WILLIAMSBURG, VA. (TRADOC News Service, Mar. 17, 2009) -- The national security inheritance and key challenges that the new administration and the military face in the future were key themes of a top Defense Department official at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's senior leader conference in Williamsburg, Va.

"This is a daunting and difficult set of challenges that we face," said Michele A. Flournoy, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, in a speech March 12. "We are engaged in two ongoing wars. In Iraq, we have made a new policy that envisions a transition in that theater; a place we are going to be involved for a long period of time. And Afghanistan, which is about to transition from an under-resourced mission to a mission that has the focus and attention of the administration and the American people."

Flournoy signaled a long-term commitment to the current conflict in Iraq as the United States shifts troops to Afghanistan, attempting a new balance in that country while keeping a watchful eye on conflicts of the future in light of current economic woes.

In finding the appropriate balance, Flournoy pointed to key challenges faced by the military, specifically the hybrid nature of current warfare and conflicts stemming from aggression - not only from traditionally strong states but, more importantly, conflict stemming from state weakness.

Flournoy said that, to date, there is no official new national strategic policy in place from the new administration but development of a policy continues, centering on four key principles. "New national strategic policy will be grounded in pragmatism, not ideology, and the U.S. must remain engaged on the world stage," she said.

"That engagement must be smarter, using soft power such as technology, to augment the selective use of the military."

Perhaps the key element of the national strategic policy, Flournoy said, is for the United States to "return" to the rule of law.

"However exceptional we are, however unique we are with our power and position in the world, we have to play by the rules," she said. "Part of reclaiming our leadership, part of inspiring others to follow, is to return to our role as the champions of the rule of law."

Flournoy added allies are essential on the world stage. She highlighted the need to revitalize and adapt previous allegiances while taking the time to help build the capacity of nations such as Iraq.

Identifying the keys to future success, Flournoy stressed the importance of institutionalizing the lessons of the past seven years.

"We have learned a great deal from the time of 9-11 when, frankly, our military was caught off guard, not fully prepared for the kind of complex and irregular challenges that we've had to deal with, to now being second to none in this kind of warfare," she said. "This challenge of adaption is going to be with us, and TRADOC is really where it is going to happen. You provide the intellectual vision and energy for adapting for the future."

Flournoy has served as a senior adviser at the Center of Strategic and International Studies, a distinguished research professor at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University where she founded and led the university's Quadrennial Defense Review working group and co-founded and served as president of the Center for a New American Security. President Obama nominated Flournoy as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy in January.