Dempsey: Complex Threats Require Multiple Options

ANNAPOLIS, Md., Nov. 1, 2011 — Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey’s two most strik­ing impres­sions after just a month on the job as chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are the com­plex­i­ty of the issues fac­ing the U.S. mil­i­tary and the cal­iber of the ser­vice mem­bers who vol­un­teer to serve, know­ing what will be asked of them.

Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, address­es the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cut­ter Strat­ton dur­ing a vis­it near Annapo­lis, Md., Oct. 31, 2011.
DOD pho­to by D. Myles Cullen
Click to enlarge

“The kind of threats that our nation faces are a lot less defin­able than … 10, 15, 20 years ago,” said Dempsey, who joined Adm. Robert J. Papp, Jr., the Coast Guard com­man­dant, yes­ter­day aboard U.S. Coast Guard Cut­ter Strat­ton. The secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment has become much more com­pet­i­tive, Dempsey said. He not­ed, for exam­ple, that some of the adver­saries the Coast Guard works against in its coun­ternar­cotics mis­sion are “as well-armed and as well-equipped and prob­a­bly as well-trained as any nation state on the face of the Earth.” 

What’s clear, the chair­man said, is that the Unit­ed States needs to take advan­tage of every avail­able resource from across the nation­al secu­ri­ty frame­work to con­front these and oth­er secu­ri­ty challenges. 

“It’s about pro­vid­ing as many options as pos­si­ble for the nation,” he said. “We don’t want to be a one-trick pony.” 

Dempsey not­ed that dif­fer­ent author­i­ties reside with­in dif­fer­ent fed­er­al agen­cies, includ­ing the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty and Coast Guard, the FBI and the Defense Department. 

“And I think that what makes us great is that we can bun­dle those,” he said. “We can use the appro­pri­ate tools for the appro­pri­ate job, and know that we can get the job done because we become far more interoperable.” 

Papp said the Coast Guard brings spe­cial, niche capa­bil­i­ties to the nation­al secu­ri­ty pic­ture, both at home and abroad. And although its his­toric role has been to pro­vide wartime sup­port to the Navy, it now lends these capa­bil­i­ties to broad­er Defense Depart­ment missions. 

For the past eight years, for exam­ple, a squadron of six Coast Guard patrol boats has been pro­vid­ing secu­ri­ty for off­shore Iraqi oil plat­forms in the North Ara­bi­an Gulf, he said. In addi­tion, Coast Guard units in Kuwait’s Aish­warya port are pro­vid­ing secu­ri­ty as mil­i­tary equip­ment is on- and off-loaded. 

“These pro­vide capa­bil­i­ties that the Defense Depart­ment then does not have to pro­vide for or wor­ry about, because they can rely on the Coast Guard,” Papp said. 

This addi­tion­al source of capa­bil­i­ty is par­tic­u­lar­ly valu­able in light of con­strained bud­gets, the com­man­dant said, not­ing that he strives to devel­op “com­ple­men­tary, yet nonre­dun­dant, capa­bil­i­ties” with­in the Coast Guard. 

“There is no rea­son we should try to dupli­cate some of the things that reside in the oth­er four ser­vices,” he said. “But where we can help out, [we] then focus on those mis­sion areas so we can be of assistance.” 

Dempsey said he’s seen many of the Coast Guard’s con­tri­bu­tions first­hand � as com­man­der over­see­ing the train­ing and equip­ping of Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces and as act­ing com­man­der of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand � and wel­comed the oppor­tu­ni­ty yes­ter­day to learn more about Coast Guard capabilities. 

Just as impor­tant, Dempsey said, was the chance to meet the Coast Guard mem­bers who pro­vide those capabilities. 

“The hard­ware is impor­tant, clear­ly. We want to over­match what­ev­er adver­sary we encounter, whether it is a nation state, non-state actor or crim­i­nal groups,” he said. “And we do that through our hard­ware, but it is tru­ly about people.” 

Dempsey said his first month as the nation’s top mil­i­tary offi­cer has rein­forced his pride in the qual­i­ty of peo­ple who vol­un­teer to serve their country. 

“Every place I go, in every ser­vice � Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard � the qual­i­ty of the young men and women in uni­form is just a trea­sure,” he said. “We have no idea as a nation how for­tu­nate we are.” 

Dempsey said he has trav­eled around much of the world and seen many dif­fer­ent mil­i­taries. All have their own skills and attrib­ut­es and con­nec­tion with their soci­eties, he said. “I am just awful­ly proud to be the chair­man of this par­tic­u­lar armed force at this par­tic­u­lar time in our his­to­ry,” the chair­man added. 

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

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