Wars, People, Balancing Risk Top Chairman’s 2011 Guidance

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2011 — The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s guid­ance for 2011 charts the way for­ward in America’s wars, in improv­ing the health of the force and in bal­anc­ing glob­al risks.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen’s 2011 guid­ance was released today, relay­ing the admiral’s pri­or­i­ties and strate­gic objec­tives for the year.

The military’s mis­sion this year focus­es on defend­ing America’s vital nation­al inter­ests in the broad­er Mid­dle East and in South-Cen­tral Asia, the chairman’s guid­ance says. He not­ed that in 2010, more Amer­i­can troops and resources were ded­i­cat­ed to the war in Afghanistan to sup­port the U.S. strate­gic objec­tive to dis­rupt, dis­man­tle and defeat al-Qai­da in Afghanistan and Pak­istan.

“The surge in U.S. forces has helped arrest Tal­iban momen­tum in some places, though we have not yet seen a fun­da­men­tal shift in momen­tum nec­es­sary to deny al-Qai­da safe haven and pre­vent them from threat­en­ing U.S. or ally inter­ests,” Mullen wrote.

In addi­tion to the U.S. surge, Afghanistan now has more trained and capa­ble army and police forces. Across the bor­der, Pak­istani secu­ri­ty forces have tak­en back vast swaths of the bor­der area, “and al-Qai­da senior lead­er­ship is weak­er than at any oth­er point since it fled Afghanistan in 2001,” the chair­man wrote. Look­ing ahead, U.S., Afghan and coali­tion forces must con­tin­ue to apply pres­sure on the Tal­iban and al-Qai­da, Mullen wrote, adding that the U.S. mil­i­tary will con­tin­ue to devel­op the trust and expe­ri­ence need­ed to build a strate­gic part­ner­ship with Pak­istan.

The U.S. mil­i­tary also rec­og­nizes the cru­cial role India plays in the region, Mullen not­ed. The Unit­ed States wel­comes India’s “steady­ing con­tri­bu­tions to region­al sta­bil­i­ty, and applaud the min­is­te­r­i­al talks between India and Pak­istan,” he wrote. “The next year will be crit­i­cal, but our com­mit­ment to all our region­al part­ners is endur­ing.” In Iraq, few­er than 50,000 Amer­i­can troops remain, all engaged in advis­ing and assist­ing Iraq’s secu­ri­ty forces. All Amer­i­can forces will be out of the coun­try by the end of 2011. “As our mil­i­tary draws down, a robust Office of Secu­ri­ty Coop­er­a­tion will form the cor­ner­stone of our secu­ri­ty part­ner­ship with the Iraqis,” Mullen said. “We must ensure this tran­si­tion is ade­quate­ly resourced to get it right.”

The Unit­ed States is con­cen­trat­ing more atten­tion on the Per­sian Gulf and on the area com­posed of South­west Asia and the east­ern Mediter­ranean Sea, Mullen wrote. U.S. ser­vice mem­bers are work­ing to train legit­i­mate forces, defeat transna­tion­al groups and com­bat the spread of weapons of mass destruc­tion. Iran, and its pur­suit of nuclear weapons, is the most sig­nif­i­cant threat in the region, he added, and the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary will “con­tin­ue to plan for a broad range of mil­i­tary options should the pres­i­dent decide to use force to pre­vent Iran from acquir­ing nuclear arms.”

The guid­ance also address­es the health of the force and the wel­fare of its peo­ple. Mullen wrote that the strain on the U.S. force will remain high in 2011, espe­cial­ly for spe­cial oper­a­tors, the Army and the Marine Corps. The Army and Marine Corps will not reach the tar­get ratio of one year deployed and two years at home sta­tion this year, he acknowl­edged. This lack of bal­ance affects the capa­bil­i­ties that forces have, Mullen said, as sol­diers and Marines do not have the time to con­duct train­ing to car­ry out the full range of mis­sions.

“I will issue instruc­tions that we adopt ‘Total Force Fit­ness’ -– a method­ol­o­gy for chang­ing the way we under­stand, assess and main­tain our peo­ples’ well-being and sus­tain­ing our abil­i­ty to car­ry out our mis­sion,” the chair­man wrote.

The mil­i­tary will con­tin­ue to focus on ris­ing sui­cide rates and the sig­na­ture injuries of the wars –- post-trau­mat­ic stress and trau­mat­ic brain injuries. Mullen said the prob­lems prob­a­bly will get worse before they get bet­ter, and that lead­ers at all lev­els must improve their under­stand­ing of the scope of the prob­lems and the signs and symp­toms of vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions.

The chairman’s guid­ance says he wants the gov­ern­ment to coop­er­ate to build a “con­tin­u­um of care” that spans the Defense and Vet­er­ans Affairs depart­ments.

Mullen also stressed the impor­tance of the ser­vices work­ing togeth­er. “We must devel­op more effec­tive ways to improve and assess joint and unit readi­ness,” he wrote. “Train­ing and exer­cis­es must become more joint, inter­a­gency and multi­na­tion­al.”

The chair­man said rein­forc­ing readi­ness goes hand in hand with find­ing effi­cien­cies in the depart­ment, as the mil­i­tary must focus resources where they are need­ed most.

On bal­anc­ing glob­al risk, Mullen wrote, it’s more of an art than a sci­ence. The Unit­ed States will main­tain for­ward pres­ence and have forces ready to respond to all con­tin­gen­cies, he said.

“Since our top pri­or­i­ty this year is suc­cess in Afghanistan, our air and mar­itime forces must shoul­der addi­tion­al respon­si­bil­i­ties and pro­vide the pri­ma­ry capa­bil­i­ties to bal­ance glob­al risk else­where,” he wrote.

Asia is the region most affect­ed by this, he not­ed. “We will close­ly mon­i­tor the uncer­tain­ty stem­ming from polit­i­cal suc­ces­sion in North Korea, and main­tain a robust deter­rent against future provo­ca­tions,” the chair­man wrote. “We seek to resume mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tions with Chi­na in order to pre­vent mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion and fos­ter coop­er­a­tion in areas of mutu­al inter­est.” The Unit­ed States will defend free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and access to sea lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, he added.

In addi­tion, the mil­i­tary must address risks in Soma­lia, Yemen and North Africa, Mullen wrote, as well as the increas­ing risks in the cyber world. The Amer­i­can mil­i­tary also must be pre­pared to move at a moment’s notice when cat­a­stro­phe strikes, he added, as it did in response to an earth­quake in Haiti and flood­ing in Pak­istan last year.

Mean­while, Mullen said, the U.S. mil­i­tary must remain the pro­fes­sion­al, dis­ci­plined and apo­lit­i­cal force that Amer­i­cans admire.

“Strength of char­ac­ter is the heart of our armed forces,” he wrote. “It is a strength that comes from the remark­able diver­si­ty of the cit­i­zens we pro­tect and serve.”

Mullen said the mil­i­tary will con­tin­ue to val­ue the diver­si­ty and inclu­siv­i­ty of the mil­i­tary.

“I look for­ward to work­ing with Defense Sec­re­tary [Robert M.] Gates and the ser­vice chiefs to pre­pare and cer­ti­fy the joint force to imple­ment the new law that repeals ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ ” he wrote. “I com­mit to mak­ing sure the process is well-led, main­tains our com­bat readi­ness and upholds our high stan­dards.”

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

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