Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey thinks one of the most important questions military leaders need to answer is how to best adapt changes to strategy to match changes in the world.
Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke Sept. 20 at the inaugural Gen. Bernard W. Rogers Strategic Issues Forum in northern Virginia, sponsored by the Association of the United States Army.
Dempsey said it seems change is happening more quickly now.
“Therefore, we’ve got to be quicker on our feet, and we’ve got to be more willing to make changes that provide what the nation needs in its military dimension and power,” he said.
Dempsey noted the changes in the military over the past decade.
The biggest, from the Army’s standpoint, was the change from deploying divisions to deploying brigade combat teams.
The service did this “to meet the needs of the combatant commanders,” he said. “The point is [this change] showed a level of adaptability that we began to think about right after Desert Storm and culminating in the experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The Army is proving adaptable in being able to deploy exceedingly smaller pieces of itself, he said. He posited that for now the smallest unit deployed is a brigade, but in the future it may be smaller.
The other change is the proficiency of integration of kinetic and non-kinetic effects.
There has been an explosion in the capabilities of information operations since 2001, he said. This includes building provincial reconstruction teams, partnering with Department of State, working with the U.S. Agency for International Development and working with international organizations.
All services “need to understand what we need, how do we measure it, and then how do we ensure it is integrated so we don’t have a thousand flowers of information operations blooming out there that could, in some cases, create information fratricide,” he said.
Adding, “We’re keen to understand and learn for the last 10 years application of soft power.”
Change has also occurred in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance world.
Dempsey praised the Air Force for its work on this, noting that the service now has trained more pilots for unmanned aircraft than for piloted ones.
Unmanned aircraft capability was miniscule in 2001, and today there is an insatiable appetite for it.
The cyber domain has also grown to be a key capability and a glaring vulnerability for the military, Dempsey said.
Finally, there are changes in special operating forces. This capability has grown from roughly 33,000 in 2001 to up around 70,000 in the near future.
All these changes form a cornerstone for the Joint Force in 2020.
Dempsey made the point that many of the capabilities of the Joint Force of 2020 are around today.
“We have to recognize that about 80 percent of the force of 2020 already exists,” he said. Part of this is because of budget cycles and program duration.
“It’s that other 20 percent that I want to focus our attention on,” he said.
Adding, “In so doing, if we can get that 20 percent to be dramatically different and allow that to wash back over the other 80 percent, then the whole force becomes better.”
The military must think about integrating command and control architectures, cyber-capabilities, ISR and special operations forces.
“We’ve got this agreement that the best information and the most important intelligence comes from the bottom up, not from the top down,” he said. “The mindset that we build these structures around the soldier (and go) up is beginning to pay benefits to us by enabling [those occupying] the edge.”
And, that falls right in with changes in strategy.
Dempsey said in the first 25 years of his service, the idea was to mass the force and “disaggregate” it as necessary.
“I think we will see in the future that we will build the force intending for it to be disaggregated and then only massing it as necessary,” he said. “It’s a reversal of the paradigm in which I grew up,” he noted.
The Rogers Forum, which grew out of AUSA’s recognition of the need to expand its outreach efforts in telling the Army story, and in further emphasizing the vital strategic importance of landpower, provides speaking opportunities for senior leaders in the uniformed services, the Department of State, academia and think tanks.
The lectures, four to six annually, will be tailored to address critical issues affecting land forces and strategy.
The forum was named in honor of the 28th Army chief of staff.
Following his tour as Army chief, Rogers was named supreme allied commander Europe and he served in that position for eight years until his retirement in 1987.
(Editor’s Note: This story is based on an American Forces Press Service news release by Jim Garamone.)