Wars, People, Balancing Risk Top Chairman’s 2011 Guidance
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2011 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s guidance for 2011 charts the way forward in America’s wars, in improving the health of the force and in balancing global risks.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen’s 2011 guidance was released today, relaying the admiral’s priorities and strategic objectives for the year.
The military’s mission this year focuses on defending America’s vital national interests in the broader Middle East and in South-Central Asia, the chairman’s guidance says. He noted that in 2010, more American troops and resources were dedicated to the war in Afghanistan to support the U.S. strategic objective to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“The surge in U.S. forces has helped arrest Taliban momentum in some places, though we have not yet seen a fundamental shift in momentum necessary to deny al-Qaida safe haven and prevent them from threatening U.S. or ally interests,” Mullen wrote.
In addition to the U.S. surge, Afghanistan now has more trained and capable army and police forces. Across the border, Pakistani security forces have taken back vast swaths of the border area, “and al-Qaida senior leadership is weaker than at any other point since it fled Afghanistan in 2001,” the chairman wrote.
Looking ahead, U.S., Afghan and coalition forces must continue to apply pressure on the Taliban and al-Qaida, Mullen wrote, adding that the U.S. military will continue to develop the trust and experience needed to build a strategic partnership with Pakistan.
The U.S. military also recognizes the crucial role India plays in the region, Mullen noted. The United States welcomes India’s “steadying contributions to regional stability, and applaud the ministerial talks between India and Pakistan,” he wrote. “The next year will be critical, but our commitment to all our regional partners is enduring.”
In Iraq, fewer than 50,000 American troops remain, all engaged in advising and assisting Iraq’s security forces. All American forces will be out of the country by the end of 2011.
“As our military draws down, a robust Office of Security Cooperation will form the cornerstone of our security partnership with the Iraqis,” Mullen said. “We must ensure this transition is adequately resourced to get it right.”
The United States is concentrating more attention on the Persian Gulf and on the area composed of Southwest Asia and the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Mullen wrote. U.S. service members are working to train legitimate forces, defeat transnational groups and combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Iran, and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, is the most significant threat in the region, he added, and the American military will “continue to plan for a broad range of military options should the president decide to use force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear arms.”
The guidance also addresses the health of the force and the welfare of its people. Mullen wrote that the strain on the U.S. force will remain high in 2011, especially for special operators, the Army and the Marine Corps. The Army and Marine Corps will not reach the target ratio of one year deployed and two years at home station this year, he acknowledged.
This lack of balance affects the capabilities that forces have, Mullen said, as soldiers and Marines do not have the time to conduct training to carry out the full range of missions.
“I will issue instructions that we adopt ‘Total Force Fitness’ -– a methodology for changing the way we understand, assess and maintain our peoples’ well-being and sustaining our ability to carry out our mission,” the chairman wrote.
The military will continue to focus on rising suicide rates and the signature injuries of the wars –- post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. Mullen said the problems probably will get worse before they get better, and that leaders at all levels must improve their understanding of the scope of the problems and the signs and symptoms of vulnerable populations.
The chairman’s guidance says he wants the government to cooperate to build a “continuum of care” that spans the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments.
Mullen also stressed the importance of the services working together. “We must develop more effective ways to improve and assess joint and unit readiness,” he wrote. “Training and exercises must become more joint, interagency and multinational.”
The chairman said reinforcing readiness goes hand in hand with finding efficiencies in the department, as the military must focus resources where they are needed most.
On balancing global risk, Mullen wrote, it’s more of an art than a science. The United States will maintain forward presence and have forces ready to respond to all contingencies, he said.
“Since our top priority this year is success in Afghanistan, our air and maritime forces must shoulder additional responsibilities and provide the primary capabilities to balance global risk elsewhere,” he wrote.
Asia is the region most affected by this, he noted. “We will closely monitor the uncertainty stemming from political succession in North Korea, and maintain a robust deterrent against future provocations,” the chairman wrote. “We seek to resume military-to-military relations with China in order to prevent miscommunication and foster cooperation in areas of mutual interest.” The United States will defend freedom of navigation and access to sea lines of communication, he added.
In addition, the military must address risks in Somalia, Yemen and North Africa, Mullen wrote, as well as the increasing risks in the cyber world. The American military also must be prepared to move at a moment’s notice when catastrophe strikes, he added, as it did in response to an earthquake in Haiti and flooding in Pakistan last year.
Meanwhile, Mullen said, the U.S. military must remain the professional, disciplined and apolitical force that Americans admire.
“Strength of character is the heart of our armed forces,” he wrote. “It is a strength that comes from the remarkable diversity of the citizens we protect and serve.”
Mullen said the military will continue to value the diversity and inclusivity of the military.
“I look forward to working with Defense Secretary [Robert M.] Gates and the service chiefs to prepare and certify the joint force to implement the new law that repeals ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” he wrote. “I commit to making sure the process is well-led, maintains our combat readiness and upholds our high standards.”