April 5, 2012 -- CSA Remarks to Ecole de Guerre defense College
April 5, 2012
Thank you for the warm introduction. Merci.
To Admiral LaBorde and General Valentin, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to be here today and thank you for the invitation to speak at this prestigious institution. Looking around the room, it is clearly evident to me that we are truly a global network of allies and partners. It is my distinct honor to be in the presence of such a decorated and elite group of military officers who represent their Nation's best. Our world has become increasingly interconnected, and by extension, increasingly reliant on strong partnerships built on mutual respect, trust and cooperation. Through this comprehensive approach, we've gained a much greater appreciation for the vital contribution of all our respective allies and partners.
Our global strategic environment has changed and will continue to change in unpredictable ways. It will take all of us, working together through a unity of effort, to deal with the challenges of the future - and there are many.
The full impact of the global economic crisis is unknown. I would argue that the Arab Spring has just begun and that its final outcomes in the Middle East are unclear. Syrian unrest threatens to spill-over, and Iran remains a destabilizing influence with their pursuit of nuclear weapons. South Asia remains a complex environment, with various extremist groups impacting security in Pakistan and India. And in the Asia-Pacific, China's approach to regional competitors -- especially over resources -- and North Korea's lack of transparency continue to cause concern.
It is difficult to see the current strategic environment inherently trending toward peace unless we - along with others - act to positively influence it. It depends on how we understand and engage in competition and cooperation with the globalized world. We must remain engaged. But we must also acknowledge and understand the complexity of the environments we will face in the future, and I would like to give you some things to think about as you study and reflect with your fellow military professionals.
The range of threats we face is wide and diverse -- it includes traditional nation-states, near states, and proxies as well as transnational terror networks, criminal organizations, and popular movements.
We must be prepared to deal with multiple actors rather than a sole controlling actor, asymmetric and technology enabled techniques, chaotic conditions, and exploitation of information. Weapons of mass destruction, cyber threats, and humanitarian disasters further complicate our environment. We must understand the continual competition for wealth, resources, political authority, influence, sovereignty, identity, and/or legitimacy. Unexpected opportunists and suppressed threats will emerge from this competition. We must also remember that conflict is a human endeavor, ultimately won or lost in the human domain. The distinctions of past conflict are blurred by today's complexity and uncertainty. In this regard, our militaries must be operationally adaptive to defeat tomorrow's security challenges.
If I could share only one lesson with you from my combat experiences over the last 10 years, it would be to understand the operational environment to cut through complexity. It is hard work, but the good news is that it can be done. However, it takes a deliberate, detailed and continuous effort. This means leveraging every asset available to you, and engaging all the actors in your environment to include multinational partners, intergovernmental organizations, and the host nation.
Once you understand "why" something happened instead of simply "what happened", it will contribute immeasurably to your understanding of the environment.
I realize that I am talking in theoretical terms about the future environment, but I felt that it is very important to share my thoughts with you on this topic as military professionals. So let me now talk a little about where we are engaged today and where I am taking the U.S. Army to deal with this complexity.
In Afghanistan, our commitment remains firm. I saw this first-hand when I visited Afghanistan back in December, and was very impressed with all the great work Service members are doing on the ground. We have a vested interest in preventing Afghanistan from being used as a safe haven from which extremists can plan and launch attacks. ISAF continues to make significant progress in preparing the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) to take over full responsibility of their country. In fact, security transitions have already occurred in some parts of Afghanistan. The number of partnered and Afghan-led operations continues to increase. It is important that we stay on this path.
Together, many countries have partnered into a strong, united coalition that is committed to fighting global terror. It is essential that as a community of nations that we work together. As brothers and sisters in arms, we are fighting side-by-side. We will never forget those remarkable heroes who have dedicated their lives to something greater than themselves. And that is the strength we will build on as we go forward.
The past decade of conflict informs our thinking as we look forward. Because we've adapted to the wars we've been fighting, the U.S. Army has been focused on a specific set of needs but those needs, and the means in which they are resourced, have changed and so we must fundamentally change how we do business. As we transition, we will change how we organize, man, equip and train the U.S. Army to be more responsive to our Regional Combatant Commanders and better enable the Joint & Multinational Force of 2020. I understand some of your militaries are undergoing similar transitions, so I'd like to share with you the approach the U.S. Army is taking as we move forward by highlighting my five priorities that will guide us through this transition.
My first priority is that the U.S. Army will remain committed to the 67,000 Warfighters we have deployed in Afghanistan. We will continue to provide trained, equipped, and ready forces that will win the current fight. And as we move forward in Afghanistan, we must apply the lessons learned that have come from fighting in combat for over a decade. The challenge is to institutionalize the right lessons so these improvements can be sustained and situationally applied to both current and future operational environments. These lessons include:
• Continuing and strengthening the close integration of the Special Operations Forces with conventional forces;
• Developing all leaders capable of continually assessing their operating environment and adapting to dominate it;
• Sustaining the tactics, techniques and procedures that have made us successful in counterinsurgency and regular warfare;
• Massing the effects of the entire Joint & Multinational Force, both lethal and nonlethal on the battlefield; and
• Achieving unity of effort among military, coalition partners, host nation, interagency, and nongovernmental organizations.
My second priority is the continued development of the U.S. Army for the future, as a part of Joint Force 2020. Developing this future force will require a versatile mix of capabilities, formations and equipment that will enable us to succeed in a full range of missions in an ever increasing complex environment while maintaining a decisive advantage over potential adversaries.
Third, as the U.S. Army is an All-Volunteer Force, we remain committed to ensuring the right processes and programs are in place to best take care of our Soldiers and their Families. Our objective is to retain the highest quality force as we move forward, including our combat-experienced leaders.
To preserve the high quality of our non-commissioned officers, officers and civilians requires redefining and adapting our leader development programs, which is my fourth priority. We do a good job developing our leaders institutionally -- as I'm sure the twelve American officers in this audience would agree -- but we need to expand this leader development through the operational environments as well. Our leader development program must better prepare our leaders to succeed in tomorrow's complex, dynamic, and interconnected environment.
And finally, we must reinvigorate commitment to the Profession of Arms throughout our Army - not only in every Soldier, but across all of our formations. The military is a noble culture with high expectations centered on moral and ethical values and selfless service. It is my assertion that the foundation of the Profession of Arms is absolutely grounded on trust:
Trust between Soldiers
Trust between Soldiers and Leaders
Trust between Soldiers, their Families and their Army
and Trust between the Army and the Citizens they serve.
To realize these five broad priorities, it is incumbent on me to balance three critical and distinctive attributes, which I call rheostats. They include force structure, modernization and readiness. All three must be continually assessed and refined over the next several years as we develop the Army of 2020. For instance, if we kept too much force structure but lacked the resources to keep it properly trained and modernized, the result would be a hollow force. In today's increasingly uncertain strategic environment, that could lead to disastrous results.
Looking ahead, I believe there are several key characteristics that are essential to maintain credibility, prevent miscalculations by potential adversaries, and if necessary, fight and win dominantly and decisively. In no particular order, let me share these vital characteristics with you:
First is the depth and versatility that Armies provide their Nations. Depth is gained by a trained and ready Army, including its active and reserve components, that has sufficient capacity and the ability to expand if needed. Versatility is achieved by the diverse mix of capabilities, formations, and equipment that allow us to rapidly respond to a wide array of problem sets. Importantly, depth and versatility provide scalable options to national security decision makers.
Next, our Army must be adaptive and innovative. Army leaders accept that there are no predetermined solutions to problems. They adapt their thinking, formations and employment techniques to the specific situation they face. This requires an adaptable and innovative mind, a willingness to accept prudent risk in unfamiliar or rapidly changing situations, and an ability to adjust based on continuous assessment. Accordingly, thorough understanding and wise application of cultural knowledge is tantamount to success.
We must also be flexible and agile in our responsiveness, able to dominate in any operational environment against hybrid threats. Flexibility is achieved by preserving responsiveness to a broad range of missions including regular and irregular warfare, humanitarian assistance, security cooperation, and support to civil authorities. Effective mission command, collaborative planning, and decentralized execution foster agility.
Army forces must also be integrated and synchronized. They do not operate alone, but in a larger joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational context. Army leaders integrate and synchronize their operations within this larger effort to ensure it produces maximum combat power at the decisive time and place.
Finally, it is imperative that Armies be lethal and discriminate. The capability for the lawful, discriminate, and expert application of lethal force builds the foundation for effective operations.
While our record of predicting the next conflict is not very good, I do believe that these characteristics will serve us well in whatever future challenges we face. Accordingly, I am committed to ensuring an Army that provides depth and versatility, and is adaptive and innovative, flexible and agile, integrated and synchronized, and lethal and discriminate.
Looking abroad, security cooperation and security assistance not only enhance legitimacy, but also operational effectiveness. Therefore, we will continue to train with multinational partners, maintain strong military relations, and build partner capacity. We do this in the context of mutual defense treaties and our collective security interests. Given today's uncertainty, wide array of threats, and fiscal realities, partnering in peace is a "good deal" in the long run.
With our mission in Iraq complete and continued transition in Afghanistan, we now have a strategic opportunity to rebalance globally, moving from a focus on conflicts toward a focus on future capabilities. As our recently released Department of Defense Strategic Guidance states, we will place increased emphasis in the Asia-Pacific region where the U.S. Army has 66,000 Soldiers today. We will also remain engaged in the Middle East and in Europe, reinforced by U.S.- based and worldwide capabilities, that sustains our enduring security commitments, ensures credible deterrence against aggression, and promotes enhanced capacity and interoperability for coalition operations.
I want to thank each of you for your service, your commitment, and your willingness to expand your military careers by being here. I know your experience is even more enriched as you develop and enhance key relationships among each other--crossing over the boundaries of service and country. I cannot say enough how proud I am of all that wear a military uniform, giving their all and prepared to give their lives for their country. It is your selflessness, resiliency, and dedication to the mission that are the most inspiring, especially after fighting in various conflicts in the most challenging of environments. Thank you for your leadership and dedication to the ideals of peace and freedom, and best wishes for continued success.