United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

DoD News

Bookmark and Share

 News Article

Dempsey: Military Battles Against Fiscal Uncertainty

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2013 – The U.S. military, the most formidable force on the globe, is being challenged by the current fiscal uncertainty amid a changing world, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today during his speech at the Reagan National Security Forum held at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivers the keynote speech during the Reagan National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., Nov. 16, 2013. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Hinton

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Rising and reemerging powers, new relationships among the governed and governing, internal religious differences surfacing after being suppressed, and a roller-coaster fiscal environment are all shaping the world and the future, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said.

The U.S. military embraces change, Dempsey said, but service members are rendered a considerable disservice when they’re asked to accept endless unpredictability.

Dempsey said he is concerned about some of the words that are cropping up regularly in discussions about war and the future. These words are: discretionary, limited, de-escalation and control. A tour of battlefields from the American Civil War to South Korea demonstrates the folly of such words, the chairman said.

“There is hubris in the belief that war can be controlled,” Dempsey said. “War punishes hubris and that is worth remembering.”

The United States has peace through strength today, but the question is will this be true tomorrow, he said.

“We are accruing risk and consuming readiness,” the chairman said.

The United States is accruing risk through “the security paradox,” Dempsey said. The risk of state-on-state conflict is diminished, he said, but because of the global proliferation of technology, the ability of non-state actors to wage conflict to injure or destroy has never been greater. Cyber falls in this category, and Dempsey called the threat of cyberattack his personal nightmare.

A second reason for accruing risk is the drive for immediacy, Dempsey said.

“Immediacy is part of our lives now. Everything has to be fixed immediately, everything has to be somehow controlled,” he said. “You all have access to immediate information, which, by the way when you are in the business of governance, leads to the idea that you should have an immediate solution.”

Unpreparedness is another reason the U.S. is accruing risk. From Somalia to Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has been fighting for the past 20 years. Yet, the force has engaged primarily in counterinsurgency operations since 2004.

“We knew we would have to rekindle lost skills,” Dempsey said. The skills, he said, of higher-end combat.

“It is this thing called sequestration … that’s actually exacerbating what was already going to be high risk,” Dempsey said.

Finally, if America does go all the way through the Budget Control Act and sequestration, the U.S. military will end up lacking depth.

“The ‘fight tonight’ forces will remain ready,” Dempsey said. “But we’ll have less depth.”

The general used a basketball team as a metaphor. Instead of playing in a tournament with 12 trained and practiced players, the [U.S. military] team will only have six.

Dempsey discussed what the military must do in the next few years. “We have to control manpower costs and I don’t want to do it every year,” Dempsey said. “We have to get on with it, but we should do it once and not every year.”

The American military, he said, also has to retrain to tasks that will be important.

“We have to recapitalize and modernize equipment that we’ve used over the past 20 years … at levels that we never estimated they would be used,” the chairman said.

The U.S. military also needs to “grip this crisis to drive ourselves to institutional reform,” Dempsey said. “We need greater joint interdependence, and we should seek greater integration with capable and willing allies.”

The U.S. military is the most formidable force in the world today because it is the best-trained and it develops great leaders, the chairman said.

“As you consider the definition of strength, remember it starts with the nation’s, to those who volunteer to serve,” he said.

The chairman ended by talking about what the United States should never do.

“We must never accept a fair fight,” Dempsey said. If the military was a football team, he said, it doesn’t want to win 10-7, but 59-0.

Also, “we can’t lose our global network of global friends and allies,” Dempsey said. “And finally, we simply can’t believe too strongly in our ability to control conflict.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneAFPS)


Contact Author

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

Related Sites:
Special Report: Sequestration
Photo Essay: Dempsey Delivers Keynote At Reagan National Defense Forum

Additional Links

Stay Connected