WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- U.S. military commitments are global because our interests and partners are global, said Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning during the opening of the 2016 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition Monday, Oct. 3.

Since he moved from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to the Army in 2015, Fanning has visited more than 24 Army installations in 12 nations on four continents. Wherever he traveled, he said, he found Soldiers "laser-focused on our Army's most solemn mission: fighting and winning our Nation's wars."

In Iraq and Afghanistan, he observed that the missions in that part of the world are carried out predominantly by Soldiers.

"Whether in our mission to degrade and defeat ISIL, or in the support we provide Afghan partners against the Taliban, the Army carries the lion's share of our nation's commitment," he said.

"Fully 60 percent of U.S. forces in Iraq and 70 percent in Afghanistan are Army. A key takeaway for me is just how much we're asked to do, and how few fully understand all the Army brings to the joint fight."

Fanning called into question the notion that the United States spends too much on defense. "I'm often asked if we really need to spend as much as the next nine nation's combined," he said. "The answer is simple: yes, if you want us to do all that is asked of us."

The Army currently has well over 100,000 troops deployed in 140 nations, supporting commanders around the world.

"While other nations simply have to deny, we have to project," Fanning said. "While others have to jam, we have to penetrate. While they have to disrupt, we have to dominate. While other nations have to defend a small corner of the world, our commitments are global. ... And wherever America's interests are, our Army is there."

Fanning pointed to the past to illustrate the investment the Army makes in the conflicts that the United States becomes involved in.

"From the Revolutionary War onward, it has been the Army that bears the greatest share of our Nation's loss," he said. "It is Soldiers and their families who have carried the greatest burden from multiple, lengthy deployments in combat theaters."

If America wants an Army that will partner with allies in Europe to deter Russian aggression, support South Korea against the increasingly aggressive North Korea, support state and local authorities, and undertake a host of other critical missions at home and around the world, Fanning said …

"You have to pay for it."