Cartwright Addresses Drawdowns, Budget With Reporters

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2011 — Defense Depart­ment offi­cials are apply­ing new ways of think­ing to every­thing from cost sav­ing ini­tia­tives to the nuclear tri­ad, the vice chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright replied to wide-rang­ing ques­tions as part of a Defense Writ­ers Group meet­ing this morn­ing. From the mil­i­tary draw­downs in Iraq and Afghanistan to tight­en­ing bud­gets and smarter acqui­si­tions process­es, Cartwright spoke of the deci­sion-mak­ing under way among top Pen­ta­gon lead­ers.

As vice chair­man, Cartwright chairs the Joint Require­ments Over­sight Coun­cil, co-chairs the Defense Acqui­si­tion Board, and is a mem­ber of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil Deputies Com­mit­tee, the Nuclear Weapons Coun­cil and the Mis­sile Defense Exec­u­tive Board.

On Afghanistan, Cartwright said Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, whom the Sen­ate con­firmed on June 30 to replace Army Gen. David H. Petraeus as com­man­der of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, must spend the next few months deter­min­ing which units should be removed from the coun­try, and when, as part of the draw­down.

“It’s pace more than scale that import in these first few months,” Cartwright said. “What you take out will set the bat­tle space geom­e­try for all the moves after that. That’s some­thing we have to take time with, and we want to give Gen­er­al Allen as much time as pos­si­ble to do that.

“The piece I’m most wor­ried about is not nec­es­sar­i­ly the num­ber of forces com­ing out, but the tim­ing,” he said. “I don’t want to cre­ate a hole in the bat­tle space.”

Also, Cartwright said, it is the com­bat “enablers” – the sup­port func­tions such as intel­li­gence, recon­nais­sance, and tech­nol­o­gy, and air­craft and logis­tics – “that real­ly tend to dri­ve the fac­tors we lay out.” Those units are not like­ly to be among the first to leave Afghanistan, he said.

As for the draw­down in Iraq, Cartwright said, the Iraqis need to decide soon if they want U.S. forces in those spe­cial­ties that Iraqi forces lack, such as logis­tics and air mobil­i­ty, to stay in the coun­try past the agreed-upon dead­line of Dec. 31.

“Those answers real­ly are on the shoul­ders of the Iraqi peo­ple,” he said. “We have a say in it, for sure, but it’s they who need to decide if they want a force to stay behind, and what the role of that force would be.”

Such a deci­sion will take time, because it requires an act of Iraq’s leg­isla­tive body, Cartwright said. A change in the agree­ment would have to spell out how any remain­ing U.S. forces would be pro­tect­ed and their rights to pro­tect Iraqis and their assets, he said.

A recent uptick in insur­gent attacks in Iraq has been increas­ing­ly dead­ly and “we want to make sure we have the abil­i­ty to pro­tect our­selves, as well as those around us,” the gen­er­al said. Cur­rent­ly, U.S. troops must con­tend with a slow process of try­ing to secure a judi­cial war­rant against insur­gent sus­pects, then deter­mine what role they and the Iraqi forces will play.

“That’s a slow process for chas­ing rock­et attacks, so those lethal attacks are start­ing to wor­ry us,” he said.

Anoth­er area Cartwright spoke about is the abil­i­ty of the department’s acqui­si­tions process to field equip­ment quick­ly. Offi­cials began work­ing last year to make a more flex­i­ble sys­tem in which the urgent needs of warfight­ers would be cal­cu­lat­ed against per­fect research and devel­op­ment and costs, he said.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” Cartwright said. “Some­times a sense of urgency changes the risk cal­cu­lus.” In those cas­es, he said, “a 30-per­cent solu­tion is good enough, because it’s going to save lives.”

On the oppo­site end of the acqui­si­tion spec­trum, “which is real­ly how we do busi­ness today,” Cartwright acknowl­edged, is “a very risk-averse” pro­to­col of spend­ing as much time and mon­ey as is nec­es­sary to cre­ate per­fect vehi­cles and equip­ment.

Where the depart­ment is head­ed, Cartwright said, is a mid­dle method of pro­cure­ment in which vehi­cles and equip­ment are built with open archi­tec­ture to be flex­i­ble enough to field faster, then be adapt­ed as threats change. An exam­ple, he said, is the Preda­tor unmanned air­craft, which was adapt­ed from ana­log video tech­nol­o­gy to dig­i­tal.

As for the bud­get, Cartwright acknowl­edged that he and oth­ers are look­ing even beyond the addi­tion­al $400 bil­lion in cost sav­ings Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has asked depart­ment offi­cials to find. The gen­er­al said he is doing so on his own accord to offer dif­fer­ent options in sav­ings.

“I’m cer­tain­ly doing bud­get drills beyond $400 bil­lion,” Cartwright said. Look­ing at oth­er, some­times more expen­sive options, he said, “you may make dif­fer­ent deci­sions.” “We’re doing due dili­gence,” he added.

Look­ing out in the first three years of cost sav­ings, Cartwright said, readi­ness and oper­at­ing costs are the first con­sid­er­a­tions. In the sec­ond three years, the num­ber and struc­ture of forces is under con­sid­er­a­tion, he said. Beyond six years, he said, infra­struc­ture and enti­tle­ments are eval­u­at­ed.

Asked how bud­get con­straints affect com­bat­ant command’s requests, Cartwright said the grand strat­e­gy is about match­ing ends and means.

“We are not lim­it­less on our resources. … They ask us for things we can’t give them, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t ask,” he said.

Cartwright also was asked about the nuclear tri­ad of air, sea and land-based inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles. He said he is con­cerned the mil­i­tary is not get­ting its money’s worth on bombers, and that he would like to see more dis­cus­sion about mov­ing to unmanned bombers.

“I’m known as the bomber hater, I guess,” he said, not­ing that the mil­i­tary increas­ing­ly buys far few­er bombers for the same cost. “I’m wor­ried that we’re kind of pric­ing our­selves out of the mar­ket with the approach we’re tak­ing. If we’re going to go out and spend bil­lions of dol­lars on some­thing less than 20 [bombers], then I ques­tion the invest­ment. Build­ing five or 10 of some­thing is not going do it. I want us to think in terms of hun­dreds again.”

Cartwright said he also would like to see more dis­cus­sion of long-term U.S. nuclear deter­rence, such as what nuclear deter­rence should look like in 2020 and whether the tri­ad should reflect dif­fer­ent approach­es to dif­fer­ent poten­tial threats. “I think we haven’t lever­aged our intel­lec­tu­al cap­i­tal on that,” he said.

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

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