Dempsey Speaks of Building Force for the Future

ARLINGTON, Va., Nov. 18, 2011 — Exam­in­ing what makes the pro­fes­sion of arms a pro­fes­sion is impor­tant to ser­vice mem­bers, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told mem­bers of the Mil­i­tary Reporters and Edi­tors group here today.

Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey said this becomes even more impor­tant as the num­ber of troops deployed to the wars drops. “It will help inform us as the demands on the force go down and we go back to a mil­i­tary that has a cer­tain amount of time to train,” he said. “How do we define our­selves, how do we inspire our­selves; what’s our rai­son d’etre, why would a young man or woman want to be in?”

He not­ed that offi­cers typ­i­cal­ly at 0–4 or below and enlist­ed per­son­nel at E-6 and below “know noth­ing in their career oth­er than coun­terin­sur­gency, Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The ques­tion once these issues fade is “what is it that binds us as a pro­fes­sion to each oth­er, to the nation, and what are those attrib­ut­es we need to be deliv­er­ing in our per­son­nel poli­cies and pro­fes­sion­al mil­i­tary edu­ca­tion.”

This segues into one issue that con­cerns the chair­man: how to keep peo­ple used to work­ing inde­pen­dent­ly in the field to a gar­ri­son envi­ron­ment. “This is why each of the ser­vices has chal­lenged those respon­si­ble for train­ing and doc­trine to find out how we ‘repli­cate’ — although I am not sat­is­fied with the word — the chal­lenges and expe­ri­ences and the learn­ing that has gone on over the past 10 years,” Dempsey said.

The mil­i­tary has learned to con­duct oper­a­tions in and among a pop­u­la­tion — an enor­mous­ly com­plex task that entails trib­al engage­ments, under­stand­ing reli­gions, under­stand­ing effects of dif­fer­ent types of ter­rain and under­stand­ing the capa­bil­i­ties of dif­fer­ent types of mil­i­tary sys­tems. “I can’t repli­cate that in the phys­i­cal world at Fort Hood, Texas, … just can’t do it,” the chair­man said. “But I might be able to repli­cate it in the vir­tu­al world.”

The mil­i­tary will have to make invest­ments, but the tech­nolo­gies may allow the joint force to link togeth­er to con­tin­ue to deliv­er the com­plex­i­ty of the bat­tle­space at home sta­tions. “The good news in all that is this gen­er­a­tion … is actu­al­ly quite com­fort­able in that vir­tu­al envi­ron­ment,” he said.

Future threats and con­strained resources will shape the secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment. There will con­tin­ue to be threats from ter­ror­ist and extrem­ist groups in the future, Dempsey said. Threats from Iran and North Korea will con­tin­ue.

“Then there are some emerg­ing pow­ers that we do not con­sid­er to be threats, but we want to make sure that our actions over the next 10 years doesn’t cre­ate a self-ful­fill­ing prophe­cy that caus­es any of them to become threats, at the same time build­ing our capa­bil­i­ties against the pos­si­bil­i­ty that we got it wrong,” the chair­man said.

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