ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Nov. 30, 2011 — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he understands that service members are nervous about looming budget cuts, but will have to be patient as the process moves forward.
Speaking in an interview on his way back from meetings with British officials in London, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said the Defense Department is pledged to $450 billion in cuts over the next 10 years.
The fiscal 2013 defense budget submitted in February 2012 will answer many of the questions troops have, he said.
That budget, Dempsey said, will take the department out to fiscal 2017.
“It shouldn’t be lost on anybody that we were handed this bill — this reduction — about two months ago,” the chairman said.
“What we’ve been doing is revising our strategy,” he said, “because you can’t just take cuts and do the same things we’ve been doing.”
Fiscal planners are weighing the impact of cuts on the national security strategy and consulting with the services, combatant commanders, defense secretary and people at the White House and Office of Management and Budget, Dempsey said.
“Concurrently, we are doing the mind-numbing work of weighing program cuts and putting a budget together,” he said.
Congress, which under the Constitution is charged “to raise and support Armies,” and “to provide and maintain a Navy,” must be consulted, he noted.
“I know there’s a lot of anxiety in the force. I’m anxious,” Dempsey said. “But we’ve got to follow the existing process.”
“If we weren’t having a discussion among ourselves about finding $450 billion worth of reductions, we’d still be having the conversation about implementing the changes we have made in response to 10 years at war,” he added. “We have learned.”
Even if Congress were to give the department all it asks for, the military still would have to examine the strategy, consider threats and make changes, Dempsey said. Any budget discussion would look to reinforce changes that improved capabilities, add funding to bridge gaps, and eliminate funding for capabilities no longer needed. The discussions also would include considerations of how much capability is needed.
“The budget we’re preparing … has to account for those lessons,” Dempsey said.
In the analysis about what has happened to the military during 10 years at war and anticipating what type of military will be needed in 2020, he said, clearly, some capabilities must be resourced. Counterterrorism is a big portion of the budget, he said, and cyber must be addressed, as the country is vulnerable to state or non-state actors operating in this new domain.
“Could that mean conventional forces could be pressured by this budget? Yes,” Dempsey said. ““But we’re going to find that balance between capability and capacity — what do we need to do and how often do we need to do it.
“One thing I will assure you of is no one is going to write off the possibility of any particular form of conflict,” the chairman continued. “You can’t say, ‘I don’t think we’ll have a conflict with a near-peer competitor, so let’s just ignore North Korea for the next five years and hope for the best.’ That’s impossible. So we’ve got to sustain our high-end conventional capability.”
Having the capability to wage conventional-style warfare remains an important deterrent, Dempsey said.
“We’ve got to have capability along the spectrum,” he said, “but some of the capacity is going to be changed, without question.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)