Martin E. Dempsey, DOD:
Military Strategy Drives Budget Decisions
December 14, 2011
Defense Department considers strategy and capabilities as key factors in
budget decisions that will cut $450 billion over the next 10 years, the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
During a conversation with Washington author and columnist David
Ignatius at the Atlantic Council, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey discussed
the process of shaping the DOD budget.
Crafting the fiscal 2013 to 2017 Pentagon budget means looking at it
through the lens of defense strategy, Dempsey said. Even if the U.S.
military had a blank check, he said, there would still be pressure to
“We have learned an enormous amount over the past 10 years of war,” the
A “flush” U.S. military with plenty of money would want to look at
strategy, force structure, modernization programs, training and leader
development, the chairman. But in the current fiscally constrained
environment, he added, this will be imperative.
Pentagon leaders also will look at strategic risks to the United States,
Dempsey said. “Are they exactly where they were before, or are they
shifting?” he asked.
President Barack Obama said during his latest trip to Asia that the
United States will focus more on the Pacific region in the coming years,
the chairman noted.
“We see the strategic risks as shifting. Demographics are shifting,
economic power is shifting, military power is shifting,” he explained.
“It is incumbent on us as military leaders to discuss with and advise as
to how we should adjust ourselves to these strategic shifts.”
Envisioned threats facing the United States and its allies also
influence how defense dollars are allocated, he said.
“I’m not prepared, nor should our allies be prepared, to ignore or wish
away any kind of conflict in the future,” Dempsey said. “That’s just not
the way the world works.”
U.S. military planners, for example, cannot say whether there will be
another operation the size of the one wrapping up in Iraq. The military
may be called upon to provide a force of 200,000 again, Dempsey said,
but is going to have to provide that capability with less money.
Dempsey stressed this shift cannot be done at the risk of America’s
traditional strategic partners. “If the United States went to war, we
would still call on our close NATO allies,” he said.
Providing a force that can handle full-spectrum operations, the chairman
said, is a priority.
“So the question is how do we reset the force so that it is not a niche
organization -- not a one-trick pony,” he said. “We have to be capable
in a new fiscal environment.”
Economics is now a necessary skill for defense leaders, the chairman
said. Dempsey joked that before he took over as chairman, he visited the
economics faculty at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and
said he was sorry. “I’m sorry I didn’t pay attention here when I was a
cadet,” he said he told the professors.
Since he became chairman, Dempsey said, he has focused on understanding
the new economic situation of the nation and understanding that U.S.
national power is the sum of military, economic and diplomatic powers.
He has met with economic experts in academia, with Federal Reserve
officials in New York and with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke at
is about rebalancing,” Dempsey said. I’m encouraged that we have a
process where strategy is slightly in the lead of our budget decisions.”
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has made it clear that “nothing is
decided until everything is decided,” said he added.
The budget will be released in February, but defense leaders will
discuss the strategy underpinning the budgetary decisions in January.
Panetta and other defense leaders will talk publicly in January about
the strategy, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters
“This is something that he thinks is extremely important to convey to
the American people,” Little said. “In light of the hundreds of billions
of dollars in cuts that we’re confronting, he understands that we need
to discuss with the American people what the U.S. military of the 21st
century is going to do, at least in the near term, and what some of the
trade-offs might need to be.”
Little, too, stressed that strategy leads the budget.
“It’s about the capabilities of the U.S. military and the threats that
we continue to face as a nation,” he said.