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Joint Forces Must Maintain Balance, Admiral Says

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md., Sept. 15, 2010 – The success of joint forces depends on their ability to balance competing interests – from preparing for strategic risks to air, land, sea and cyber power, to the work-life balance of servicemembers, the director of the Joint Staff said here today.

“In joint doctrine, balance permeates everything,” Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney said in a keynote speech to the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference 2010 here.

“We need to have the right mix of training, personnel, and equipment,” Gortney said.

Flexibility is key, the admiral added, because history has shown it’s impossible to pinpoint military needs of the future. That’s especially true today, he said, due to evolving threats in cyber warfare and from quickly emerging militaries in places such as China.

“If history has taught us anything, it’s that the next war will bear little resemblance to the past,” Gortney said. “There is no doubt that 15 years from now, we’ll talk about how we got it wrong in 2010.”

The focus on land forces in today’s wars could turn to air and sea power for the next conflicts, Gortney said. Concepts for joint air-sea battles are a natural transition for the future, he said.

The Air Force has a proud history of innovation and hardware expertise that it must continue so it can “be ready to respond to needs not even imagined,” he said.

Coordination also is critical to joint forces, as is relationship-building, said Gortney, who commanded U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, the U.S. 5th Fleet and the 26-nation Combined Maritime Forces in the Arabian Gulf. But, he added, “relationships are not built overnight, and they’re not built through e-mails and tweets.”

Gortney said tough decisions will have to be made while defense budgets flatline for the foreseeable future.

“The downward pressure on the defense budget is real,” he said. “We’re in a position of having more missions than stuff, so low priority missions are going to suffer. We have to figure out the right balance and figure out where to take risks.”

The most important area to strike a balance is not in equipment or training, Gortney said, but in the lifestyles of servicemembers. And in a compliment to the audience, he said the Air Force leads the services in allowing work-life balance.

“The Air Force, hands down, does a better job of it than any service,” he said. “It’s why I live at Bolling Air Force Base.”

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Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney


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