United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

DoD News

Bookmark and Share

 News Article

Chairman Reviews His Term

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 1997 – The United States military is the envy of the world, but America must invest more -- in people and equipment -- to keep the armed forces ready, said Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili.

Shalikashvili retired as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Sept. 30. He sketched his four years as chairman before the National Press Club in a speech about a week earlier.

He said the difference between American forces and forces of those who wish the United States ill "is greater than at any time in my 39 years of service."

The continuing excellence of the American military comes even as the armed forces downsized by a third. "To put it in perspective, the 700,000 [service members] we cut is more than the number of troops in the British, the German, the Dutch and the Danish armed forces put together," Shalikashvili said.

These types of cuts usually lead to problems in readiness he said. He cited drawdowns after World War II, Korea and Vietnam as examples. The U.S. forces drawdown after those wars led to a dramatic loss of military capabilities, he said. "But not this time, ... we have managed this huge drawdown and created a significantly smaller, but pound-for-pound, an even more capable, ready force. And it is a good thing we did, because in the wake of the Cold War came not peace and stability, but ethnic and religious conflicts, failed states, widespread instability, humanitarian disasters and that old standby, naked aggression."

Since 1993, U.S. forces have engaged in over 40 separate operations around the globe. While some are small, some -- such as Bosnia -- have been large.

Shalikashvili spoke about the Bosnia situation. He said what role the United States plays when the stabilization force ends in June 1998 remains to be decided. Whatever happens, he said, while the United States can help, it is up to the people of Bosnia whether they choose the road to peace or war.

The chairman praised American service members. "While it is possible to debate the wisdom of America's involvement in this or that operation, there is no doubt about the magnificent performance of our men and women in uniform in these varied and often very difficult operations," he said.

But the military is not perfect. Shalikashvili addressed the problems of hazing, gender integration and sexual misconduct. These problems destroy units and are "flat wrong," he said.

"We will continue to address each wrong speedily, openly, fairly, protecting the rights of those involved," he said.

Other problems are on the horizon, he told reporters. Operations tempo and personnel tempo are concerns. There are signs recruiting is falling off, and with the airlines hiring, there is a drain on pilots. DoD will reduce joint training exercises by 25 percent, he said, to reduce service members time away from home.

The United States must continue to recruit the best possible people for the military because of the wide range of threats facing the country. "Out to the year 2010, our forces in the field will likely face a wide range of threats -- from terrorists to rogue states equipped with weapons of mass destruction to potent regional powers," he said.

Beyond 2010, the country may face another power with the resources to challenge the United States on a global scale. "First and foremost, our forces must remain ready, manned, equipped and trained to fight and win our nation's wars," Shalikashvili said. "And that brings me to the crux of the matter: Just what is it that we will have to do to prepare for the future, to protect and advance our interests and to maintain our operational excellence?"

The United States must develop and stick to standards on when the country applies force or deploys military personnel, he said. "Whenever and however used, our forces need a clear mission, a straightforward chain of command, robust rules of engagement that allow them to get the mission accomplished and to properly protect themselves and sufficient forces to get the job done." The United States must guard against trying to do jobs on the cheap, he said.

Shalikashvili also praised the strides made in creating a truly joint military. In the past, he said, each service plotted its own way to the future. With the publication of Joint Vision 2010 last year, the military plots a joint future. "If we implement Joint Vision 2010 correctly, the nation, decades hence, will have a much more effective joint force, one capable of fighting and winning across the entire spectrum of future operations," he said.

But some want to turn the clock back, Shalikashvili said. "There are still strident voices for parochialism, who would like to slow the progress of jointness in the force," he said. The chairman defended the Joint Staff, the senior military staff, and said the organization is needed to guide the military joint future.

DoD must get money for modernization, and Shalikashvili called for more base closures. This will free money for modernization. "Even at the height of the Cold War, we had more bases than we needed," he said. "Since then, we have reduced the force by a third and reduced the budget nearly 40 percent, but we have only reduced our domestic basing structure by some 21 percent. We are worse off now, more unbalanced, than when we started the [base realignment and closure] process. Put simply, we are now paying for bases we don't need, and we don't have the money for things we do need."

Contact Author

Additional Links

Stay Connected