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Shelton Warns of Strategy-Resource Imbalance

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2000 – The United States must beware of an imbalance between its national security strategy and the force structure necessary to support the strategy, said the nation’s top military adviser.

Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review would give planners the forum needed to address such an imbalance.

“Executing the current strategy … places an unsustainable burden on parts of our force structure,” he said Dec. 14 in a speech at the National Press Club here. “Today, we face the dilemma of plenty of strategy, not enough forces.”

Shelton said instead of artificially constraining the military by setting top line budget limits, the QDR should set the strategy and then size the forces to meet those challenges. “We should figure out what to do before we decide how we are going to do it,” he said. “The resourcing piece then comes after these two steps.”

Shelton said force structure cannot be “reverse-engineered” in this manner. “To do this would cost us more in the long term in terms of dollars, in terms of readiness and, potentially, in lives,” he said.

He said the problems are an outgrowth of the last QDR conducted in 1997. The U.S. military today is the force envisioned in that review. The smaller force that emerged has been challenged by many missions. “We were just unable to anticipate how high that demand [for these smaller forces] would be,” Shelton said.

The high operations tempo is stressing service members and their equipment. “[This is] leading to what has been termed ‘the fraying of the force,’” he said. “Allocating the lion’s share of finite resources -- including those intended for modernization of the force -- on near-term readiness in order to keep today’s force, particularly our first-to-the-fight forces, razor sharp, is not a sustainable approach for the long haul.”

Given the need for strategy to drive forces, what is the cost? For equipment, at least, the cost will be more than the $60 billion per year forecast in the 1997 QDR, he said.

“We thought this would be adequate to maintain an acceptable level of modernization,” Shelton said. “Reality has dictated otherwise. In the last three years alone, the demanding pace of operations demonstrated how inadequate that level was.

“Many have worked hard at figuring out what procurement figure would be appropriate,” he continued. “Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre left office arguing for $100 billion. The Congressional Budget Office pegged it at about $90 billion. While those figures are probably closer to the mark, I cannot today give you a precise dollar amount. One of the challenges of the QDR will be to determine what is an acceptable, sustainable rate.”

Shelton also addressed the security situation around the world. “I fully recognize that, today, America has no peer competitor,” he said. “However, we must remain alert to the possibility of peer competition in the future. There is also the potential for the emergence of a single conventional power or a combination of forces that could mount a focused campaign against U.S. interests. In our business, we need to keep in mind that this environment could develop a lot sooner than any of us might think.”

He spoke at length about U.S. relations with China. “I’m firmly convinced that we need to focus all elements of U.S. power and diplomacy on ensuring that China does not become the 21st century version of the Soviet bear,” he said. American interests mean the United States must remain engaged with China across the full spectrum of activities, he said. This includes military-to-military contacts, confidence building measures with China and diplomatic initiatives.

He said the United States must convince the Chinese “that a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue is the only way ahead.” He said a recent Chinese white paper indicates the country is “distrustful of U.S intentions.”

He said the Chinese are aggressively modernizing their military forces, and “they hope to maintain control of an expanding capitalist-like economy under a communist hierarchy that embraces centralized planning and centralized control. He called the situation a contradiction that could threaten China’s internal power and, consequently, "threaten stability throughout the region.”

Moving to Europe, he called the Balkan situation important, but one that "pales in comparison with events in Russia.” Europe's future depends not on events in the Balkans, but the path Russian nationalism, he said, and “whether Russia can continue its peaceful evolution into a fully democratic nation with a stable economy that abides by the rule of law.”

He said the United States must continue to work with Russia’s leaders to deal with the thousands of nuclear and chemical weapons stored in facilities throughout Russia. “They present a very profound danger to our security should they fall into the wrong hands, and there are many ‘wrong hands’ out there trying to get them,” Shelton said.

He said despite the changing security environment, one constant remains: The mission of the U.S. armed forces is to fight America’s wars and win.

“The global interests, responsibilities and the obligations we have as a nation will endure,” he said. "There is no indication that the threats to those interests, and responsibilities or obligations to our allies will disappear."

The U.S. military must have the capability to dominate across the full spectrum of military operations all at once. It must be able to dominate in one place at one moment in time, but also be flexible and responsive enough to undertake multiple tasks in multiple locations simultaneously, Shelton said.

“That’s what our friends, allies, and our partners expect of a global power," he said. "That’s what is required for a nation with worldwide interests."

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