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World Faces Strategic Inflection Point, Dempsey Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

LONDON, Nov. 28, 2011 – The world may be facing a strategic inflection point as important as the one facing Allied leaders in World War II, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

In delivering the Colin Cramphorn Memorial Lecture at the Policy Exchange, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey noted that today marks the anniversary of the Tehran Conference in 1943 among President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin.

“The three leaders met because they sensed they had arrived – or were soon to arrive – at what they described as a strategic inflection point,” Dempsey said. They agreed that the Western allies would open a second front in 1944. The invasion of Normandy not only helped to win the war, but set the geopolitical boundaries between free and communist in the post-war years.

“I’d suggest that we — and I do mean we — are at or nearing another of those strategic inflection points in our own time,” the chairman said.

Some challenges are relatively clear, he said. The United States and its allies have to maintain pressure on the state and nonstate actors that pose potential threats, the chairman told the audience.

“We must determine how we will interact with those nations experiencing the Arab Spring,” he added. “We must determine how we will relate to emerging and re-emerging nations, especially China.”

Other challenges may be less clear, Dempsey said, citing the accelerating pace of population growth as one example.

The changes the world faces all are influenced or underpinned by unprecedented economic interdependence and unimaginable access to information, the chairman said. And increasingly, they are being underpinned by a scarcity of money.

“Our traditional alliances and partnerships around the world are the stable platform on which we will confront these challenges,” he said. “Yet it cannot be lost on us that we now face known and unknown security challenges in the context of a new fiscal reality.”

Dempsey spoke about confronting all of these challenges and highlighted his message with his “Three I’s” – Immune, Innovation and Inspire.

A military’s job is to ensure a nation is immune from coercion, Dempsey said, noting that the list of threats nations now confront is getting longer all the time.

“We haven’t been standing still watching this occur,” he said. “No institution has been more adaptable, more flexible and more versatile over the past 10 years than the military. We are simply not the same military we were in 2001.”

The military has pushed responsibility and capabilities down to the lowest levels, Dempsey pointed out.

“We have learned much over the past 10 years, and we will adjust our force structures based both on what we’ve learned and on new fiscal conditions,” he said. “That will require us to adjust our strategic objectives and to balance capability and capacity. That is, we must have both the right tools and enough of them to credibly deter potential adversaries and to deliver on our objectives.”

The general noted that today is what economists call Cyber Monday – the day when millions of people shop online for the holidays. “We are not immune to coercion in cyber,” he said. “We’re working on it, as I know you are working on it. In my judgment, we need to work harder.”

Innovation is needed to encourage creativity and transform capabilities and capacity, the chairman said. “The time-honored method for absorbing diminishing resources is to do less with less,” he added. “That just won’t work this time. The world won’t cooperate.”

Allies must seek transformational opportunities including new capabilities, new command structures, and greater interdependence among the U.S. military services and with America’s closest allies, he said.

Innovation means coming to grips with change, Dempsey said, including changes in communications, intelligence, robotics, nonbiological intelligence, power, energy and precision.

“We’ve tended to see capabilities as additive over time,” he said. “With cost as an independent variable, we must now seek the synergies and possibilities of capabilities that are integrated and combined in innovative ways.”

“Inspire” is the final “I.” Dempsey spoke of meeting an Air National Guard pararescueman in Alaska who had just returned from a deployment in Afghanistan. Air Force Master Sgt. Roger Sparks used the winch aboard a rescue helicopter to lower himself to members of the 101st Airborne Division trapped on a ledge in the Hindu Kush. He was greeted by a hail of machine-gun fire.

“He pulled all 12 soldiers from the mountainside,” the chairman said. “Four of them died in his arms. It won’t surprise you to know that when asked why he took such risk, he said simply that those soldiers needed him at that moment in time.”

Dempsey used that story to illustrate the relationship of trust the U.S. military has with the American people.

“We are seen as the pre-eminent leader development institution in the nation,” he said. “We are known to develop leaders of consequence. Whatever we become in the future, we must not lose this standing with the American people any more than your military can afford to lose its standing with the British people.”

In the end, a military is a reflection of its people, and money is less important than if the military embodies the values of the nation, the chairman said.

“As we consider who we will be as a military in the months and years ahead, I don’t think it unreasonable to hold ourselves to the highest standards,” he added. “We should inspire our fellow countrymen with our courage, our determination and our willingness to serve.”


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Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

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