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Dempsey Gives Shorthand Account of Challenges U.S. Faces

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2014 – Defense strategy is complicated, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today at the Atlantic Council, but his “elevator pitch” boils down to the mnemonic aid “2,2,2,1.”

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said the number string refers to:

-- Two heavyweights – China and Russia;

-- Two middleweights – Iran and North Korea;

-- Two networks – al-Qaida and the transnational criminal network; and

-- Cybersecurity.

“The world in which we live and the security we seek and the actions we take are conducted strategically in the context of what it will mean to the two heavyweights,” he said.

The threat of al-Qaida is known, but it is changing, the chairman said. Al-Qaida is a network running from Pakistan and Afghanistan through Iraq and Syria, across the Arabian Peninsula and into North Africa. Boko Haram in Nigeria is the latest affiliate of the group to manifest itself.

“It’s a network, and it doesn’t mean that network is one, coherent ideologically or financially linked organization,” he said. “They syndicate themselves when it works to their convenience.”

Defense planners must think of al-Qaida as a network that will be a generational challenge,” Dempsey said. “That is to say 20 or 30 years,” he added.

The transnational criminal network that runs in the Western Hemisphere doesn’t receive the attention it should get, the chairman said. “We tend to think of that as a drug-trafficking network, but it is equally capable and often found to be trafficking in illegal immigrants and arms and laundering money,” he said. “It’s extraordinarily capable and extraordinarily wealthy, and it can move anything for the highest bidder.”

Cyber remains a problem that must be addressed, Dempsey said, adding that he is worried about the nation’s lack of preparedness for an attack. “We have sectors within our nation that are more ready than others,” he said. “But we don’t have a coherent cyber strategy as a nation.” Privacy, cost and information-sharing are just a few of the issues that must be addressed before a comprehensive strategy can be emplaced, he said.

“Another thing that concerns me about cyber is not just the denial or the destruction of entire networks -- which would be a problem in the financial sector or in critical infrastructure -- but I worry equally about the corruption of data,” he said. “We’ve become a technologically savvy … and dependent organization. And we rely on three things: … precision, navigation and time.

“Our joint force is agile,” he continued. “It’s adaptable, … it embraces change and is eager for change. But what it isn’t eager to accept is uncertainty, and we’ve got too much uncertainty in our budget condition right now.”

Each security concern requires a different approach, the chairman said. The United States deters through the use of all levers of power -- diplomacy, economic and military. But they are wielded differently if facing a heavyweight or a middleweight, he added. And networks don’t respond to the same pressures as nations, he noted, calling cyber a whole new world.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneAFPS)

 

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Biographies:
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey


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