Global Posture Realignment Will Better Support Future Ops
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2005 Realigning the U.S. defense posture around the world involves a whole lot more than deciding where to base U.S. troops overseas, the Pentagon's top policy chief told civilian leaders visiting here Feb. 18.
Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith told alumni from the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference the unprecedented review of the U.S. global defense posture involves far-reaching concepts. These range from where troops are based, to what facilities the country maintains overseas, to how the U.S. military interacts with other militaries, to what legal arrangements are in place to support future operations.
Feith told business, civic and academic leaders, who traveled throughout the Pacific in September to observe military operations in the region, that the country's current defense posture reflects the World War II and Korean War legacy. Even during substantial force reductions following the Cold War, when the United States reduced its troop strength in Europe and Asia, there was no effort to rethink global posturing, he said.
"Nobody looked strategically (or) comprehensively at where we want to be positioned around the world for the next 50 years or so," he said. In fact, Feith said, "nobody in American history ever sat down and looked this way at where we have our forces around the world."
One purpose of global realignment is to make it easier for the United States to work with other countries in fulfilling its military obligations, Feith said. This includes expanding allied roles, building new partnerships, and ensuring the framework is in place so the United States is able to live up to its commitments to other countries, he said.
In realigning the forces, it's critical that the U.S. military has the flexibility it needs to deal with uncertainty, he said.
"We no longer flatter ourselves into thinking that we know where we are going to have to operate," he said. He cited military operations during the past decade and a half after Iraq invaded Kuwait in the early 1990s, in the Balkans, and most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and said most were not foreseen.
This is in stark contrast to the Cold War, he pointed out, when the central focus of the military was fixed solely on central Europe, Germany and Korea.
Not knowing where the military might have to operate "is not an excuse for not planning," Feith said. "It simply means that you have to plan to be surprised so you need the flexibility to operate anywhere, quickly."
To support this need, Feith said the military now focuses, not just within, but also across, regions of the world. The old concept of combatant commanders "owning" forces in their region is gone. No longer are forces committed to only a certain region.
"We now have a single global force, and it's for the whole world," Feith said. This concept is already playing out in support of the war on terror, he pointed out. Troops from Korea are deploying to Iraq, and units from Germany, to Afghanistan.
This concept of a single global force requires rapidly deployable capabilities. "We have to be ready to deal with surprises, and be ready to move quickly," Feith said.
Feith said this capability is critical to keeping crises in check. "We recognize that it is far better to move to prevent a problem from becoming a crisis, or a crisis from becoming a war, than to go in too late," he said. "So the ability to move quickly is a crucial strategic asset."
This demands the kinds of forces and defense posture around the world that support rapid deployment, he said, and the structure in place to support those activities. This includes how units are structured, to what type of equipment they use, to what facilities are available to support their deployments.
"A whole lot of pieces fit together (to support a) light, effective, lethal, agile, easily deployable force that can take advantage of this revised defense posture," Feith said.
One of the most important considerations in realignment the U.S. global defense posture is to resist the temptation to focus on numbers and instead, to think in terms of capabilities, the undersecretary said.
It's critical that when the military brings 70,000 servicemembers and about 100,000 family members and contractors back to the United States that it's not viewed "as a retrenchment or a withdraw from the world or an undermining of our commitment to our partners around the world," Feith said.
New technology and ways of operating have increased military capabilities to the point where fewer troops can now accomplish more than larger forces did in the past, he said. "For example, a few years ago, we needed multiple sorties to destroy a single target. Now we can destroy scores of targets with a single sortie," Feith said, thanks to precision bombs that have revolutionized warfighting capabilities.
"We now get so much more military capability out of smaller forces than was ever possible before," he said. "So the key concept is capabilities, not numbers."
Feith said the United States is sharing these principles with its allies and adversaries alike as it moves forward to revamp its defense posture around the world to better meet challenges and threats of the 21st century. "We want everyone to know what we're thinking and to understand the strategic rationale," he said.