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American Forces Press Service

Land, Sea Roles Changing, Dempsey Says

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10, 2012 – While the Navy’s aircraft carrier fleet is sized correctly to carry out its mission, land forces are facing “significant changes,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said here today.

“At this point in time, I believe we’ve got what we need,” Dempsey said in response to questions following his speech at a National Press Club luncheon.

After the Budget Control Act of 2011 imposed about $500 billion in defense spending cuts over 10 years, he said, the Defense Department had to examine its strategic positions.

“Strategy that's not sensitive to resources is nothing more than rhetoric,” he said. “There's always this balance between ends, ways and means. So the means changed. We had to take a look at the ends and the ways.”

Part of that strategy includes a rebalancing of forces in the Asia-Pacific region, he said.

The Pacific is largely a maritime domain, the chairman said. “You've got to go a long way before you find anything with dirt on it,” he noted. This makes the Navy and its capabilities crucial to the region, he said, at the same time they’re doing a “remarkable” job of meeting defense needs in the Gulf.

In addition, the Navy has successfully balanced that mission with the maintenance requirements inherent to a nuclear fleet, he continued, but there’s always the question of what’s next.

“Is it something smaller? … Is it something submersible?” he asked, noting the Navy’s asymmetric advantage under the sea.

As U.S. strategy evolves, the Defense Department will attempt to answer those questions while continuing to examine the makeup of the fleet, he said, but at least until 2020, he believes the carrier fleet is what the United States needs.

As the chairman of the joint force, Dempsey said, he likes having four different service chiefs around the table. The Navy’s role in the future force, he added, is just one part of a larger picture.

The idea that land forces are no longer necessary is a bad one, the chairman said. “I'm not in the camp that says, ‘You know, you'll never fight another significantly big land conflict,’” he added, noting that the nature of land combat is changing.

When he entered the Army during the Cold War, Dempsey said, it was built by assembling the large organizations first -- the corps and divisions. “And then we said to ourselves, ‘If we need something less than that, we'll disaggregate it,’” he said.

“I think that the era we're entering now requires us to think exactly the opposite,” Dempsey said. “That is to say, we need to think about empowering the squad -- the 10-man group of individuals with everything we can empower them with -- and then figure out how to grow it from the bottom up.”

That will take land forces in a different direction, he said, not just in the way they’re designed, but also in the way they’re equipped and trained.

“There are some significant changes coming … in the way we think about building our land component,” Dempsey said. “And I would suggest it's not from the top down, but rather from the bottom up.”

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