Partners Essential in Strategic Transition, Defense Official Says

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

This article was originally posted February 2 to the Department of Defense website.

Munich — The United States is embarked on a strategic transition fueled by the end of a decade of war and by new fiscal and security challenges, but it won’t have to make the journey alone, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said here today.

Speaking as part of an expert panel at the 49th Annual Munich Security Conference, Carter explored for an audience of international foreign and defense ministers and security policy officials the tenets of a defense strategy for the 21st century.

“We don’t see this as something we do alone,” Carter told participants from around the world.

“Our principal security allies, many of whom have been involved at least in Afghanistan, are making the same kind of transition,” he said. “You’re all challenged by that transition.”

The panel, whose discussion focused on the future of European defense, included Netherlands Defense Minister Jeanine-Antoinette Hennis-Plasschaert, Russian Federation Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov, European Union Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier, NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation General Jean-Paul Paloméros and others.

The United States prefers alignment with its friends, Carter added, including “all of the countries represented up here on this stage and many more. It helps us to know where they’re headed and [it helps] them to know where we’re headed.”

Emerging from a necessary preoccupation with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the deputy secretary said, the Defense Department is addressing security challenges that will define its future.

In that effort, Carter added, “there are opportunities to do that together with our security partners.”

Principles embodied in the January 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance include taking lessons from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to make fighting forces leaner and more agile, using approaches related to and aligned with the NATO Response Force concept of a highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force made up of land, air, maritime and special operations forces components that can quickly deploy.

Another tenet of the new defense strategy is a rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, which, Carter noted, “is not a rebalancing away from Europe because our interests are enduring here.”

Europe is a source and not a consumer of security in today’s world, the deputy secretary said, “and we look … to rebalance with Europe, not away from Europe.”

Unlike Europe, he added, “Asia has no NATO … has had no way of knitting together countries and healing the wounds of the Second World War” and earlier conflicts. And yet the region has enjoyed peace, stability and therefore prosperity for 70 years.

“That’s good but it’s not automatic,” Carter said. “And I think a central reason for that peace and prosperity has been the pivotal role of American military power in that part of the world.’

Another important tenet of the defense strategy is to pursue the very newest in technology and operational art, he said, adding that President Barack Obama was insistent on this focus. Investments in this area target special operations forces, capabilities in space and in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and cyberspace.

“In all those areas our direction was that we were to not only protect but enhance those [capabilities] and our strategy and investments,” Carter added. “And we’re doing that.”

For DOD, he noted, the desire to work with partners extends both to nations and to defense companies at home.

“Our partnership with industry is central,” Carter said, “second only to our people in uniform. It is the systems provided by the defense industry that make our military great.”

Defense industry companies are DOD partners in protecting the country, the deputy secretary observed, “so as we make this strategic transition, we must do it in a way that ensures industry remains strong, technologically vibrant and financially successful.”

Defense leaders and managers must always work to deliver better buying power for the defense dollar, Euro or pound, Carter added, “both to deliver more capability for the funding we receive and to sustain the taxpayers’ faith in us and their willingness to give us funds.”

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