WASHINGTON, April 1, 2011 — Navy Adm. Mike Mullen provided his assessment of the global security environment during the annual Rostov Lecture at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies here last night.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke about the challenges facing the world and the role that militaries play.
The United States and its military cannot be complacent, Mullen said. “If past is prologue,” he added, “there will be challenges this century that we cannot imagine today.” Military power alone cannot solve the problems facing the world, the chairman said, but it should be seen as one piece of the whole-of-government approach. “While military power may prove to be the best first tool of the state,” he said, “it should never be the only one.”
When it’s used, Mullen told the students and faculty, military power must be applied in a precise and principled manner, “even against enemies that may not demonstrate similar restraint.”
These realities are daunting as they occur at a time of constraints –- fiscal and otherwise, the admiral said, repeating his assertion made last year that America’s national debt represents the greatest threat to national security.
The Defense Department has to adjust to this more constrained environment, Mullen said, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ efficiencies program is a start. The efficiencies effort “cancels costly programs, improves business practices and even eliminates more than 100 flag and general officer jobs and more than 200 senior executive service jobs from our rolls,” Mullen said. “All told, we believe this will result in a total reduction of $78 billion from the five-year defense plan submitted last year.” While money is one constraint, another is energy, the chairman told the group.
“In my profession, … the cost of fossil fuel manifests itself far more profoundly than just a heftier bill at the gas pump,” he said. “I’m acutely aware of the cost in blood and treasure of providing energy to our forces in Afghanistan today.”
The military is responding to the challenge. The Navy is building a “green fleet,” the Marines are deploying solar panels with units, and the Army is insulating roofs to save millions in fuel costs. And the military’s efforts may affect climate change, Mullen said.
“Whatever the root cause, climate change’s potential impacts are sobering and far-reaching,” the admiral said. “Glaciers are melting at a faster rate, causing water supplies to diminish in Asia. Rising sea levels could lead to a mass migration and displacement similar to what we saw in Pakistan’s floods last year.”
Other shifts could pull thousands of square miles of arable land from Africa, the chairman noted. “Scarcity of water, food and space could create not only a humanitarian crisis, but conditions that could lead to failed states, instability and potentially radicalization,” he said.
These constraints could place the United States at a strategic turning point, Mullen said, noting that the National Military Strategy released earlier this year takes these issues into account.
“How we lead will be as important as the military capabilities we provide,” Mullen said. The emerging security environment calls for more extensive and broader security partnerships “within government, between public and private, and most importantly, internationally,” Mullen said. The United States, he said, must ensure its military can operate across the full spectrum of its capabilities — from stability and counterinsurgency operations to more traditional capabilities.
“Underpinning this strategy is the belief that there is a place and a need in this world for America’s leadership,” Mullen said. “But in leading, our military must be ready to play a number of roles –- facilitator, enabler, convener and guarantor — sometimes simultaneously.”
Military-to-military contacts are enabling nations to deepen relationships and address challenges, the chairman said. “We saw these connections pay very real dividends recently in Egypt –- a nation we’ve shared a strong military-to-military relationship with for decades,” Mullen said. “While the situation is still evolving, Egypt’s military — their professionalism and restraint — help lend stability to an incredibly dynamic situation, and our relationship provided mutual benefits to this challenging time.”
This, Mullen said, is why he visits his counterparts in Pakistan and China. “When a crisis or misunderstanding occurs, it is too late to build a relationship,” he said. “It must be cultivated beforehand over time, one conversation and one friendship at a time.”
Mullen asked the students and faculty to remember the sacrifices service members make as they look for ways to solve the problems confronting the nation. “This decade at war has included some very tough fights, and tragically, we have lost some tremendous young men and women,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)