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Joint Chiefs Support Defense Review

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 16, 1997 – The Joint Chiefs of Staff and unified combatant commanders are "on board" in their support for the Quadrennial Defense Review about to be unveiled May 19.

"The secretary and the chairman have gone out of their way from the very beginning to make sure our senior military were involved," said Air Force Gen. John W. Ralston, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an interview with DoD internal media reporters. He said military officials from throughout the department contributed to the comprehensive six-month review that looked at DoD's strategy, force structure and resources.

DoD's proposed plan to balance mission, people and modern equipment within a set budget includes what Defense Secretary William Cohen calls modest cuts in personnel and infrastructure. Cohen said cuts are planned for combat support forces, civilians, Reserve and National Guard -- not from the combat force.

Ralston said military leaders agree with the proposed cuts. "We would much prefer to see cuts in the support side," he said. "The CinCs [unified combatant commanders] had a very strong voice, as did the Joint Chiefs. We worked very hard to make sure we took the cuts at the proper place."

Defense officials were careful to ensure personnel reductions are made over time to avoid voluntary separation incentives or early retirements, Ralston said. "We want to have a minimum impact on our people," he said.

To avoid overextending troops, review officials also considered operational and personnel tempo for all services, he said. Plans call for cutting back joint exercises and encouraging the services to cut back exercises as well.

"We have already taken a 15 percent cut in the man-days away from home on JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff] exercises because people are doing real world things out there," Ralston said. "They're off the coast of Zaire. They just did the NEO (noncombatant evacuation operation) in Albania. Maybe you need to back off on that exercise you were going to do, because they're getting training during the real thing."

Ralston said the defense review was based on a three-pronged strategy: shape, respond, prepare. Shape world events by being forward deployed and maintaining strong, ready forces. Respond to world crises of all types ranging from nuclear deterrence to major conventional conflict to the smaller scale contingencies to peacekeeping to natural disaster. Prepare for the future. This third category involved several options, he said.

"We looked at different paths," he said. "One path was to pretty much muddle along as we are right now. You can do the shaping with that. You can respond in the near term. But you have mortgaged your future. You haven't prepared for the future."

Another approach was to make deep cuts and accelerate technology acquisition, Ralston said. That approach, however, would not allow the military to shape and respond, he said. "Let's take the F-22, for example," he said. "Under the best of circumstances, we're still eight years away from the first combat F-22. Well, you've got to do something for the next eight years until you get there. The digitized battlefield for the Army -- very promising technology, but it is still years away. You've got to be able to shape and respond until that technology gets here."

Modernization is a necessity, Ralston noted. "Our people won't stay with us if we don't give them modern equipment. They can't come out of American society used to modern computers and go back three generations when they come into the military."

Overall, defense officials took a balanced approach, Ralston said. Commanders-in-chief from around the globe presented a united front about the results during a video teleconference May 9, he said.

"All came on board fully supporting the [review] process." As an example of their consensus, Ralston read a letter from Army Gen. George Joulwan, commander, U.S. European Command. Joulwan said he concurred with the overall review and conclusions. "The extensive work and analysis that went into the effort clearly show the process was strategy driven and the focus was right," Joulwan stated.

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