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American Forces Press Service

Conventional Forces Must Remain Strong, Pace Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

OSAN Air Base, South Korea, Aug. 16, 2007 – The continued importance of conventional forces and the growth in importance of unconventional forces will dominate American military thinking over the next few years, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told servicemembers here today.

Still, anyone who thinks they can predict with any certainty the military situation in 20 months or 20 years has “a lot of hubris,” Marine Gen. Peter Pace said to about 1,000 Air Force and Army servicemembers at the Black Cat hangar here.

In response to a question from a pilot, Pace said the shape of the joint military of the future will be based on a number of assessments.

Countries in the world that might seek to equal or surpass U.S. military prowess “need to understand that we are going to protect our vital interests,” Pace said. “Therefore, we must maintain the best Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard in the world.”

The United States must apply the right amount and mix of resources to ensure the U.S. military is head and shoulders above any other military. This is “so anybody who makes a mistake and challenges us doesn’t get away with it, and anybody who is thinking about spending the kind of resources it would take to become our peer would think twice about spending those resources and still coming out second-best,” Pace said.

But superiority breeds new challenges. Potential enemies realize that no country can approach the United States in traditional military prowess, he said. Nor can any country challenge the United States in the quality of its personnel. “If they want to come against us, they have to come against us asymmetrically,” Pace said.

Pace said the Quadrennial Defense Review, the basis for allocating defense resources, recommended more special operations forces, precise intelligence resources and quick reaction forces to further develop the country’s asymmetrical strength.

Asymmetric trouble spots include North Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Pakistan, Venezuela, Colombia, North Africa, the Philippines and the Middle East, Pace said.

“If you say you want to do something about problems that arise in those areas in 72 to 96 hours, then you look at the machines you have,” he said. “You know how far you can reach in that time. (With that information,) you know the hubs where you need to operate from.

“Then you either need agreements with host nations so you can operate from those hubs or you need to build different machines,” the chairman said.

In the war on terror, the United States needs better intelligence, which means better relationships with nations around the world. The United States needs to share intelligence with those countries to get the information needed, the chairman said.

“We need a whole new approach to how we operate against our enemies inside of countries with whom we’re not at war,” Pace said.

Even more basic is an agreement about what the threat really is, he said. There’s a great discrepancy among nations about what threat terrorism plays, Pace noted.

“We see it based on what happened to us on 9-11,” he said. “Others see it differently, and we need to sit down with our friends and discuss why we see it differently and need to look for ways to cooperate.”

The bottom line is the United States “absolutely, positively” must maintain the strongest conventional force on the planet, but the country also must be prepared to meet an asymmetric enemy, “or else we will not prevail the way we need to.”

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