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Chairman Dismisses Notion of Military in Decline

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

LONDON, Nov. 28, 2011 – In two venues here today, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff emphatically dismissed the notion that the U.S. military is in decline.

During an interview on the BBC program “Newsnight,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey bristled when Jeremy Paxman began the interview by asking, “General, what’s it like to take over the military at a time when it is in decline?”

“We’re not in decline,” Dempsey asserted. “The incline or decline is not an affect of size, it’s a function of capability.”

Dempsey explained that the U.S. military has learned much over the past 10 years of war. “We tend to face adversaries who don’t mass against us -- they decentralize,” he said. “We’ve had to become a network to defeat a network.”

The chairman cited other examples, noting that before 9/11, responsibility was hoarded at higher levels in the U.S. military. Today, he said, the impetus is to push responsibility down to those who need it.

In addition, Dempsey said, the U.S. military is a joint force in ways that service members who served even as recently as the Persian Gulf War wouldn’t recognize. Navy electronics warfare officers routinely deploy with Army and Marine Corps units to help defeat threats posed by roadside bombs; and soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines work alongside civilians in provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan.

“We can find a way to rebalance ourselves to find capabilities that we didn’t have 10 years ago, and still be a military very much where it needs to be for the world,” Dempsey said.

Budget challenges do exist, and the U.S. military will do its part to help the nation over the deficit crisis, the chairman said. The military is cutting $450 billion in spending over the next 10 years, he noted, a level of cuts he said is manageable.

“Anything more and it risks being unmanageable,” he added. “But I can’t see that far yet.”

Dempsey said he believes a psychology contributes to talk about decline. “We are neither in decline nor are we victims,” he said at the Colin Cramphorn Memorial Lecture following his talk with the BBC. “We are simply responding to what one might argue is a historic cycle of resources.”

Historically, Dempsey said, the U.S. military has expanded during times of conflict and shrunk following the conflicts.

“The key,” he said, “is that we have to ensure that what we do in contraction is ‘expansible,’ so if we get the future wrong – which, by the way, we have an uncanny capability to do that – that we’ll have enough capability to get through the initial challenge and then be able to expand the force.”

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Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

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