SAN FRANCISCO —
GENERAL JOSEPH F. DUNFORD, JR.: Secretary Shultz, thanks for that introduction. But more importantly, thanks for your example of selfless service and leadership. I think you know everybody that today wears the cloth is pretty proud to follow in your footsteps.
And General Myatt, sir, it’s good to see you. You know, a number of people have said thanks for being here. And I have to come clean: I didn’t volunteer to come here tonight. (Laughter.) When General Myatt, who was known in the day as Cobra Six, when he was my Marine amphibious unit commander and I was Captain Dunford. When General Myatt calls you and gives you an invitation, somehow it seems a bit more like an order. (Laughter.) So, General Myatt, I am here. I am here at the right time, at the right place, and I’m in the right uniform. (Laughter, applause.)
You know, there’s a number of other folks here. I’ve had the chance to see some familiar faces and some friends. And it really is – in all seriousness, it is an honor to be here. And I really am appreciative of the opportunity to come out here and see so many folks. And I won’t recognize anybody else by name, there’s too many people here, but I want to say this, because many of you fall in this category. San Francisco has a great reputation for taking care of veterans. And many of the folks in the room, and I spoke to a couple upstairs that I had spoken to some years ago, have really focused on veterans’ transition and veterans’ health. And I just want to say thanks. And you know who you are out there. And I’m appreciative of that. And again, I think in part, General Myatt, again, with your leadership, San Francisco sets the stage.
This also is the 70th anniversary of Marines’ Memorial. And I will just tell you, with you at the helm, General Myatt, I think General Vandergrift would be pretty proud were he to come back here now and see us 70 years later. It is a club that all Marines can be and are very proud of. And I know today it’s almost synonymous – Marines’ Memorial and General Myatt, it’s almost synonymous with your leadership. But we’re all appreciative. And congratulations on 70 years. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, just before the question and answer period, I thought I’d make just a few remarks. And one of the first things I want to do is talk a little bit about the men and women that we have in uniform today. I’m incredibly privileged to represent the almost 2 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that are on active duty today. It’s a typical day. There’s about 275,000 of them that are forward in 177 different countries. And they’re doing everything from combat operations in Iraq and Syria to protecting our cyberspace, and everything in between.
You know, I am nonpartisan, apolitical. It’s been a political year and it’s been – you know, some things have been said this year that I feel, as a senior uniformed officer, obligated whenever I speak in public to make something clear. And that is that the men and women that we have in uniform today are capable of protecting the homeland and our way of life. They can meet all of our alliance responsibilities. And they have a competitive advantage over any potential adversary in the world – of that, I am absolutely confident. We are recruiting and retaining incredibly high-quality people. And they are, on a day-to-day basis, I hope, making you proud.
Having said that, you know, there are some challenges. And when you – in fact I’ve talked to at least one person who has insomnia and watches C-SPAN. (Laughter.) But when you watch the leadership in Washington on C-SPAN, and we talk about readiness, we do talk about the challenges. We’ve been at war for 15 years and our people are running incredibly hard. Many of them still today are on what we say is a one-to-one deployment-to-dwell ratio. And what that really means is you’re gone as much as you’re home. So when you were gone for seven months at a time or 12 months at a time, you’re gone for seven months, you’re home for seven months, you’re back out for seven months.
I visited, just about a month ago now, the USS Barry. It’s one of our – it’s one of our destroyers out in the Pacific. It’s in Yokouska, Japan. And that ship over the last year has been at sea 70 percent of the time. And for those you that are sailors, you know what you do with the 30 percent of the time that you’re not sea. You’re training and you’re maintaining, and you’re getting ready to go back out to sea. So they’re running pretty hard. And I can talk about some of our folks that fly, some of our intelligence people. I met some personnel recovery force in the Air Force. I got them all in a small school circle. I said, hey, how long is this deployment? They said, four months. I said, how long were you home before this deployment? They said, four months. I said, what about before that? We were on a four-month deployment. They’re doing that on a routine basis.
In addition to just running hard, our equipment – our airplanes, our vehicles, our weapons – have all been used at a greater rate than we predicted. And so, you know, we’re seeing some signs of wear and tear in that regard. And that has been exacerbated a bit because of the unsteady budget situation we’ve been in over the last three or four years. So I guess my summary for you is that, yes, we do have some challenges. Yes, those challenges are out in public. One reason why I’m always aggressive in talking about our challenges is I don’t want our young men and women to be in a fair fight. That’s not the deal. (Laughter.) If you’re part of the United States military you’re not going to be in a fair fight. We want them to have a competitive advantage.
So when we go up to Congress we, with all candor, share the challenges that we have in an effort to articulate a requirement for additional resources so our young men and women have, in fact, the very best equipment, the very best training, the very best leadership to be able to accomplish any mission. But I wouldn’t want any of you believe that there’s anything other than high quality people in the force today and the ability to do the job. And as I’ll speak about a little bit in a minute, my concern is not with 2016 and 2017. I can say to you with confidence that we have that competitive advantage I spoke about. My concern is that the individual who might be in my job in 2021 or ’22 can say it with the same degree of confidence that I say to you today that we have a competitive advantage.
What I thought I would do is just give you maybe just a quick view from my perspective of the security challenges our nation faces right now. And that may set the stage for the question and answer period. And another secretary, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has described today as the most volatile and complex security environment since World War II. I’ve been at my job for about a year, and I wouldn’t argue with Secretary Kissinger. It is incredibly complex. When we look at the challenges out there right now, we see primarily four state challenges, and one non-state challenge. The four state challenges are Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. The one non-state challenge we collectively call violent extremism. It’s referred to in the Department of the Defense as four plus one. And we use that as kind of a benchmark against which to measure our current capabilities, measure risk, and use it as a planning tool.
What it’s not is a predictor of the future. And I would tell you, if I’ve – if anything, over the past 40 years of active duty for me – if anything, I’ve become humbled about our ability to predict the future. But many of you are in business, and you need to benchmark yourself against your mission and against your competitors. And so we use that four-plus-one as a benchmark against which to evaluate our capabilities today. And we also pay particular attention to their capability development, and we look at where they may be three, five, seven, 10 years down the road. And we evaluate ourselves against that as well. And what I’ll do is I’ll just kind of tell you what I see when I look at those four plus one. And I’ll start – I’ll start with Russia.
You know, we all know Russia has incredible demographic and economic challenges back at home. And yet, despite those economic and demographic challenges, they’re made a significant investment in their military capabilities. They have modernized their nuclear enterprise. They’ve developed ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, air defense capability, cyber capability, space capabilities, and a wide range of maritime capabilities. And they’re operating in places and in a manner that we haven’t seen in over 20 years.
In fact, the last time that we really saw the kind of patterns that we’re seeing right now was when I was with General Myatt and he was a Marine amphibious unit commander in the mid-1980s. General Myatt, there is a Russian carrier moving to the Eastern Med today. And I remember being out there at sea with you and the Bears were flying over our formation. And that’s the kind of activity that we’re seeing today with the Russians. It’s significantly different. The other thing about the Russians is you have to look at their capability development in the context of their activity in places like Georgia, the Ukraine, and the Crimea over the last few years.
If you ask me, what the major concern is for the Russians, for me, is two things. We draw our strength from my perspective, and this is looking at it through a military perspective but I think it also applies from a political lens. We draw our strength from the network of partnerships and alliances that we’ve built up over the past 70 years. And the other thing that makes the United States unique is our ability to project power. In the case of Russia, they’re doing two things. Number one, their military capability is designed to prevent us from meeting our alliance commitments in Europe.
And so all of their anti-access – it’s called anti-access/area denial capability. That means they’re focused on trying to keep us from moving to the area and operating within the area. The other thing that we see with the Russians is they’re trying to undermine the credibility of our alliance structure in Europe. And those are the two major concerns. When you look at China, although our policy is certainly that we look for ways to cooperate with China in the Pacific, as a military leader we also have to look at their military capabilities.
And although China, particularly from a budget perspective and a capability development perspective is much more opaque than Russia, you see some of the same issues. You see development of nuclear weapons. You see increased programs for cruise missiles in particular, high-end aviation capabilities. Some of you might have seen that. It was in the San Francisco papers even today. Cyber capabilities, space capabilities. And much like Russia, they’re focused on what we call those anti-access/area denial capabilities.
They know that our strength is drawn from our ability to project power and they’ve developed an aligned range of capabilities to mitigate the risk of our power projection capability for Chinese interests. And also think that they recognize that the strength of the United States in the Pacific and the rebalance to the Pacific is in our alliance and partner structure in the Pacific. And what they do is work to undermine, on a day-to-day basis, the credibility of our alliances in the Pacific.
With regard to Iran, when I talk about Iran I say the number-one export of Iran is malign influence. And they are, with their Al-Quds forces projecting malign influence across the Middle East. They also have developed a wide range of the same types of weapons systems that Russia and China have. In their case, you know, it’s a threat to both freedom of navigation in the Straits of Hormuz as well as the Bab al-Mandab, which is on the coast of Yemen.
North Korea, probably don’t have to spend too much time speaking about North Korea. We’ve seen over the past year tests of nuclear capability, development of ballistic missiles, development of intercontinental and mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are of concern.
Violent extremism is that fifth challenge that I spoke about. And I think there’s going to be some question and answers later about that, so I won’t – and that obviously is the thing that’s most in the news. I guess I would just say that although the current focus in on the Islamic State, we’ve pay attention, obviously, to al-Qaida and a wide range of other extremist groups as well. With regard to al-Qaida, I believe the pressure that we have put on al-Qaida, particularly in South Asia over the past decade, has prevented another 9/11.
And that’s why we don’t hear much about al-Qaida today, because we have put them under incredible pressure, both in South Asia and in Yemen, which is the two strongest branches of al-Qaida. We are watching with concern, though, a resurgent al-Qaida in Syria. The shura – an al-Qaida shura has arisen in Syria, as well as the Al Nusra Front, which is a large group of probably 9(,000) or 10,000 which is affiliated with al-Qaida in Syria.
From my perspective, with regard to the Islamic State, while I’m not complacent and I don’t take it for granted, when I look at the past year we have taken away a significant amount of their territory. We’ve limited their freedom of movement. We’ve eliminated a number of their resources. We’ve degraded their capability. They – quite frankly, I think the most important thing is we’ve begun to undermine the credibility of their narrative with youth that have been radicalized by the Islamic State.
Much work remains to be done, but particularly in Syria and Iraq we’ve had some progress. In Libya, as well. I would tell you, six or seven months ago I was very concerned about the trajectory of the Islamic State in Libya. And we’ve had significant progress. And Marines have contributed to that with Harriers from the Mediterranean conducting strikes in Libya, significantly reducing the capabilities of Islamic State in Libya. And similar progress in West Africa and in Afghanistan, all areas where Islamic States were declared.
Very quickly, just maybe share some of the implications of all that. Number one, when I look at those four plus one, and you look at the United States, a nation that thinks and acts globally, I walk away saying that we have to have a balanced inventory of capabilities and capacities that is the size of the current force. And we can’t afford to be prepared for one side or the conflict or another. We can’t afford to focus on high end, like Russia and China, at the expense of violent extremism. As a nation, we need to be prepared for both. And that’s what concerns me about the past four or five years and budget process is we have become a bit unbalanced as a result of some of the difficult choices we have to make. And in my judgement, in order to provide for our security, in order to be responsive across the range of military operations, we got some hard decisions to make here in the next couple years.
One of the other challenges that I believe I see when I look at those four plus one is what I describe as adversarial competition that falls short of actual armed conflict. You know, we have a tendency to look at ourselves as either at peace or at war. And that model is very different than what China, Iran, or Russia – as the case may be – looks at. And I’ll give you an example with Russia. Russia combined economic coercion, political influence, information operations, unconventional operations, military capability and posture to advance their interests on a day-to-day basis. They employ capabilities. They use – they conduct activities that we would associate with conflict.
And so I think as we look to the future – and I’m talking now just with the military dimension of what is actually a much broader problem. It’s not a military problem but there is a military dimension to the problem. But this issue of adversarial conflict in dealing with Russia, Iran and China on a day-to-day basis is something that we have to – that we have to refocus on, and is a key area of interest for us.
The other – the other thing I would tell you is that conflict today is much more likely to be transregional, multidomain – that is, on land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace – and multi-functional. And that sounds like a lot of Washington, D.C. words, but what it really means is that, you know, in the 1990s you could imagine most conflicts, we have a regional strategy. And you could imagine most conflicts we would have tried to isolate them to a particular region. And I’ll use North Korea as an example.
In the 1990s, you know, our response to a conflict on the Korean Peninsula would have been a land supported by maritime and air forces to either restore the 38th parallel on the Korean Peninsula or remove the regime in North Korea. North Korea then developed ballistic missile capability, and it became more of a regional challenge than just an isolated challenge to the peninsula. Today, when you look at North Korea, and you look at the possession of intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as those ballistic missiles that can strike in the region, if you look at their cyber capabilities and a nascent space capability, immediately conflict on the Korean Peninsula also poses a threat to the homeland and to other regional actors.
And the time and space associated with conflict today is much different, which makes the decision-making, in my judgment, and we have at least one former secretary of state and secretary of defense here – Secretary Perry, sir, good to see you. I didn’t see you when I first – when I first came in. But we have individuals here that have experience in Washington, D.C., in making decisions. And I would argue that the decision-making space that our leadership has today as a result of the character of war today is very much – very much different, all of which argues for a greater degree of global integration in both our planning and our execution. And that’s another area of particular interest.
With that kind of as a scene setter, just, again, to give you, from my perspective, the major challenges we face, with the caveat that that is really a planning construct and a say to inform us as to where we are today relative to where we need to be in building a joint force, and not by any means a predictor, my assessment is that if we prepare for those four plus one, and we have an inventory of joint capabilities and capacities that give us the ability to deal with those four plus one, those four state challenges and one non-state challenge, then we will have the kind of joint force necessary to deal with what most assuredly we will have to deal with in the future, and that is unpredictability.
And so, with that, I think – I think I’ll ask Barrie to come out here and join me, and we’ll go into the question and answer period. (Applause.)
J. BARRIE GRAHAM: General Dunford, thanks very much for joining us today. It’s an honor to have you here. And you’ve got General Dunford’s biography there. And I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it. He’s got quite an interesting background. But I have the after-action report here from 1986, that I’ll just read briefly, that might be of interest to those of us from the Marines’ Memorial.
In the spring of 1986, the 26th – (audio break) – JSOC and one raid by the Marines. The ships were involved with the USS Iwo Jima and the USS Nashville. This was the first time that Marine pilots were authorized to fly using night vision goggles. There was no moon. The Marines executed the raid flawlessly, and it was witnessed at the target by deputy – or, Commander Brigadier General Corliss, who said he had never witnessed such a well-planned, well-executed operation.
He wanted to know who the raid force commander was, so he contacted the commanding officer of the 26th, now Colonel Mike Myatt. For this exercise with JSOC, Colonel Myatt said, we had the best company commander we could find to plan and execute such a high-profile raid. Captain Joe Dunford was the raid commander. It appears Captain Dunford has a great career ahead of him. (Laughter.)
So a few ground rules tonight. Obviously we’re a week away from a very contentious political election. And in fact, General Dunford just send a message to all active duty military recently and I’ll just read a sentence or two from that message, because I think it’s quite poignant in how he worded this: What we must collectively guard against is allowing the U.S. military to become politicized or even perceived as being politicized by how we conduct ourselves during engagement with the media, the public, or in open or social forums. So obviously a little inappropriate tonight to ask any of those questions. So I’ll start with the first question, who are you voting for? (Laughter, applause.)
GEN. DUNFORD: I was going to write in General Myatt. (Laughter, applause.) That’s for his creative writing skills. (Laughter.)
MR. GRAHAM: This is when General Myatt, after a session like this, says: You know, there’s a reason Graham never got above first lieutenant. (Laughter.)
General, on a more serious front, on the counter-ISIL update, could you start with our ongoing efforts in the Middle East? We know U.S. and Iraqi forces are today moving on Mosul as part of the counter campaign. Can you give us an update on those efforts and where the challenges are hopefully success going forward?
GEN. DUNFORD: Sure. First of all, for those who aren’t following it, our strategy from the very beginning has been to identify effective indigenous ground forces and provide them with the training and equipment to actually conduct operations. So we have a relatively small footprint – about 6,000 personnel right now in Iraq, about 300 personnel that are in Syria. Our forces in Iraq are supporting the Iraqi security forces and the Kurds and the Peshmerga forces as they conduct operations in Mosul. Mosul and Raqqa – Raqqa’s in Syria; Mosul in Iraq – are really the core of the physical caliphate of the Islamic State. So for the last 14 to 15 months, we have been focused on eventually getting to Raqqa and Mosul.
Those operations in Mosul are currently underway. And we expect that we’ll begin isolation operations in Raqqa here fairly quickly. And we want to do that so it’s complementary, that we have simultaneous operations ongoing in Syria and Iraq. It’s probably important to point out that our strategy as a nation to deal with the Islamic State has nine lines of effort, and only two – only two are led by the Department of Defense. And what can we do militarily? We can degrade the Islamic State’s military capability. And we have been doing this. And we can disrupt their ability – and this is our number-one priority – we can disrupt their ability to plan and conduct operations against the United States or our allies. But we can’t deal a lasting defeat to the Islamic State until we get after the underlying conditions that feed radical extremism.
And so what you can expect to see in the coming months is I believe we’ll be successful in seizing Raqqa. I believe we’ll be successful in isolating and eventually seizing Mosul. And that will eliminate what we call the physical caliphate, in the sense they will no longer be able to declare that they have a proto-state. But my expectation is they’ll continue to conduct terrorist operations, they’ll continue to conduct guerilla operations in the Middle East. And certainly the narrative will still be alive. And they’ll start to – they’ll increasingly rely on what we call the virtual state, which is in the information space to, again, radicalize youth around the world.
I do believe, as I mentioned in my opening comments, that our success on the ground is one of the best ways to undermine the credibility of the narrative. And we have seen that their brand of extremism has become a lot less seductive to youth around the world in the last few months as a result of the losses that they’ve experienced on the battlefield. But you know, it has taken us a long time to get to this point. When we went back into Iraq we had to redevelop our intelligence network. The Iraqi security forces required a lot of work.
For many of you who were in this room who worked with the Iraqi security forces prior to 2011, we did a lot of work. And frankly, the political leadership squandered much of that, and we had to rebuild that capability. But today, in my judgement, the Iraqi security forces are getting to the point – and certainly the Kurds the same thing – are getting to the point where they have a competitive advantage over the Islamic State. A little more difficult in Syria, in the sense that the partners that we’re working on the ground are not as capable as the Iraqi security forces. So we’re still working through that.
But the only other point that I would make to this group is that, you know, the challenges that we have today in Iraq and Syria are beginning to be a lot more about the political challenges and what I describe as the day after Mosul or the day after Raqqa, far more so than just the physical act of retaking ground away. We have limited their freedom of movement. We have taken away their territory. We have eliminated many of their resources. But there are political challenges, both in Iraq and Syria, that are going to have to be addressed in order for those two countries not to be a sanctuary from which violent extremism emanates.
MR. GRAHAM: General, if we turn to Afghanistan, we’ve had 15 years of war there, at the cost of 2,400 U.S. service members, $850 billion, and the Taliban remains in control of 30 percent of Afghanistan, continues to launch offensives on provincial capitals. As a former Afghanistan commander, what’s the future of Afghanistan? And do we still have an enduring interest?
GEN. DUNFORD: Sure. Let me – let me come back to one of the comments I made in my opening remarks, and that is about al-Qaida. And it is my judgement that using Afghanistan for the last decade-plus as a counterterrorism platform, and building a counterterrorism partner in Afghanistan, and on a day-to-day basis putting pressure on al-Qaida in the region, has been the reason we haven’t had another 9/11. In fact, we just conducted a strike – and we haven’t yet confirmed that it was successful, but we believe it was successful – against one of the last leaders of al-Qaida that’s been in northeast Afghanistan. And we’ve been looking at him for about the last four or five years.
And the pressure – our presence in Afghanistan has allowed us to put that pressure on al-Qaida. And our interests in the region today, if they were important a few years ago with regard to terrorism, arguably are more important today. There’s a lethal mix of about 11 or 10 – or 10 or 11 terrorist groups in the region that – many of which have designs on conducting attacks here in the United States. And the pressure that we’re able to put on them, and more importantly the pressure we’re able to put on them by, with, and through our Afghan counterparts is pretty important.
I look at Afghanistan and, you know, there’s certainly political challenges in Afghanistan. There’s economic challenges in Afghanistan. There’s the issue of reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan government. All those things have to be addressed. But in the meantime, our focus is on making sure that we don’t have an attack on the homeland from that part of the country. And our partnership with Afghanistan is allowing us to do that.
And, as a result of what we’re doing for Afghanistan in terms of support for their security forces, as well as the economic support and development assistance that the international community is providing, is providing a space within which they at least have an opportunity to address those governance issues and long-term economic issues. But even if Afghanistan were unable to do that, I believe our presence is important, again, simply to keep pressure on terrorism in that part of the region. And there are other national interests there as well.
MR. GRAHAM: You’ve touched on Russia in general. The recent Russian statements, including on nuclear weapons, have been pretty disturbing. What do you think Moscow’s goal is, their endgame? Do they have a strategy? Do they have an objective?
GEN. DUNFORD: Well, first, on the issue of nuclear weapons, you know, our president in 2009 gave a speech in Prague. And one of the focuses of President Obama has been to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our strategy. And unfortunately, at the same time that we have looked to do that – I know Secretary Kerry has written about it and spoken about it and advocated for that, and I think we would all want to move in that direction – unfortunately at the very time that we have worked to do that, Russia has increased the role of nuclear weapons in their strategy and, at least in their declaratory policy, reduced the threshold that they advertise where nuclear weapons may be deployed.
Russia clearly, in my mind, is again trying to undermine the alliance structure in NATO, and around the world. Vladimir Putin has those significant economic and demographic challenges in Russia. He’s focused on external problems to give him some space domestically. So I think a lot what we see is to play to a domestic audience. And at the end of the day, I think what Vladimir Putin would like to do is push back on some of the progress that was make in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, and reestablish something akin to the empire that the Soviet Union once was, is I think part of the focus of Vladimir Putin.
A difficult challenge. We’re not looking for a fight with Russia, but certainly an effective nuclear deterrent is first and foremost in our mind from a security perspective, and also making sure we maintain the credibility of our alliances and that we’re able to meet our alliance commitments in NATO is another one of our core efforts.
MR. GRAHAM: And most of us remember not too long we didn’t have Russia, we had the Soviet Union. And just if you’d like to go back through that history, there’s a series called “American Experience.” And you came through the ring in eight years. And weaving through those eight years, if you recall at the start we had the Soviet Union, we had the Cold War. It was a very desperate time in our country. And Secretary Shultz’s role, key role in that, weaves all the way through this eight-year period. And if you recall at the end, the Berlin Wall came down, and Soviet Union came apart, Gorbachev came here. So it’s almost a miracle, for those of us who were there at the start. So I’d encourage you to go back and read that.
GEN. DUNFORD: Well, just a quick comment on that too, I mean, I think that when I look at what Russia is doing today, it’s about as unsustainable as what the Soviet Union was doing in the 1980s. They can’t possibly sustain the path of military capability development. There’s an increased percentage of the gross domestic product that’s spent on military capability development. Their population will be 10 percent less in 2050 than it is today. And they’ve got zero percent growth in their economy. And so it’s hard for me to imagine that Russia will be able to sustain this, but that doesn’t necessarily make them less dangerous.
MR. GRAHAM: So, General, if you turn that to the United States, you have to plan, in a very uncertain time, a budget for us. There’s been talk of sequestration, different budget proposals, continuing resolutions. How do you – how do you plan and how foresee the military support side from a financial standpoint?
GEN. DUNFORD: No, it’s been difficult. And just, you know, for folks that are here that don’t have to pay attention to that on a daily basis – and I wish you hadn’t asked me a budget question. (Laughter.) I thought I was coming out to California to get away from that. (Laughter.) You know, we have already been reduced about $800 billion from the resources that we projected would be available in 2012.
So some tough decisions will be made. And sequestration still looms large out there, in the sense that there’s another $100 billion of cuts that could come if we’re not able to come up with a resolution to sequestration, which I think, as most Americans now know, is kind of a series of blind cuts where we don’t make decisions based on risk management, but just based on automatic cuts made in accordance with the sequestration process.
What I have said to our folks is that, you know, we – I think three or four years ago when we started dealing with these economic challenges and we started dealing with the operational challenges, we made two assumptions. We thought that the operational requirements would be reduced, and we thought that the budget process would level out. And that informed the decisions that we made over the past three or four years. And what I’ve told my team now is that, you know, we’d be making a big mistake if we would have those same assumptions today.
And so we’ve looked out over the next 10 years. We’ve made what I think is a realistic projection of the resources that we have right now. Most of our leadership would say that we can’t meet the requirements of the strategy at that level of resourcing. I’m not prepared to say that right now. In fact, I call to mind frequently what Winston Churchill said, and I think a 19th century physicist said something very similar: Ladies and gentlemen, we’re out money. It’s time to think. (Laughter.)
And so the first thing we have to do is truly take a hard look at making tough choices and prioritize things. And again, that’s where that four plus one is so important to us, because we look at – we look at our military capabilities through that lens and we try to make the tough choices to make sure we have what the American people expect us to have to meet our national interests. But over time, over the next two years, you know, we’ll figure out if this sequestration process is going to be avoided or not.
And if we do get hit with another 100 billion (dollars), I think we will be at the point where – you know, strategy is ends, the things you want to do, ways, the way you want do it, and then means, the resources that are available for you to do it. And over the last few years, we’ve adjusted the means and we’ve adjusted the ways, but we haven’t changed the ends. We still have the same objectives. And what I will tell you is, I think, as I look ahead, if we’re not able to avert continued budget challenges, we’re going to have to start to take a look at the ends part of the equation as well, not only how we do business and what resources we have available to execute our strategy. But we’re going to have to take a look at the ends.
And that’ll require, obviously, not – that’s not a military decision. That’s a policy decision. But that’s going to require the next administration to take a hard look at the resources that are available, the percentage of resources that we want to spend on defense – and it’s not just the Defense Department. It’s Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the State Department, and so forth. And then figure out, you know, where we are as a nation. And just as a – maybe an editorial comment, one of the things that I’m cautiously optimistic for in 2017, in the wake of an election, is we can have an honest dialogue about our nation defense and come to some consensus about our national defense.
Right now I think that there’s a pretty wide divergence in terms of what does our nation stand for and what kind of capabilities does our nation need to have to protect our national interest. And that debate and dialogue, I hope when the Congress comes back in 2017, is one that we’ll have. And that’s certainly something I’ve said to many members in office calls and so forth is that – they say, what can we do for you, General? I say, the number-one thing you can do is help drive a consensus in national security so that we all at least have some agreement on the fundamental principles. We’ll have disagreements, but the fundamental principles. That’s what we had when Secretary Shultz was in our government. That’s what we had when Secretary Perry was in our government. And that’s what we lack today, which makes it very difficult from planning perspective.
MR. GRAHAM: So, General, we’ll move off the hard questions there and move to softball here on female integration. (Laughter.)
GEN. DUNFORD: General Myatt, who picked this guy? (Laughter.)
MR. GRAHAM: He asks that often. (Laughter.) Over the last year, DOD has undertaken several personnel reforms, not the least of which is the integration of women into ground combat units. Can you give us your thoughts on how that process is going and what you emphasize with the secretary to get at that?
GEN. DUNFORD: Sure. I’ll answer the second question first. And, you know, the implementation is largely a service chief responsibility. But, you know, all the feedback from the service chiefs has been they’re going about that. Everybody understands what the secretary of defense’s guidance was. Everyone understands what the standards are. And we did, in the process of integration, go back and revalidate the standards. And we are now implementing integration in accordance with those standards. And soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are doing exactly what you’d expect soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to do.
You know, my recommendation last year – you know, I mean, what I believed at the time was there were some issues that needed to be resolved before implementation. And so Secretary Carter and I had a conversation. And Secretary Carter’s perspective was only different than mine in this regard. His perspective was that we could address those challenges in implementation and my recommendation was – beforehand – was to address those challenges before implementation. But I would emphasize, I gave the secretary seven criteria that ought to be addressed in implementation. And the secretary accepted all seven of my recommendations for the criteria against which we would measure our progress and the manner in which we would implement integration. And that’s exactly what’s happened.
So I guess maybe you asked the question because of my public statements prior to a decision being made. But I think everybody who’s ever worn the uniform knows that once a decision is made – there’s nothing going on out there across the joint force today except for aggressive implementation in accordance with the decision that was made, and making sure that we do it in a manner where we maintain standards, we maintain combat effectiveness, and we make sure we have the right men and women in the right places at the right time to accomplish the mission.
MR. GRAHAM: General, two questions on cybersecurity. What’s the military’s role in protecting us from cyber threats? And then, secondarily, would you comment on a plan that if we know we’re getting a certain cyberthreat from an area, is there a military response? And how would that be decided?
GEN. DUNFORD: Sure. The military role inside the continental United States is to protect the Department of Defense’s network. And we do have collaborative relationships with many members of industry out here, and certainly in the tech industry out here. And we do have partnerships with the private sector to try to help out. We do not have a responsibility to protect the private sector. We don’t have a responsibility to protect the U.S. government as a whole. But we do have a collaborative relationship inside the U.S. government. We are a supporting agency to other governments – to the other elements of the government, the other agencies.
And then with regard to the private sector, I think we as senior leaders all believe that an effective private-public sector cooperation is really going to be critical for us to have the kind of cyber defense that you need against the current threat. And I realize there are privacy issues, there are proprietary issues, there are, you know, private – you know, just independence of businesses and so forth, all those issues involved. But that’s kind of what our – what our model is, to try to develop based on trust collaborative relationships with the private sector, so that we can make sure that the entire United States is safe, and that we have resilience across the network.
MR. GRAHAM: And if we know about a cyberthreat from a specific area, that it’s cyber, is there a military plan or –
GEN. DUNFORD: Sure. I would just say this, that there’s a difference between cyberespionage, which is no different than spying, and then a destructive attack in cyberspace. And in my judgement, a destructive attack in cyberspace, you know, you aren’t limited to a symmetric response in cyberspace. What I owe the president, in the event of an instructive cyberattack, is the full range of military options that are appropriate in responding to a cyberattack. But it wouldn’t necessarily be just in cyberspace or, frankly, in cyberspace.
MR. GRAHAM: Keeping with the – you mentioned some innovative technology. And we’re here in the Bay area, but also back in Boston there’s some exciting companies developing a wide range of innovative technologies. Many of these are early stage. And not only around technology, but reducing energy consumption. So the question is, how do those early-stage companies get adopted more rapidly into the military world? You know, many of us feel they could be used right away, and yet there’s – at least I can testify, there’s a somewhat, you know, large bureaucracy in how do you approach it and how do you get there. So could you comment on what’s happening today and how that might be proof that these – and some of them are represented here – young companies could be used in the field much more rapidly?
GEN. DUNFORD: Sure. No, I mean, I hope – most of you know, I think, Secretary Carter’s been out here two or three times at least to have this conversation. You know, I think we recognize – he certainly recognizes it, and has made it a priority during his time as secretary of defense to outreach to the private sector, to make easier. He’s established these centers in order to do that, to encourage entrepreneurs to actually be associated with the government and work on some of our problems.
You know, I’ll give you an example of a problem that we have, in a way that maybe illustrates why we’re coming out to the private sector to try to get the best and brightest for innovation, disruptive ways to solve problems that we have. You know, we have an enterprise called the intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance enterprise. That’s the platforms and processes that we use to collect the information we need to feed decision-making. It’s all based on the intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance enterprise.
Since 2001, we have grown the enterprise by 1,200 percent. Since 2008, we’ve actually grown just the physical platforms that we use – you know, these are remotely piloted vehicles and so forth. We’ve grown the platforms by about 600-700 percent. And today, you know, one of the jobs I have is to – is to do global force management, meaning we take all the capabilities we have and we give it to our operational commanders. I’m meeting about 30 percent of our operational commanders’ demand for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
So in this five-year plan, we’re going to go from, for example in one area, 60 of a capability to 90 of a capability. And at the backside of five years, after doubling that capability, I expect we’ll probably be meeting 30-some-odd percent of our capability. So in this particular cause, you know, continuing to buy things is absolutely – more platforms, more of the same – is never going to get us to where we need to be. So this is a classic example of where innovation is required, a completely disruptive way of feeding our decision-making process.
And so, you know, we’re coming out to industry to ask for ideas and help in that regard, because at the end of the day we’re not trying to grow our intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance enterprise, the one we have today, make it bigger. What we’re really trying to do is find a way to feed decision-making, which may look completely different than what we’re doing today. In fact, I – (audio break) – went to Yale, went to Virginia Tech, whatever the case may be, and joins government. And then, 10 months later, they get laid off. And then next year it’s the same thing. And it’s always the uncertainty, and it becomes a disincentive. And then the public discourse has become so coarse that you worry that people will be disincentivized from government service in that regard as well.
So I’ve spent a lot of time, and Secretary Carter certainly has. In fact, I spoke to a group of – (inaudible, background noise) – students just last Thursday, and made a pitch for government service. And I said, look, the one thing I’m sure I can’t promise you is tangible rewards that will compete with the private sector. And you don’t have to do this forever. You can do this just for a period of time. But in my own judgment, the intangible awards of service, the opportunity to work on things that are critically important to our nation, to our way of life, is important.
The quality of people you get an opportunity to serve with, in some cases the level of responsibility that we give young people, I think is different certainly than in some other walks of life. And so we work pretty hard to, you know, kind of articulate what it is about service that’s different. And, frankly, it is largely about the intangibles. But some – people even ask me. They say, hey, you know, how do you like the job you’re in? And what I tell people is that, you know, despite the fact that we are in very challenging times, I would much rather be where I am trying to help solves these problems than watching it all unfold from the outside and feel completely helpful that I can actually make a contribution.
And to me, that’s what government service is all about. That’s what General Myatt did, Secretary Shultz, Secretary Perry. That’s what government service is all about, is it’s the opportunity to go in and work on very important, very significant challenges that affect our nation, our way of life, our vital national interests. And I think that’s probably the one unique thing we have in government, is the nature of problems that we work on. And so I, you know, would encourage those maybe on the front end of their lives to serve for a period of time. And then they can go into the private sector if that’s what they decide to do, or they can continue in the public sector, as I have.
But then there’s also a number of people that, again, this is something Secretary Carter spoke about, that maybe have never served, and now are at the point in life where they have the flexibility to go off and do something different, to do something for the country. Maybe they’re in their late 40s and 50s or 60s, been successful in another walk of life and want an opportunity to serve. And I would say there’s plenty of opportunities to do that as well.
MR. GRAHAM: General, one last question. We have a unique opportunity here. General Dunford is the only Marine in the history of the Marine Corps to serve as commandant of the Marine Corps and then chairman of the Joint Chiefs. So last question would be, could you just contrast the differences of being commandant versus chairman of the Joint Chiefs? And what were your – the two things that kept you awake at night as commandant and then the difference in the Joint Chiefs? (Laughter.)
GEN. DUNFORD: I’m glad you didn’t make me in public say which job I prefer. (Laughter.) I was actually afraid that was coming, because I’d have to answer that question honestly. But you didn’t ask that question. (Laughter.)
It is a difference. You know, as a service chief, as the commandant of the Marine Corps, you’re focused on training, organizing, equipping the United States Marines. You’re focused on providing our combatant commanders with highly capable formations, Marine expeditionary units, Marine expeditionary forces, special purpose Marine ground task forces, provide the State Department with 1,600 great young Americans to support the State Department. So your primary responsibility is to make Marines, put them in training, and send them out to go do the things that Marines do all around the world.
Clearly, as someone who grew up inside the institution and had been the assistant commandant, I spent a lot of time in various jobs in the Marine Corps, that’s a pretty comfortable job. And you know, I would tell you there weren’t a lot of surprises for me as the commandant of the Marine Corps. And what I was doing was fairly predictable. Even if what the Marines were doing wasn’t necessarily predictable. What I was doing as a service chief was important. I did focus – we talked about people a lot.
I think first and foremost, the number one thing I focused on was making sure that we were getting the right young men and women to join the Corps, and then making sure that we were conducting the transformation process of making Marines in the right way. And that’s the most – if you get that right, you can kind of muddle your way through the rest. That’s the key piece. You get the right people in there, and you give them the right training, the rest of it, it’ll all solve itself.
And the number-one challenge that I felt like we had at the time was we had a shortage of noncommissioned officers, because of our model. And what I was advocating for, and what General Neller, who’s doing a great job as our commandant, and we’ve got a great sergeant major as well – what they’re focused on is what we started to do, which is kind of mature the forces a little bit. You know, our average noncommissioned officers were probably at the three year – three-and-a-half-year mark.
And we’re trying to move that to the five- or six-year mark, simply because to get the training, the education, the experience you need to lead at that level and make the kinds of decisions that they have to make at that level, it’s much different. And when I look back at my days as a lieutenant, what sergeants are doing today absolutely is what lieutenants were doing when I was a lieutenant. And what our staff noncommissioned officers have done over the past 10 or 15 years in combat is extraordinary. And the challenges that we have put on them and that they have met are much different than they were in the past. And that’s all about making sure you get the right people and you provide the right training.
In the job I’m in right now, there’s probably, you know, two things that are important to me. Number one is, provide the president with the best military advice, and making sure that when we do send young men and women in harm’s way, that we do it against a clear political objective and we send them in with the wherewithal to accomplish the mission with minimal loss of life or equipment. And that’s – you know, that’s what drives us in providing best military advice and making sure we give the president viable options to meet his policy objectives, and we give our young men and women in the joint forces the tools they need to get the job done.
The world has unfolded – my first weekend in the job, the very first weekend I was in the job – I took the job on Friday, the Russians went into Syria that weekend, we had Hurricane Joaquin, and there was some other minor – (inaudible) – that I even forget now. And that was the first 48 hours in the job. And so it’s very unpredictable – very unpredictable. And I look back over the last year, and things have unfolded in a way that, you know, I couldn’t possibly have imagined. And that’s every day.
And I think what keeps me awake right now is just making sure that we do the best we can to anticipate and not to react and, again, that we pay attention to what we’re doing in places where we – primary purpose – the primary focus is where we have young men and women in harm’s way in places like Iraq and places like Syria and places like Afghanistan and places like Libya, East Africa, West Africa – all of which have young Americans in harm’s way – that we’re doing the right thing. And that’s the thing that keeps me awake at night, and making sure that I don’t disappoint them.
And then the second piece of it is that balance I spoke about earlier, which I think is my number-one challenge in this job, to make sure that through the four years we maintain the right balance between enabling the force that we have today to get the job done and building the force that we need tomorrow. And we can’t afford to do that sequentially. We got to be able to do that simultaneously. And getting that balance right every day is also difficult in the current budget environment, but it’s something that we have to do.
MR. GRAHAM: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in thanking Secretary Shultz and General Dunford. (Applause.)