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Maintaining the 'Delta' for Future Military Forces
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Press Club, Washington, Wednesday, September 24, 1997

Defense Issues: Volume 12, Number 46-- Maintaining the 'Delta' for Future Military Forces America is more secure than ever before. "Delta" means the difference between the capabilities of U.S. armed forces and potential foes -- the challenge is to maintain that "delta" to ensure U.S. armed forces are the best in the world, bar none.


Volume 12, Number 46

Maintaining the 'Delta' for Future Military Forces

Remarks prepared for delivery by Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the National Press Club, Washington, Sept. 24, 1997.

While preparing for this speech, I came across a quote from [Thomas] Jefferson that reminded me why it is so important to address the National Press Club. Jefferson wrote to a friend that an informed public was so important to a democracy that if he had to choose between a "government without newspapers or newspapers without a government," he would choose the latter. That speaks volumes about the importance of keeping the people informed and why I welcome the opportunity to appear before you.

It's important for me to be here today, not just to talk, but also to listen to your questions -- which I know from watching C-SPAN are usually better than the speeches, but always harder on the speaker's digestion.

Let me say at the outset how delighted I am that President Clinton chose Gen. Hugh Shelton to be my successor. Hugh Shelton is a most impressive soldier who has the judgment, the intellect and the broad experience at home and abroad in peace and in war to lead our armed forces into the 21st century.

And that brings me to why I am here today. As I near the end of my four-year tour as chairman, I want to report to you on the status of our armed forces today and to offer some thoughts on the challenges that lie ahead.

Today, thanks in part to the great work done by our men and women in uniform, our nation has never been more secure. As a matter of fact, today the difference, or "delta," between capabilities of our military forces and the military forces of those who would wish us ill is greater than at any time in my 39 years of service. And our challenge for tomorrow will be to maintain that "delta" so that a future chairman, 10 years from now, can come before you and say with the same conviction that ours are the best armed forces in the world, bar none.

For a peacetime era, these last four years have been a period of unprecedented military activity and unmatched operational excellence. And what is particularly noteworthy is that we have been able to maintain our operational excellence and high readiness despite undergoing a huge drawdown.

Since the Berlin Wall came down and as a result of a diminished threat, we have been able to reduce our active force by some 700,000 people -- about a third of our active military. To put it in perspective, the 700,000 we cut is more than the number of troops in the British, the German, the Dutch and the Danish armed forces put together. Or put another way, the force we cut is 200,000 people more than all of the auto workers in the United States. This reduction gave the American people a considerable peace dividend, because it allowed us to reduce our defense budget by nearly 40 percent. As a result, right now we spend less of a percentage of our national wealth on defense than at any time since before World War II.

And what is important to remember is that each time in our history that the armed forces underwent such massive reductions, whether after World War I or World War II or after the Korean War or after Vietnam, such reductions were always accompanied by a dramatic nose dive in our military capabilities and in our readiness.

But not this time.

This time we accomplished something that we have never been able to achieve before. With lots of hard work in the field and the support of two administrations, as well as the Congress, we have managed this huge drawdown and created a significantly smaller, but pound-for-pound, an even more capable, ready force. And it's a good thing we did, because in the wake of the Cold War came not peace and stability, but ethnic and religious conflicts, failed states, widespread instability, humanitarian disasters and that old standby, naked aggression.

As a result, over the past four years, our armed forces have been asked to engage in over 40 separate operations around the globe. While some of these were small-scale operations, others like Bosnia have been quite significant.

And in Bosnia, as in every other military operation these past four years, our military forces have performed superbly. First, through the proper use of airpower we brought about a cessation of hostilities. Then, a small team of military experts, working shoulder-to-shoulder with our diplomats, helped structure the Dayton accords that brought a fragile peace to that land.

Since then, through our military presence in and around Bosnia, we have helped to keep that peace. We've separated the combatants, monitored heavy weapons storage and helped maintain a secure environment, which has allowed two sets of elections to go forward and the start of economic and political reconstruction.

We've also supervised clearing and generally established the conditions where some semblance of normal life has begun to re-emerge. Thanks to our nearly 10,000 troops and the forces of 36 allied and partner nations, we have stopped the ethnic cleansing and the slaughter, and through our presence we have reduced the risk that fighting will once again break out in the Balkans.

Without a doubt, visible progress has been made, but it is also clear that significant challenges remain. Exactly what will happen in Bosnia after SFOR's [the stabilization force] mission ends in June of 1998 is difficult to predict. As [National Security Adviser] Sandy Berger, speaking yesterday at Georgetown University observed, the international community's engagement in Bosnia will continue. And he went on to say that "whether or not an international military presence will be part of that engagement, and what role the United States might play, remains to be decided."

One thing, however, is clear: While the U.S., NATO and our partners can help, the people of Bosnia -- Muslims, Croats, and Serbs -- will ultimately have to choose between the path to peace or the road back to war. As long as they choose peace, they deserve our continued help. By any standard, our force in Bosnia to date has been a great success and a prudent investment. Because, as all of us in uniform well remember, for the United States, when it comes to wars in Europe, an ounce of prevention is far better than a pound of cure.

Europe is only one area where our troops have been performing magnificently. On any given day, the United States has about 40,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines deployed on operations in support of our global interests. This is in addition to the 200,000 troops that we have permanently stationed overseas, with approximately 100,000 in Europe and an equal number providing a strong presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Whether maintaining a strong deterrent against aggression on the Korean Peninsula, ensuring that Saddam Hussein knows the penalty for turning his military against his neighbors or his own people, rescuing our citizens in places like Albania or in far away Africa, providing humanitarian assistance in Rwanda, bringing an end to violence in Haiti or extending the hand of friendship to former adversaries and new partners through NATO's Partnership for Peace, our forces are performing superbly.

And while it is possible to debate the wisdom of America's involvement in this or that operation, there is no doubt about the magnificent performance of our men and women in uniform in these varied and often very difficult operations. But that does not imply that our armed forces are perfect or that we ever were.

Recently, many of you have written stories about various problems that have flared up: hazing, concerns over gender integration and sexual misconduct. In my view, these problems, especially sexual harassment, are serious problems throughout our society. While civilian research suggests that women in the military have higher levels of job satisfaction than those in the civilian world, this fact is cold comfort for those of us responsible for America's armed forces. Hazing and sexual harassment, for example, destroy the personal dignity of the individual, damage morale, inhibit teamwork and thus blunt our combat readiness. They are flat wrong, and we must not tolerate them.

We will continue to address each wrong speedily, openly, fairly, protecting the rights of those involved. And as you saw in the Army briefing two weeks ago, the services are working hard to strengthen leadership, training and respect for individual dignity throughout the ranks.

Secretary [of Defense William] Cohen, as well, has sponsored a series of study panels which will soon report on some of the larger issues associated with gender integration.

In all, America entrusts its military leaders with the lives and well-being of its sons and daughters, who are the ultimate source of our operational excellence. We are committed to giving them a fair and decent work environment. But while we do that, we will get on with the job at hand, protecting American interests wherever they might be challenged. And that's why readiness must be of equal concern to all of us.

While our readiness spending per unit is as high as it has ever been, we are beginning to see some early strains which, if not corrected, could develop into more serious problems. But so far, even though the maintenance and materiel readiness problems have not proven to be widespread, we remain wary and have developed new ways to systematically track readiness.

And we track with equal care issues relating to our people and the pace of life in today's armed forces. With a strong economy, enlistments in some services are showing some signs of falling off and recruiting is becoming more difficult. With the airlines hiring, we have also begun to experience problems with the retention of our hard-working pilots. Overall, it is fair to say that our men and women in uniform and their families are finding it more challenging to keep up with the demanding tempo of rigorous training, frequent exercises and numerous ongoing operations.

To reduce their time away from home, we will reduce by up to 25 percent the man-days devoted to joint training exercises. The services are also reducing their training activities without reducing the overall readiness of the force. In the end, we must do all we can to ensure we remain fully ready. To do less would find us unable to meet our operational requirements and would endanger our men and women in uniform.

And the first step in maintaining readiness in the future is to assess, as best as we can, what the future will look like. This is exactly what we did in the Quadrennial Defense Review that we published last spring.

Out to the year 2010, our forces in the field will likely face a wide range of threats from terrorists to rogue states equipped with weapons of mass destruction to potent regional powers. And beyond that period, we may even face a peer competitor, another power with the resources to challenge us on a global scale.

In such a world, with our considerably smaller forces, we must remain ready for threats to our interests and be prepared, on short notice, to execute a wide range of tasks, from assisting with humanitarian disasters here and abroad to peacekeeping to the most challenging regional conflicts.

But first and foremost, our forces must remain ready, manned, equipped and trained to fight and win our nation's wars. And that brings me to the crux of the matter: Just what is it that we will have to do to prepare for the future, to protect and advance our interests and to maintain our operational excellence?

First, we must continue to make sound decisions concerning the use of our military forces. During the Cold War, when and how to use military force was relatively simple. Locked into the bipolar confrontation, both sides were forced to husband their military strength for that one massive confrontation that could have meant the end of one side, if not both. Neither side dared employ force on a grand scale unless the survival of the nation or some other vital interest was at stake. Fortunately, the rest of the world was frozen into relative inactivity and the tension, instabilities and the ethnic and religious frictions so in evidence today were suppressed by that bipolar confrontation.

But as the Cold War ended and we and the rest of the world found ourselves unshackled from the fear of global war, we also found ourselves with failing states, humanitarian tragedies, ethnic conflicts and regional bullies, all capable of damaging our interests if left to their own devices. In that environment, at once more demanding and more permissive, new, more flexible standards had to be developed for both the selective use of force and, more frequently, the employment of forces, to protect and advance our important interests and deal with major humanitarian catastrophes.

For important interests, we were prudent and selective, letting the gravity of the interest at stake determine the level of our commitment. In the case of humanitarian operations, like Rwanda, we have been even more selective, not using forces except when the normal humanitarian organizations have been overwhelmed and military forces were the only ones who could make a difference.

Our challenge now is to maintain that discipline and remain very selective in the employment of our forces. And just as important, we must remember the principles on the employment of forces that have served us so well these last four years, and that apply whether we are deploying to a humanitarian crisis or to engage in a major conflict.

Whenever and however used, our forces need a clear mission, a straightforward chain of command, robust rules of engagement that allow them to get the mission accomplished and to properly protect themselves and sufficient forces to get the job done. Our operational excellence over the past four years has rested solidly on these proven principles.

But four years of success can breed forgetfulness.

Voices can be heard asking whether we couldn't accomplish this mission or that mission with fewer forces, or whether we really need rules of engagement as aggressive as we might think are necessary. The system that has never failed us is to give the commander a clear mission and then to ask him what forces he needs to succeed and what rules of engagement he requires to get the job done and to protect his force properly. These simple steps have been an important pillar of our operational success, and if we remember them, it will bring us success in the future as well.

We must also remember that decisive force deters. It is the best protection that we can give to our troops who are on the cutting edge. In all, making sound decisions on the use of force and the employment of our forces will remain our most essential strategic task.

Just as sound decisions concerning the use of forces were a key factor in our operational excellence, so was the level of "jointness" -- the ability to work together in an operational environment that we were able to achieve.

This past October, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Goldwater-Nichols legislation, which empowered the chairman and the unified commanders. While years ago, our operational efforts in the Iran hostage rescue [1980], in Lebanon and in Grenada [1983] were less than our nation had a right to expect, today we have so mastered joint and combined operations that our forces have become the envy of every military in the world.

Continuing the great work begun under [past Joint Chiefs chairmen] Adm. [William] Crowe and Gen. [Colin] Powell, we have dramatically improved our joint doctrine, our joint education and training, as well as our joint exercises and our war plans. And the results of all of this progress in jointness are there to be seen during the conduct of all of our operations.

For the long term, we have for the first time in our history taken jointness deep into the future. In the past, each service plotted its own course into the future. But this was clearly not the best way, and it was certainly inadequate for a future that will increasingly be dominated by rapid technological change, turbulent political conditions and the pressing need to fight more effectively and more efficiently as joint forces.

Joint Vision 2010, published in 1996 with the full support of the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs and the unified commanders, is an operational template that will for the first time guide the development of the joint force of the future, providing a basis for bringing together quality people, rigorous training, information superiority and advanced technologies. JV 2010 will be both the capstone for joint doctrine as well as the base on which the individual services will build their visions. If we implement JV 2010 correctly, the nation decades hence will have a much more effective joint force, one capable of fighting and winning across the entire spectrum of future operations.

But we shouldn't believe that all of our gains in jointness are chiseled in stone and that the path ahead is clear. There are still strident voices for parochialism who would like to slow the progress of jointness in the force and even those who want to turn back the clock to 1985. And there are those, as well, who look at the excellence of the Joint Staff and rather than try to lift others to that same level feel threatened by the Joint Staff and would rather cut it down to size. We must not allow that to happen. America's operational excellence rests in no small measure on the excellence of our senior military staff, the Joint Staff. Future warfare in all of its varieties will be joint warfare, and that simple fact must continue to guide the development of our armed forces in the future.

Thirdly, in the quest for meaningful changes we must not forget the key building blocks of the force which are relatively timeless. Just as today, the armed forces in 2010 will need quality men and women, innovative leaders, superb training and top-notch equipment. And all of this in my mind begins with quality men and women.

But it takes a lot more than an Army to make a good soldier. To give our armed forces the kind of people we need, America must have a first-class educational system, one that produces fit, well-adjusted young men and women who have strong values, who can think and who can handle modern technology. Fixing our high schools and supporting our universities are critical to our national security, because their product, educated young people, will ultimately form the heart and soul of our total force.

Fourth, we must carefully take stock of the relationship between our military and the American people from whom we spring and for whom we work. A number of factors have conspired to create a potential gap between our population and its military. Because of the inevitable march of time, we have an aging population of war veterans and an otherwise shrinking pool of citizens with military experience.

Moreover, the All-Volunteer Force, nearly 25 years old, has shrunk from its Cold War height and today returns each year a smaller number of veterans to the work force. Military experience, inside and outside the government, is becoming more rare, and this can potentially affect civilian understanding of their armed forces. In my view, given the salience of national security, the American people must learn more about their military, and the military must do a better job of explaining our views, our problems and our requirements to the American people. The media has a role to play here, too, and I urge all of you to give some thought to what role the Fourth Estate should play in the solution of this problem.

Finally, and closer to home for me, we will have to follow through on the modernization recommendations of the QDR and redesign the infrastructure of the armed forces. Throughout most of the post-Cold War era, we were able to forgo modernization by passing on the relatively new equipment gained from demobilizing units. Today, that is no longer possible.

As I have noted for the past three years, we must put an end to our procurement holiday and begin to replace aging equipment and buy the new systems that we need. In essence, without raising defense spending, we will have to significantly increase our procurement spending.

In the QDR, through end-strength cuts and program reductions, we have identified approximately half of the needed funds. The other half of this sum must come from significant changes in the way we support our operational forces -- in short, capitalizing on the Revolution in Business Affairs to help us afford the Revolution in Military Affairs. This will require closing bases that we no longer need and changing laws to permit privatization and outsourcing. None of these steps will be politically popular, and none of them will be easy.

It is clear that we must close bases that are excess to our needs. Even at the height of the Cold War, we had more bases than we needed. Since then, we have reduced the force by a third and reduced the budget by nearly 40 percent, but we have only reduced our domestic basing structure by some 21 percent. We are worse off now, more unbalanced, than when we started the BRAC [base realignment and closure] process. Put simply, we are now paying for bases we don't need, and we don't have the money for things we do need.

Just as important, we need to figure out across the board how to make our infrastructure -- the defense agencies, the depots, the labs, the hospital system, the training base -- those things that take up 60 percent of the armed forces -- we need to figure out how to make that part effective, efficient and modern. I suggest that we must have a new Goldwater-Nichols Act to do for the infrastructure of the armed forces what the original Goldwater-Nichols did for our operational forces.

Ladies and gentlemen, I began today by telling you that we have gone through four years that for a peacetime era were characterized by unprecedented military activity and unmatched operational excellence. Our operational excellence came about because the support of the American people, two presidential administrations and the Congress was mated up with good management, sound decisions about the use of force and improvements in jointness.

But most of all, our operational excellence came about because of the dedication, the sacrifice and the hard work of 3 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of the total force. The president has reminded us that America is and must remain the world's "indispensable nation."

For the Joint Chiefs and the unified commanders, that means that we must develop a force that is ready to fight and win America's wars. And that means we must develop a force that can shape today's environment to help prevent conflict, a force that can respond when necessary to today's conflicts, and at the same time, we need to prepare the force to meet the demands of a challenging future.

If we do all that right, 10 years from now a future chairman of the Joint Chiefs can stand before you and say with all the confidence that I have today that ours is the best and most capable military in the world, bar none.

Thank you.


Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at