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American Forces Press Service

New Chairman Issues Guidance to Joint Staff

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2007 – Balancing global risk and stability in the Middle East, and resetting and reconstituting U.S. forces are vital missions for the U.S. military, according to guidance from the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

To that end, the U.S. military must maintain its warfighting focus, and servicemembers must stay ahead of the accelerating speed of war, Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen said in his guidance to the Joint Staff issued Oct. 1.

Each chairman issues guidance to the Joint Staff upon taking office. The guidance is a roadmap and gives members of the staff an idea of the new chairman’s thinking and his priorities.

Mullen said Joint Staff members must never lose their warfighting focus. “I expect the Joint Staff to stay ahead of the accelerating speed of war and to maintain a current, relevant operational view of our worldwide force composition, disposition and employment,” he wrote.

Mullen’s first priority is to develop a strategy to defend U.S. national interests in the Middle East. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are the first concern, but the United States cannot ignore other threats in the region, he wrote in the guidance. “The increasingly hostile role being played by Iran; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; Sunni-Shiia rivalries; the rise of radical jihadists and the resurgence of al Qaeda all threaten to tear at fragile seams and all bear directly on the security of the United States,” he wrote.

The chairman wants to develop a comprehensive Middle East security strategy that will address long-term security in Iraq and Afghanistan and problems posed by Iran. He also wants to ensure that strategic plans for the region are sustainable and provide flexibility, and to work to improve international cooperation in the region.

Resetting and revitalizing the U.S. armed forces, particularly the Army and Marine Corps, are also priorities, Mullen wrote. The Joint Staff will determine the true health of U.S. ground forces “in terms of people, training, equipment and family support” to ensure the forces can maintain a long-term commitment and handle operations across the full-spectrum of warfare.

The U.S. military depends of the reserve components to fight current battles, and the Joint Staff must study how to preserve a “strategic reserve” capability outside the active component.

Balancing global strategic risk is a priority that impacts all others, Mullen said. “We must stay mindful of our many global security commitments and of the core warfighting capabilities, resources and partnerships required to conduct operations across the full spectrum of peace and conflict,” he wrote. “A larger, longer view of risk assessment that helps us maintain a position of global leadership and preserves our freedom of action remains critical. I want the Joint Staff focused on rebalancing strategic risk.”

Demands of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, though important, shouldn’t dominate American military strategic thinking, Mullen said. “The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end one day,” he said. “We must be ready for who -- and what -- comes after.”

What that will be is impossible to predict, he said. But the military will need capabilities that capitalize on precision, speed and agility. “We may face state as well as non-state enemies, including some who may only appear in cyberspace,” he said, adding that these foes may launch attacks on U.S. infrastructure or on America’s computer systems and networks.

Whatever the enemy, the American people will expect the military “to maintain sufficient capability and capability to deter and, failing that, defeat all such military threats to their security and the security of our vital national interests.”

Mullen tasked Joint Staff directorate leaders to use the guidance to write comprehensive plans to accomplish these priorities. He said he will update the guidance yearly and assess progress every six months.

“We serve in a critical and dangerous time,” he wrote. “We represent the brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who confront this danger and defend our national interests around the world. Your continued devotion to making sure our nation’s leadership has at their disposal the best, most independent military advice … will continue to be vital.”

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