May 14, 2014
GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY: General Scowcroft, Fred, it's good to be back. This is – I think this is my third time here. But I also – in-between those visits to your facility, as some of you know, I often invite members over. About once a month, I have a seminar and I call it my personal campaign of learning. And I'll bring folks over from parts of our nation that perhaps I don't know as much about or would like to know more about. And you've been kind enough to do that on several occasions.

This time with you today is actually quite timely for me, personally. I just came back from Afghanistan. And as you know, we're on the verge of a decision about our enduring presence as part of the NATO Resolute Support Mission. And as – it won't surprise you to know, that decision is one that has to account for NATO's great contribution over the last 13 years. In other words, NATO has to come out of it – not just the United States, but NATO has to come out of it feeling as though the contribution was meaningful and will be enduring.

This week I've got my Chinese counterpart here. I'll meet him this evening at National Defense University, a wonderful setting to greet him. And then tomorrow, we'll spend the day together. Next week I go to Brussels to meet with my NATO chiefs of defense counterpart, and the week after that to Shangri-La with a stop in the Emirates on the way and a stop in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the way back. So this event today is kind of sandwiched, if you will, inside of some pretty important moments for me as chairman.

Just to establish the expectations, I'm not going to sing today. So if you're here for that, I'll give a moment to depart the room. Although, if I were going to sing today, after that introduction from General Scowcroft it would probably be Sinatra's "My Way" – although, I will say that the longer I'm in this job it feels like I should sing a different kind of song, maybe something like: I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was. (Laughter.) That, by the way, is a country western song. If you've never gone to YouTube, it's worth looking at. (Laughter.)

This day in history, in 1955 the Soviet Union and seven Communist Bloc countries signed the Warsaw Pact. You can't make it up. I mean, you can't make up the fact that these days in history actually become quite meaningful as you look back at them. And those countries, of course, were Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania. And you recall those days. I don't recall them all that well; I was three-years old. But I recall the aftermath and what it did to us as a nation and a military to have this stand-off, if you will, and that which we now call the Cold War.

Fifteen – 20 years later, actually – so 1975 – is when I reported to my first unit in the United States Army – the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. And my responsibility was to patrol the Czech border on behalf of NATO and look across and see, to the extent we could in those days, what the Warsaw Pact was up to. Interestingly, in one of my first conversations with my Russian counterpart as the Ukraine crisis evolved, in that conversation I said – his name is Valery Gerasimov. I said, Valery, you're not suggesting here that we should end our careers the way we began it?

And we shared a light moment, but a profound moment because those days in 1975 – although, frankly, they were a lot clearer if you were a serving military officer. Your responsibilities were much clearer, and the way – as the general described. The way you actually built the force and organized it, trained it, equipped it and prepared doctrine for its employment was actually a lot clearer then than it is today. I'm not pining to go back that kind of clarity, but it is interesting as I look at my career now 40 years in and compare it how I started it.

Fifteen years after that, 1989 to 1991, the Cold War was ending. I deployed to Desert Shield and Desert Storm. And we saw what I think was the culmination of about 20 years of effort to create military that could, with remarkable skill and success, deal with state-on-state conflict. And we did, as you well know. And then 15 years after that, I found myself in Baghdad – 2003, 2004 – commanding one of those armored divisions that had been in Desert Storm. But now the responsibilities were far different. The responsibilities getting from the Kuwait border to Baghdad were quite similar. It was something we understood.

But I recall when we got to Baghdad, General John Abizaid met me and I said, OK, what do you want me to do now, boss, you know, now that we're here. And he said, I want you to establish a safe and secure environment in Baghdad. And I said, I don't have any idea what that means, General. And he said, I know you don't. Neither do I. But we'll figure it out together. And figure it out, we did. And that exquisite Cold War tank division eventually adapted to become capable of literally seeking to provide safety and security to a city of, at that time, 7 million, with all of the underlying tensions that, you know, became manifest pretty quickly.

So when I talk – and here we are. You know, we're not yet 15 years hence, but we're 13 years beyond those days – beyond 2001. And when I talk about security today, I describe it – it's a little mnemonic device I use for myself, but I'll share it with you – two, two, two and one. And I've spoken about this recently. Most of the time, people don't give you time to actually answer a question about strategy, to be honest. So you end up trying to find a way to leave an impression about strategy. And that's why I've come up with this two, two, two and one.

Two heavyweights, the world in which we live and the security with which – which we seek and the actions which we conduct are always conducted strategically in the context of what it will mean to the two heavyweights or what effect it will have on the two heavyweights – and that is Russian and China. Then there's two middleweights – Iran and North Korea. And then there's two networks – the al-Qaida network, which we can speak about if you like but which is al-Qaida and affiliates that stretch from Afghanistan, Pakistan, across the Arab Peninsula, certain in eastern Syria, western Iraq, Yemen, over into Somalia, across North Africa and into West Africa, all the way to Nigeria.

And it's a network. And it doesn't mean that that network is one single coherent ideologically linked or financially linked organization, but they syndicate themselves when it works to their convenience. And so we have to think of it as a network. And frankly, that network is a generational challenge – which is to say, 20 or 30 years. And I'll come back to that. The other network, by the way, that doesn't get as much prominence as I believe it deserves is the transnational organized criminal network that runs north and south in our own hemisphere. And again, it's a network.

We tend to think of that as a drug trafficking network, but it's equally capable and often found to be trafficking illegal immigrants – arms, laundering money. It's extraordinarily capable. It's extraordinarily wealthy. And it can move anything. It'll go to the highest bidder. And so that network deserves more attention – not just because of the effect it has on the social fabric of our country but because of what it – the effect it could have and is having, in my view, on the security of this nation. So that's the second network. So we're not [just] two, two, two.

And the one is cyber. And General Scowcroft touched on cyber briefly. There's two issues that concern me with cyber. One is our lack of preparedness as a nation for a cyberattack. We have sectors within our nation that are more ready than others, but we don't have a coherent cyber strategy as a nation. And I understand why. There are some big – there are some big issues involved with achieving that kind of coherence – issues related to privacy and cost, information sharing and all of the liabilities that come in the absence of legislation to incentivize information sharing.

We got some heavy lifting to do yet. We have made some significant progress in our department at protecting our network and developing tools to conduct cyber operations externally. We've empowered combatant commanders to protect their networks much more effectively. We've got a long way to go. And the other thing that concerns me about cyber is not just the denial or the destruction of entire networks – which clearly would be a problem in the financial sector or could be in critical infrastructure – but I worry equally about the corruption of data.

I have a PowerPoint slide that I keep on my desk to remind me each day that I need to think about cyber every day. And that slide, by the way, is a picture of a dashboard of a car, and on the dashboard, you can see that the car is in park, but the speedometer is readying 120 miles an hour. And that's possible. And that's not possible, it's a fact. That corruption of the data in a car's computer is possible and can be accessed through the network in which the car lives, OnStar or whatever it happens to be.

So those kind of the – the corruption of data, from a military perspective, is actually more alarming than the denial of data, because denial of data, you work around, but corruption of data causes you to lose confidence in your systems. And our entire – you know, we've become a very technologically savvy, and in many ways dependent, military organization. And we rely on three things that the Air Force officers in the audience will be familiar with: precision, navigation and time. And so all of our systems rely upon that. And to the extent that we maintain confidence in the data that's presented to us, we'll be more or less effective.

So we got a – two, two, two and one, if – next cocktail party, if someone says, what do you think – two, two, two and one. Just as simple as that.

So now what we've got to do in the face of those security issues is understand that they each require a different approach. You can't – you deter nation-states. You use the instruments of power, all of them, diplomatic, economic and military, differently whether you're dealing with a nation-state, whether you're dealing with a middleweight power who is – aspires to have more influence than it warrants and who can go rogue from time to time. And certainly networks are not responsive to the kind of pressure that nation-states are. And so I think what you're seeing in the world that General Scowcroft described is an effort to determine how best to apply, in my case, the military instrument of power against adversaries and potential adversaries, each of whom respond differently to different kind of pressures.

Our joint force is agile. It's adaptable. Some of you have heard me testify it's – it embraces change. It's actually eager for change. It may not always seem that way, but it is. But what it isn't eager to accept is uncertainty, and we've got a little bit too much uncertainty in our budget condition right now – not a little bit too much uncertainty, we've got significant uncertainty. But nevertheless, we're becoming – there's two words that you've probably seen in our – in our – in our documents, whether it's the strategic defense guidance or the QDR or the chairman's risk assessment, to the – which is an annual document.

But the two words are "agility" and "innovation," and we're challenging ourselves to see just how agile we are, and if we're not as agile as we need to be, what are we going to do about it? In fact, the secretary of defense convened an off-site, if you will – it happened to be at National Defense University – and brought in the combatant commanders last week, and we literally spend the entire day challenging ourselves on the issue of agility. And we're going to do the same thing soon on the issue of innovation, and then we'll see where that – those seminars take us.

So let me end where I began, which is NATO. As I mentioned, we'll go next week to the NATO CHODS conference, as we call it, and that's a lead-up to the summit in Wales in September. But NATO is in a critical crossroads, if you will, given the aggressiveness of Russia, so its eastern flank must be reconsidered. But I'll also tell you that my personal advice to my fellow CHODS in NATO is that the southern flank of NATO deserves far more intention (sic) than it currently receives from NATO.

Essentially, NATO leaves the southern flank to the southern nations, to the Portuguese, the Spaniards, the Italians and the Greeks. And yet the issues that are emanating into the NATO southern flank from the Middle East and North Africa could quite profoundly change life inside of Europe, not only Southern Europe, but well into Central and Northern Europe.

So that's the conversation I'll be having with my NATO counterparts, and that's my opening remarks and a glimpse into what keeps me up at night these days. Thanks very much. (Applause.)

FRED KEMPE: That was great.

GEN. DEMPSEY: You know, these are pub table – chairs. And normally when I sit at a pub chair, something happens other than an interview. (Laughter.)

MR. KEMPE: Can someone deliver the Guinness? (Laughter.) The – thanks for that, and that was a – terrific introductory remarks. Terrific to have you back here again. You mentioned at the end what keeps me late at night – I look at this, borrowing from your country tune choice, as the "help us make it through the night" part of it, which is my favorite country tune.

Let's start with a little bit of applied science. You said in an interview, I think just this week – maybe for – with Defense One. You talked about the spread of technology, among other factors, and said the result has been a weakened international order, how difficult it is to take strength against weakness, et cetera, et cetera. You said it's harder to articulate the proper use of military power in that environment. It means you have to rebalance the instrument of the military. Talk about that, perhaps, and look specifically at the Ukraine situation, but you can also apply it more broadly if you'd like, where, you know, you're seeing a situation where we're not addressing it – where we're addressing a potential military situation with economic weaponry in a way I don't – I'm not sure we ever have before. And on the other hand, we're facing a situation where Russia is also using new military tools that aren't of a conventional nature.

So I'm interested in the science that you were talking about here, the weakened international order as you see it, but also the applied science in the case of Ukraine.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, the – just to be clear, the military instrument vis-à-vis Ukraine is really through Russia. So militarily, the issue in Eastern Europe needs to be about NATO. I mean, it's NATO that's – that is – the NATO alliance which is – should be, and is, the most concerned. And so our efforts militarily in Eastern Europe have been to reassure our allies that our Article 5 responsibilities are clear to us.

In terms of the use of the different instruments of power, I alluded to it there, the – each of those actors, the two heavyweights, the two middleweights, the two networks and the domain – they just respond differently to each instrument. And you know, you and I had a conversation before we came in. You opined that we were – and the general did – that we were using the economic instrument of power differently today. And one of the things I think about, or –

MR. KEMPE: Almost as a deterrent – almost as a deterrent for military action rather than as punishment for acts already committed or –

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, or both.

MR. KEMPE: Yeah, yeah.

GEN. DEMPSEY: But what's interesting to me about that is because the military instrument has been pretty dominant over the past – the period I talked about, over the past 40 years, in issues related to security – and – so that we have a pretty clear idea, that is, the military, when asked, what will the effect of this use of military power be. We actually can come pretty close to answering the question, notwithstanding the fact that once you begin to use it, it's a human – you know, the human dimension kicks in, and there's always surprise.

But I actually brought in a bunch of – I had mentioned, I brought in some economists to visit with me, and I asked them how they assess risk in the application of the economic instrument of power. And frankly, they were – they were lost for an answer. It just wasn't a question I think that they had – that had occurred to them to ask. Of course, we deal in risk constantly, and so we've developed, over the course of time, a fairly – you know, a fairly effective paradigm for assessing risk and articulating it.

And so in this new world that the general described – and by the way, he – as you know, General Scowcroft coined the phrase, this new world order, in the early '90s – in this new – even newer world now, I think each instrument has to reassess its effectiveness and its risk if we intend to apply them differently. And they – and they have to be applied differently against the actors I've described. Does that make sense?

MR. KEMPE: Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. It essentially means if one's going to use the economy as a weapon, one has to understand the collateral damage and other impacts that would spin off of that, the way one's done with military action for a long time. I think that's – is that what you're arguing?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah. And like I said, I'm only – I'm reacting to a group of economists who I asked to describe for me how they measure risk. And I – it didn't seem to me they had a very persuasive answer.

MR. KEMPE: On the question of Ukraine, let me come also to something else that you've said that I found quite interesting, where you talk about how this is one of the most difficult things in general in your job is assessing risk. And you were talking about how risk is a combination of capabilities and intent. If you're looking at the intent of Vladimir Putin in Ukraine right now, how risky is the situation from your standpoint?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, there's where – you know, we have a very clear picture of the capability of the Russian armed forces. At least the overt could be the aggregate of Putin, the armed forces of Russia looking to re-establish its bona fides, you know, regionally. And it could very well be large portions of the Russian population eager to right the wrongs of the early part of the last decade of the 20th century. And the way we address this really depends upon where we find ourselves assessing that intent.

To this point, I think it's largely – my personal judgment is it's largely driven by Putin, but – and a close circle around him. But that might actually make it more dangerous, not less dangerous.

MR. KEMPE: Because?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, because I – as I heard it described, you know, if we polled this room and asked, you know, somebody to describe Vladimir Putin, we'd probably have more than one or two answer. But the most persuasive description I've heard is that, you know, he's driven by his desire for a personal legacy and the economic well-being of Russia because he understands that his popularity is largely dependent on the economic well-being of – which goes back to the point, if you're going to use the economic instrument – if that's what motivates him, and we're going to use the economic instrument, then our calculation of risk has to adjust.

MR. KEMPE: Thank you, General.

The other issue which you've talked about recently which I also find fascinating is this element of time, and you mentioned it a little bit in your opening comments. And you mentioned it in connection with the Syria situation, but I'll also ask a broader question as well.

You said, we're trying to understand and engage the element of time in the Syrian crisis, and you referred to the different words in Greek for time, including the term of right time. Can you talk about that in terms of the Syrian crisis? There are some people who have said, well, the time to get more actively engaged was the early stages. There are other people who say there is no right time to get engaged; don't get engaged. So talk about the element of time in there.

But also in general, with the world moving so fast and with the risk you're looking at so broad and hard to measure, how do you feel the sense of urgency in how we have to respond this time? Is there – we sometimes at the Atlantic Council talk about this as a historic inflection point where we have to act right now to shape this moment, or we'll miss our opportunity. But how much urgency – first of all, do you agree, but how much urgency is there behind this? So from Syria to the more general question of time.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, I – again, back to the effort to think our way into the future, the – I – you know, I've actually taken a couple of ideas that I've gotten from authors, prominent authors, historians and social scientists, and try to knit them together. So there is a – you know probably Moises Naim's book "The End of Power." I met with him. There's a guy named Doug Rushoff – Rushkoff – who wrote a book called "Present Shock." And it's in that book where this issue of time manifests itself.

And basically, what he says is that, you know, we've been seduced by the idea that the more options you have, the better off you are. But what he posits in the book is that can actually be paralyzing, that the more options you have, actually, the more difficult it is to make a decision. He actually – I – for the record, in case my wife is watching, I've never speed-dated, but he uses the example of speed-dating where if there is, you know, 20 potential partners in a room, you're probably walking out without a date, but if there is six, you're probably going to get a date because you're kind of overwhelmed by the options, and it tends to paralyze you.

And so I took that idea of how to think about time, and I matched it with Moises Naim's thesis in the "The End of Power," which is -- that most of that – most of the order that has heretofore provided our sense of order and well-being is diffused, its structures – he talks about the church, whatever church, that the power of the center is diffused, the economic – corporations, you know – so all this, everything is moving to the edge.

And you can see and hear and listen to the edge or the street because, I mean, there it is, right? We're tweeting about this conference. So, you know, you got this constant if you're – and if you have a BlackBerry and it buzzes, you're dying to know what's on there, aren't you? Really. You'll be polite enough probably not to look right now, but you're dying to know what's coming in on your – on your BlackBerry. And so you've got this pervasive weakness, and you've got this overwhelming number of options, and it can be quite paralyzing.

The answer, I think, is – and this goes back to probably, General, when you were the national security adviser, you know, we talked for many, many, many years about we really need to prioritize our interests, [we've] got to prioritize our interests, [we've] got to prioritize. But we really never had to prioritize our interests because we had the capability and the capacity. And the number of threats to our interests were actually quite finite. There's nothing finite. I – you know, I kind of simplified it by saying two, two, two and one, but, you know, look, we're trying to do our best to help the Nigerians get these schoolgirls back, which is part of that network, by the way, that I described.

So the threats are proliferate, if you will. The options are equally proliferate. Weakness is pervasive. And that's a combination in which national security hasn't had to – hasn't had to navigate for some time. And I don't have the answer, by the way. But you know what they say about education. They say – I just gave a commencement speech, I remember this – education is when you stop asking the questions and start questioning the answers, course, you know –

MR. KEMPE: So specifically on Syria, time is on our side? Or what do you mean by the element of time in the Syrian crisis?

GEN. DEMPSEY: It can be. It can be. But I think – I think – I think time is a more important factor in decision-making than it ever has been. And I'm not sure – as I try to provide my advice to the SecDef, the National Security Council and the president, there is always an element of time in there.

MR. KEMPE: I want to get to a couple of questions, but let me ask you one question that really fits with the whole theme of what we are – what we're doing here today. You have talked – in fact, you're – in your risk assessment for the QDR, the Quadrennial Defense Review, you wrote the following: My greatest concern is that we will not innovate quickly enough or deeply enough to be prepared for the future for the world we will face two decades from now. True risk is that we will fail to achieve far-reaching changes to our force, our plans, our posture, our objectives, our concepts of warfare. Innovation is the military imperative and the leadership opportunity of this generation.

So that's your analysis. Two questions. Did – what did the QDR do, or should it have done more, to address this issue? And what are we doing to address this issue? And why is this so central to your concern?

GEN. DEMPSEY: The QDR gas been – this is going to shock many of you – the QDR was criticized – I can probably stop there – (laughter) – but the QDR was – the QDR was criticized for accounting for the fiscal environment in which we prepared. You know, the legislation does require an unconstrained strategic assessment.

The problem, of course, is we also have the fiscal environment codified in law called the Budget Control Act. So, you know, it's a little bit unfair, frankly, to be bludgeoned on one hand for finding yourself fiscally constrained and on the other for not accounting for the law which fiscally constrains you. That's a little bit unfair, it seems to me.

That said – I feel better now – that said, I found that the approach we took in the QDR to be prudent and responsible. And what it did is it illuminated a couple of – not a couple; it illuminated the imperative of rebalancing ourselves. That's not a word that we chose lightly. And it's – you know, it's been – potentially, it's been overused, maybe overburdened – you know, rebalance to the Pacific, rebalance the budget, rebalance the way we fight out – you know, the way we fight. But it is the right terminology. We don't need to make – it seems to me we don't need to make disruptive changes. I really don't think we do. But we need to be – we do need to unpack the words agility and innovation. And we do need to account for the likely fiscal future and to get on with it in things like paid compensation, health care, retiring weapons system, shedding excess infrastructure.

You know, it used to be, again, back to when the general was the national security adviser and we – you know, we confronted ideas like BRAC and we confronted changes in pay compensation, health care, weapon systems, there was enough slack in the system that, you know, you could – you could find yourself, you know, getting – achieving the 70 percent solution and you could be quite content that the 70 percent solution would be adequate to the task of providing what the nation needs. But the slack is beginning – is not beginning. The slack is pretty much out of the system, and so we've really got to get this right now.

I mean, and by the way, the chiefs often remind – we remind ourselves, the Joint Chiefs, this is not a crisis today. It feels like it, but we're really not at that point yet. But if we ignore these changes that we need to make, whether it's in, you know, finding our way to achieve affordable manpower costs, shedding weapons systems that we no longer need, reducing excess infrastructure, becoming more innovative in particular in the way we match requirements to procurement, and being more agile about the way we deploy the force – we actually are coining a phrase called dynamic presence, different perhaps than what we might call sustained presence. You know, right now if we generate a carrier and we send it to CENTCOM, it's – when it's done over there, when its shot clock runs out, it comes back. That's great if you're a combatant commander because you've got a little predictability in how the force is applied in your AOR, but it's not so good globally, where you really want to be a little less predictable, a little more – and in your unpredictability have a different effect on your potential adversaries and more opportunities to assure your allies. But that's an issue of agility. We can make those changes, but we can't wait – we can't do this one year at a time, and we're on a path to do it one year at a time. That's my concern.

MR. KEMPE: And that's partly a product of the way the budget sequestration and all of that has kicked in, the one year at a time.

GEN. DEMPSEY: It is, yeah. And look, I'm not – you know, look. I said in that article, I said, you know, the two hardest words are risk and readiness. Readiness has no constituents. You know what I mean? Weapons systems have constituents, bases have constituents, but readiness has no constituents except those who have to apply the military instrument when the time comes. Really hard to articulate eroding readiness, and it's hard to articulate risk because it's a little different in each service, and it's very different depending on whether you're talking about a heavyweight, a middleweight, a network or a domain.

MR. KEMPE: Thank you. Questions from the audience? Please. Get to as many as I can.

Please identify yourself.

Q: Yes, General, Randall Fort with Raytheon. A quick observation. If you want to understand risk, don't talk to economists. You should go to financial firms, investment bank, commercial banks. They measure risk quite exquisitely and in great detail, and they might be able to help you with that issue.

Your mention of agility brought to mind an article that then DepSecDef Lynn wrote in the – Foreign Policy about four years ago on cyber, where he noted that it took the Department of Defense roughly 80 months to do a generic, average IT acquisition; four and three quarters years, almost three Moore's Law cycles. So as you look at agility, how much are you going to be hostage to or victim of the defense acquisition process in order to get the tools and the technologies you're going to need to be able to actually enable that agility that you desire.

GEN. DEMPSEY: No, that's the right question. By the way, when we looked at agility at this offsite I mentioned, we looked at agility and decision-making. We looked at agility and managing the force. And even within that, we looked at our agility in crisis situations versus our agility in routine day-to-day operations. And we actually concluded that we're doing pretty well in a couple of those, not so well in others. And a couple of the places where we're not doing well enough are in management – well, you know, decision-making in day-to-day. When we're in a crisis, we spring into action, and we generally have the authorities we need and off we go. It's actually in the day-to-day operations of trying to deter and assure and be prepared to defeat, if necessary, where we're not as agile as we need to be, either in our decision-making or in our management of the force.

And I would say the same thing about in the – in our acquisition systems. When there's a crisis, you know, for example, we need to get mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles to Iraq and Afghanistan, it happens rapidly. I mean in the true sense of the word. When we talk about a weapons platform seven years in the future, it's not so rapid and it's not so effective.

MR. KEMPE: On that, you talked also about dynamic presence, which fits together with this. We've been talking here at the Scowcroft Center, the council, about dynamic security, and there we're saying, you know, this post-World War II focus on stability as our sole strategic goal or our overriding strategic goal in a way has to go out the window because that's not the world we live in. It's a disruptive world. And so we have to do dynamic security. That harnesses all the factors and changes. Does that fit together with what you were talking about? Does that seem to be – (inaudible)?

GEN. DEMPSEY: No, it – it seems to me to absolutely fit together, but I'd like to stay in touch with you on that effort. But, you know, back to – when I said I reached out to economists, I reached out to them for a different purpose than I actually – you know, these are – this is kind of organized serendipity, as I've heard it described: bringing people in a room who have no business being in the same room and seeing what happens. And so I didn't bring them in to talk about the application of the economic instrument of power. I actually brought them in to talk about energy security and what would the impact of us becoming energy independent be on nations like Russia, like Saudi Arabia, like China.

But the conversation actually migrated because they were interested in understanding how we assess risk because they were concerned that they didn't understand how to assess risk. So it's in that context that I make the comment that if we're going to use the instruments of power differently in the future – which we are, and we should -- I think we have [to] recalculate our risk models.

MR. KEMPE: Very interesting. We're talking about LNG instead of SS-20s.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah.

MR. KEMPE: But please, yeah.

Q: Thank you very much. Leandra Bernstein with RIA Novosti. I heard you quoted once saying the pulse of an Irishman ever beats quicker when war is the story and love is the theme.

GEN. DEMPSEY: (Laughs.)

Q: I'd like to ask you about the former.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah.

Q: First, what do you think is the best-case and worse-case scenario in dealing with Russia, taking into account the multiple – the multiple sources of power that we have, in that relationship.

And then also 2016 is coming up. What would you think about a general, not necessarily you, but a general becoming the President of the United States one more time?

GEN. DEMPSEY: I didn't even know he was running, for Christ's sake. (Laughter.)

MR. KEMPE: Within the Russia question, can you also deal, as you're answering that question, with what you're seeing in terms of Russian capabilities? We're hearing quite a bit that there's some surprise of how quickly the Russian military is modernizing and developing.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, I don't – so let me answer the question about worst case/best case. I mean, really, the only way to put a value judgment on best case/worst case is, you know, what do we think – how should this come out? The way it should come out is we shouldn't find ourselves back in a Cold War with Russia. I mean, we actually have an equal number and maybe a greater number of issues on which we collaborate with them, cooperate often but collaborate more often, whether it's the future of the Arctic or counternarcotics or counterpiracy or –

MR. KEMPE: Space.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, space. You know, we're competitive but we're collaborative at the same time. And I think that the best case would be we would continue to be able to find common ground where common ground exists, and notwithstanding the fact that we think their activities in Eastern Europe are extraordinarily unsettling. And you know why. I mean, there's ethnic enclaves scattered throughout Eastern Europe. And if one nation decides that it will deal with these things on its own terms and including the use of military force, you know, that's – that is a serious step and probably a step that does take us back more toward the Cold War than away from it.

You asked –

MR. KEMPE: Capabilities, special ops, information ops, the whole thing.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, so my previous counterpart, a general named Makarov, came to me a couple years ago and said, here's our plan to reform the Russian military, and they're on plan. You know, it's smaller. They're trying to make it more professional. They're trying to increase its technological capabilities. They are putting more emphasis on their strategic forces than we are, and, you know, at some point, we'll have to decide if we have to move – change our approach based on theirs. But, you know, they're relatively transparent about it, as are the Chinese when I meet with them.

Your question about, should a general run for president – that is the worst-case scenario, by the way. (Laughter.) The worst-case scenario with Russia? Oh, back to the Cold War, and – you know, and we've got to deploy forces into the Baltics and Poland and – because those nations feel themselves to be threatened, yeah.

You know what I've said about generals and flag officers – admirals and generals? If you want to get out of the military and run for office, I'm all for it. But don't get out of the military – and this is a bit controversial, I got it – don't get out of the military and become a political figure by throwing your support behind a particular candidate.

I find that we – you know, look, if somebody asks me, when I retire, to support them in a political campaign, do you think they're asking Marty Dempsey, or are they asking General Dempsey? I am a general for life, and I should remain true to our professional ethos, which is to be apolitical for life unless I run. And if I – by the way, you heard Bob Gates –

MR. KEMPE: You're not – you're not announcing it? (Laughs.)

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah – no, I'm not announcing it. But I've got – I still have some laps to run in this race, but – run, yes, and maybe the best man or woman win, but use the title to advocate a particular position, no.

MR. KEMPE: Thank you. Please. Here – the woman in the back – right there.

Q: Hi. I'm Patty Morrisey. I work for the National Intelligence Council for the national intelligence manager for military issues, and we are working towards updating our unifying intelligence strategy to be more reflective and more consistent with understanding agility, innovation, what we need to support the military in this 21st-century, very different environment. I was struck by your 2-2-2-1, because I would say 2-2-2-1-25.

GEN. DEMPSEY: (Laughs.)

Q: And that's one of the things we're wrestling with, is, how do you do what we call global coverage? What do you do need to know to be prepared for Nigeria, Libya, Syria as these things pop up and as you do everything from, maybe, you know, remove chemical weapons to address the humanitarian crises? How do you get the knowledgebase from us that you need to be more agile?

MR. KEMPE: That's such a super question, and I hope you'll grab onto one part of as well, which is, what does 2-2-2-1 look like in 2030? So in other words, does that have to shift? Does that paradigm have to shift? But –

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, I – you know, it's really a profound question, and particularly, asked in the context of the fiscal environment in which, you know, we're navigating, because there is this insatiable appetite, actually, for intelligence and information. And generally – you know – I mean, my assessment, my – when I have conversations with Director Clapper and Director Brennan – and I think the intelligence community does an exceptional job of providing the indications and warnings we need, but, you know, there's just no way to satiate that insatiable appetite. It's just – it's not possible, and in particular, given the – what we see in terms of the defense budget.

So – but I'll also then tie it back to what I said earlier about time and the effect of information on time. I'm not suggesting that we should be content that we don't know everything. But I will suggest to you quite clearly that when we do know everything, we immediately feel some obligation to do something about it. And so I'm not asking you to do less; here's what I'm – let me put it this way. I'm not asking you to do more with less. I think you'll have to do less with less, but not less well, and that's going to take some serious thinking about where to prioritize.

MR. KEMPE: And the paradigm, 2-2-2-1, is where we go?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Where is it – you know, I think it's going to – I think, you know, that will stand the test of time for the predictable future.

MR. KEMPE: All right. That's what I was wondering. Let me take two last questions there; I think that's all we're going to have time for, so let's take those two in a row and then let you get to a final round of answers.

Q: Hi, General. John Hudson with Foreign Policy Magazine. I was wondering if you could speak a little bit about how your thinking has evolved on arming the Syrian rebels. Obviously, early on, you were on-record in support of it, but it's a changing conflict and things have changed a lot over the last few years. So if you could speak to that, that'd be cool.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, sure. Let me do it – let me speak about it in these terms. When we look to the future and seek to determine how this will end, at some point, the Syrian opposition will need a few things. It will need a governance structure that can effectively provide good services and security to the population or it'll quickly fail – you know, whoever it is will fail almost immediately.

Secondly, they will need some force capable of holding ground both for humanitarian purposes as a platform for further activity against the regime – and by the way, for counterterror activity as that threat continues to grow. And so when I speak about what I think Syria needs, I describe it in those terms. They need a – they need the force they have now, which is, trying to protect local villages and try to harass the regime and level the playing field. They need something that eventually will be able to hold ground, and they need a counterterror capability, all of which is responsive to Syrians, and we're not a path currently to provide that, and so, you know, as we look to the future, I think that's the conversation we need to have. Not – by the way, not unilaterally. I mean, I think that's a conversation we need to have regionally, because this – by the way, this issue is not Syria. It's Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad.

MR. KEMPE: But their argument, of course, is, if I can't take care of the Air Force and what's hitting me on the ground, I can't do any of those things you say we should do.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, that is their argument. That's their argument, yeah.

MR. KEMPE: Right. Yeah, which you don't necessarily agree with?

GEN. DEMPSEY: No, I don't. I mean, look, if Assad took his family and all of his cronies and departed Syria today, what's – you know, how does that country – you know, how does it articulate itself? I mean, it's – you know, I've heard it described as a succession of conflicts. You have the conflict that currently exists. Then there will be the second conflict, which is kind of an internal conflict, and then there will be the third conflict against the terrorist organizations that are growing there. That's probably right.

MR. KEMPE: Yeah. So, General Dempsey, I have several more questions, but I promised you – to get you out of here 9:35. You actually have a world of issues to take care of. You've said – talked about the travels that you're going to be on. We wish you good travels – safe travels and thank you for your enormous service to our country and our alliance. Please – we're going to applaud General Dempsey in a second – stay in your seats. We're moving onto the next panel – Disruptive Geopolitics, with – Francis Rose is moderating, so stay in your seats.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Is there any other kind?

MR. KEMPE: But General Dempsey, that was absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Thank you. Thanks.

(Applause.)

(Off-mic exchange.)

GEN. DEMPSEY: Thanks, General. Good to see you, as always. Yeah.

(END)

RELATED CONTENT