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Cohen: New Age, New Threats

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 1, 1997 – The Cold War's end diminished the threat of global nuclear holocaust, but a host of new threats has emerged to challenge the world's sole remaining superpower, said Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

Ethnic rivalries in southeast Europe. Genocide in Central Africa. Drug trafficking in Latin America. Religious extremism in the Middle East. Rogue regimes in the Persian Gulf and in North Korea. These are some dangers facing the United States as it moves into the 21st century, Cohen told the Navy League Exposition here March 27.

"Our superior conventional capability may tempt our adversaries into using unconventional or asymmetrical means in order to achieve their goals, such as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, information warfare or environmental sabotage," Cohen said.

The Defense Department's Quadrennial Defense Review is now studying what it means to be the world's sole superpower, Cohen said. "What kind of military forces do we need to guard against the very real dangers of today and the uncertain dangers of tomorrow? Are we a continental-based power with global interests? Or a maritime operating power with global reach? How ready should our forces be? And ready for what?"

The defense review is not just a budget exercise, Cohen stressed. "It is being driven by our national security strategy and our defense strategy," he said. "Just as we have to be realistic about the many threats we face in the world today, we have to also be realistic about the kind of environment we're operating in as far as fiscal restraints."

Defense officials are operating on the assumption the defense budget will remain at about $250 billion in real terms for the foreseeable future, Cohen said. The defense review is aimed at finding the right match of strategy, programs and resources to fit that budget, he said, and "the only way to do that is to put everything on the table."

Defense officials are reviewing strategy, force structure, modernization, readiness, infrastructure, human resources, information operations and intelligence, Cohen said. "We are willing to challenge all pat answers and all pet projects. Nothing is going to be immune from scrutiny."

Cohen is due to report the department's findings to Congress May 15. The National Defense Panel, an independent group of experts, will review DoD's report and will report to Congress by the end of the year.

So far, Cohen said, a three-part strategy is emerging from the review. First, U.S. military forces must be able to shape the strategic environment through forward deployment of forces, joint exercises with new democracies and dismantling nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union under strategic arms reduction treaties. Such actions make the strategic environment more hospitable to U.S. interests, reduce the possibility of conflict and encourage peace and stability, Cohen said.

Second, U.S. military forces must be able to respond to a full spectrum of threats and contingencies. "This means having forces that can get to a crisis area quickly and be able to dominate the battlefield once they are there," Cohen said. "We also want those forces to be flexible enough to carry out missions besides full-scale warfare, whether it's enforcement of no-fly zones, counterterrorism operations or peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations."

Third, U.S. military forces must be prepared for the future's uncertain threats, Cohen said. "That means that we're going to go forward with what we call 'the revolution in military affairs' by investing in leap-ahead technologies and developing the tactics and doctrine to sustain them," he said.

The Army's Force XXI, the Navy's fleet battle experiment and the Marines' Sea Dragon warfighting experiments are all looking ahead to determine technology needs to counter future dangers, he said.

Meeting world challenges of the 21st century will take a combination of military power and diplomacy," Cohen said. "Military force is the muscle behind our diplomatic will. Both are essential in order to have an effective foreign policy, and both are essential to have a building of peace."

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