FISCAL CRISIS THREATENS DoD STRATEGY, READINESS
By Cheryl Pellerin
16 Nov 14. The threat of sequestration and an era that has produced simultaneous global crises is challenging future military readiness and may prompt Defense Department leaders to rethink core strategies going forward, senior DoD civilian and military officials said yesterday.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. discusses issues at the Reagan National Defense Forum at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., Nov. 15, 2014. The Reagan National Defense Forum brings together leaders and key stakeholders in the defense community — including members of Congress, civilian officials and military leaders from the Defense Department and industry — to address the health of U.S. national defense and stimulate discussions that promote policies that strengthen the U.S. military in the future.
Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael G. Vickers and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. participated in a panel discussion at the 2014 Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.
The audience included defense community leaders and key stakeholders, including members of Congress, DoD officials and military leaders, and defense industry representatives.
Vickers, who first entered public service as a special forces soldier in 1973, said he and some of his senior colleagues have agreed that they’ve never seen such a number of diverse defense and intelligence challenges facing the country.
“A lot of [the challenges] are likely to be enduring,” he noted, citing “the rise of China, a resurgent Russia, North Korea and Iran, widening instability across the Middle East and North Africa, and the Syrian civil war and centered on that the expansion of the global jihad, and then of course cyber.”
Vickers added, “It is very important that we not just adapt but really rethink some of our core strategies going forward.”
The national security challenges are not only numerous but many are unconventional, he said.
Russia is using unconventional and indirect approaches to achieve its aims, Vickers said. Some, like cyber, also are novel, and there are unconventional global strategies as well.
Dunford said the number of crises around the world makes it difficult to resource the current defense strategy.
But, he said, “It’s all the more important in times like this to have a strategy, otherwise you end up, figuratively speaking, reacting to bright flashing objects.”
What should be clear to everyone, he added, is that the U.S. military can’t address simultaneous crises all over the world by itself.
Partners with Common Interests
It’s important to find partners that have common interests and for partners to craft collective responses to some of the current challenges, Dunford said, adding that multiple crises “make it imperative for us to grow our alliances and ensure that we can approach [challenges] regionally with very strong partners.”
Partners are especially important, he added, as troops draw down in nearly every service.
The Marine Corps had 200,000 Marines a couple of years ago, the general said, as a result of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. After a thorough analysis by the Force Structure Review Group of potential future security environments and requirements that the combatant commanders would likely have for Marines, it was determined that 186,000 Marines would be able to do what the nation needed them to do.
In the current fiscal environment, the general said, “we’ll … be about 184,000 [Marines] by the end of this year and the budget calls for us to be at 182,000. So there’s a little bit of a difference between what we thought was the optimal force and the force that we’re headed for.”
Meeting the Requirements
“We can manage that risk and today we are meeting the combatant commanders’ requirements, and we can meet the