Cartwright Cites ‘Stark Realities’ at Conference

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 29, 2011 — Per­sis­tent glob­al con­flict cou­pled with efforts to reduce the nation’s $14 tril­lion debt will require the entire Defense Depart­ment to bet­ter align its decreas­ing resources, the vice chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yes­ter­day.

Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright addressed Defense Logis­tics Agency pro­fes­sion­als and indus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the 2011 DLA Indus­try Con­fer­ence and Exhi­bi­tion.

The mil­i­tary will con­tin­ue draw­ing down in Iraq until there are only about 10,000 ser­vice mem­bers left there by the end of this year, and surge forces in Afghanistan will start return­ing this year, Cartwright said. But as the mil­i­tary exits from these con­flicts, oth­ers loom on the hori­zon, he said.

“Today, you have 2.5 mil­lion men and women in uni­form sup­port­ing the per­sis­tent glob­al dis­rup­tion out there. I don’t real­ly see that chang­ing any­time soon,” the gen­er­al said.

In Libya, for exam­ple, the mil­i­tary is con­tribut­ing in ways America’s allies can’t, Cartwright said.

“And this con­flict is not going to be a con­flict of days and weeks any more than Iraq or Afghanistan were con­flicts of days and weeks,” he added.

Meet­ing these glob­al chal­lenges in a finan­cial­ly tight future will require more than strat­e­gy or pol­i­cy shifts, Cartwright said.

“We’re not going to change that by mere­ly buy­ing less, and then try­ing to match the same strat­e­gy against less resource. It’s just not going to work,” he said.

“Peo­ple can say we’re going to fix acqui­si­tions, or we’re going to fix require­ments, or change the strat­e­gy and tweak it on the mar­gins, and not do this or that, or we’re just going to cut mon­ey and see what hap­pens,” Cartwright con­tin­ued. “These are all things that we’ve had expe­ri­ence doing before, but the chal­lenge that we face today real­ly has no prece­dent.

“We’re either going to have to fun­da­men­tal­ly change how we do busi­ness, or we’ll have to step back,” he said. “Those are the stark real­i­ties that face DOD right now.”

Chang­ing the process by which the depart­ment cat­e­go­rizes and pro­cures equip­ment can help ensure expen­di­tures fit the military’s needs, both in the present and the future, Cartwright said.

“Today, we want 15 years to pro­duce a truck — that’s absurd,” he said. “Com­pet­i­tive edge exists in days, weeks and min­utes on the bat­tle­field, not years. If it takes us 15 years to build the next fight­ing vehi­cle and field it, and then the first con­flict comes along and we have to do major mod­i­fi­ca­tions in order to adjust it to the con­flict we’re in, it becomes irrel­e­vant very quick­ly.”

The cost to the depart­ment then is incred­i­bly high­er com­pared to what is imposed on the ene­my, he added.

To get away from the one-size-fits-all con­cept, mil­i­tary equip­ment will soon be placed in one of three tiers, Cartwright said. The first tier will include items urgent­ly need­ed on the bat­tle­field, regard­less of cost.

“It’s a very dif­fi­cult thing to say, but I don’t real­ly care about how much it costs and I don’t care about per­for­mance,” he said of this cat­e­go­ry. “If I can save one life, I want it in the field now.”

On the oppo­site end of that is the devel­op­ment of a new bomber air­craft, Cartwright said.

“It’s going to take me time because I don’t want to screw it up,” he said. “Cost is very impor­tant, per­for­mance is impor­tant, but I’m will­ing to wait for the attrib­ut­es that I’m going to need on the bat­tle­field for the next 50 years.”

In between those tiers are hybrid pro­grams in which equip­ment is built on the con­di­tion it will be adjust­ed or mod­i­fied to fit the con­di­tions of future con­flicts, Cartwright said.

“We’ll work our way through that to make sure mod­i­fi­ca­tions and updates can occur in stride and that peo­ple are out in the field mak­ing those mod­i­fi­ca­tions as they occur, because we can’t afford to ship equip­ment back and forth, and it’s just too much delay,” he added.

Cartwright con­clud­ed by call­ing ser­vice mem­bers a nation­al trea­sure.

“They are our youth, and they go out there and do this time and time again,” he said. “We owe a debt to them and to their fam­i­lies, prob­a­bly a debt we can’t repay, but we have a moral oblig­a­tion to try and nev­er for­get them.”

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