Transcript: Gen. Martin Dempsey’s statement on the defense strategy report

Transcript of statement by General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: 

“Good morning. As chairman, it’s my responsibility to work with the Joint Chiefs to ensure that the armed forces of the United States keep America immune from coercion.

“The strategy just described by the president and the Secretary of Defense enables us to fulfill that responsibility. It sustains the sacred trust put in us by the American people to defend them and our country.

“This strategy emerges from a deeply collaborative process. We sought out and took insights from within and from outside of the department of defense to include from the intelligence community and other governmental departments.

“We weighed facts and assessments. We challenged every assumption. We considered a wide range of recommendations and counter-arguments. I can assure you that the steps that we have taken to arrive at this strategy involved all of this and much more.

“This strategy also benefitted from an exceptional amount of attention by our senior military and civilian leadership. On multiple occasions we held all-day and multi-day discussions with service chiefs and combatant commanders.

“The service chiefs who are charged with developing the force for this strategy were heard early and often.

“The combatant commanders charged with executing the strategy all weighed in time and time again. And we were all afforded extraordinary access to both the president and the Secretary of Defense.

“Frankly, the breadth and depth of dialogue to arrive at today’s strategic choices was both necessary and noteworthy.

“Today we’re here to discuss the broad contours and the central choices of this strategy, but this is not the end. Rather, it’s a weight point in a continuous and deliberate process to develop that Joint Force for 2020 that the secretary just described.

“There are four budget cycles between now and then. Each of these cycles presents an opportunity to adjust how and what we do to achieve this strategy in the face of new threats and in the context of a changing security environment.

“It’s a sound strategy. It ensures we remain the preeminent military in the world. It preserves the talent of the all-volunteer force. It takes into account the lessons of the last 10 years of war. It acknowledges the imperative of a global, networked, and full-spectrum joint force. And it responds to the new fiscal environment.

“Though as a learning organization, it’s important to note that even if we didn’t have fewer resources, we would expect to change. As a consequence, it calls for innovation for new ways of operating and partnering. It rebalances our focus by region and mission. It makes important investments, as the secretary noted, in emerging and improving capabilities like cyber and special operations.

“Now there’s been much made – and I’m sure will be made – about whether this strategy moves away from a force structure explicitly designed to fight and win two wars simultaneously.

“Fundamentally, our strategy has always been about our ability to respond to global contingencies whenever and wherever they occur. This won’t change. We will always provide a range of options for our nation. We can and will always be able to do more than one thing at a time.

“More importantly, wherever we are confronted and in whatever sequence, we will win.

“We do accept some risks in this strategy as all strategies must. Because we will be somewhat smaller, these risks will be measured in time and in capacity.

“However, we should be honest. We could be facing greater risks if we did not change from our current approach.

“I’m pleased with the outcome. It’s not perfect. There will be people who think it goes too far. Others will say it didn’t go nearly far enough. That probably makes it about right for today.

“It gives us what we need in this world and within this budget to provide the best possible defense for our nation at a time of great transition. It prepares us for what we anticipate we will need in 2020.

“This is a real strategy. It represents real choices. And I’m here today to assure you that it has real buy-in among our senior military and civilian leadership.

“This is not the strategy of a military in decline. This is a strategy and a joint force on which the nation can depend.

“I want to wrap up by saying just a couple of words about leadership. It’s always important but it’s absolutely essential during tough times. And make no mistake, these are tough economic times, and this strategy required some tough decisions.

“I want to thank President Obama and Secretary Panetta for their leadership throughout this process.

“The real test though will be in execution. Fortunately, the young men and women who will be charged to carry out the lion’s share of the strategy know something about leadership too. It’s the very cornerstone of our profession – the profession of arms. And for the past 10 years they have done nothing but lead under the most difficult circumstances imaginable. And it’s for that reason, above all others, that I’m absolutely convinced and fully satisfied that this strategy will meet our nation’s needs for the future.

“Thank you.”


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