Winnefeld: Military Must Prepare for Range of Conflicts

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2011 — The U.S. mil­i­tary must be ready to address a broad range of poten­tial future con­flicts, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s nom­i­nee to be the next vice chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.

Navy Adm. James A. Win­nefeld Jr., who now com­mands U.S. North­ern Com­mand and North Amer­i­can Aero­space Defense Com­mand, tes­ti­fied before the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee dur­ing a con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing for his nom­i­na­tion to suc­ceed Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, who is retir­ing.

“As we look out ahead in the strate­gic envi­ron­ment, we’re going to have to be ready for a very broad spec­trum of poten­tial con­flicts,” the admi­ral said.

“If you look at what a con­flict might be like in a place like [the Kore­an penin­su­la], as opposed to oth­er places,” he added, “we’re going to need to be pre­pared for that full spec­trum of oper­a­tions.”

Reor­ga­niz­ing troops and equip­ment for such an effort will be a big chal­lenge, he said, as will “mak­ing sure that we don’t myopi­cal­ly focus on one type of con­flict over anoth­er, but that we’re pre­pared as well as we can be for what­ev­er comes across the plate.”

In his cur­rent posi­tion, Win­nefeld is respon­si­ble for defense of the home­land, mil­i­tary sup­port to civ­il author­i­ties for domes­tic emer­gen­cies and aero­space warn­ing and con­trol for North Amer­i­ca.

As North­com com­man­der, he is respon­si­ble for the ground-based mid­course mis­sile defense sys­tem, an ele­ment of the bal­lis­tic mis­sile defense sys­tem that allows com­bat­ant com­man­ders to engage and destroy lim­it­ed inter­me­di­ate- and long-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles.

If con­firmed, Win­nefeld will act as chair­man of the Joint Chiefs in the chairman’s absence, and also will have key respon­si­bil­i­ties relat­ed to require­ments for future acqui­si­tion pro­grams and efforts relat­ed to cyber­se­cu­ri­ty, the next-gen­er­a­tion nuclear deter­rent and more.

Win­nefeld said the ser­vices must con­tin­ue to address and pre­pare for future chal­lenges, “even as we resolve the con­flicts we have going on today.”

“This is a big ship in terms of the acqui­si­tion pro­grams and process­es and the embed­ded require­ments process that we need to turn into a much more favor­able direc­tion for the tax­pay­ers,” the admi­ral said.

A con­flu­ence of tools will work for the depart­ment, he added.

One is the Weapons Sys­tem Acqui­si­tion Reform Act, signed into law in May 2009 to reform the way the Pen­ta­gon con­tracts for and buys major weapons sys­tems.

The leg­is­la­tion is good, Win­nefeld said, but will take time to have its effect.

The admi­ral attrib­uted anoth­er tool to Ash­ton B. Carter, under­sec­re­tary of defense for acqui­si­tion, tech­nol­o­gy and logis­tics.

“Under­sec­re­tary Carter has a very good approach in bet­ter buy­ing pow­er,” he said, “that he’s impos­ing on the depart­ment to get more cost effi­cien­cies, to pro­vide incen­tives for indus­try, to pro­vide more for com­pe­ti­tion and the like.”

If he is con­firmed, Win­nefeld said, Cartwright has set him up for suc­cess to fur­ther improve the require­ments process. The cur­rent vice chair­man has been an active pro­po­nent of Pen­ta­gon effi­cien­cy efforts ini­ti­at­ed last year by then-Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates.

Those three things work­ing togeth­er, the admi­ral said, “are going to get this ship turned in the right direc­tion,” even in a chal­leng­ing bud­get envi­ron­ment.

Win­nefeld said upcom­ing cuts in the defense bud­get should be applied “in a strat­e­gy-based man­ner.”

As pro­posed defense cuts increase, he said, “the strate­gies we cur­rent­ly have are going to reach inflec­tion points where we’re just going to have to stop doing some of the things we are cur­rent­ly able to do.” The nation, he added, can’t afford to have defense cuts result in a hol­low mil­i­tary force or irre­versible dam­age to the indus­tri­al base.

“We’ve got to make sure that the all-vol­un­teer force remains viable and that we take care of these young men and women,” the admi­ral said.

In response to a ques­tion about whether the Unit­ed States still is engaged in a “war on ter­ror,” Win­nefeld said the term may be out of fash­ion, but the real­i­ty hasn’t changed.

“We are still so much in a fight with al-Qai­da and … relat­ed extrem­ist groups that it sure feels like a war,” he said.

Describ­ing the sta­tus of that war, Win­nefeld echoed Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panetta’s recent state­ment that the Unit­ed States is close to being able to strate­gi­cal­ly defeat al-Qai­da.

The group’s lack of finan­cial sup­port and lead­er­ship cri­sis will “ulti­mate­ly [cause] them to unrav­el from their inter­nal con­tra­dic­tions, much the same way the Sovi­et Union did,” the admi­ral said.

Still, he added, al-Qai­da is mor­ph­ing from a cen­tral­ly con­trolled orga­ni­za­tion to a col­lec­tion of home­grown ter­ror­ists.

“So this is not yet over,” the admi­ral said. “It’s not even close.”

Address­ing the Pentagon’s role in cyberde­fense, Win­nefeld said one com­po­nent involves defense of its own net­works with­in the “dot-mil” domain.

“We also have a role in sup­port­ing the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty in their role of help­ing defend the rest of gov­ern­ment and the rest of the coun­try,” he added.

That’s a com­plex rela­tion­ship, he said, not­ing that Gates and Home­land Secu­ri­ty Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano struck a good agree­ment in Octo­ber to work togeth­er to bet­ter pro­tect against threats to mil­i­tary and civil­ian com­put­er net­works and sys­tems.

Army Gen. Kei­th B. Alexan­der, com­man­der of U.S. Cyber Com­mand, is doing a good job of work­ing with Home­land Secu­ri­ty to con­struct how that sup­port would work, Win­nefeld said.

One of sev­er­al ele­ments of cyber deter­rence, he said, is the abil­i­ty to respond to an attack and to make that attack so cost­ly for an attack­er that they’re unwill­ing to con­duct it. The Unit­ed States must con­sid­er the full range of poten­tial respons­es to an attack, includ­ing mil­i­tary and diplo­mat­ic respons­es, the admi­ral added.

“But I would nev­er want to rule any­thing out in respond­ing to a seri­ous cyber attack on this coun­try offen­sive­ly,” he said, “and it could be a cyber response or a kinet­ic response, depend­ing on the nature of the attack and the cir­cum­stances that sur­round it.”

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