Balanced, Versatile Force Key, Mullen Says

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.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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