Gates: Services Must Balance Old, New Capabilities

MOSUL, Iraq, April 8, 2011 — As they move ahead, the ser­vices must find the right bal­ance between the new capa­bil­i­ties they’ve had to devel­op in Iraq and Afghanistan while main­tain­ing the tra­di­tion­al capa­bil­i­ties they used in pre­vi­ous wars, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said here today.

Dur­ing a vis­it with sol­diers of the 1st Cav­al­ry Division’s 4th Advise and Assist Brigade serv­ing here in U.S. Divi­sion North, Gates said that when “dwell time” at home sta­tions between deploy­ments increas­es to two years, which should hap­pen by the end of the year, sol­diers will be able to resume the full-spec­trum train­ing that has suf­fered from long and fre­quent deploy­ments over the last decade.

“What I want to be sure of is that as we come out of Iraq, and even­tu­al­ly out of Afghanistan, we don’t for­get what we’ve learned in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said, “and we [also] need to get back to peo­ple train­ing with armor and artillery and so on.”

The sec­re­tary not­ed that air­craft car­ri­ers have dom­i­nat­ed the Navy, fight­ers and bombers have dom­i­nat­ed the Air Force, armor has dom­i­nat­ed the Army, and amphibi­ous capa­bil­i­ty has dom­i­nat­ed the Marine Corps.

“What I’m try­ing to get peo­ple to appre­ci­ate is that in the 21st cen­tu­ry, … the [U.S.] Army meet­ing an army like the Sovi­et army com­ing through the Ful­da Gap in Ger­many is not like­ly to hap­pen,” he said. “So the Army has to have a full range of capa­bil­i­ties — and it needs to buy equip­ment that gives a full range of capa­bil­i­ties — so it can do all of the dif­fer­ent aspects of the mis­sion.”

As anoth­er exam­ple, Gates not­ed that the Unit­ed States has­n’t had an Air Force pilot shot down in air-to-air com­bat since the Viet­nam War, though air-to-air and bomber capa­bil­i­ties have dom­i­nat­ed the Air Force for most of its his­to­ry.

“But guess what?” he said. “Last year, the Air Force flew 37,000 com­bat sup­port mis­sions in Afghanistan. They mede­vaced 9,700 sol­diers, air­men, Marines and sailors. Those are impor­tant mis­sions. So I want the Air Force … to have bombers and tac[tical] air and an air-to-air capa­bil­i­ty, but I don’t want them to for­get about that com­bat sup­port mis­sion. I don’t want them to for­get about mede­vac. I want them to have the equip­ment to do all of that.”

The big chal­lenge fac­ing all of the ser­vices, Gates said, is find­ing the right bal­ance of capa­bil­i­ties and how to go about it joint­ly.

“We’ve oper­at­ed joint­ly in this the­ater and in Afghanistan in ways we’ve nev­er done before in the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary,” the sec­re­tary told the sol­diers. “But we don’t pro­cure joint­ly. Very few of our acqui­si­tions are joint, so I think we’ve got to fig­ure that one out, too, par­tic­u­lar­ly in a time of lim­it­ed bud­gets.”

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

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