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Policymakers 'Plan to be Surprised' in New Global Posture

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2004 – Defense Department policymakers understand they may not know where the next threat may come from. The way they deal with this challenge is to "plan to be surprised," DoD's top policy official said today.

"There are going to be all kinds of things that are going to arise that nobody can anticipate," Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary for policy, said in an interview with The Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service. "That's an interesting challenge for planners."

Defense officials are working to design a new global posture for U.S. military forces that focuses on capabilities rather than numbers of forces in a specific region.

"What we've learned in recent fighting is that we are able to bring about very large military effects with smaller forces than anybody thought were capable of those effects in past eras," Feith said.

The issue, he added, is not how many forces are deployed to a given area, it's "What kind of military capability we can rapidly and effectively bring to bear in that area?"

Planners are doing away with the notion that forces stationed in a specific region "belong" to the corresponding combatant commander and are limited to operations in that area.

"We are working on the concept that we have a single force available for whatever is required around the world," Feith said. He noted the troops don't belong to combatant commanders, but to the American people -- to be available to the president to send wherever they are needed in the world.

The force restructuring will likely heavily affect forces stationed in places like Germany and Korea, where the United States maintains a large, permanent military presence.

In Germany, for example, U.S. troops are garrisoned in defensive postures to guard against extinct Cold War enemies. "We intend to move those heavy forces out over a period of years and bring in a lighter, more rapidly deployable, more high-tech force that will keep our bilateral relationship with Germany strong and keep the NATO alliance strong," Feith said.

Forces in Korea will be restructured, as well. Moving the bulk of U.S. forces south from the demilitarized zone will put them out of range of the "enormous investment" North Korea has made in artillery. The restructuring of U.S. forces there also recognizes South Korean forces are becoming a more formidable military power in the region.

Defense officials are working to take the quality of life of military members and their families into account. Feith said he hopes that in the future families won't be placed in a situation many are faced with today: they are stationed overseas, away from extended family and support systems, and then the military members are deployed, forcing a further separation on the families.

Future overseas force posture will focus more on rotational activities and combined exercises. "In general," Feith said, "it will be a lighter footprint for the United States around the world. We will have presence, but we're not going to have main operating bases in a number of places in the world."

He added that officials hope this will bring more stability to family members. "We want as much predictability as an unpredictable world allows," he said.

Feith said major moves wouldn't likely take place before 2005, and could be stretched over about five years. He explained three types of moves are under consideration: within regions, between regions, and from foreign regions to the continental United States.

Planners have made the most progress on moving forces from foreign regions to home. Feith said officials have agreed on broad ideas about how many troops would be moving home and would be briefing Congress on those plans in coming weeks. It's important to think far ahead on such changes because the numbers have to be accounted for in base-realignment actions mandated by Congress, he said.

No moves of units from foreign locations are being planned while the service members are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. For instance, soldiers deployed from Germany to Iraq will return to Germany before their family members would have to be moved back to the United States, Feith said. Other changes, within regions and from one region to another, are being discussed with various host nations.

The undersecretary called the coming changes "historic" in terms of their worldwide scope. "The effects of this are going to last for decades," he said.

"If you look at it from the point of view of the ability to get forces into a region rather than who is permanently based there, and if you look at it again from the point of view of capabilities rather than just numbers, I think we are going to have greater capability all over the world than we have now."

Contact Author

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith

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