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Dempsey Describes Future Force at Warfighting Conference

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., May 16, 2012 – The U.S. military must leverage emerging technologies and capabilities to create Joint Force 2020, the fighting force of the future, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

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Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks about the shaping of Joint Force 2020 during the 2012 Joint Warfighting Conference held in Virginia Beach, Va., May 16, 2012. DOD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.

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“Today, we meet at another pivotal time in our joint force,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said at the 2012 Joint Warfighting Conference. “We're transitioning from a decade of war, a complex and uncertain security environment looms, and as we look toward the future each service in our total joint force faces fundamental questions about their identities, their roles and their capabilities.”

The chairman explained the challenge as a “security paradox”. “One one hand, we are witnessing greater levels of peace and stability worldwide,” he said. “In evolutionary terms, … the human race has never before experienced such low levels of violence. On the other hand, destructive technologies are proliferating.”

Technologies “are proliferating horizontally across advanced militaries, and vertically into the hands of non-state actors,” the general said. “As a result, more people have the ability to harm us or to deny us freedom of action than at any point in my professional life,”

Consequently, the United States faces a “far more competitive security environment … where our relative degree of overmatch against many foes has diminished,” Dempsey said.

“Today's security paradox, though, doesn't call for a larger or smaller military,” he said. “Instead, it calls for a different military, one capable of deterring, denying and defeating threats across the entire spectrum of conflict.”

Today’s joint force “is in need of reset,” Dempsey said, noting the joint force needed in the future “does not yet fully exist.” The Defense Department will take lessons learned from a decade of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to build Joint Force 2020, he said.

“Getting this right is so important that it is one of my four focus areas as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs,” Dempsey said, noting Joint Force 2020 will resemble the current fighting force.

However, he said “I do know that our present debates about force sizing must give way to a more fundamental discussion about missions and capability.”

About 80 percent of Joint Force 2020 already exists today, Dempsey said, and the major building blocks of today's force will still be around in eight years.

“That said, we do have a perishable opportunity to be innovative in two ways. We can significantly change the other 20 percent of the force that's not already programmed and in existence [or] we can change the way we use the other 80 percent,” he said.

Dempsey said change will occur through new technologies and capabilities coming to the force, as well as changes in military doctrine, training, leadership and education.

“Cyber is one of those areas where our actual capabilities are beginning to resemble science fiction,” he said. “In the future, cyber will become both a stand-alone warfighting instrument with global reach and it will also be a ubiquitous enabler of the joint force.”

“It will be both part of the 20 percent that's new and part of what allows the other 80 percent of the force to be used differently,” Dempsey added.

There are several other emerging capabilities that will play more important roles in Joint Force 2020, Dempsey said, including unmanned technology and undersea technology.

“The development and integration of these emerging capabilities will, by no means, amount to all that is new in Joint Force 2020,” the general said. “But I'll wager that they will make up an important part of it.”

Joint Force 2020 “is not just about the 20 percent of the force we can change -- it's also about re-purposing the other 80 percent,” Dempsey said. “War will always be a contest of wills so we need a military that can impose its will.

“[It could] be with a machine gun or it could be with the click of a mouse,” he added. “In tomorrow's security environment, it'll probably be both.”

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discusses Joint Force 2020 at the 2012 Joint Warfighting Confernce in Virginia Beach, Va., May 16, 2012. DOD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.   
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