WINNEFELD URGES ‘RESET’ IN NATIONAL SECURITY BALANCE
By Lisa Ferdinando
15 Nov 14. Sharp cuts and continued uncertainty in the U.S. defense budget have upset the strategic balance of the nation’s security, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
“If we’re wise, we’ll drive that strategic balance back to a favorable equilibrium before it’s too late,” Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. said. “If we’re not, then we’re going to have to live together with the consequences.”
Winnefeld was the keynote speaker at a luncheon at the day-long Reagan National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
“The trajectory of the security environment and the ongoing turbulence in defense funding have upset the strategic balance among the ends, ways, and means of our nation’s security and we need to reset it,” he said.
Winnefeld spoke in place of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, who is visiting with U.S. troops in Iraq today.
Russia, China Among International Challenges
As the United States was engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade, the “rest of the world did not stand idly by,” Winnefeld said.
“Major states like Russia and China, convinced that the unipolar moment was fading fast, and capitalizing on our distraction, began asserting themselves,” he said.
Russia’s recent aggression in Ukraine is an example, but is by far not the only example, the admiral said.
“In protecting our allies against potential mischief from these powers, we’ve always counted on our overmatch in capability and capacity to offset the challenges of distance and initiative,” Winnefeld said.
“That overmatch is now in jeopardy,” he said.
Russia and China are investing in new capabilities, such as precision-guided weapons, stealth, unmanned platforms in traditional domains, and new capabilities in the space and cyber domains, Winnefeld said.
They are also modernizing their nuclear forces, the admiral said.
Meanwhile, he said, the United States “contends every day with two insecure, authoritarian regimes in North Korea and Iran, who covet weapons of mass destruction as insurance policies.”
Other threats to the balance of national security include “violent extremism and deep instability” in North and East Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, Winnefeld said.
Other threats with other challenges include transnational criminal organizations, pandemics such as the Ebola crisis, and natural disasters and tensions exacerbated by droughts and food shortages.
“Our world remains a dynamic and very dangerous place,” Winnefeld said.
Budget Uncertainty a Major Challenge
The U.S. strategic balance is being impacted by decreased defense spending, the admiral said, and continued budget uncertainty.
“We aren’t modernizing as fast as we should in a highly competitive technical landscape; our capability overmatch is slipping,” he said.
While the United States is meeting its daily military deployment demands, the fiscal environment has put a “real dent in our ability to surge,” the admiral said.
The budget challenges and reductions have “pushed us hard against the bounds of manageable risk,” he said.
Meanwhile, the “sequester is a bet that went terribly wrong and its salami-slice method is the most-destructive way possible to reduce a budget,” he said.
Winnefeld said the strategic balance “truly becomes untenable under sequester-sized cuts.”
DoD Needs to ‘Reach Even Harder for Efficiencies’
The Department of Defense, the admiral said, needs to find the next technological offset. He predicts that could be more about payloads than platforms, and involve every warfighting domain, and will likely be a combination of diverse technologies.
“We need to get to the far side of the whole ends, ways, and means discussion if we’re going to get ourselves back in balance,” the admiral said.
Winnefeld said he would li