Deputy Secretary of Defense
A New Global Posture for a New Era
Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C.
Well, good morning, everybody. It's really great to be here at CFR. Every now and then, I get to escape the five sides of the Pentagon. People ask me, what is the difference between the Deputy Secretary and the Secretary of Defense? And I just asked them to think back to the movie Jurassic Park and the Secretary is T-Rex and the Deputy Secretary is the tethered goat. So anytime I can break free of my tether and come out and talk with people, I really enjoy it.
Now, as many of you know, I've only been the Deputy Secretary for about five months. And about a year-and-a-half ago, I left as the Under Secretary of the Navy, and I thought at that time that the challenges facing the Department of Defense were quite daunting. Now, however, as Jim and you all know, and as the daily headlines attest, we face even greater geopolitical challenges than I would have even dreamed of a year-and-a-half ago and a far more frustrating and challenging budget environment here at home.
So when people ask me how I sleep at night, I tell them I sleep like a baby. I wake up crying every two hours. Now, to be honest, though, really -- and I believe -- I really do mean this -- there's no other place and no other time than I'd rather be in the Department of Defense than right now. Decisions we're making every day are really going to shape the Department for the next couple decades and determine in large part on whether or not we have a future that is defined more by peace or more by crisis. So it's an exciting time, I have to tell you. I wake up jazzed every day. It's divided by challenges that we absolutely have to get to, and it's really fun to be here.
Now, I know that the headlines are actually dominated by what's going on in Iraq and Syria, on the borders of eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and the South China Sea and in Africa, with the terrible Ebola crisis. And all of them are consuming time of all of the leadership inside the department and in the White House, as you might imagine, in fact, across the entire government.
So I'm sure I'm going to get questions about all those things, and I'll be happy to take them and discuss more, but I wanted to open the aperture a bit, step back into kind of my world, and talk to you about some of the longer-term approaches that we are taking towards our defense strategy, and more specifically how we talk about our military's global posture and how we are changing the way we employ forces overseas to respond to this extremely complex and dynamic security environment which we now find ourselves.
Now, in May, shortly after I arrived, Secretary Hagel asked that I oversee the implementation of the United States rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region. And with that guidance in mind, I recently took a trip. I went to Hawaii, Guam, South Korea, and Japan. This was my first trip to Asia as the Deputy Secretary, and I built upon Secretary Hagel's six trips that he has made since he has been the Secretary, which I think is an indication of the focus that the Department has on that important region.
Now, the purpose of my trip was to observe firsthand what was going on to the adjustments we were making to our presence out there and to discuss the strategic environment with our allies, specifically the Republic of Korea and Japan.
Now, I'm going to talk more about the posture in the Asia Pacific region in just a minute, but as I was flying back, I have to tell you, I was contemplating all the questions that I got from our allies. Is this rebalance really real? Do you intend to see it through?
And I realized that I couldn't really disconnect that answer from the broader context of the changes that we're trying to make to our global posture, our global operating model, the way that we engage with the world. So at the risk of being pedantic, I just wanted to tell you the way I think about our global posture, and this is how I would define it.
It's the deliberate apportionment and global positioning of our forward stationed and our forward deployed forces and the development of supporting global attack, global mobility and logistics, forcible entry, command, control, communications, and intelligence forces, and the supporting security relationships and legal agreements that we make in order to facilitate the rapid concentration of forces in time and space across transoceanic distances.
Okay, that's -- as I said, it's kind of a long one, but that is what our posture is about. And I have to tell you, that is what makes us the only truly global power -- having each of those components and our willingness to sustain them and pay for them is what allows us to rapidly project decisive military power or capabilities, whatever is called for, across the world's oceans in support of our national interests at times and places of our own choosing. And it provides us with enormous advantages that we sometimes forget about.
It gives us advantages in global strategic reaction time, geographic positioning of our forces, and force concentration and support. And it is vital to allow us to have a favorable strategic balance in peace and war. Our global posture isn't fixed. It constantly evolves over time. And it changes shape in reaction to changes in the global security environment and the threats that we face.
So not surprisingly, the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review said that the current extremely stressing strategic and budgetary environment compels us to think creatively and develop new ways to manage and employ the Joint Forces as we engage with the world.
Now, make no mistake: Even as we downsize under fiscal pressure and even as we reduce the size of our military, we will maintain this global posture with these seven key components that assures our allies, dissuades potential competitors, deters adversaries, and if necessary helps us either respond appropriately or defeat any foe.
Now, the global operating model that we're striving for right now is well described in the President's strategic guidance of 2012 and built out in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, has five key elements or priorities. One, we're going to rebalance our focus and our forces to the Asia-Pacific region to preserve peace and stability there. Two, we're going to maintain a strong commitment to security and stability in Europe and the Middle East. A lot of people think that we're just shifting to Asia, but if you read the strategy, that was only part, an important part of our posture.
We're going to sustain a global approach to countering violent extremists and terrorist threats with an emphasis on the Middle East and Africa. We're going to invigorate efforts to build innovative partnerships and strengthen our alliances, all the while, while pursuing lower cost innovative presence approaches. Those are the five key things that we've laid out, and I would argue that we are on track to do all of them.
Now, as these objectives suggest, we are not just moving to the Asia-Pacific or rebalancing our forces. It remains a true global posture, but with an emphasis in the Asia-Pacific region. Now, recall that two key portions of any global posture are the -- what we would call forward presence. These are the numbers of forces that are forward-stationed with their families actually on a base overseas. And the other ones are rotationally forward-deployed forces. Together, those two comprise our forward presence.
And the important goal that we're trying to wrestle with right now under intense budget pressure is to get the proper mix between the forces that are forward presence forces and those based in the United States and our U.S. territories, which are our surge forces. That's what we're trying to do.
Now, they're both two sides of the same coin. They're the yin and yang of our global posture. But as we face the twin challenges of reduced force structure and reduced readiness caused by sequestration, we are having to critically re-examine some of the assumptions that have driven the balance between these two, forward presence forces and our surge forces, that have driven us since the end of the Cold War.
In essence, what has happened for the last 20 years is we assumed that a force size for two big major regional contingencies with a force with that much slack that we could afford to have a major combat operation level of effort in shaping operations, forward presence forces trying to shape the international environment to a more peaceful conclusion, without unduly impacting the readiness of the surge forces for a potential war. That was the basic assumption we made.
Now, as early as 2001 we said we can't continue to do this. The 2001 QDR said you cannot sustain this model. But by God, we did. Indeed, even after we found ourselves in two major regular warfare campaigns, we strove to maintain robust shaping forces forward even while we were fighting two big fights.
So after the past 12-plus years of war, this has become harder and harder as a Department to sustain. And what happened is we gradually had to concentrate only on the forces that were next ready to go to the fight. And the forces that were out, our forward presence forces.
But the readiness of our surge continued to drop, year by year by year. And two things made this worse. The first was sequestration, which is an utterly stupid and irresponsible way to cut budgets. If you want to cut, that's okay, but to say that every single line item is exactly equal and all have to take exactly the same equal cut is totally irresponsible.
And the second is the unrelenting operating pressure that you see every day, even as we draw down from Iraq and Afghanistan, and this is on top of after a 12-year war in which we were really running hot.
So simply put, something has to give. Maintaining our military at such high tempo in this resource-constrained environment is simply no longer sustainable, period, end of story. It prevents us from properly preparing for future contingencies across the full spectrum of conflict. Now, that is what wakes me up at night, because ultimately preparing the joint force to win wars is what the department does. It is what we are charged to do.
And as we come out more than a decade of fighting irregular warfare campaigns and our potential adversaries across the world continue to advance their inventories of advanced weapons and capabilities, our commanders are saying, hey, I need to have more fight tonight forces, so I need to have more forces forward in theater.
But that just can't happen without us balancing the readiness of the surge forces. It really, really is a tough problem, because we have to take time and money to reset, repair worn-out war equipment, upgrade our weaponry, and train for some very demanding scenarios.
So as we adopt our post-Afghanistan and post-sequestration global posture, we now have to keep an eye focused much more on the surge forces. We've always kept an eye focused on the forward-deployed, ready -- high-ready forces, but now we have to really take a look at it the other way.
Said another way, ensuring that we can defeat any foe in a resource-constrained era will require us to make hard choices. We need to engage globally differently, and that's what we're struggling to do.
Now, let me be very clear here. We are still going to maintain a robust forward-deployed forces where the strategic rationale is compelling and where our priorities tell us we must do, but our forces won't be large enough to give our combatant commanders all the forces they would want to have in theater at every single moment to be prepared for any regional contingency, because for far too long, as I've said, we've chosen to sacrifice readiness of the surge force or of the base force, instead of reallocating forces that were already out in theaters across combatant commander areas of responsibility.
Now, in the past, we've had sufficient slack in funding and force structure and flexibility to do this. But I have to tell you, based on the fiscal turbulence we face today, our forces are shrinking without question and our flexibility is under pressure, so we can't continue the way we've been doing things for the last 20 years.
So one of the key principles moving forward is that we're going to reprioritize our limited assets and develop innovative ways of maintaining forward presence as we rebuild our readiness. We think we're in a readiness crisis, a readiness trough for two or three or four years, as we try to build out. All of our program says we try to get back to full spectrum readiness at the end of the five-year defense plan. In the meantime, we have to think creatively of how and when to utilize our precious force availability to maximize our strategic imbalance.
So what are we doing? Many of you already know some of the things. First, if you can, station forces forward, because you get a very high payoff. By putting four ballistic missile defense destroyers in Rota, Spain, we no longer have to have 10 of those large surface combatants tethered to a rotation to keep a ballistic missile defense posture in the eastern Mediterranean.
By putting Aegis ashore in the European, under the European phased, adaptive approach, that frees up other assets for other global contingencies. We're beginning to right-size our global posture. You probably all saw Captain Phillips. And the thing about that movie was remarkable on what we did, but essentially you had a billion- dollar Arleigh Burke destroyer chasing a skiff, while maybe in the future it might be better to have a joint high-speed vessel or a littoral combat ship that is much cheaper -- excuse me, much less expensive and a smaller crew so that we can still maintain overmatch.
The Army is developing regionally aligned forces, tailored packages that emphasize skill sets. They're brigades, but the brigades never go out as brigades. They go out as packets of platoons. Remember, we're looking for low-cost, low-footprint approaches, and these emphasize skill sets that are particular to the regions and the world. We're all getting away from a one-size-fits- all mentality.
Another way of innovating is what Chairman Dempsey calls dynamic presence. Now, what would happen is normally what we'd do is we'd push all of our forces forward, every single bit of ready forces that we'd have, we'd push forward. And once they got into a COCOM's -- a combatant commander's area of responsibility, you could shift them across borders -- excuse me, the lines of responsibility -- but it was difficult. It took time. We had to go through laborious discussion processes.
What we're trying to do is to try to figure out what is the minimum deterrent force that you might need in a theater and then have the rest of the force being more dynamically used across the world. This is a tough, tough problem, because it's a different way of doing.
If I could say it this way, we are going from a demand side model, where the COCOMs demand forces and we provide them everything that we possibly can, to a supply side model in which we are setting forces out that keeps the balance between readiness and the surge and forward presence and then dynamically tasking it across the world.
We also need to get back in the game of demonstrating. This drives me crazy. In the Cold War, we used to demonstrate -- and demonstrations were very powerful, both to assure our allies and to deter adversaries, Nifty Nugget exercises. We would take carrier battle groups, go silent, and we'd shut down, and we'd try to get across the Atlantic Ocean without the Soviets seeing it. And we got pretty good at it.
We did it all the time. And we would light up when we got to a fjord in Norway and said, "Here we are." And these demonstrations were a very, very important part of our global posture. And we want to get back to doing that.
Valiant Shield exercise and Pacific Command is something very akin to what I'm thinking about, very large-scale exercise, 18,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, two carrier strike groups from large and rapid combat exercises, really focused on being able to move out quickly, those are the type of things that we need to do more of.
Now, these innovations are going to underpin our new global posture, which has got to be more dynamic and flexible, and aims to continue to support a future force that will continue to operate across the globe. And we're aiming for what famed British naval historian Julian Corbett called elastic cohesion, a term he used to describe a fleet that could be widely dispersed, but quickly concentrated in time. So our elastic and cohesive future joint force, although smaller, we are confident will still retain an unrivaled ability to concentrate power across transoceanic distances.
Now, without -- with a broader context, let me turn back to the Asia-Pacific region, because a lot of people did ask me when I went to the Far East, how serious are you on this? Now, we are seeking a posture in Asia that is geographically dispersed, operationally resilient, politically sustainable, with an aim of maintaining peace and prosperity in one of the most important regions in the world, and regardless of the level of our budget, that will go forward. By 2020, both the Navy and the Air Force will have 60 percent of their forces in the Asia-Pacific region. We may not have as many forces as we would like, but 60 percent of the forces will be in the Asia Pacific region. At the same time, PACOM is regaining Army units that were rotating through Afghanistan, and they're returning with all of their equipment now, such as attack aviation assets like Apaches in Korea. The Army will have more than 100,000 soldiers when all is said and done in the Asia-Pacific region, including those on the West Coast in Africa -- excuse me, in Hawaii and Alaska and Japan.
And at the same time, the Marines are distributing and having four powerful Marine air-ground task force geographically dispersed around the Pacific. All of those plans continue apace, regardless of how stressed we are in the budget.
Our Pacific-based forces will all have our best and most advanced equipment, equipped with the most advanced payloads that we can possibly give them. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter going to go first to the Pacific. By 2018, the very stealthy and highly capable Zumwalt destroyer will be based in the Pacific, we hope. We're moving THAAD and Patriot batteries to key relocations. I visited a THAAD unit that was on Guam, quite motivational. We're putting more Aegis ballistic missile defense ships in Japan, and we've put a second TPY-2 missile defense radar in Japan, first base in Japan since -- new base since the end of World War II, which closes an important gap in our sensor net.
The Navy's new P-8 maritime patrol aircraft is going there first. It will soon be armed with different weapons. Pacific Air Forces are going to have our most advanced weapons, to include stealthy, long- range attack missiles and longer-range air defense missiles. The Navy is going after a new long-range anti-ship missile, which will allow it to engage ships at standoff ranges.
The Army is making targeted investments across the board and making itself more lethal, particularly in Korea, and we're investing heavily in electronic warfare across the board.
Now, as we're adding all of these capabilities, we're going to continue to develop new and alternative approaches. We're going to rigorously test them. We're going to do more war games. We're going to do more demonstrations. And we're also improving our Pacific basing infrastructure.
The four biggest construction projects since the end of the Cold War are going on in the Pacific. There's Camp Humphreys in Korea, where the Army is moving south of Seoul. That's a $10 billion construction project. The Futenma Replacement Facility in Okinawa, which will allow the Marines to concentrate into the North and become more politically sustainable on the island is now moving forward. Guam is already starting. That will ultimately house 5,000 Marines at a new base there. And Iwakuni, Japan, what an incredible place. Literally, the Japanese government shaved the top off of a nearby mountain, conveyored the dirt down to a bay, put it on barges, and went around and reclaimed an enormous part, expanding the area so that the Navy's carrier air wing that's right now in Atsugi can move down there. It really is impressive.
And none of this could be possible without the seventh key component, which is our legal agreements and our alliances, and I have to tell you, our alliances with Japan, with South Korea, Australia, have never been stronger and are getting stronger all the time.
As Secretary Hagel has said, it's really those treaty alliances that remain the backbone of our presence in the Asia Pacific, and it is the revitalization of all those alliances and partnerships which is a signature part of our Asia Pacific rebalance and our entire global posture.
We're also making forward-deployed forces more resilient. We haven't built a hardened aircraft shelter in 30 years. We're doing that more. We're starting to operationally disperse our Air Forces. We're operationally dispersing our Marine forces. We are sending more naval forces to theater for littoral combat ships to Singapore. We're doing selective hardening. We are actually making, as I said, geographically dispersed, more resilient, and more politically sustainable.
So in summary, the Asia-Pacific rebalance is real as part of a broader re-examination of our global posture. We might not be able to go as fast as we would want because of budgetary pressures. We might not be able to have as many forces as we would otherwise like because we wouldn't be able to afford them. But the Asia Pacific rebalance continues apace, as is evident by all of the things that I've just outlined.
So the big takeaways I would like you to have are, we are really taking a hard look at our whole global posture and the way we have employed forces over the last 20 years. The way we will do it in the future is going to be different. The way it comes about is still under debate. So I can't give you exact examples. But I will tell you, what I've laid out is our vision.
And the second thing is the Asia-Pacific rebalance is real. I mean, it is truly real. The four biggest construction projects since the end of the Cold War, all of our capabilities, the revitalization of our alliances, it truly is something to see.
So thank you for all that you do for us. And I look forward to your questions.