Dempsey: U.S. Forces Must
Adapt to Deal With Near-Peer Competitors
By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media
Copenhagen, Denmark — (DoD
News) — August 17, 2015 — For the first time since the end of the
Soviet Union, the United States is facing a near-peer threat, and that is
unsettling to many in the services, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
said here today. Following meetings with Danish Chief of Defense Army Gen. Peter
Bartram and his staff, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey spoke at the Danish Army
Academy about the changes he has seen in his 41 years in uniform.
Gen. Dempsey arriving at the Royal Danish Army Academy
A Danish army cadet ask a question to U.S. Army Gen. Martin
E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Royal Danish Army
Academy in Copenhagen, Denmark, Aug. 17, 2015. DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen.
The chairman said the first 15 years of his Army career were
dominated by confronting the security threat posed by the Soviet Union. His
first assignment was as a tanker with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment on the
border with the Warsaw Pact.
“We had one threat with which we were confronted and with
which we were dealing,” he said. “That threat went away with the fall of the
Soviet Union and we had a 10-year period where we were doing small peacekeeping
missions and contingencies. But there was nothing that really threatened the
homeland during those years.”
Then 9/11 happened and the United States military found
itself fighting a counterinsurgency/counterterrorism war from 2001 to 2011.
In 2012, the Russian Federation decided “to annex Crimea, to
change the borders of Europe, to stir up ethnic tensions and to threaten the
credibility of NATO,” Dempsey said. Added to this, he said, al-Qaida morphed
into the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
A Danish army cadet ask a question toGen. Martin E.
“It’s the first time in 41 years we’ve had a legitimate risk
emanating from state actors, and we clearly have a persistent threat emanating
from sub-state and non-state actors like [the Islamic State of Iraq and the
Levant],” the chairman said. “That makes for a very volatile mix and makes it
difficult for us to balance our resources to deal with these multiple threats
Eighty percent of those serving in the U.S. military haven’t
lived in a world where United States military power wasn’t preeminent and
dominant, he said. “As some of these other nations begin to develop capabilities,
it’s very unsettling for them,” Dempsey said.
“It’s unsettling for me, too, because my job is to never
allow the nation to be coerced, which is about as good a description as I can
give it. Constraints -- left unaddressed -- can become coercive,” the chairman
said. “So the 20 percent of us who grew up in a world where the United States
had peers and near-peer competitors understand how to live in that world,
understand how to use the military instrument in that world, understand the
meaning of deterrence, understand the meaning of maneuver and how to set a
That 20 percent needs to ensure the rest of the force
understands how to prevail in that environment, he said.
“The rest of the force is a little unsettled right now
because they’ve never been confronted with constraints,” Dempsey said. “We have
to lead our way through that period and reeducate ourselves and rekindle some
lost attributes and we can do that.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)
Related Biographies :
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey