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American Forces Press Service

Dempsey: Partnerships, Innovation Crucial for Future Force

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2011 – Military operations since 9/11 teach that capabilities are spreading, international relationships matter, and innovation is essential to the joint force, the nation’s senior military officer told Congress today.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta both testified before the House Armed Services Committee for the first time in their current jobs, discussing the future of national defense and the military 10 years after 9/11.

As more than 2 million men and women have deployed to support operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the past decade, the joint force has demonstrated great initiative, strength and resolve, the chairman said. The global security landscape has shifted during the same period, and capabilities that previously were the monopoly of nation states have proliferated, Dempsey noted.

“As a consequence, we must learn faster, understand more deeply, and adapt more quickly than our adversaries,” he said.

Coalitions and partnerships matter more than ever in that new landscape, adding capability, capacity and credibility to shared security responsibilities, Dempsey said.

“Therefore, we are committed, even in the face of some of the budget pressures that have been described, to expanding the envelope of cooperation at home and abroad,” the chairman said.

Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard forces are potent individually, and together form an unmatched team, he said.

“We still need our services to maintain and be the masters of their core competencies and their unique service cultures, but … we must continue to value and advance joint interdependence,” the general said.

The force has fielded a number of new technologies in the last decade, Dempsey noted.

“We must continue to unleash innovation in the ranks and challenge ourselves to leverage these emergent capabilities in new and creative ways,” he said.

Leadership remains at the military’s core, and has allowed the force to learn, adapt and achieve results over the past decade, Dempsey said.

“Developing the next generation of joint leaders will preserve our nation's decisive advantage over any would-be adversary,” he added.

Forces must preserve not only capabilities, but also capacity -- “the ability to sustain those capabilities over time,” Dempsey said. The joint force the nation will need in 2020 must be powerful, responsive, resilient and versatile, he added.

“It must preserve our human capital, and have the capability and capacity to provide military options for our nation's leaders,” the general said. “And it must be affordable. Be assured, I am fully committed to reducing costs without compromising our nation's security needs.”

Defense capabilities must be versatile, the chairman said, because “we generally find that we don't predict the future with any degree of accuracy.”

“Tell me what you want me to do [and] how often you want me to do it; I can build you a joint force,” the chairman said. “And we're working on that now.”

Risks to the force could accrue as defense leaders determine they must limit capabilities, or underestimate the necessary future force size and ask “more and more of our young men and women on a rotational base that we can't sustain,” he said.

Leaders must make spending choices “at balanced risk” and avoid “hollowing the force” of needed people, equipment and training, the chairman said.

“These choices need to be deliberate and precise,” he emphasized.

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