Shelton Says Corrections Now Prevent Problems Later
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 1999 The proposed fiscal 2000 defense budget increases will help service members meet the threats of today and the possible threats of the future, said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress Feb. 3..
Army Gen. Henry Shelton, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee with Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, said personnel concerns were first on the chiefs' budget lists. But they were also concerned with modernization and increasing operations tempo, he added.
Shelton said corrective action now will stop the downward spiral of the services. "That is why, the package of compensation initiatives proposed in the president's budget is so important to the joint chiefs and to the unified commanders," he said. "The 'triad,' as we have called it, of across-the-board pay raises, pay reform, and return to a retirement formula based on 50 percent of [base] pay at 20 years, will meet our most pressing retention and recruiting challenges."
He said the proposed compensation package will meet those challenges and still allow DoD to meet other budget priorities. "These are, of course, maintaining our current readiness, preparing for the future through modernization and sustaining the quality of the force by taking care of our people," he said.
Shelton said the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review strategic basis of 'shape, respond and prepare' is the right course for the U.S. military, but is a "demanding" one. "We must ensure that we have the resources needed to execute this strategy, including the most challenging scenario that we face -- the ability to prevail in two nearly simultaneous major-theater wars," he said. "We can never lose sight of the fact that when deterrence and diplomacy fail, the ultimate mission of our armed forces is to fight and win the nation's wars."
The chairman said the world is still a dangerous place and U.S. interests are challenged around the world. "To meet these challenges, we have the world's finest military force, bar none," he said. "But we are a much smaller force today than we were just a few years ago." Shelton said he and the chiefs are worried about the high rate of operations. He said the high optempo is adversely affecting service members, their families and the aging equipment.
"We've taken many steps, working closely with the service chiefs and the unified commanders, to better manage the operational tempo of the force, particularly those units that we categorize as low-density, high-demand," he said. "The services and the unified commanders are also taking significant steps to restructure forces, to meet the rotational deployment realities of today's operations and also to reduce unnecessary administrative or training requirements in between deployments."
Shelton also said the reserve components are playing increasing operational roles. "We simply could not meet our global commitments in Bosnia, Europe, Southwest Asia, Central America, the Pacific -- you name it -- without our reserve components," he said.
He said the budget request also supports force modernization. He told legislators procurement accounts in the past paid the bills for current readiness, contingency operations and the upkeep of infrastructure, some of which is excess to the services' needs. Modernization must begin now, he said, so future service members have the right weapons to defend U.S. interests.
The 1999 Unified Command Plan to be issued soon will include an annex called UCP 21 that builds on the chairman's Joint Vision 2010 strategy, Shelton announced. Joint Vision 2010 describes how U.S. forces expect to fight on future battlefields; the annex is a conceptual framework for organizing those forces, he said.
"Unified Command Plan 21 will lay out a flexible plan to establish a joint forces command, a space and information command, and a joint task force to deal with the complex issues here within the United States," he remarked.
In his prepared statement to the committee, Shelton assessed three hot spots: Korea, Southwest Asia and the Balkans.
He called North Korea one of the few military powers capable of launching a major conventional attack on U.S. forces with minimal warning. More than a million North Korean soldiers are on active duty, the vast majority within hours of the demilitarized zone and the South Korean capital of Seoul, he said.
Despite a collapsed economy and reportedly widespread starvation, North Korea continues to pour its resources into its military and to pursue a policy of confrontation with South Korea and other neighbors, he stated.
"Infiltration by North Korean special forces continues to exacerbate tensions between the two governments, and the recent launch of a previously unknown long-range variant of the Taepo Dong 1 ballistic missile represents a significant improvement in the North's capability to threaten the region and beyond," he said. "The North Korean threat remains one that we must -- and do -- take very seriously."
In Southwest Asia, Iraq remains the largest concern. "The ongoing disputes with Saddam Hussein and the military threat Iraq poses to its neighbors require a substantial, capable, and ready military force in the Persian Gulf region, as well as powerful reinforcing units in the U.S. prepared to move quickly should conditions require rapid deployment of additional assets," Shelton said in the statement. "As we showed in December, we are ready to act swiftly, in concert with our coalition partners or alone if necessary, to protect U.S. interests and those of our friends and allies."
Shelton said the U.S. military has built up pre-positioned stocks of weapons and supplies in the region, has considerably improved strategic lift, and has developed a crisis response force in the United States that can deploy to the gulf on short notice.
"The development of this force is one example of our efforts to reduce the number of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines deployed overseas on contingency operations, while still maintaining sufficient capability to meet our security needs around the world," he said.
The Balkans continue to be an area of intense U.S. interest and involvement. The NATO multinational stabilization force in Bosnia includes 6,900 U.S. troops, down from 18,000 in 1996. The U.S. element will shrink another 10 percent in the spring, he said in the statement. U.S. forces in Bosnia suffered no fatalities during fiscal 1998, and morale remains high, he said. Shelton added NATO continues to monitor the conflict in Kosovo.