Odierno: Services Must Partner to Weather Lean Times

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2011 — The Defense Depart­ment must expand joint ser­vice, inter­a­gency and allied part­ner­ships dur­ing tight fis­cal times, and avoid the pit­falls of “doing more with less,” Army Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no said yes­ter­day.

“We must avoid the trap of doing more with less, which is a recipe for cre­at­ing a hol­low force,” Odier­no, the com­man­der of U.S. Joint Forces Com­mand, said at the annu­al Joint Warfight­ing Con­fer­ence in Vir­ginia Beach, Va.

Odier­no also said the mil­i­tary ser­vices “may have to do less with less,” in com­ing years due to lean­er defense bud­gets and adjust­ed pri­or­i­ties. Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates last year direct­ed that Joint Forces Com­mand be closed and that its assets be redis­trib­uted as part of his bud­get effi­cien­cies ini­tia­tives. Odier­no said there are more sav­ings to be had in the department’s bud­get, espe­cial­ly in elim­i­nat­ing redun­dan­cy.

Call­ing the nation’s fis­cal cri­sis “per­haps our pri­ma­ry threat to nation­al secu­ri­ty,” Odier­no said lead­er­ship will be more impor­tant than ever.

“We must deter­mine the risks to our nation­al secu­ri­ty objec­tives, and then set pri­or­i­ties,” he said. While pre­vi­ous decades have been char­ac­ter­ized by expan­sions across the U.S. gov­ern­ment and those of its allies, the future decade like­ly will be one of con­trac­tion, the gen­er­al said. It will require greater cre­ativ­i­ty, more resource­ful­ness, and shar­ing cost bur­dens across joint U.S. forces and their coali­tion part­ners, he said.

“We’re now forced to make deci­sions that pre­vi­ous­ly we could avoid,” the gen­er­al said. “We have to have a nation­al secu­ri­ty dis­cus­sion about … what are we going to stop doing?” As the depart­ment moves toward tighter bud­get years, Odier­no said, the strength of the mil­i­tary will depend on the make­up of its lead­ers. Ten years of war has honed high­ly skilled mil­i­tary offi­cers and a frame­work of joint ser­vices, inter­a­gency coop­er­a­tion and stronger coali­tion part­ner­ships, he said.

“Effec­tive lead­er­ship today doesn’t mean pro­tec­tion of a ser­vice bud­get, or a par­tic­u­lar weapons sys­tem,” Odier­no said. “Effec­tive lead­er­ship dur­ing strate­gic uncer­tain­ty means nav­i­gat­ing painful changes with moral and eth­i­cal courage, with phys­i­cal and men­tal tough­ness, with an appre­ci­a­tion for the greater goal of our nation’s long-term pros­per­i­ty and secu­ri­ty.”

The gen­er­al called on lis­ten­ers to encour­age young peo­ple to stay with the mil­i­tary. “I believe our future depends on our future mil­i­tary lead­ers,” he said. “They will lead us through these dif­fi­cult times.”

Requir­ing the mil­i­tary ser­vices to per­form joint­ly — and also with civil­ian agen­cies and coali­tion part­ners — is para­mount, Odier­no said, and is some­thing that should be includ­ed in the ser­vices’ train­ing and doc­trine.

“Coali­tions don’t just enhance inter­na­tion­al legit­i­ma­cy for action,” he said. “They also bring valu­able per­spec­tive, unique capa­bil­i­ties and assets.” NATO’s ongo­ing air cam­paign and sanc­tions in Libya are an exam­ple of that, he said.

Odier­no encour­aged lead­ers to take a “whole nation approach” to prob­lem solv­ing in a rapid­ly chang­ing world of haves and have-nots, where the dis­en­fran­chised “now can chal­lenge the sta­tus quo at the speed of Twit­ter.”

“Pros­per­i­ty is not a zero-sum equa­tion. It is in our best inter­est that every nation has bet­ter pros­per­i­ty and secu­ri­ty,” the gen­er­al said. “It’s hard to see a move toward peace unless we move to con­stant­ly influ­ence it. … In my expe­ri­ence, part­ner­ing in peace is a real­ly good deal in the long run.”

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

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