Dempsey Discusses Range of Army Issues

WASHINGTON, April 14, 2011 — The Army could pro­vide a fol­low-on force in Iraq if asked, the service’s new chief of Staff said here yes­ter­day.
Iraq was just one of many top­ics Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey took on dur­ing a 45-minute ses­sion with reporters in his office. He also touched on repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, the future of the ser­vice and what the Army needs to do in an era of fis­cal con­straint.

Dempsey wears two hats as the uni­formed leader of his ser­vice and as a mem­ber of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In the sec­ond posi­tion, the gen­er­al said, he would rec­om­mend a con­tin­ued mis­sion in Iraq. Bar­ring a request by the Iraqi gov­ern­ment for a con­tin­ued U.S. mil­i­tary pres­ence, all U.S. forces are sched­uled to be out of the coun­try by the end of the year. “If the Iraqis request sup­port beyond the end of Decem­ber, I would cer­tain­ly say that a sta­ble Iraq, long-term, would be of com­mon inter­est to both of us,” he said. It would be in Amer­i­can inter­ests, he not­ed, for Iraq to remain on its cur­rent path and become even more sta­ble. “Look at the neigh­bors, and see the trou­bles they are hav­ing,” he said. 

The Army would find a way to do it if tasked to do so, Dempsey said, but many ques­tions would need to be answered. First, do the Iraqis want U.S. help? If they do, then what type of help – train­ing and advis­ing, coun­tert­er­ror­ism assis­tance, air­space defense, bor­der con­trol, logis­tics or pro­fes­sion­al mil­i­tary edu­ca­tion? “There’s any num­ber of things they could ask for, and then we’d have to decide what it would take to do it,” the gen­er­al said. 

As train­ing con­tin­ues to pre­pare the force for repeal of the law that bans gay men and les­bians from serv­ing open­ly in the mil­i­tary, Dempsey said, he expects to make his rec­om­men­da­tion in May. The repeal will take effect 60 days after the pres­i­dent, the sec­re­tary of defense and the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff cer­ti­fy that the mil­i­tary is ready for the change. 

“I have to be com­fort­able based on the input from my com­man­ders in the field that they believe the train­ing and edu­ca­tion has per­me­at­ed the force to the point where … I can pro­vide advice to the sec­re­tary and the chair­man on the issue of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion,” he said. 

The Army has launched a study of the ser­vice and the pro­fes­sion of arms, Dempsey not­ed, some­thing the ser­vice has done in the past, such as after Viet­nam and at the end of the Cold War. “It’s one of those times when there are sig­nals that the force– after 10 years of war – is ask­ing itself, ‘Who are we? What are we? Why are we? What is the role of the Army?’ ” he said. 

Cer­tain attrib­ut­es define a pro­fes­sion, the gen­er­al said. “You have to have an eth­ic – a series of behav­iors. You have to be self-reg­u­lat­ing. You have to devel­op your lead­ers. You have to com­mit to long-term devel­op­ment,” he said. “In many of those areas, we are doing extra­or­di­nar­i­ly well. But what I’ve found is that the force is embrac­ing this effort.” The study is part of a Train­ing and Doc­trine Com­mand effort to answer those ques­tions, he added. Dempsey com­mand­ed that orga­ni­za­tion in his last pri­or assign­ment. As chief of staff, Dempsey said, his first pri­or­i­ty is keep­ing faith with the young men and women deploy­ing to Iraq and Afghanistan and wher­ev­er else they go, and this has to be seen against the back­ground of fis­cal constraint. 

“Giv­en the clear task at hand that the nation has to address its finan­cial chal­lenges, we are also look­ing at what does this Army need to be for the nation, not what does the Army need to be for the Army,” he said. 

“The real art of being the chief of staff of the Army in sup­port of the sec­re­tary of the Army and the sec­re­tary of defense is to take a look at across the bud­gets you will influ­ence,” the gen­er­al said. That goes out to fis­cal 2020, he added, and the chal­lenge is rec­on­cil­ing the very dif­fer­ent pres­sures that exist in meet­ing the cur­rent demand, win­ning the cur­rent fight and build­ing the future force. 

Recon­nect­ing the Army’s divi­sions with their brigades is one of his aspi­ra­tions in his new job, Dempsey said. Now, divi­sions deploy and often have brigades from dif­fer­ent divisions. 

“We grew the Army from 65 to 73 brigades because we need­ed it to man­age the rota­tion on a 1‑to‑1 ratio,” he explained. “That also backed us into the struc­ture where brigades are avail­able not when their high­er head­quar­ters is avail­able, but when they are available.” 

While the mod­u­lar sys­tem gives the ser­vice a degree of ver­sa­til­i­ty that is help­ful to the nation, Dempsey said, issues such as leader devel­op­ment and oth­er human dimen­sions accrue. Still, he added, the mod­u­lar force pro­vides some sec­ond-order benefits. 

“The heavy force has got­ten much more com­fort­able work­ing with the lighter force,” he said. “Spe­cial oper­a­tions forces are much more com­fort­able work­ing with gen­er­al pur­pose forces, and so on. This isn’t all bad, but there are sig­nals out to which we have to respond. 

“And when the demand declines – which we antic­i­pate it will at some point – you will find us inclined to recon­nect lead­ers and men­tors in a way that helps us get at these leader devel­op­ment issues,” he added. 

Dempsey said he is con­cerned about hol­low­ing out the force. 

“The com­mit­ment I’ve made is what­ev­er Army we build, it will be well-orga­nized, well-trained and well-equipped,” he said. “That might mean it’s small­er than we like, but it’ll be able to do the job it’s asked to do.” 

Avoid­ing a hol­low force has much to do with main­tain­ing the bal­ance among per­son­nel, oper­a­tions and mod­ern­iza­tion, the gen­er­al explained. “If you stray too far from this bal­ance, you can hol­low out the force,” he said. 

Dempsey said he will take a look at all Army pro­grams to ensure they are doing what they were meant to do. 

“We’ve been extra­or­di­nar­i­ly well sup­port­ed over the last 10 years,” he said. “The peo­ple of the Unit­ed States have giv­en us what we need.” But pro­grams can pro­lif­er­ate and morph, he added, and he thinks some may be redun­dant or not pro­duc­ing the out­comes needed. 

“The chal­lenge we face is to take a look at these pro­grams holis­ti­cal­ly and then rack and stack them – pri­or­i­tize them, deter­mine the resources we have, and then make sure we have the resources for the ones that are pro­duc­ing the results,” he said. 

The Army is chal­lenged, Dempsey acknowl­edged. Sol­diers feel very good about what they are doing now, he said, but they are con­fused about the fis­cal cri­sis and what forces are need­ed for the future. 

“All this is rou­tine and his­tor­i­cal, but to them it’s new,” he said. “I’m 59 years old, and I’ve heard this four times in my career. What I’ve got to do is help them see their way through that. Part of my themes I’m work­ing on, with the great help of the sec­re­tary of the Army, is to issue between now and the Army birth­day a doc­u­ment that artic­u­lates some of that and calm the nerves of the force. 

“The Army has been around for 235 years, and though it does­n’t always look the same from decade to decade, it always pro­vides the things the nation needs when it needs it,” he con­tin­ued. “I per­son­al­ly think the Army ought to think of itself as an orga­ni­za­tion that will adapt about every five to sev­en years. It’s not just about new equip­ment, but new orga­ni­za­tions and structures.” 

The younger gen­er­a­tion embraces adap­ta­tion and change bet­ter than old­er gen­er­a­tions, he said, “and I’m going to test that theory.” 

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

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