WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2011 — During what he called his last appearance there as defense secretary, Robert M. Gates spoke to cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., today about the Army’s future in facing challenges he termed “daunting and diverse.”
Gates focused on three issues he termed interrelated: future conflict and its implication for the Army; how to institutionalize required capabilities; and how the service must adapt to retain the kinds of officers it will need this century.
A decade ago, the Army was “a force mainly organized, trained, and equipped to defeat another large modern army,” Gates said.
The lessons and organizational adaptations resulting from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, must be “not merely ‘observed’ but truly ‘learned’ – incorporated into the service’s DNA and institutional memory.”
But the service must also prepare for a “complex, unpredictable, and … unstructured” range of missions, the secretary said, citing as examples “terrorists in search of weapons of mass destruction, Iran, North Korea, military modernization programs in Russia and China, failed and failing states, revolution in the Middle East, cyber, piracy, proliferation, natural and man-made disasters, and more.”
As forces return from Iraq, one benefit is the opportunity to conduct full-spectrum training that was neglected to meet the demands of the current wars, Gates said.
The Army must also retain unconventional capabilities, Gates said, “most critically, to prevent festering problems from growing into full-blown crises which require costly – and controversial – large-scale American military intervention.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
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