[Strategic Intelligence] Military’s top officer provides an outlook for future wars

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) Gen. Joe Dunford spoke during a Congressional hearing on earlier this month to re-nominate and confirm him to the post. He’s a summary of his relevant remarks…

What do you consider to be the most significant challenges you expect to face if you are confirmed again?

“In today’s extraordinarily dynamic and complex world, the United States faces simultaneous challenges from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and violent extremist organizations…

Over the last decade, sustained operational commitments, budgetary instability, and advances by our adversaries have threatened our ability to project power and resulted in our loss of advantage in key warfighting areas.”

Recognizing that challenges, anticipated and unforeseen, will drive your priorities to a substantial degree, if confirmed again, what other priorities, beyond those associated with the major challenges you identified above, would you set for your second term as Chairman?

“Particular areas of concern are our cyber and space capabilities, modernization of the nuclear enterprise, and ensuring our ability to project power across all domains, when and where needed.”

The United States will likely never have the resources to assign all the forces each Combatant Commander believes they need, which leads the Department of Defense to apportion forces in operations planning. As U.S. military forces are already severely challenged in terms of capacity, there are consequences when it comes time to allocate them for a given contingency…

Do you believe we must also have a sufficient strategic and operational reserve, national mobilization capability, and robust defense industrial base to provide a second echelon of follow-on forces if a contingency arises in a particular region, especially against a near peer, great power state?

Yes. Any conflict with a near-peer competitor will require follow- on forces. In a major contingency, our formations will almost certainly face battlefield attrition. To sustain a fight and see it through to conclusion on favorable terms, we will have to have additional forces available to maintain the initiative. This will assuredly draw on our strategic and operational reserves, test our national mobilization capability, and place demands on our defense industrial base as spare parts, end items, and critical munitions are consumed or destroyed.

The Committee has received sobering briefings on the status of the United States` military technological lead over potential adversaries that have “gone to school” on the way our military has conducted warfare over the past quarter century, and are rapidly closing the gap in various capability areas where we previously enjoyed a large overmatch.

In your view, what are the top operational challenges our warfighting commanders are facing currently, and will face in the future?

Our Commanders are challenged across the full spectrum of Joint Force capabilities by multiple adversaries who have enjoyed the time and space to study, plan for, and resource countercapabilities in every domain. Our adversaries are actively competing with us below the level of armed conflict in order to counter our historic conventional advantages. Additionally, our technological overmatch is decreasing as near-peer adversaries increase their capability and capacity. The Joint Force’s ability to project power during an “away game” and sustain operations during conflict is, and will continue to be, threatened by our adversaries’ capability and capacity in ballistic and cruise missile technology, electronic warfare, space, and cyberspace. These elements, coupled with their ability to target our integrated air and missile defenses, will force Commanders to preposition assets earlier or move logistics operations further and further away from the most effective locations, leading to increased risk to the Joint Force.

Do you still agree with your prior assessment that Russia is the “greatest threat to our national security”?

As a military, we do not have the luxury of focusing on only one challenge. However, today Russia does present the greatest array of military challenges and remains the only potential existential threat to the United States. They continue to invest in a full- range of capabilities designed to limit our ability to project power into Europe and meet our alliance commitments to NATO. These capabilities include long-range conventional
strike, cyber, space, electronic warfare, ground force and undersea capabilities. Russia is also modernizing all elements of its nuclear triad. These modernization efforts must also be viewed in the context of their activities in the Ukraine, Crimea, and Syria. Russia`s operations, capability development, and asymmetric doctrinal and strategic approaches are designed to counter NATO and U.S. power projection capability, and undermine the credibility of the NATO alliance.

[W]hy in your view is Russia the greatest threat compared to China, North Korea, Iran, and ISIS?

What currently makes Russia a more formidable threat is its nuclear capability, cyber capabilities, propensity to demonstrate aggressive behavior, and its willingness to employ military force. While North Korea, Iran, and ISIS pose regional as well as global threats, and clearly demonstrate malign influence, none of these pose an existential threat to our Nation. Russia and China are in a different category. They continue to invest in a full- range of modern capabilities, and are capable of engaging the U.S. across the full spectrum of nuclear and conventional conflict.

How do we deter Russian aggression and defend the NATO alliance?

The U.S. calculus for deterring Russian aggression entails appropriately postured and capable nuclear and conventional forces, building allied and partner capacity, and an effective whole-of-government approach to deal with destabilizing activities beneath the level of armed conflict. The United States’ steadfast commitment to Article 5 and our readiness to commit U.S. forces to defend an ally that has been attacked serves as the greatest deterrent to Russian aggression against the Alliance.

What has been done to update our deterrence and response model to deal with the Russian hybrid warfare and asymmetric threats?

To deny the Russians the benefits of their malign activities and to impose costs for disruptive and destabilizing Russian behavior, we continue to enhance and refine our capability to compete beneath the level of armed conflict in the diplomatic, information, and economic realms. We have also enhanced our military capabilities for protecting U.S. interests, and our allies have done the same. Finally, we have also improved our forward posture and capacity to reinforce allies in the event of conflict.

In your view, what more needs to be done in this regard?

We continue to refine our strategy for countering Russian malign influence operations. Responding to hybrid warfare remains an inherently whole-of-government proposition. In conjunction with the interagency, we are building partner capacity while ensuring our allies are resourced and focused on the Russian hybrid threat. We must continue to improve our cyber and information operations capabilities.

General Breedlove told the Committee in 2015 that, “our current force posture in Europe has been based on Russia as a strategic partner.” In 2016, General Scaparrotti’s written testimony stated, “the ground force permanently assigned to EUCOM [European Command] is inadequate to meet the Combatant Command’s directed mission to deter Russia from further aggression.” What changes have we made and should we make to our current military posture in Europe to adjust to the current threat reality?

Under the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), the Army has deployed a rotational Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) and a rotational Combat Aviation Brigade to Europe. Additionally, Army Prepositioned Stocks (APS) enable the Army to quickly deploy additional heavy forces into a heavy division configuration poised to respond. The APS includes a Division HQ, a Fires Brigade, and an ABCT. Enablers such as Air Defense, Engineers, and Logistics will be added in coming years. EDI has also funded construction of facilities that improve the reception, staging, on-ward movement and integration of follow on forces arriving in Europe.

We need to continue building the APS sets to allow the rapid deployment of a complete Army Division to Europe. This will also build needed support and enabling forces, including air defense units and long range precision fires. The APS build is scheduled through 2020. Finally, the infrastructure improvements need to continue as planned, expanding to include Navy and Air Force capabilities to allow a rapid buildup of forces in Europe in the event of a contingency deployment.

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