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Work: DoD Transforms Global Posture for Future Needs

By Cheryl Pellerin, DoD News, Defense Media Activity.

Washington D.C. – (DoD News) – September 30 , 2014 – In a time of constrained budgets and unprecedented geopolitical challenges, defense leaders are taking longer-term approaches to the defense strategy and changing the way they use forces overseas to respond to the dynamic security environment, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said here today.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work speaking to the CFR in Washington, D.C., Sept. 30, 2014

Addressing an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations, Work said these shifts are part of the broader context of changes the department is making to its global posture, its global operating model and the way it engages with the world.

Global posture

“I’ll tell you the way I think about our global posture,” Work said, reading his definition to the audience:

“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; forceful 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.”

“It's kind of a long one,” he smiled, “but that is what our posture is about and … that is what makes us the only truly global power.”

Work added, “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.”

Global power

Being a global power gives the nation enormous advantages in global strategic reaction time, geographic positioning of forces, and force concentration and support, he added, and it is vital to giving the United States a favorable strategic balance in peace and war.

The U.S. global posture constantly evolves over time and changes in reaction to changes in the global security environment and threats that arise, he added.

Work said the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review noted that the stressful strategic and budgetary environment compels the Defense Department to think creatively and develop new ways to manage and employ the joint force as it engages with the world.

“Even as we downsize under fiscal pressure and even as we reduce the size of our military,” Work added, “we will maintain this global posture with … key components that assure our allies, dissuade potential competitors, deter adversaries and if necessary helps us either respond appropriately or defeat any foe.”

Global operating model

The global operating model the United States strives for now that is described in the president's Strategic Guidance of 2012 and built out in the 2014 QDR has five priorities, the deputy secretary said.

These are to rebalance the U.S. focus and U.S. forces to the Asia-Pacific region to preserve peace and stability there, to maintain a strong commitment to security and stability in Europe and the Middle East, to sustain a global approach to countering violent extremists and terrorist threats with an emphasis on the Middle East and Africa, to invigorate efforts to build innovative partnerships, and to strengthen U.S. alliances while pursuing lower-cost innovative approaches to U.S. presence.

“As these objectives suggest,” Work said, “we are not just moving to the Asia Pacific or rebalancing our forces.”

The United States will have a true global posture but with an emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region, he added.

Global presence

“Two key portions of any global posture are what we would call forward presence. These are the numbers of forces forward stationed with their families on a base overseas. The other ones are rotationally forward deployed forces. Together, those two comprise our forward presence,” the deputy secretary said.

The important goal DoD wrestles with under intense budget pressure is to get a proper mix between forward presence forces and those based in the United States and U.S. territories that are surge forces, he added.

“They're two sides of the same coin -- the yin and yang of our global posture,” Work said. “But as we face the twin challenges of reduced force structure and reduced readiness caused by sequestration, we have to critically reexamine some assumptions that have driven the balance between forward presence forces and surge forces since the end of the Cold War.”

Global influence

For the past 20 years, the deputy secretary said, DoD has assumed that with a force sized to conduct two nearly simultaneous major combat operations, it could also sustain a major-combat-operation level of worldwide “shaping operations” -- forward presence forces trying to shape the international environment to a more peaceful conclusion -- without affecting the readiness of surge forces for a potential war.

Today, after 12-plus years of war, it has become harder and harder as a department to sustain this model, he explained, and gradually DoD has had to concentrate only on forward presence forces and those that were to be the next ones to fight.

Sequestration and unrelenting operation pressures from the wars made the situation even worse, the deputy secretary said.

“Ensuring that we can defeat any foe in a resource-constrained era will require us to make hard choices. We need to engage globally [in a different way] and that's what we're struggling to do,” Work added.

The United States still will maintain robust forward-deployed forces where the strategic rationale is compelling, he said, and where U.S. priorities make it imperative to do so.

“But our forces won't be large enough to give our combatant commanders all the forces they would want in theater at every single moment to be prepared for any regional contingency, he said, “because for far too long 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 command areas of responsibility.”

Global priorities

A key principle going forward, he added, will be to reprioritize limited assets and develop innovative ways of maintaining forward presence as the department rebuilds its readiness.

The department is approaching this mandate in different ways, Work said, including stationing forces forward if possible and right-sizing the global posture.

“The Army is developing regionally aligned forces, tailored packages that emphasize skill sets,” he explained. “They’re brigades that … 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 regions of the world.”

Work added, “We're all getting away from a one-size-fits-all mentality.”

Another way to innovate is to use what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey calls dynamic presence. Work described this as “figuring out the minimum deterrent force that you might need in a theater and then using the rest of the force more dynamically across the world.”

The deputy secretary likened it to going from a demand-side model to a supply-side model, or “from where the [combatant commands] demand forces and we provide them everything we possibly can, to a supply-side model in which we send forces out [but keep] the balance between readiness in the surge and forward presence and then dynamically task it” worldwide.

Innovations, including military demonstrations and exercises, will underpin the new global posture, which the deputy secretary said must be more dynamic and flexible and must aim to continue to support a future force that operates globally.

“We’re aiming for what famed British naval historian Sir Julian Corbett called elastic cohesion, a term he used to describe a fleet that could be widely disbursed but quickly concentrated in time,” Work said.

“So our elastic and cohesive future joint force, although smaller,” he added, “will still retain an unrivaled ability to concentrate power across transoceanic distances.”

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)
Contact Author

Bob Work

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).