By Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, chief of staff of the ArmySeptember 21, 2011
Lieutenant General Battisti [Commander, NATO Rapid Deployment Corps], thank you for that generous introduction and your service.
Let me begin by thanking our co-hosts Lieutenant General Valotto [Chief, Italian Army] and Lieutenant General Hertling [Commander, USAREUR] and their staffs for putting together this extremely important conference. I also complement each of us for our interest and participation. Our presence here demonstrates both how the world has changed and our personal commitments to continue that momentum of change into the 21st century through engagements between our nations and our Armies critical to the future. This is the significance of our meeting here together at the 19th annual Conference of European Armies.
On this day, September 20th 1519, Ferdinand Magellan set sail from Portugal -- becoming the first expedition to sail from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. His journey with just 270 men became the first circumnavigation of the Earth. Ever since that time, 492 years ago, our world has become increasingly interconnected, and by extension, increasingly reliant on strong partnerships built on mutual respect, trust and cooperation.
I believe it is important that we consider these factors as we reflect on our partnerships and learn from recent conflicts that we worked together in. I believe that there is much to learn not just from our successes, but also from our shortcomings. I'll briefly describe our recent coalition successes and challenges.
How we leverage our past experience depends very much on our view of the current and future environment in which we'll operate as multinational forces. So, I'll also briefly touch on my perspective of the emerging strategic environment. Finally, I'll offer some of my thoughts on how we might leverage our coalition warfare experience as we move forward.
Contemporary coalition warfare ---- what I'll refer to as our "warfare experience" as I said -- includes many successes and challenges. Since the tragic events of September 11 ten years ago, we have fought exclusively as multinational forces with dozens of diverse international allies and partners in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.
As a result, our warfare experience since 9/11 has expanded our understanding and appreciation for the importance of coalition operations. There have certainly been successful tactical engagements and larger operations during that time, but certainly I'm not ready to declare outright success yet.
We've learned that Coalition warfare doesn't just enhance international legitimacy for action, but it brings valuable perspective, unique capabilities, and access.
Operations in Libya -- which you know was a NATO led operation -- underscored the importance of long-standing relationships and cooperation which led to better technical and doctrinal interoperability. This is crucial to quickly establishing logistic and operational means to support any mission.
What's more, we've not only realized the benefits of coalition warfare -- difficult as it may often be -- but we've gained much greater appreciation for the vital contribution of all instruments of our respective national powers through a comprehensive interagency approach to solving our problems.
But, the future of coalition warfare is not assured without sustained engagement during peacetime. So, given our recent warfare experience, how do we move forward? That depends on your view of the strategic environment. One lesson I learned during my time in Iraq was on the limits of the use of combat power. We must understand these limits.
In my opinion, today is like no other time in our history. It is a time of uncertainty but historic change around the world. We face a multitude of security challenges, such as transnational and regional terrorism in places like Yemen, Somalia, North Africa and Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. We have the uncertainty of the Arab Spring and the potential for proliferation of nuclear weapons and we face the challenges of rising powers.
The strategic environment in which we collectively operate -- really, the world we all live in -- is increasingly complex. Our world is at once interconnected, yet billions still live in relative isolation from the fruits of liberty and prosperity which many of us enjoy at home.
Our world is increasingly globalized by communications technology, which has allowed many of those disenfranchised peoples to see what they're missing -- enabling them to challenge the status quo as we like to say, "at the speed of Twitter." Everywhere in our global commons -- the air, sea, land, space, and increasingly cyberspace -- services and ideas move through an interconnected world. Our future operational commanders must appreciate that the linear battlefield of the 20th Century is gone, even when future conventional forces might again square off.
Security and prosperity are not zero sum equations in today's world. It is in our best interest that every nation enjoys greater prosperity and security.
However, 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. The imperative is -- we must remain engaged.
The question we face is how do we do this? What capabilities do we need? How do we in the military develop a set of comprehensive tools that along with our interagency partners will allow us to engage and influence across a broad spectrum of issues? How do we give our civilian leaders a variety of usable tools, both lethal and non-lethal?
The one thing I do know -- what we can say with great historical accuracy -- is that the future is unpredictable and we are not very good at predicting it. But we must make an educated guess about its principal features. I believe current strategic trends are a valid guide to the near future and principal among them is the fiscal challenge emerging in our country and abroad. This challenge is perhaps our primary threat to our own securities given the interwoven nature of economic prosperity, power and security.
The previous decade was characterized by expansion across the government and in many of our coalition partner governments. The coming decade will be one of contraction. Any plan to fight our way out of the fiscal predicament will entail burden sharing. We will need even greater creativity and resourcefulness on the part of coalition partners to face this challenge.
For the U.S., it is essential to determine the risk to our national security objectives and then set priorities. We then must avoid the trap of doing more with less. This is a recipe for creating an over taxed and under resourced force.
So, in light of our warfare experience and the emerging strategic environment, how can we leverage these insights as we move forward?
After spending personally almost five years in Iraq at various levels of command, it would be an understatement for me to say that we've come a very long way. Across the board, in every aspect of conflict, we've made great strides.
But we can and must do even better as we look to the future. The challenge is to institutionalize the right lessons so these improvements can be sustained into the future. I applaud efforts like this conference to assist in that effort.
Recent experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has provided us a heightened appreciation for the range of lethal and non-lethal tools necessary for our force to master and situationally apply to both the current and future complex operational environments.
We've learned from the Special Operations Forces that networked, flat and agile organizations tend to succeed in a distributed environment. The trick is ensuring that the information is disseminated rapidly to the edge of the network where it can best be exploited. I challenge everyone to always seek new alternatives to deliver information quickly to those who need it the most at the tip of the spear.
At the most basic level, we must harness those insights from our warfare experience through critical assessment. Qualitative and quantitative analysis and formal lessons learned provide the mechanisms to sow the most important, relevant insights. This will allow adaptive training to prepare our coalition teams for ongoing and future operations.
The U.S., as many others, remains a nation at war. The majority of our force has known nothing else and it informs our thinking. Because we've adapted to the wars we've been fighting, our current thinking could hinder an appreciation of the future, which will likely be different in significant ways. This is something we remain aware of, and caution against, as a learning and adaptive force.
Our natural tendency would be to return to old and comfortable habits. We cannot afford to do this. We have to move toward a more integrated force. We must aggressively eliminate unnecessary redundancy. We must be more in our approach to interoperability and more efficient in our employment by leveraging the experience and capabilities of our partners -- both internal and external.
Investing in sustainable security will be a fiscal challenge shared between all of our nations. This conference -- and the future -- will allow us to better integrate strategy, budgeting, planning and operations.
This more comprehensive approach implies that we must more wisely share resources -- but also burdens -- and apply them in the most efficient and effective manner. It's ultimately about creating and achieving greater effectiveness in global security while operating more efficiently.
Looking abroad, coalition-building initiatives not only enhance legitimacy, but also operational effectiveness. Therefore, we must continue reaching out to train, enable and encourage our multinational partners -- both current and potential partners for the future. Of course, I know many of you are also facing fiscal challenges, so we must achieve our collective security interests in this context. In my experience, partnering in peace is a "good deal" in the long run.
In the past during periods of austerity we've said, "We will have to do more with less." As we move ahead under significant budget restrictions, we may have define and prioritize to do "less with less." We will have to prudently accept risk where, in the past, we've bought down the level of risk.
Through all of these significant resource challenges, we must maintain a leadership focus. We must sustain rigorously prioritized efforts. We must never take our success for granted and never be discouraged by set-backs.
Effective leadership in times of momentous strategic uncertainty means navigating often painful change with moral and ethical courage -- with physical and mental toughness -- with an appreciation for the greater goal of our collective long term prosperity and security.
Effective leadership is built on trust. Trust is the bedrock of our honored profession -- trust between each other, trust between Soldiers, trust between Soldiers and leaders, their families and their Army, and trust with the people for whom we all serve.
I know that one of the greatest successes of our recent warfare experience is the development of a phenomenal generation of young leaders who have what it takes to understand this emerging strategic environment and the cross cultural role in it. We must all figure out how to develop these leaders. Join me in encouraging their continued service -- our future may depend on it.
Thank you for attending and for working hard to make progress on these important challenges. I look forward to your questions.