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Shalikashvili: New Threats Require New Strategy

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 19, 1997 – A "hot peace" has followed the Cold War as the United States faces such regional aggressors as Iraq and North Korea, U.S. Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili told Chinese military students and officials in Beijing.

Gen. Fu Quanyou, chief of the People's Liberation Army's General Staff Department, invited the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the People's Republic of China. During the four-day visit, Shalikashvili met with Chinese government and army officials and toured military installations. He talked about the U.S. military's drawdown from peak Cold War strengths to today's leaner, more mobile force.

Speaking at the People's Liberation Army National Defense University May 14, the American general said U.S. defense strategy has evolved to meet the threats of the new age. After the Cold War, Shalikashvili said, the United States found a "world adrift in a sea of instability, with disintegrating states, ethnic conflicts, the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the rise of sophisticated terrorist movements." As a result, U.S. forces conducted operations in Haiti, Somalia, the Middle East and Bosnia, he said.

A plan to respond to two nearly simultaneous, major military conflicts, such as the nation might face with Iraq and Korea, replaced the Cold War strategy of containment and two-power competition, Shalikashvili said. This allowed the military to restructure. Defense officials cut personnel by one-third -- 700,000 troops. Army divisions and Air Force wings dropped 45 percent; Navy ships, 38 percent. The defense budget dropped 40 percent from it's Cold War high -- about $450 billion in today's dollars.

The two-contingency strategy is giving way to a somewhat new plan to protect U.S. interests into the 21st century, he said. The new strategy calls for shaping a peaceful, stable environment through engagement and forward presence; responding to world crises and conflicts ranging from providing humanitarian assistance to dealing with major conflicts; and preparing for the future with a balanced, sensible, coordinated modernization program.

"While we remain prepared for multiple major contingencies, whether in Korea or the Middle East, we recognize that the most likely form of conflict we will face will be a smaller-scale contingency operation," Shalikashvili said. These include such operations as the noncombatant evacuation in Albania and peacekeeping in Bosnia, he said.

The United States must also be prepared against terrorist attacks and the use of chemical or biological weapons by an adversary, Shalikashvili said. An added concern is the possibility of attack on the nation's information infrastructure as advanced technology moves the military to the digitized battlefield.

A final aspect of today's strategy is preparing for "the unknown of tomorrow," Shalikashvili said. "We believe the U.S. armed forces must prepare now with a prudent modernization program to meet the challenges of an uncertain future," he said. "Modernization spending today is the foundation of readiness tomorrow."

The military must develop an efficient acquisition and management system to replace old and aging equipment, Shalikashvili said. To afford modernization, he said, the Defense Department will have to "work harder and work smarter."

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