Shalikashvili Says U.S. Must Maintain Strong Defense
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 25, 1996 Job description: Make sure the U. S. military is ready and strong enough to fight and win against all challengers.
Thats the job Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili has set out to do. And even though the Cold War is over, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he firmly believes the United States must maintain its military strength.
Speaking recently at the ROTC Convocation in West Lafayette, Ind., the general said the United States needs a strong national defense to combat regional conflicts that threaten its interests and place weapons of mass destruction in the hands of unfriendly nations or terrorists.
"We are today the sole dominant power in the world with global interests to protect and a responsibility to lead," Shalikashvili said. The United States must maintain the strength and flexibility to contend with unrest stemming from about 30 ongoing world conflicts, he said.
"It is certainly not Americas job to resolve all of these conflicts," he said, "but prudently and selectively, we will have to deal with some of them where our major interests are at stake."
With the end of the Cold War, DoD has cut its force, creating a smaller yet fully capable force better suited to the new strategic environment, Shalikashvili said. Since 1989, he said, about 700,000 service members have departed the ranks. The Army went from 18 active divisions to 10, a cut of 45 percent. The Navy went from 546 ships to 357, a cut of 35 percent. The Air Force went from 36 fighter wings to 20, a cut of 45 percent.
Throughout the drawdown, Shalikashvili said, this smaller force has engaged in an unprecedented number of contingencies, including operations in Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia. Today, about 45,000 men and women are involved in 11 separate operations. They serve as observers on the border between Israel and Egypt, enforce no-fly zones over Iraq and keep the peace on the border between Peru and Ecuador. They recently helped evacuate Americans from Liberia and calmed tensions in the Taiwan Straits.
"Ours is a very busy, but very successful and highly ready force," Shalikashvili said. Maintaining such a capable force at a time of dramatic personnel and budget reductions was no small accomplishment, he said.
"Never before in our history were we able to reduce our forces without also significantly degrading the quality of the force," the general said. "Our readiness has declined after every war, but at the end of the Cold War, we finally got it right."
Ensuring peace and stability in the future, according to Shalikashvili, will require maintaining current alliances in Europe, Northeast Asia and the Middle East. As a top priority, he said, the United States must also continue to engage Moscow and Beijing because "constructive engagement today is far preferable to any other alternative."
Operations in Bosnia are helping break down the barriers between Russia and NATO, the general said. "Russia has an opportunity on the ground in Bosnia to see that NATO can be a partner today and that NATO will not be an adversary tomorrow."
The United States must ensure military strength and readiness is equal to its worldwide interests and international obligations, he said. This presents a very big challenge since, throughout the drawdown, DoD did not buy new equipment or modernize because enough equipment was freed from units being deactivated, he said.
"Now this windfall has passed, and we must begin to replace aging and worn-out equipment and modernize the force," Shalikashvili said. "Today our procurement program is in real terms lower than it was before the Korean War."
Shalikashvili recently told Congress DoD would have to increase procurement spending to about $60 billion annually to ensure tomorrows readiness. This would mean a $20 billion jump from todays spending, he said.
"We should be able to do this without an increase in the funds allocated to defense, without reducing our force structure and without reducing our emphasis on readiness," he said. "It will take tough management decisions, innovations and even revolutionary approaches, as well as continued bipartisan support in Congress."
Shalikashvili said he devotes a good deal of his time to overseeing the operational and readiness issues affecting todays force and ensuring tomorrows force will be structured, sized, manned and equipped to protect U.S. interests in the next century.
"We are living in a time of transition," he said. "We cannot yet clearly see the contours of the post-Cold War world. Until we can, it will be wise for us to remain prepared for the unexpected."