WASHINGTON (July 17, 2012) -- In an increasingly competitive fiscal and security environment, major powers need to develop partnerships, and partnerships take work, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said today at the National Guard Symposium on Mutual Security Cooperation.

The symposium was held for members of the National Guard's State Partnership Program. The 20-year-old program links National Guard elements with partner nations to develop closer relationships between the United States and other countries. There are now more than 60 state partnerships under the program, 13 of which have existed since 1993.

The program is particularly valuable because of the National Guard's ability to provide continuity in its relationships with foreign counterparts, Dempsey said.

National Guard elements are better-suited than the active components to develop and leverage career-long relationships because of the way that active component service members move around, he said. The continuity in these relationships contributes to a high level of trust.

The State Partnership Program has reaped benefits far beyond what was initially conceived, Dempsey said.

"Partnering in general, whether you're partnering with other nations or whether you're partnering your own services it's not always easy," he said.

"Nation-states used to have a monopoly on the top-end technologies related to lethal force and military instruments," Dempsey said.

"I think it's pretty clear to everybody that nation-states no longer have that monopoly. And what that does is it increases the risk in ways that I think we all need to continue to talk about and think about and interact about," he said.

This redistribution of power has created a security paradox, Dempsey said.

"The paradox is that although human violence is at an evolutionary low, the capability to dispense violence is at an evolutionary high," he continued.

The challenge presented is how to balance the requirements of a new fiscal environment with those of defense, while simultaneously recognizing that "you're probably going to get the future wrong," Dempsey said.

"We just have to watch to see that we don't contract beyond a point where we can meet our nation's needs from a security perspective," he said. "That we continue to make sure that the nation is immune to coercion from any domain."

In this new fiscal environment, the value of programs will be increasingly scrutinized, and after 10 years of war, less resources are to be expected, he added.

To meet these fiscal challenges, major powers will increasingly find that they need to partner with other nations, Dempsey said.

"In that environment, I think the State Partnership Program will compete very favorably. Not just because partnering is an intrinsic good," he said, but because major powers will need these partnerships to confront the types of decentralized foes that nations currently face.

"I think it's really a modest investment for a pretty substantial return," Dempsey said.

In summing up, Dempsey cited a quote from Fred Franks: "You can't roll up your sleeves and wring your hands at the same time."

"Obviously what I'd rather see is us roll up our sleeves than wring our hands. The challenges that face us are remarkable in both the number and the complexity, but I do think that getting through those challenges both requires the hard work that comes in rolling up our sleeves and also through partnerships; and I think that in understanding comes progress."