Hagel: DOD Focuses on People, Capabilities, Partners
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 6, 2014 People, capabilities and partners are the focus of Defense Department leaders as they reshape the defense enterprise for challenges ahead and to ensure America’s continuing global leadership, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today in Chicago.
Hagel is in the Midwest as part of a two-day trip to Illinois that began at Scott Air Force Base, where he participated yesterday in a change-of-command ceremony at U.S. Transportation Command.
This morning, the secretary spoke at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an event co-hosted by the council, chaired by former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder, and by David Axelrod and his Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago.
“Our people, our capabilities and our partnerships are what make the American military unique and the envy of the world,” Hagel told the audience. “They will be my guiding focus -- the DOD leadership’s guiding focus -- as we reshape, rebalance and reform our defense enterprise for the challenges ahead, and ensure America’s global leadership.”
Doing so will require innovation and agility in every area and U.S. engagement around the world, the secretary said, adding that the nation’s own history shows why America’s global leadership is indispensable to its future.
In his inaugural address for his fourth term on Jan. 20, 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt reflected on the lessons of World War II, Hagel told the audience. “And he said, ‘We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace -- that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations, far away. … We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community,’” the secretary said.
Today, the secretary said, as the military transitions from protracted wars in the Middle East and Central Asia to global challenges, threats and opportunities, and from seemingly limitless resources to constrained budgets, Roosevelt’s words echo even more loudly and summon the United States to meet its responsibilities around the world.
“What hangs in the balance is not just America's military, but also America's global standing for years to come,” he said.
“Unlike their predecessors of the past 13 years, the military's newest recruits do not face the almost certain prospect of deploying to war in Iraq or Afghanistan,” Hagel said. “Instead, they face a fractured global security landscape, one characterized by great uncertainty, rapid change, new and sophisticated threats, and continued political turbulence.”
Such challenges include the rise of Asia, the explosion of youth populations in the Middle East and Africa, new technologies that bring people closer together, new threats from cyber and other technologies, deepening global economic interdependence and diffusion of global economic power, a worldwide resurgence of nationalism and sectarian conflict, new sources of energy, climate change, and more frequent destructive natural disasters, the secretary observed.
All such realities will continue to challenge America’s security and prosperity, he added.
Many of the threats are borderless, Hagel said, but America and its allies face a stern test in the confluence of global challenges emanating within and among nation-states, including civil and sectarian war and humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, Iran’s destabilizing activities, North Korea’s provocations in Northeast Asia, simmering tensions among China, Japan and Southeast Asian nations in the South and East China seas, terrorist threats to North African nations, Afghanistan’s struggle for security and stability, and Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
“Working with allies and friends, American leadership must respond to these challenges and help shape the forces that will shape our future,” Hagel said. “We must lead with a robust and comprehensive use of all of our instruments of power, employing cultural, educational, economic, diplomatic, development and military tools alike.”
In Europe, the secretary said, the rapid deployment of U.S. forces to Poland and Baltic allies continues to reassure them all of the U.S. commitment to NATO’s collective security against Russia’s aggression as the United States strengthens its diplomatic and economic options.
In the Middle East, the U.S. force posture -- including more than 35,000 DOD personnel in and around the Persian Gulf -– helped contribute to the diplomatic opening with Iran, and through a diplomatic process helped to compel the Assad regime to dismantle its chemical weapons program, the secretary added.
In the Asia-Pacific rebalance, he said, the United States is using all of its instruments of power to strengthen allies, underwrite the free flow of commerce and help nations resolve disputes peacefully so all nations there can live in peace and freedom as they prosper.
“Although Americans today are increasingly skeptical of foreign engagement and global responsibilities, it is a mistake to view these responsibilities as a burden or as charity,” Hagel told the audience. “Let us remember that the biggest beneficiaries of American leadership and engagement in the world are the American people.”
America’s investment in its military remains a dominant factor in continuing to help build a peaceful, free and stable world, the secretary said.
In coming out of the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the DOD leadership expected to have to deal with a reduced defense budget, as had been true after nearly all previous wars.
“Even as Congress has slashed our overall budget,” he added, “they have so far proven unwilling to accept necessary reforms to curb growth in compensation costs and eliminate DOD’s excess infrastructure and unneeded facilities.”
Over the past year, Hagel said, he and other DOD leaders have built a budget plan that contains a series of tough choices to match resources to real strategic priorities and missions.
“This budget is now being debated before Congress,” he explained, “and that means we have entered a crucial period for our military’s future, one that will play out not just in the coming months … but over the next few years and beyond, because the decisions we make today will determine the size, form and fighting strength of our future military.”
Hagel said three pillars of the military embedded in the DOD strategy and the budget that must be protected involve people, capabilities and partners.
“My first priority is our people -- the first priority of any institution must always be its people -- because it is the commitment, professionalism and skill of our men and women in uniform that gives our military its decisive advantage,” the secretary said.
Such people must be given the chance to grow, develop new skills and make meaningful contributions to the nation’s defense in an atmosphere that fosters professionalism, dignity and respect, he added, and the country they serve must fairly compensate and serve them and their families.
“Taking care of our people during this period of transition requires that we maintain military readiness -– the training and the maintenance that keeps our force prepared,” the secretary said. “We must take these actions in order to maintain a ready force for the future.”
Hagel said his second priority is capabilities -- providing the men and women in uniform with clearly superior arms, equipment and technology, and investing in military capabilities needed to meet new and enduring threats.
“I’m not interested in a fair fight, and I don’t want to be capable of only fighting the last war,” he added.
Terrorists and insurgents are not fading into oblivion, the secretary said. The continued and spreading threat they pose, he said, was a key part of the department’s decision to grow and strengthen its special operations forces and capabilities.
The department must focus on capabilities and skills needed to counter high-intensity threats from sophisticated adversaries and prepare for the deployment by nations of irregular forces, cyber terrorists and those who would counter the U.S. technological edge, Hagel said.
This means investing in major next-generation weapons systems, investing in new tools in space and cyber, which the budget does, and investing in unmanned systems, precision strike and intelligence platforms, he said. It means investing in science, research and technology, and strengthening organizations like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which saw a funding increase in the DOD budget proposal, the secretary added.
Hagel said his third priority is strengthening partnerships. Today, he said, the U.S. military is engaged in nearly 100 countries with nearly 400,000 personnel stationed or deployed around the world.
“Even as we shrink our military’s size, … we must continue strengthening the capabilities of our allies, forming new alliances and bolstering old ones, and investing in collective security arrangements,” Hagel explained. “We want our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines active around the world, deploying with greater frequency and agility, with the skills and expertise needed to build security capacity in each region.”
In an example from Illinois, Hagel said the National Guard there has built a more than 20-year relationship with the Polish armed forces, helping Poland become a more capable ally and contribute to the mission in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama last week announced a new access agreement in the Philippines as the United States shifts forces and operational focus to the Asia-Pacific region, new deployments of Marines have begun to Australia, and Navy littoral combat ships are deploying to Singapore, where they will operate with partners and be available to respond to contingencies.
“We are also deploying more advanced capabilities to Japan and South Korea, our allies in Northeast Asia,” Hagel said, adding that the military is also teaming with civilian counterparts to strengthen the capacity of partner nations in Africa and Latin America.
Hagel also described new or expanded partnership efforts with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Gulf Cooperation Council, NATO, and with countries such as Guatemala and Djibouti.
“This is a complicated and challenging time, but it is not a time to lose confidence in ourselves, who we are, what we believe and what we represent,” Hagel said. “Though the challenges that face our world, our nation and all of its institutions are great, so is our capacity to deal with those problems if we are wise, steady and resolute.”
Never in history has a nation possessed so much capacity to help make a better world, he said.
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinAFPS)