Obama: Future Force Will be Smaller, Agile, Ready

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2012 — At a moment of nation­al tran­si­tion, the Unit­ed States is reshap­ing defense pri­or­i­ties and its mil­i­tary force to sus­tain U.S. glob­al lead­er­ship and respond to chang­ing secu­ri­ty and fis­cal needs, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said this morn­ing at the Pen­ta­gon.

Oba­ma, the first pres­i­dent to address reporters in the Pen­ta­gon brief­ing room, joined Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta and Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to intro­duce a new mil­i­tary strat­e­gy that sets pri­or­i­ties for a 21st-cen­tu­ry defense.

“The Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca is the great­est force for free­dom and secu­ri­ty that the world has ever known,” Oba­ma said. “In no small mea­sure, that’s because we’ve built the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped mil­i­tary in his­to­ry — and as com­man­der in chief, I’m going to keep it that way.”

Even as the tide of war recedes and U.S. forces pre­vail in today’s mis­sions, he added, “we have the oppor­tu­ni­ty and the respon­si­bil­i­ty to look ahead to the force we need for the future.”

Look­ing beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and long-term nation-build­ing with large mil­i­tary foot­prints, Oba­ma said, the Unit­ed States will be able to ensure its secu­ri­ty with small­er con­ven­tion­al ground forces and by invest­ing in capa­bil­i­ties that include intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance and the abil­i­ty to oper­ate in envi­ron­ments where adver­saries try to deny access.

“Yes, our mil­i­tary will be lean­er,” he said, “but the world must know the Unit­ed States is going to main­tain our mil­i­tary supe­ri­or­i­ty with armed forces that are agile, flex­i­ble and ready for the full range of con­tin­gen­cies and threats.”

Panet­ta said the depart­ment would need to make a strate­gic shift regard­less of the nation’s fis­cal sit­u­a­tion. “We are at that point in his­to­ry,” the sec­re­tary added. “That’s the real­i­ty of the world we live in.” But he stressed that the U.S. mil­i­tary will remain capa­ble across the spectrum.

“We will con­tin­ue to con­duct a com­plex set of mis­sions rang­ing from coun­tert­er­ror­ism, rang­ing from coun­ter­ing weapons of mass destruc­tion to main­tain­ing a safe, secure and effec­tive nuclear deter­rent,” Panet­ta said, adding that the depart­ment will be “ful­ly pre­pared to pro­tect our inter­ests, defend our home­land and sup­port civ­il authorities.”

The Defense Strate­gic Guid­ance doc­u­ment released today says the future force will be led by the world’s finest, best cared for and bat­tle-test­ed all-vol­un­teer mil­i­tary — one that will be small­er, but that also will be flex­i­ble, agile and ready.

The force will be lean­er, fur­ther reduc­ing the cost of doing busi­ness and find­ing effi­cien­cies in over­head, busi­ness prac­tices and oth­er sup­port activ­i­ties, accord­ing to the guid­ance. It also will be tech­no­log­i­cal­ly supe­ri­or, the doc­u­ment adds, and net­worked across the ser­vices as well as with diplo­mat­ic, devel­op­ment and intel­li­gence agen­cies, allies and part­ners. The strat­e­gy also out­lines a force that will be able to regen­er­ate and mobi­lize for an unpre­dictable future, pre­serv­ing the U.S. indus­tri­al base.

“As a glob­al force, our mil­i­tary will nev­er be doing only one thing,” Panet­ta said. “It will be respon­si­ble for a range of mis­sions and activ­i­ties across the globe of vary­ing scope, dura­tion and strate­gic pri­or­i­ty. This will place a pre­mi­um on flex­i­ble and adapt­able forces that can respond quick­ly and effec­tive­ly to a vari­ety of con­tin­gen­cies and poten­tial adversaries.”

With the end of U.S. mil­i­tary com­mit­ments in Iraq and the draw­down under way in Afghanistan, the sec­re­tary said, the Army and Marine Corps will no longer need to be sized to sup­port the kind of large-scale, long-term sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions that have dom­i­nat­ed mil­i­tary pri­or­i­ties and force gen­er­a­tion over the past decade.

Con­tin­u­ing invest­ments in spe­cial oper­a­tions forces, in new tech­nolo­gies such as ISR and unmanned sys­tems and in space and espe­cial­ly cyber­space capa­bil­i­ties will help the force “retain and con­tin­ue to refine and insti­tu­tion­al­ize the exper­tise and capa­bil­i­ties that have been gained at such great cost over the last decade,” Panet­ta said.

Most impor­tant­ly, the sec­re­tary added, “we will struc­ture and pace reduc­tions in the nation’s ground forces in such a way that they can surge, regen­er­ate and mobi­lize capa­bil­i­ties need­ed for any contingency.”

Build­ing in reversibil­i­ty and the abil­i­ty to quick­ly mobi­lize will be crit­i­cal, he said.

“That means re-exam­in­ing the mix of ele­ments in the active and reserve com­po­nents,” Panet­ta said. “It means main­tain­ing a strong Nation­al Guard and Reserve. It means retain­ing a healthy cadre of expe­ri­enced [non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers] and midgrade offi­cers, and pre­serv­ing the health and via­bil­i­ty of the nation’s defense indus­tri­al base.”

The strat­e­gy, Dempsey said, is sound.

“It ensures we remain the pre-emi­nent mil­i­tary in the world,” the chair­man told reporters, “it pre­serves the tal­ent of the all-vol­un­teer force, it takes into account the lessons of the last 10 years of war, [and] it acknowl­edges the imper­a­tive of a glob­al, net­worked and full-spec­trum joint force.”

The strat­e­gy calls for inno­va­tion — new ways of oper­at­ing and part­ner­ing, Dempsey said, adding that it rebal­ances the defense focus by region and mis­sion and makes impor­tant invest­ments in emerg­ing and proven capa­bil­i­ties such as cyber and spe­cial operations.

“Fun­da­men­tal­ly,” the chair­man said, “our strat­e­gy has always been about our abil­i­ty to respond to glob­al con­tin­gen­cies wher­ev­er and when­ev­er they hap­pen. This does not change. We will always pro­vide a range of options for our nation. We can and will always be able to do more than one thing at a time. More impor­tant­ly, wher­ev­er we are con­front­ed and in what­ev­er sequence, we will win.”

All strate­gies accept some risk, he acknowledged.

“Because we will be some­what small­er, these risks will be mea­sured in time and capac­i­ty,” the gen­er­al said. “How­ev­er, we have to be hon­est — we could face even greater risks if we did not change from our cur­rent approach.”

The out­come is not per­fect, the chair­man said, but “it gives us what we need — in this world and with­in this bud­get — to pro­vide the best pos­si­ble defense for our nation at a time of great tran­si­tions. It pre­pares us for what we antic­i­pate need­ing in 2020.” The nation faces a dif­fi­cult fis­cal sit­u­a­tion and in many ways is at a cri­sis point, Panet­ta said.

“But I believe that in every cri­sis there is oppor­tu­ni­ty,” he added. “Out of this cri­sis, we have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to end the old ways of doing busi­ness and to build a mod­ern force for the 21st cen­tu­ry that can win today’s wars and suc­cess­ful­ly con­front any ene­my and respond to any threat and any chal­lenge of the future.

“Our respon­si­bil­i­ty — my respon­si­bil­i­ty as sec­re­tary of defense — is to pro­tect the nation’s secu­ri­ty and to keep Amer­i­ca safe,” he con­tin­ued. “With this joint force, I am con­fi­dent that we can effec­tive­ly defend the Unit­ed States of America.” 

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

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