ADM Blair addresses Army War College
Soldiers train in South Korea, one of four places the U.S. is committed to defend, Adm. Dennis Blair, former U.S. director of National Intelligence, told Soldiers at the Army War College, Apr. 9, 2014.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 9, 2014) -- Stop holding out the tin cup and ensure the Army has the right balance of readiness and equipment with whatever money it gets, retired Adm. Dennis Blair, former U.S. director of National Intelligence, told Soldiers.

Feeling free to speak his mind now that he's put away his uniform, Blair said looking back on his 40 years of military experience, he thinks senior military leaders and their staffs spend "way too much time trying to justify higher top lines for their budgets and overall force size.

"We care about it, we think people just don't understand, we think that lives are going to be paid in the future," he continued. "But let me tell you how much money the U.S. will spend on its armed forces. That decision will be made by the president and Congress based on how worried they are about national defense and how scary the national scene looks to them compared to the demands they have for improving education, repairing our infrastructure, fixing Social Security, all of the pressures on them to spend the nation's resources."

Blair spoke April 9 at the 25th Annual Strategy Conference in Carlisle, Pa., sponsored by the Army War College, in partnership with the Joint Staff/J7. His remarks and those of others are not official U.S. Army doctrine. Rather they are meant to inform the Army of possible challenges it faces in the coming years and decades.

People in uniform and "those of us who used to be in uniform" are minor players in budget decisions, he said. It doesn't do a lot of good and it does some harm to get too wound up in those discussions.

However, those in uniform do have the major responsibility to decide what kind of force the Army and the other services will have with the resources with which they are entrusted.

The Army is now at a decisive moment as it ponders its emphasis on combined arms versus irregular warfare and trying to choose which is more important, he said, having spoken to a number of Army leaders.

Blair's recommendation is to maintain centers of excellence for both areas so "as the wheel of history turns, it becomes clearer which is needed. Then, the Army will have a foundation upon which the necessary capability can be built fairly quickly."

It's the military's "solemn duty" to construct the balanced force that can handle the near-term and clear contingencies that are right out there and it knows it's going to have to deal with, he said, adding "this is the hard part and the part we sometimes haven't done so well."

Besides having a balanced force, Blair said the armed forces must stay on top of technology as it relates to the battlefield.

Right now, he sees no "new disruptive warfare platforms" such as those produced in the past which had a multiplier effect on military advantages, things like tanks, stealth aircraft, carriers and nuclear weapons.

Rather, the U.S. must continue to advance in areas of missiles, cyber warfare, developing the network and making it more reliable, advanced sensors, rail guns, directed energy weapons and technologies that are more incremental than disruptive.

The other part of the military's responsibility, he said is producing the professionals who can do the thinking and the planning and maintain the core skills for the contingencies "that are not staring us in the face today but we're pretty sure will stare us in the face in the future.

"When those contingencies come up, the money will become available. It always is," he said, but unless we have ahead of time done the thinking so we can build that capability quickly, based on mature operational concepts, tested prototype equipment, a cadre of officers and non-commissioned officers who know what they're doing, we'll have failed in our duty to the country."

Blair also discussed U.S. strategy going forward.

The U.S., he said, is pretty satisfied with the status quo in the world as it is today and there's no grand strategy that the U.S. is developing as it remains relatively powerful and influential.

"Would we be happier if China and Russia were more democratic?" he asked. "Yes" he replied to the rhetoric question.

The status quo, Blair continued, is the international world order with boundaries and processes in place for de-escalating conflict, something that wasn't around during the world wars.

The use of U.S. military force in modern times has mainly been against those who challenge the world order and threaten regional stability. An example would be U.S. intervention in the Balkans or against Iraq during the Gulf War, after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

The only exception, he pointed out, was Afghanistan, which was invaded because it was the training ground for those who attacked America on 9/11.

As Blair sees the world, the U.S. has four fundamental areas where military forces would become involved: any attack by North Korea on the South; commitments to NATO, which by treaty the U.S. is obliged to defend; Taiwan, which could be threatened by China; and Israel. With regard to Israel, he said it has a capable military and sending troops to defend it would happen if its existence is threatened.

The rest of the world is more complicated, he said, and the U.S. would most likely want to go in as part of an international force. However, discussions really need to take place on how deep a commitment the U.S. might want.

For instance, if it gets really "ugly," some sort of draft might be needed if the reserves are not enough. But those discussions are not taking place, at least in a public forum, he said.

In Blair's particular area of expertise, intelligence, he faulted the National Security Agency and military intelligence with not doing more to protect against insider threats "like Manning and Snowden" who leaked secrets to the media and others.

He said the NSA is by far the best collector of intelligence and for the Department of Homeland Security to build a parallel intelligence effort of the same magnitude would be expensive and require a lot of talented hires.

On the other hand, he said people don't really trust the NSA because of all of the revelations that have come out on their intelligence-collecting scope. He said that would have to be worked out, along with cyber, an equally important capability.

The 25th Annual Strategy Conference started Apr. 8 and ends Apr. 10.

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Page last updated Wed April 9th, 2014 at 18:19