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Balanced, Versatile Force Key, Mullen Says

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2011 – A reduced military presence in the Middle East, economic limits, and an increased need for partnerships lie ahead for the U.S. military, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.

Speaking here at the inaugural Lee Hamilton Series on Civil Discourse and Democracy at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen discussed continuities, changes and choices coming for the U.S. military over the long term.

“Barring significant and unforeseen changes, the sheer size of our deployment of U.S. forces to the broader Middle East will decrease over time,” the chairman said.

Concluding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will have far-reaching implications “for how we think about ourselves as a military, how we fight wars in the future and how our junior leaders, who have experienced the horrors of war, grow into senior leaders and commanders,” he said.

It also will lay the foundation for how the United States postures itself globally, Mullen said.

At home, the United States and its military will continue wrestling with “a new austerity due to the current economic environment and growing demands for debt servicing and repayment,” the chairman said, noting that the defense budget will be flat “at best” over the next few years.

“I have been very honest about my concerns over the national debt,” he said. “And I really do believe it is the greatest threat to our national security and will drive … tough decisions about what kind of military we build.”

In the coming years, clear thinking, priority setting and disciplined decision making will be a tough challenge for the Pentagon, the White House and Congress, as well as defining “a clear separation between what must be done and what can afford to go undone.”

Mullen said he agrees with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that a smaller, more capable force is preferable to a larger, less capable one. But a smaller force will have its limitations.

“[Gates] was right yesterday when he warned us to be honest with ourselves about recognizing that ‘a smaller military, no matter how superb, will be able to go fewer places and do fewer things,’” the chairman said.

“We are grappling with these very issues in the comprehensive review he has us doing,” he added.

A more balanced and versatile force would mean a balance between capability and capacity, Mullen said, “and I suspect we will need to trade some amount of force structure, service redundancy and conventional overmatch in order to retain the right amount of flexibility.”

“We owe it to the President and to the American people to be able to give them options for the use of force,” he added.

Pragmatism among U.S. leaders regarding the limitations of military force is increasingly apparent and important, Mullen added.

Also in the future, partnering -- which Mullen said has been a hallmark for the U.S. military for decades -- will move to a new level entirely and should include engagement with international and nongovernmental organizations.

“Military power may be the first, best tool of the state, but it should never be the only one,” he said.

Such force should be used alongside all the instruments of national power, in concert, to the degree possible, with international partners and nongovernmental agencies, the chairman said.

Several years ago, Mullen told the audience, he hosted several leaders of several nongovernmental organizations at his quarters.

“One of them said, ‘I’ve had members of my organization in 14,000 villages in Afghanistan since 1973,’” Mullen said. “Now, do you think they know a little bit about what’s going on in Afghanistan? And do you think I could use some of that information?”

The U.S. military doesn’t have a very natural forum to exchange that information “because of who we are,” he said.

“We’ve got to figure out how to bridge that to tackle some of these problems,” Mullen said. “There are public-private opportunities here to make a difference that we’re not even touching in terms of resources that are available, whether it be educational or financial or agricultural.

“In the long run, to me, that’s the solution set,” he said.

Building and keeping the trust of other states will become even more paramount to reducing our own risk,” the chairman said.

The United States is no longer in a position to “go it alone,” Mullen added. “And I don’t think, quite frankly, that any country can do that.”


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Navy Adm. Mike Mullen


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The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

5/27/2011 7:18:34 AM
Destroying them doesn’t need a very large part of your power --- actually, it only needs the use of a very few weapons. Your force will take a role of deterrence; the significant role will be took by a free Internet. As we saw in Middle East, whether people dare to go out is depended on whether other people know a pioneer’s willingness to go out. Through the free Internet people will know the facts of officials’ corruption, the source of their pain, the responsibility they have to take, so we will be able to make the best use of people’s power and to minimize the turmoil during the transition. This method can cause you to avoid troubles you met in Iraq and must be the proper tactic to accelerate the process in Libya and the critical tactic to make the democratic transformation in China. Please move.
- Byron Bruce, China

5/27/2011 2:31:03 AM
You should recognize the dictators are anti-human crimals; you should recognize the dictators are often most professional swindlers and you must manage yourself not to be cheated by them; you should recognize the pain the people are suffering; you should recognize their extremely hard struggle; you should recognize how forceful the power contained in them is, though it seems to be very weak now; you should recognize how beautiful a world without dictatorships is. The bad thing intimidating America was the enemy country using a nation’s force to attack you like the USSR before, was terrorism using personal force to attack you like bin Laden recently, is the autocrats indirectly hurt you by arbitrarily killing its own people now. The enemy country has been failed, the terrorists are being defeated, and now is the time for you to manage to defeat the autocrats.
- Byron Bruce, China

5/27/2011 2:26:53 AM
The way for a smaller military to do more things is using your power on the key point. The key point is destroying the dictatorships in the world. All the obstacles you face are put by them. Destroying them doesn’t need a very large part of your power, because the main power to do this exists---it is the power of the people’s in those countries. Helping the people to acquire rights is the most important strategy for you to adopt. You will consider this strategy as adoptable when you recognize: tolerate the existence of the dictatorships will force you to pay more cost and the cost will be much more if it includes the part paid by the people under the pressure of the dictators.
- Byron Bruce, China

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