United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Transcript


Special Defense Department Briefing

Presenters: Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and Vice Director, Strategy, Plans and Police Ofice RAdm William Sullivan
March 18, 2005 11:35 AM EDT
MR. FEITH: Good morning. I'm Doug Feith, the undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and this is Admiral Bill Sullivan, who's the vice director of the J-5, the Strategy, Plans and Policy Office of the Joint Staff. And we're here to release the National Defense Strategy and the National Military Strategy. The National Defense Strategy is an unclassified document. The National Military Strategy is unclassified with secret annexes, and we'll be releasing the unclassified portion.

 

       The National Defense Strategy is the guidance that the secretary provides to the department on how to -- on what the department has to do to implement the president's National Security Strategy. The National Defense Strategy also serves as the foundation for the Quadrennial Defense Review process. Basically, what the Quadrennial Defense Review does is, it asks what kinds of capabilities does this department have to have in order to fulfill the National Defense Strategy.

 

       Now in giving the department its direction, the National Defense Strategy outlines the broader National Security Strategy of the United States, so that you will see that there are things discussed in the National Defense Strategy that are not DOD responsibilities or missions, but they're included because it's necessary for people in the department to see the broader strategy to be able to understand it and understand what we need to do to fulfill it.

 

       With respect to the National Defense Strategy, three of the main ideas are the need to deal with strategic uncertainty; the value of early measures, early action to prevent problems from becoming crises, or crises from becoming wars; and third, the importance of building partnership capacity so that we can work with other countries and get things accomplished in the world that we can't do by ourselves or we can't do as well or as efficiently by ourselves as we can through working with other countries.

 

       Now, the National Defense Strategy defines four strategic objectives. The first is securing the United States from direct attack. The second is securing strategic access and retaining freedom of action for key regions and lines of communication and the global commons. The third is strengthening alliances and partnerships, and that's where this building partnership capacity idea is so important. And the fourth is establishing security conditions conducive to a favorable international order. And that's where we deal with the issues of key countries that are at, as we put it, strategic crossroads, or at points where they're making decisions of an important strategic nature.

 

       And the defense strategy reaffirms the four concepts that were the framework for the Quadrennial Defense Review of 2001: assure allies and friends; dissuade potential adversaries; deter aggression and counter coercion; and defeat adversaries.

 

       The focus of our planning and capabilities is on what we call the active, forward and layered defense of the nation, our interests and partners. And there's a focus on early measures, or what we call preventive measures, that are a critical component of active, layered defense. And I want to stress that the term "preventive" is not the same thing as preemption.

 

       Preventive measures are things like the security cooperation that we do, the forward presence that we maintain, stability operations, nonproliferation initiatives like the Proliferation Security Initiative. These are all actions that are taken to prevent problems from becoming crises, as I said, and crises from becoming wars.

 

       The National Defense Strategy talks about what the United States is focused on doing in the war on terrorism. In essence it is to help create and lead an international effort to deny terrorist extremist networks what they require to operate and survive. And the idea is that if we succeed in denying the terrorist organizations what they need to survive, we will have defeated them. That is probably going to be a long-term project. In the meantime, we need to deny them what they need to operate.

 

       To that end, the United States is focused on protecting the homeland, disrupting and attacking terrorist networks, and countering ideological support for terrorism.

 

       The United States and its allies and partners are focused on exploiting eight categories of terrorist requirements that we have the ability to interfere with. So they are requirements and they are also vulnerabilities for the terrorists -- ideological support, leadership, foot soldiers, safe havens, weapons -- in particular weapons of mass destruction -- funds, communications and movement and access to targets.

 

       And now for a review of the key points of the National Military Strategy I'll ask Admiral Sullivan.

 

       ADM. SULLIVAN: Thanks very much, Mr. Feith.

 

       The National Military Strategy takes the broad strategic guidance that is contained in the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy and operationalizes that guidance for the services and for the combatant commanders. And I'd point out that these two documents that we're talking about today were developed in parallel. As the Office of the Secretary of Defense worked through developing the National Defense Strategy, the OSD staff and the Joint Staff worked closely together to make sure that the two documents were aligned and synchronized and that there were no conflicting guidance contained in the documents. So we've worked hand in glove with the secretary of Defense's staff in developing both of these documents.

 

       As I said, the military strategy operationalizes that strategic guidance and provides the combatant commanders and the services with information that helps them conceptualize what the capabilities are that they need to build within the forces in order to operationalize that strategy.

 

       It talks about protecting the homeland, about preventing conflicts and surprise attacks, and about prevailing, in the event that we actually need to get into conflict.

 

       In terms of protecting the United States, it talks in terms of defeating threats closer to their sources, protecting the strategic approaches to the United States; strengthening support to civil authorities, that includes, when directed by the president, assisting civil authorities in homeland defense and homeland security type missions, as well as in consequence management-type situations. And it also talks about helping our partners around the world develop the kind of capabilities that they need to contribute to the overall security.

 

       In terms of preventing conflict and surprise attack, it takes into consideration our operating patterns, how we're deployed around the world, our cooperation with friends and allies; operations that promote stability and security in key regions.

 

       And then, finally, in terms of prevailing against adversaries, it talks in terms of having the necessary survivability, lethality, and so forth, to prevail in any type of conflict.

 

       It reinforces the chairman's goals of winning the war on terrorism, on improving and enhancing jointness within the military services, enhancing our ability to work with other agencies of the U.S. government in a more interactive way and, finally, of winning the war on terrorism.

 

       The principles that are espoused are stress agility, the ability to react quickly; the ability to amass force, where necessary, from disperse locations. It really stresses speed. And it really stresses jointness and integration, and as I mentioned, not just integration among the services, but integration with our friends and allies, and integration with other agencies of the government that are essential for national security.

 

       So we really -- we provide the guidance to the combatant commanders and the services in a capabilities-based approach to guide their development and their thinking about capabilities that we need to support the strategies in the future.

 

       MR. FEITH: Our goal in these documents was to review the concepts from our earlier strategy documents. In some cases we reaffirmed those concepts; in some cases we're updating them; incorporate lessons learned over the last four years, and to lay the foundation for the work that we're about to launch into for the Quadrennial Defense Review.

 

       And I would encourage you to read the documents. I think that there's a lot of thinking that went into them, and we welcome the review and the public debate about them.

 

       And now we'll be happy to take some questions.

 

             Q     Doug, you've emphasized several times a what you call "building partnership strategy." The New York Times is reporting today that the United States is inviting close friends and allies, including Britain, to come and discuss issues leading up to the QDR, to take part in them, including classified U.S. military strategy. Is this true? And is it in fact a way to try to put in concrete or make more firm cooperation in the future on -- in peace and war? And is this in part a lesson learned from Iraq where we, while we did have a coalition, the United States has pretty much borne this burden alone in terms of finances? Anyway, if you'll go into that. Are we doing that with the allies, and inviting them to take part in these classified discussions?

 

        MR. FEITH: We do a lot of work with allies in the operational area where we are sharing classified information, and that's an element of coalition warfare. And we want to be able to work with our allies not simply in operations but also in the development of strategy.

 

       One of the things that came out of our analyses that we did in connection with the strategy documents was a recognition that much of what the United States wants to see done in the world for our own national security purposes, and specifically with regard to the war on terrorism, are things that can be done as a practical matter only by other countries. If you think about one of the key strategic or conceptual challenges in the war on terrorism it's that we are fighting terrorist enemies who are present in many countries around the world with whom we are not at war, and many of these countries are friends of ours. And the only way that action can be taken effectively against those terrorist enemies is if it's taken by the governments of the countries where they are located.

 

       So international cooperation is crucial to our fighting the war on terrorism. And we've given that a lot of thought. And in order to be able to work with other countries as we want to, and see them take the kinds of actions that benefit them and us, we need to work with these countries on two main projects as we look at it. One is encourage and the other is enable.

 

       And on the encourage side, we want to work with our partners in developing, for example, a common assessment of the security situation, a common assessment of threats, a common assessment of the kinds of capabilities that are needed to deal with those threats.

 

       And thinking things through strategically with one's allies and partners is a major contribution to encouraging them to work with us and do things that serve our common interests.

 

       On the other side, there's the enable side. In order for these countries to do things that we want to see done, in many cases we need to help them with their training, with their equipment; we need to work with them in what's called security cooperation to give them the ability -- and sometimes the ability that's needed is military, and DOD will have the lead, but in other cases the abilities that we need other countries to have are in other areas, law enforcement or intelligence or even, in some cases, civil administration, and the Department of Defense is not necessarily in the lead but the U.S. government has an interest in helping enable these other countries to be able to do work with us.

 

             Q     Excuse me. Just briefly to follow up; i.e., are we beginning to cooperate more closely with these countries or ask them to cooperate more closely with us, as in inviting Britain and others to take part in classified QDR discussions? Are we doing that now?

 

       MR. FEITH: We are interested in getting participation in the QDR from other countries and from other government agencies. In the past, the QDR tended to be a Defense Department project and it was pretty tightly controlled just within the Defense Department. We think that given the nature of the national security challenges we face, it will promote what we call interagency jointness and a kind of jointness on an international scale if we bring other agencies of the U.S. government and other countries in to work with us on the kinds of things that we're dealing with in the QDR.

 

             Q     Thank you.

 

             Q     Doug, I'm a little confused. You're talking about the National Defense Strategy and the National Military Strategy, but what about the National Security Strategy? Are we going to get that too? Are you going to discuss that or is that something totally separate?

 

       MR. FEITH: Well, the National Security Strategy came out in, I think it was, September of 2002, and so we are operating within that strategy as we have seen key concepts evolve over the period since then.

 

             Q     But that has not evolved; that's still the basic strategy that came out?

 

       MR. FEITH: Well, in writing, the basic strategy is the one that was issued in September of 2002, but as you know, the president has said many things since then that are elaborations on additional guidance on the National Security Strategy.

 

             Q     On page 5 of the National Defense Strategy under "Our Vulnerabilities," "Our strength as a nation-state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak, using international fora, judicial processes and terrorism."

 

       I was wondering if you could explain that, because one reads -- sort of it sounds like it equates things like going to legal authorities with terrorism. If you could kind clarify that for us --

 

       MR. FEITH: Yeah. The only point that we're making is that we're in a fascinating new, complex international security situation because of ease of travel, technology. There are a lot of things in the world that affect the security environment. And there are various actors around the world that are looking to either attack or constrain the United States, and they are going to find creative ways of doing that that are not the obvious conventional military attacks. And we're just pointing out that we need to think broadly about diplomatic lines of attack, legal lines of attack, technological lines of attack, all kinds of asymmetric warfare that various actors can use to try to constrain, shape our behavior. And that's what that point is flagging.

 

             Q     And so like a -- I mean, is a legal line of attack like a Guantanamo detainee challenging his detention in U.S. courts?

 

       MR. FEITH: No, the arguments that some people make to try to, in effect, criminalize foreign policy and bring prosecutions in -- where there has -- there's no proper basis for international -- for jurisdiction under international law, as a way of trying to pressure American officials. Those are the kinds of --

 

             Q     As in the World Court. You refer to the World Court.

 

       MR. FEITH: The -- I mean, the -- yes, our position on the International Criminal Court is known. We -- I mean, our view is that that court should apply to the countries that have signed the International Court Treaty, and it should not be imposed on countries that have not signed that treaty. And we have not become a party --

 

       ADM. SULLIVAN: Yeah, I think what that vulnerability really gets to is that if there are countries that don't share our goals, they may try to use established international fora to inhibit those -- us doing what we need to do in our own national interest. And that's what that paragraph addresses.

 

             Q     Don't we do the same thing through nonproliferation treaties, that kind of thing?

 

       MR. FEITH: Excuse me?

 

             Q     Doesn't the United States do the same thing through -- you know, through, say, a nonproliferation treaty -- force other countries to --

 

       MR. FEITH: Countries all over the world are trying to influence other countries' behavior, and we're simply pointing out that there are countries that will try to do that with us.

 

             Q     Mr. Feith, would you please clarify what is the real difference between preemptive action and preemption measures? And tell me if I am right. The war in Iraq was a preventive action, and the war in Afghanistan was preemption measures.

 

       And my question is: Is there any possibility for a preventive action, let's say, against Iran?

 

       MR. FEITH: I don't think I agree with your terminology. What I was saying is one of the key strategic messages that the secretary is giving the department through the National Defense Strategy is that people should be thinking not simply how to react to events when those events have already become big problems or wars, but what kinds of actions do we want to take now to help shape an international environment so that problems are less likely to become crises. And through early action we can sometimes prevent a crisis from becoming a war -- I mean, the kind of intervention that was done in Haiti. The kind of early intervention that was done on the humanitarian operation for the tsunami was an example of doing something quickly so that a large problem doesn't get exacerbated because of the failure to act.

 

       There are also things that we can do to shape the environment, like the Proliferation Security Initiative developing the capacity of other countries to do interdictions of shipments of weapons of mass destruction materials or technology is the kind of thing -- a sensible preventive action that can help prevent countries from proliferating weapons of mass destruction. I mean, it serves our interests to prevent problems from occurring or getting worse.

 

             Q     Yeah, but what about the war in Iraq or in Afghanistan? It was -- I mean, the war in Iraq was a preventive action and the war in Afghanistan was a preemption measures after the attack of 9/11.

 

       MR. FEITH: I mean, I don't want to get into academic debates about that, you know, how we label --

 

             Q     -- about the war in Iraq, it was a preventive action I mean?

 

       MR. FEITH: The war in Iraq was a way to take care of a threat that the United States tried for at least a dozen years to take care of through numerous other means, with resolutions of the Security Council and inspection measures and sanctions, and various other methods that unfortunately did not remedy the problem.

 

             Q     And don't you -- my last question. Don't you think that preventive action, it's not a new terminology in the international law?

 

       MR. FEITH: The concept that I'm describing of trying to prevent problems from becoming crises is certainly not new in the world.

 

             Q     But it does go to the question of -- this document does seem to sort of codify the administration's notion that it has the right to wage a preemptive or preventive war. And I do think the terminology is not necessarily purely academic, because that's what I'm reading out of this. And I'm sort of curious your reaction to that. I mean, is that essentially what this document is designed to do?

 

       And secondly, you're talking about here the importance of alliances. But, you know, page 8, phrasing that I suspect some -- could put some hackles up, you know, in doing so, "if deterrence falls short and we must go to military action, we will act with others when we can" -- which was the phrasing that I think irritated some people because it sort of had the notion of like "if we can we can, but if we can't, too bad."

 

       I really just want to get you to tell us if you think that is what this is sort of codifying, the idea of the U.S. ability to wage -- you can pick the term -- a preventive war, a preemptive war, both -- and how much this tells us we have to rely on our allies to do that.

 

       MR. FEITH: The president has the obligation to protect the country, and I don't think there's anything in our Constitution that says that the president should not protect the country unless he gets some non-Americans' participation or approval of that. I mean, he is the president of the United States and he has his obligations to the American people in the Constitution. I don't see the issue.

 

       Now, on the issue of our need to act, there are circumstances -- and it's very well recognized, actually, for a very long time in international diplomacy and law -- there are circumstances where countries have to take action in self-defense. And I think that a lot of the talk about this subject over the years to suggest that what has been done in this administration is somehow some major departure from past practice is just wrong and ahistorical.

 

             Q     You believe that Iran is a terrorist nation and that it's building a nuclear weapon. So how does this strategy play into deterring that threat?

 

       MR. FEITH: This strategy, as you'll see when you read through it, does not get into the particulars of specific problems relating to specific countries. It lays out rather broad strategic ideas. There are concepts in here, though, about deterrence, defense and, as I mentioned before, shaping the international environment in such a way that countries are going to be given, let's say, the incentive to pursue policies that will make them non-threatening members of the international community.

 

       There are some countries that have taken those lessons, like Libya, and have decided that policies they pursued for a long time in trying to develop weapons of mass destruction were actually not serving their interests. And we are hoping that a diplomatic approach such as that that the European Union is conducting, with our support, regarding Iran will help persuade the Iranians that they are better off changing their policies on their nuclear weapons program.

 

             Q     What happened to the goal of being able to fight two regional wars at the same time? Has that been dropped now as a priority as a result of this, or where are we?

 

       MR. FEITH: The past Quadrennial Defense Reviews tended to focus on those kinds of ideas as a basis for deciding what size force the United States wants. And what we're doing with this Quadrennial Defense Review is trying to focus first on capabilities and not primarily on what's called the force-sizing construct. We're looking at what are the capabilities that the department needs to fulfill this strategy and allow us to do as a department what we need to do to fulfill the National Security Strategy. And then after that gets reviewed and thought through and the various capabilities are balanced and the risks are balanced, then I think we will have a better handle on this issue of the force-sizing construct than if we take the approach that was done in the past.

 

             Q     So we don't know what's the --

 

       MR. FEITH: No, I'm saying that we're doing this in an orderly process, and what we've decided is first we're laying out the defense strategy, then we're going to do the assessment of the capabilities required, and from that we will get insight into the force-sizing construct.

 

             Q     How does BRAC fit into this? Because aren't you putting taking -- dealing with some of your force structure issues with BRAC ahead of when you're going to be dealing with this through the QDR and that process?

 

       MR. FEITH: That's a very interesting problem. We have a number of things in this department that are long-term projects that unfold over months or in some cases over years, and one can't stop everything in the department in order to do a a study that feeds into one of these several long-term projects. We've got our global posture realignment. We've got our war on terrorism. We've got BRAC. We've got various capabilities-related studies to do. And they're all being done on a rolling basis. And there are major efforts being made, and I think reasonably successfully, to make sure that what we learn in each process gets injected into other processes that are going along on tracks alongside.

 

       And so the answer is we're trying to make sure that everything that is crucial to know to allow one of those processes to go forward is known in a timely fashion, but there's no way that we can say that we're going to shut down the BRAC process until we finish the QDR, or the QDR until we finish the BRAC process. They both have to proceed, and along with, as I said, a number of other of these long-term projects.

 

             Q     I wonder if you could frame this along the lines of how this is different, how what you're unveiling today is different than the policy of containment. I say this because George Kennan died a couple of days ago, the architect of containment. And it's in the public domain now in terms of what he did and what containment was, (but as a bookend, containment postulated X ?), and how is it different 50 years later?

 

       MR. FEITH: Well, the containment policy was, I think one could say, a -- it contributed to a brilliant success, which was the success of the West in the Cold War. My personal view is that President Reagan took the containment policy a step or two beyond what was laid out in the famous writings of Mr. Kennan, and that was a valuable contribution to the victory in the Cold War.

 

       The world has changed very substantially since the end of the Cold War, and what these strategy documents are trying to do is to take fully into account the fact that we're not in the Cold War anymore, and the kinds of structures that existed during the Cold War don't now exist. That's part of the reason that we're emphasizing strategic uncertainty.

 

       I mean, in the Cold War one of the main strategic phenomena was that we knew who our major challenger was, and we devoted a lot of intelligence assets, we devoted a lot of military assets to focusing on the Soviet threat. And we had an idea of where we would fight and what the enemy's order of battle was, and we knew a lot relatively about the enemy and what we had to plan to do.

 

       What we find now is we have a world that doesn't have the kind of structure that it had during the Cold War, and we don't believe that we know where we're going to have to operate militarily. We need therefore to plan entirely differently from the way we planned during the Cold War. And what that means is we need to -- the way I like to put it is we need to plan to be surprised. We need to plan to be able to deal with things that we didn't anticipate. And we stress that in this document.

 

       And what that means is we need, as Admiral Sullivan was saying, we need agility. We need to be able to react to events -- first of all, as I was saying, we need to be able to shape events to the maximum extent reasonable. And then we need to be able to react to events so that we can deliver capabilities promptly and effectively anywhere in the world, because we don't now flatter ourselves into thinking that we actually know where we might have to operate militarily either in a combat operation or a humanitarian operation. So we're trying to develop a defense strategy that creates the proper kind of flexibility. That's why there's an emphasis on reshaping our global defense posture, there's an emphasis on the kind of equipment that is easily deployable and properly configured for the kind of pre- positioning that will allow us to move quickly.

 

       That's why there's the kinds of changes that General Schoomaker is making in the Army on modularization. And there are an enormous number of practical consequences that flow from this concept of strategic uncertainty, and it's basically the main thing that distinguishes our world today from the world of the Cold War that you were referring to.

 

       (Cross talk.)

 

             Q     Well, isn't this much more proactive strategy, as in -- isn't this a much more proactive strategy, as in "strike first, if you need to," as opposed to kind of a "live and let live" stand-off that you had during the Cold War; that the enemy now -- terrorists, i.e., whatever -- won't let you live and let live. So therefore, you have to use a more proactive strategy, possible military attack.

 

       MR. FEITH: Well, if you look at the war on terrorism, for example, it is clear to us that there is enormous importance to the capture-and-kill operations we do in the war on terrorism, but they will not allow us to win the war. The only way we are going to win the war on terrorism is, as a country, by dealing with the ideological support that the terrorists get.

 

       Now this is not a Defense Department mission, but the U.S. government recognizes that to have a winning strategy in the war on terrorism, we're going to have to address what it is that allows the terrorists to recruit and indoctrinate new terrorists. And the kind of work that we need to do in the world as a government -- and the Defense Department only has a -- you know, a slice of this large responsibility -- but the work that we need to do as a government to win the war on terrorism does require activity, as opposed to just reaction.

 

       And the president's strategy of freedom and democracy promotion is an example of changing the situation in the world in a way that contributes to strategic victory for us in the war on terrorism. It also serves other U.S. national security purposes.

 

       STAFF: Let's make this the last one. We're running out of time, Doug. We'll take one.

 

             Q     Mr. Feith, Mr. Feith, having said that you don't know where you're going to have to operate, have you identified any areas for priority attention, such as the Middle East, Taiwan Straits, Korea, maybe East Africa?

 

       MR. FEITH: I don't think that the world gives us the luxury of picking areas. We have interests all over the world. I dare say that if anybody before September 11th, 2001, was listing places that we would want to focus on as a matter of priority, Afghanistan would have been rather low on the list.

 

       I think we need to be very modest about our ability to predict the future, and I think a proper intellectual modesty is built into this concept of strategic uncertainty, and we tried to infuse that idea through these documents.

 

       And what that means is we have interests all over the world; we have to be ready to work with countries all over the world, move and act in various types of operations, as I said, you know, spanning the whole range from humanitarian activities, diplomatic activities, combat activities anywhere in the world that they're required.

 

       STAFF: Thanks a lot, folks.

 

             Q     Is this modesty a lesson from Iraq to fill in some of the intelligence lessons?

 

       MR. FEITH: Thank you.

 

 

COPYRIGHT 2005, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1000 VERMONT AVE. NW; 5TH FLOOR; WASHINGTON, DC - 20005, USA.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.  UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION. FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.  NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.  FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL JACK GRAEME AT 202-347-1400.

Additional Links

Stay Connected