Dempsey: Budget Cuts Will Not Turn U.S. Into ‘Fortress America’

By Sandra I. Erwin
With the United States in a financial crisis and Congress facing tough guns-or-butter choices, it would be understandable for theAmerican public to support a more isolationist foreign policy, as some opinion polls have suggested.
The nation could opt to become isolationist, but let us hope it doesn’t, said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“The world in which we leave demands greater engagement, not less engagement,” Dempsey said Nov. 18 at a conference of military reporters in Arlington, Va.
Allowing the United States to become “Fortress America would be the wrong course and the wrong message, and others would fill that void,” he said. Around the world, he said, “There is a huge appetite for partnering with the United States. …. We are the strategic partner of choice.”
If funding for the Defense Department does come down, it is possible to still be involved globally on a smaller scale, Dempsey said. “You don’t always need 2,500 troops or a carrier battle group. … We can figure out how to do it in a tighter fiscal environment.”
Dempsey said he is confident that the U.S. military will not be hunkering down after the current wars end.
President Obama’s decision tostation Marines in Australia is “illustrative of the fact we believe we have to emphasize more our presence in the Pacific” after being fixated on the Middle East for a decade, said Dempsey. He cautioned that this deployment is not about “countering China.”
In the coming years, he said, military and civilian leaders will have to study how best to allocate resources. “We have to find balance between forward deployed and power projection [rotations].” Another consideration is what geographic regions of the world the U.S. will emphasize, he said. “We still intend to be a global power in the 2020s.”
Even if there are force reductions, critical areas of the world should not be neglected, said Dempsey. “We are not going to set ourselves up for the false dichotomy of whether we are going to be a Pacific or an Atlantic power.”
Dempsey also believes it is important for the Defense Department to court the news media as a means to boost public support for the military. He worries that the media will lose interest in covering the military when it’s not at war.
The activities that the military will be doing after the wars are “not headline grabbing,” he said.
A decade of war with reporters embedded in combat units generated unprecedented positive media coverage that is unlikely to continue in peacetime. Dempsey would like to see the media’s interest continue. “How do we build on the relationship we forged over the last 10 years as you were embedded and we were in contact with each other?” he asked. “How do we keep that alive?”
Dempsey acknowledged that peacetime activities do not typically make for exciting news. “You have to be interested in things that don’t go bang in the night.” After the wars are over, the military is going back to “prepare, prevent, deter,” he said.
Hardly the stuff that makes headlines.

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget, DOD Leadership

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