talk about the Pacific Command, Northern Command, Strategic Command, … and that's if nothing else is going on in world at the same time.”

All this means current planning, the military’s organizational construct and the military’s command-and-control are not suited to that character of war, the general said. “And we need some significant changes,” he added.

The U.S. military is regionally focused today, Dunford said, and it relies on cooperation and collaboration among combatant commanders. “We have supported and supporting relationships, and that has all worked well for decades,” he said. “But if you think about it, the secretary of defense is the decider and is the integrator in the department. And he is the lowest level at which integration -- actually full integration – takes place amongst the combatant commanders.”

Nature of War Changing

The nature of war is changing, the speed of war is changing, and the military owes the defense secretary a better way to make decisions in a timely manner, the chairman said -- “a better process for the prioritization and allocation of resources in real time when you are dealing with the kind of challenges that I’ve described.”

Defense leaders will make recommendations to Congress on defense reforms, in the coming weeks, Dunford said. “We’re already moving out within our authorities to make some fundamental changes to be able to address those challenges I discussed,” he said, “and I expect we’ll hear more of that.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)