Dempsey: Complex Threats Require Multiple Options
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
ANNAPOLIS, Md., Nov. 1, 2011 Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey’s two most striking impressions after just a month on the job as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are the complexity of the issues facing the U.S. military and the caliber of the service members who volunteer to serve, knowing what will be asked of them.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton during a visit near Annapolis, Md., Oct. 31, 2011. DOD photo by D. Myles Cullen
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“The kind of threats that our nation faces are a lot less definable than … 10, 15, 20 years ago,” said Dempsey, who joined Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., the Coast Guard commandant, yesterday aboard U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton.
The security environment has become much more competitive, Dempsey said. He noted, for example, that some of the adversaries the Coast Guard works against in its counternarcotics mission are “as well-armed and as well-equipped and probably as well-trained as any nation state on the face of the Earth.”
What’s clear, the chairman said, is that the United States needs to take advantage of every available resource from across the national security framework to confront these and other security challenges.
“It’s about providing as many options as possible for the nation,” he said. “We don’t want to be a one-trick pony.”
Dempsey noted that different authorities reside within different federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and Coast Guard, the FBI and the Defense Department.
“And I think that what makes us great is that we can bundle those,” he said. “We can use the appropriate tools for the appropriate job, and know that we can get the job done because we become far more interoperable.”
Papp said the Coast Guard brings special, niche capabilities to the national security picture, both at home and abroad. And although its historic role has been to provide wartime support to the Navy, it now lends these capabilities to broader Defense Department missions.
For the past eight years, for example, a squadron of six Coast Guard patrol boats has been providing security for offshore Iraqi oil platforms in the North Arabian Gulf, he said. In addition, Coast Guard units in Kuwait’s Aishwarya port are providing security as military equipment is on- and off-loaded.
“These provide capabilities that the Defense Department then does not have to provide for or worry about, because they can rely on the Coast Guard,” Papp said.
This additional source of capability is particularly valuable in light of constrained budgets, the commandant said, noting that he strives to develop “complementary, yet nonredundant, capabilities” within the Coast Guard.
“There is no reason we should try to duplicate some of the things that reside in the other four services,” he said. “But where we can help out, [we] then focus on those mission areas so we can be of assistance.”
Dempsey said he’s seen many of the Coast Guard’s contributions firsthand – as commander overseeing the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces and as acting commander of U.S. Central Command – and welcomed the opportunity yesterday to learn more about Coast Guard capabilities.
Just as important, Dempsey said, was the chance to meet the Coast Guard members who provide those capabilities.
“The hardware is important, clearly. We want to overmatch whatever adversary we encounter, whether it is a nation state, non-state actor or criminal groups,” he said. “And we do that through our hardware, but it is truly about people.”
Dempsey said his first month as the nation’s top military officer has reinforced his pride in the quality of people who volunteer to serve their country.
“Every place I go, in every service – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard – the quality of the young men and women in uniform is just a treasure,” he said. “We have no idea as a nation how fortunate we are.”
Dempsey said he has traveled around much of the world and seen many different militaries. All have their own skills and attributes and connection with their societies, he said. “I am just awfully proud to be the chairman of this particular armed force at this particular time in our history,” the chairman added.