The Army will continue to customize its mission objectives based on budget and force structure changes, a senior defense official said in Washington, D.C., Oct. 22 during the 2012 Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference.
Todd Harvey, director of force development for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said a defense strategy drafted in January to meet severe spending cuts over the next decade reflected DOD’s analysis of the preceding decade.
“We saw a transformation of a number of operations and activities that we had been engaged in over the past 10 years, [leading] us to believe we could begin shifting our focus to broader vistas,” he said.
In addition to drawing down operations in Iraq, DOD steadily fostered the Afghan security lead transition as the fracturing of al Qaeda’s central control and leadership of terrorist operations persisted, Harvey said.
Although the potential to examine future challenges emerged, Harvey said, the partial list of what was to come was “daunting.”
“The variety, complexity and types of challenges we expected to face were remaining at least constant, and in some cases, even increasing,” he said.
Harvey cited upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East and the “volatile” standoff with Iran, in which economic sanctions created an increasingly unpredictable situation, as examples. He also explained that a “shrouded leadership transition” in North Korea created its own dynamic of potential unpredictability, while al Qaeda local franchises mushroomed throughout the world.
Harvey also noted China’s increasing devotion to economic and military resources as the nation continued determining how it will interact among its closest neighbors and with the United States.
This changing geopolitical landscape and the rise of asymmetric capabilities such as weapons of mass destruction and cyber issues are not entirely new, but their concurrence has potential to create particularly volatile situations for the United States, he said. Meanwhile, he added, Middle Eastern and North African upheavals continue to provide opportunities for local radicals to establish a foothold.
“As government-controlled stockpiles of sensitive technologies and capabilities began to decline, those systems become available to radicals and other disruptive forces,” Harvey said.
With such potentially pendulous swings and a high degree of unpredictability, the Army and the Defense Department must adjust their strategies to best prime for future missions, Harvey added.
But what to cut isn’t always cut and dried, officials discovered in determining how to absorb the spending cuts, Harvey said. “There really wasn’t anything that we had been doing that we felt secure enough to risk at adequate levels … to throw something overboard,” he explained. Even in the realm of humanitarian assistance, he added, a senior leader might struggle with the decision to cut such a mission, opting instead to preserve the option to react to earthquakes, floods and other disasters.
Harvey noted that Pentagon officials have discovered no “free lunch” in functional missions or regional engagement.
“The force needs to be agile, versatile and ready to perform a range of missions,” he said.
These demands pose unique challenges for each of the services, Harvey added, particularly the Army, in light of force structure constraints.
“The challenges are as broad as they’ve ever been,” he said, adding that the Army will continue to seek the right balance among investments in force structure, readiness and modernization.
“We’re trying to stretch a shrinking force across as least as much mission as we’ve had to date,” he said.