Mullen Assesses Global Security Environment

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)

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