LIEUTENANT GENERAL BRENT SCOWCROFT (RET.): Good evening. It’s nice to welcome you all here for this important session featuring Admiral James “Sandy” Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Our subject today is one of the top priorities of the current administration: to execute a defense strategy that maximizes the limited resources available in an era of divergent threats and decreased budgets. And we’re very grateful that Admiral Winnefeld will be able to be with us and hopefully shed some light or smoke – (chuckles) – on the issues involved from his unique perspective.
The admiral’s wisdom has been accumulated across a long and stellar service to this nation. It includes time as commander of the North American Aerospace Command, NORAD, as well as commander of the U.S. Northern Command, NORTHCOM. His record of service ensures that he will provide us with a deeper understanding of the issues facing the United States’ national security in the coming decades. While the United States continues to strengthen its capabilities against a range of asymmetrical actors, it must also maintain the ability to contend with traditional state power. During this session, Admiral Winnefeld will discuss these difficult choices and the challenges to national security in the coming decades.
Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft (Retired)
This event is particularly timely in view of President Obama’s re-election and the fact that the administration is working on the next Quadrennial Defense Review, which serves as a critical document in shaping how the department will build policy and programmatic foundation for security in the years to come.
Now, let me remind you, this event is part of our Commanders Series, which brings in high-level military leaders to discuss their own perspectives on global challenges and opportunities facing the United States and our allies. In February, this series hosted Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, commander of the NATO military mission in Libya, who discussed the success of Operation Unified Protector and how to improve communication and cooperation between NATO and non-NATO nations.
Last December, the council welcomed General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for his first major public discussion as chairman. It was moderated by David Ignatius of The Washington Post. General Dempsey discussed ways the United States could bolster existing alliances while forging new partnerships as a response to defense budget cuts in the United States and in Europe.
And today we’re honored to host Admiral Winnefeld as part of this series to articulate the difficult choices and the challenges to national security in the coming decades.
Admiral Winnefeld serves as the ninth vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In this capacity, he is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the nation’s second-highest-ranking military officer. He graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology, received his commission through the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program. He subsequently served with three fighter squadrons flying the F-14 Tomcat and as an instructor in the Navy Fighter Weapons School. He led combat operations in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. And he supported Operation Iraqi Freedom and maritime interception operations in the Persian Gulf.
Admiral Winnefeld also served as commander, United States 6th Fleet; commander, Allied Joint Command Lisbon; and commander, Striking Force and Support Forces NATO. His marked leadership continued as he served in the Joint Staff Operations Directorate, J3; United States Fleet Command (sic; Fleet Forces Command); United States Joint Policies Command; and later as the director for Strategic Plans and Policy, J5, on the Joint Staff. That’s quite a resume. He recently served as commander in – of NORAD and NORTHCOM, as I previous said.
Admiral Winnefeld, you have an incredible breadth of experience, and we’re honored to have you with us today. Thank you for coming. (Applause.)
ADMIRAL JAMES WINNEFELD: Well, General Scowcroft, let me please tell you what an absolute privilege it is, and an honor, for me to have been introduced by a man of your experience and stature and the career of service and the legacy of leadership that you have given to this wonderful country. And thank you very much for that very kind introduction. And to the Atlantic Council and to Barry, thank you for inviting me, I think. (Chuckles.)
But it really is a great privilege for me to have the opportunity to speak to you and with you and to hear your questions tonight. The Commanders Series is a bit of a misnomer in my case, because as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, you command nothing other than your own staff. But I will say that you get a seat at the table at a very, very interesting time.
And so my intent tonight – and I’ll try to get through my remarks relatively quickly so that we can have time for a few questions that Barry will happily deliver to me, and if he asks me any hard ones, we’ll shovel that one over to the Atlantic Council for a research project – but is not to so much give you a “tour d’horizon” of the world as I see it or something like that. But I’d sort of like to get into a bit of a process discussion, to open the curtain a little bit for you on the process as I have seen it, observed it, participated in it and helped lead it over the last year or so since I’ve been in the job, in terms of developing strategy and ends, ways and means for how we develop the force for the future and what we do, in fact, today.
And so first I would tell you is that I parachuted into this job on the 4th of August last year. And if – those of you have a calendar in your mind know what else happened on the 4th of August last year: It was the passage of the Budget Control Act by Congress. So I take great pride in pointing out to audiences that I arrived in this job at the high-water mark of the defense budget for the last probably 20 years and arrived at – right in the middle of what we believe in the department is the national security imperative of deficit reduction. We know that we need to do this as a nation. We would forcefully state that we aren’t necessarily the cause of that problem, but we all need to pitch in. And so the Budget Control Act, for us, was something that we saw coming and needed to participate in.
So as I climbed into the job, I landed in a familiar place at a very different time. And I would say that as a familiar place, having had the privilege to serve Admiral Mullen as his director of Strategic Plans and Policy, and now in this job, I’ve had the very great privilege of serving sort of deeply inside the national security apparatus of two different administrations.
And it has been a real privilege and a delight to be able to do that, because what I’ve discovered in both of those administrations is that the people who come – the real professionals who get in the policy side of this thing really are incredibly bright. They work incredibly long hours. About 95 percent of the time, they agree on – you know, they come to the same conclusions as either administration. And it’s just been a real delight to have that opportunity, including the opportunity to work with Barry, both in his capacity at – in OSD and also at the White House.
So it is, though, as I came into this job, sort of the end of an era, a – the – as I said, the high-water mark of resourcing in the department. And I came in at a time when – you know, when you have virtually unlimited resources, then you get almost unlimited potential for two of the three things in my portfolio – the three things being, one, participating in the policy process inside the national security apparatus of the country. Another one is participating in the investment decision apparatus inside the Department of Defense. And of course, the third one is the people piece, and I won’t touch on the people piece tonight.
But when you have unlimited resources, you find that you can participate in almost any problem that’s presented to you – almost any policy problem in the world, you can bring something to bear – and that when you have virtually unlimited resources, that you can buy almost anything you need to buy in order to supply the means – or the – supply the ends of a strategy that you might be trying to execute. And in both of those sort of things, everything looks good in its own stovepipe. Every problem looks fine in its own stovepipe for you to solve, and every little thing that you could buy looks good in its own little stovepipe that you could buy.
But now we’re in a different place. And as Winston Churchill said: Gentlemen, we’re out of money, and now we have to think. (Scattered laughter.) And so that’s sort of where we are at this point in time.
So I want to sort of take you through the interesting journey, from the time I came into the – into this job, of developing the strategy that sort of has gotten us to this point where we are. And even before I came into the job and was a combatant commander participating in Secretary Gates’ Defense Senior Leadership Councils and having a little bit of a window into this process, we knew that President Obama had challenged the department with, can you find around $400 billion over 10 years? And the department sort of treated that as an intellectual exercise. I don’t know that we were taking it, you know, all that seriously. I mean, is this really going to happen? So we started looking at that, and we were determined to make it a strategy-driven process; at least, that’s what we said. And so the strategy-driven element of that was to take the last Quadrennial Defense Review, last QDR, and turn it into what we called QDR Minus – although that didn’t sound very good, so we changed it to something else. But it was basically, what can you do with the current strategy, a little bit less, and see if we can work that and if $400 billion over 10 years will work there. And then we fell into all of our normal bad behaviors as a department to include handing to the services the old one-third, one-third, one-third reduction piece and not really linking it to strategy. Sort of – OK, we’re going to have a strategy over here; we’re going to do the one-third, one-third, one-third piece over here, and never shall the twain meet.
Meanwhile, as the summer progressed and we found that this was actually going to happen, and the Budget Control Act was passed, and I parachuted in, again, into the job, we discovered not a $400 billion bill over 10 years, but about a $489 billion bill over 10 years with the prospect for a year and a few months later, sequestration, which would add another 500 billion (dollars) to that bill. So again, we were out of money, needed to start thinking.
And around August of last year, we really came to the conclusion that if we were going to get this right, this rather large cut to the Defense budget over a 10-year period, we really were going to have to link strategy, the ends, ways and means pieces of a new strategy, together into the decision-making process. So we worked on that. And we worked very hard over the course of about three months to develop what essentially amounted to a mini QDR and the new Defense Strategic Guidance that many of you have probably read in your professional jobs. And this was driven essentially by three things: The first one was the obvious, and that was the fact that every strategy sort of has a band of risk associated with the resources that you can have, and we felt that $489 billion took us out of the existing band of risk. Although it’s hard to quantify it, but the gut feel was we had left the band of risk of the QDR strategy, and we needed a new one. So the fiscal dimension of needing to write a new strategy was fairly obvious.
But there were two other things that were going on. One is both the changing and enduring security challenges that are out there in today’s world, to include powerful peer – potential peer states; regional instability, which you can categorize as everything from Arab Spring to periodic instability caused by North Korea, Iran, Syria; proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – again, North Korea and Iran come to mind as proliferators; violent extremism with al-Qaida and Hezbollah and Jamia Islamia and al-Shabab and Boko Haram and a whole list of other violent extremists that were posing a challenge; the emergence of cyber, both exfiltration and potential attacks as a challenge, a new challenge; transnational criminal organizations, whether they be drug cartels or pirates, international pirates; disasters; competition for natural resources, and the like. So those enduring and changing geopolitical challenges were a big driver of that strategy.
And the third piece was changes in the way wars are fought. Frankly, even though we were pretty much confined to counterinsurgency operations over the last decade, we learned a lot during those operations about other types of warfare that we might find ourselves in, and to include networks, the emerging great importance of networked warfare with greater speed of awareness and speed of command; a new type of teamwork in which the Special Operations community taught us the absolute leverages you can get when you truly integrate intelligence and operations and they drive each other; and also, another form of teamwork in the – in the great improvements that we’ve made in bringing in the interagency team into the process of a campaign; and a greater commitment to jointness.
We also – on the technical side, again, cyberspace, growing importance there; vehicles including unmanned vehicles; and even though we didn’t use stealth vehicles in our counterinsurgency campaigns over the last decade, the emergence of stealth as an important element in warfare; and last but definitely not least was the best people that we’ve ever had in the U.S. military. And having been in the service almost 35 years, I can state categorically that I’ve never seen young people coming into the military as talented as I see today. And that is a true factor that we actually folded into the strategy.
So this was written quickly by senior leaders; very interesting bureaucratic behavior when you have senior leaders writing a strategy in three months. Because the building is accustomed to having a strategy written over the course of a year that is written from the bottom-up; everybody gets their hand in it, people can nonconcur, critical nonconcur, it turns into all things to all people. And in fact, we had a very rapidly-written document that actually turned out pretty well, to the point where you had senior leaders with their fingers on keyboards – and I particularly employed one bureaucratic technique when I discovered over a weekend that the bureaucracy had tried to basically reverse everything we had done and rewrite the strategy into QDR Minus. And I brought it back, put a few things in italics and said if you want to change these italics, you’re going to have to come through me. And that worked pretty well. (Laughter.) And so we had to fight a – you know, fight a constant battle; with the support of the secretary and Michele Flournoy and Ash Carter and the whole team, we got all this done. And Jim Miller was instrumental, and Kath Hicks, and a number of other people.
So we got – we got the strategy done, and we – as you – as you probably have read and we’ve called it the Defense Strategic Guidance, it had a number of aspects of which you’re very familiar: We revisited the concept of two major combat operations. We have gotten a little criticism for that, but we thought we were sort of looking reality in the face. I mean, there was was one meeting I remember where Ash Carter and I were sitting next to each other, and the discussion was about, well, how far apart do you have to pry these two big major combat operations before you can actually do them? And we looked at each other, and said, this is really crazy. I mean, it’s really just one followed by one, and the enemy has a vote. So let’s see what is it that we can really do simultaneously? And that’s where we – the emergence of our doctrine of being able to do a defeat and then a deny or impose-costs piece of the strategy came out.
As you know, we put more emphasis on the Pacific while retaining emphasis on the very important region we call the Middle East; more emphasis on cyber; being able to project power; anti-access environments; greater emphasis on efficiency in the department, which may sound foreign to many of you, but we actually do care about that; less emphasis on long-term stability operations. The way President Obama put it is give me – give me fewer Iraqi Freedoms and more Desert Storms. You notice, he’s not asking for Desert Storms, but the point was go in there, do the defeat and get the job done, and don’t end up there 10 years trying to do nation-building. We’re just not going to be allowed to do that; we can’t afford it; it costs too much in lives and treasure. And it would be an extraordinary situation, I think, where we found ourselves doing that again; maintaining our counterterrorism capability, obviously, a nuclear deterrent, although we believe we can do that with a slightly smaller force; certainly maintaining our ability to do defense support of civil authorities and our great partnership with our Guard – National Guard and state partners there; determination to avoid a hollow force; and then recognizing that we might not get it right, and that we needed to build in reversibility both on the industrial base and in our people, and applicability to the reserve component as well, to make sure we accounted for that.
And the strategy goes on to list a number of missions. Now, I’m not going to – I’ve got them here, I’m not going to read them off to you. But it’s about 10 missions that are what we believe the department needs to be able to do. And I would point out to you that those are what I would call ways. Missions are ways of doing things. And those of you who are used to writing strategic documents, you know that ends are connected to ways and means, and these were the ways in the strategy. And we spent an awful lot of time trying to make sure we got those right.
So once we had that, we were in a bit of a – of a – of a tight timeline, because we had to submit a budget at the end of January this year, and we’d just finished writing this strategy in December, about a year ago now. And so we chased a lot of budget decisions about two to three weeks behind the development of this strategy, and it was the first time in my career, ever, that I had seen such a tight connection between an actual strategy document that was written by the department to means, decisions, the things we were going to buy or not buy, and the other decisions that we were going to make. So that was a very important step for me in my growth as a naval officer to participate in that and help it along.
We intentionally rolled the strategy out in early January last year, a full month before we rolled out the budget, and we did that for a very conscious reason. We knew that if we rolled the strategy and the budget out at the same time that people would only pay attention to the budget, where the winners and losers were and that sort of thing. And we wanted people to understand this strategy, have a month for it to season, to digest it, so that the budget context would be a little bit easier to explain and people weren’t seeing it for the first time.
So we did that. And that’s what we are in the middle of now. And we are executing that. The decisions that we made last year for the budget and that we have made all spring about movements of forces, rebalancing to the Pacific, what have you – all of those have been filtered consistently through that strategic document. And it’s a real pleasure to be able to see that happen.
We are in the middle of our FY ’14 budget deliberations, as many of you who are experienced in this business know. And we are continuing to filter, again, and refine the decisions we made sort in haste last year, still through the same budget. And that process is going on now and it’s going pretty well.
So you might ask, what’s next? And I think I can tell you, we are sort of looking through a glass darkly. We have the sort of trifecta or quadrafecta or whatever of the sequester potential there; the actual emergence, hopefully, of budget documents coming from the Congress signed by the president, hopefully in the near future; the expiration of tax cuts; the potential for needing to raise the debt ceiling again.
All these things are sort of coming together all at the same time. Secretary Panetta referred to it as the perfect storm. And you know, perhaps there’s an answer coming from a Congress near you here soon – (laughter) – but it’s possible that, however this all falls out – and it’s very likely, actually, that we have more difficult decisions ahead of us as a department. I think it’s safe to say that that’s probably the case.
And so one of the points of my discussion tonight is an attempt by the chairman, and I’m very definitely supportive of him in this effort, to use national security interests as a decision driver – a sharper decision driver than just ways and means that are currently in the strategy, because as this gets tougher, we’re going to have to rely more on a very careful consideration of ends as we start to look at ways and means.
So I wanted to talk just a little bit about that tonight, pointing out very carefully that this is the chairman’s and my work together. Marty had led it. And it’s sort of an experiment for us in how we might contribute to the decision-making process as the chairman makes his best military advice recommendations.
Now, the overall driver for us, of course, is the U.S. national interests as stated in the national security strategy of 2010 that was published by the Obama administration. That strategy lists four U.S. national interests: the security of the U.S., its citizens and U.S. allies and partners; a strong, innovative and growing U.S. economy and an open international economic system that promotes opportunity and prosperity; respect for universal values at home and around the world; and finally, an international order advanced by U.S. leadership that promotes peace, security and opportunity through stronger cooperation, to meet global challenges.
Now, that’s a big mouthful. And there are very – it’s as good a set of national interests as I’ve ever seen in my career. And the chairman has chosen to try to turn those into his interpretation of how they would apply to Defense Department decision making. And so he’s articulated that interpretation initially in a document that we call the chairman’s risk assessment. And that’s sort of an obscure document. It’s required by Congress that the chairman puts out each year. And it is his assessment of where the strategic and military risks are in terms of what he sees across the world and the department.
So we gave guidance to the combatant commanders and to the service chiefs this year that they give us their inputs to that document, framed in the context of six national security interests the chairman has interpreted from the overall U.S. national interests. So, in priority order from vital – most vital to important, we would list them as: the survival of the nation, the security of the global economic system, prevention of catastrophic attacks on the nation – such as a 9/11 – secure, confident and reliable allies and partners, protection of American citizens abroad and preservation and extension of universal values.
And I think you would agree that you can use these as a guide to the use of force and that the higher they are in priority, the more likely that we would be to use force, to do so unilaterally, to expend resources in doing so and to take risk in doing so – both political risk and military risk. And military risk, for example, you can define the actual physical risk of going into a place, let’s say. And the other aspect of that would be the opportunity cost of committing forces to one place that you can now not commit to another.
I’d also tell you that the reverse is true. The lower the national security interest the less likely you are to use force, to do so unilaterally, to do – to expend great resources or to take great risk. So there’re some – it’s interesting to take that framework, that again is not an official departmental document but is something that the chairman and I are experimenting with, and map recent events onto that.
And you had a very good presentation from General Bouchard on Libya. And if you – if you map use of force in Libya against those interests, it actually fits pretty well. In Libya, we were looking at Moammar Gadhafi slaughtering his own people, which is essentially protecting the universal values of human rights and preventing genocide and the like. And there were a few other interests in there – secure confident and reliable allies and partners.
But – and President Obama has said this – it fell more towards the important end of that set of interests rather than the vital end of that set of interests. So it stands to reason that we did use minimal force. We did it as a coalition. And we did not take great military risk in the process of doing it. So that was sort of a litmus test for me, as we looked at these interests, to see if it actually works in the use of force.
But it’s also applicable in investment decisions. And I’m not going to get into any specific examples of how we might use that for investment decisions, because we’re in the middle of that right now and I don’t want to get out in front of the secretary of the president. But Marty and I are looking at this as a way to help guide us – it’s not the overall guide – but to help guide us in the recommendations that we might make to the secretary and the deputy secretary on what investment decisions we might make.
So one of the things that I’ll close with is, as the vice chairman, I have an awful lot to do with the investment portfolio. And as you know, we have a requirements process, a budgeting process and an acquisition process. And I play in all three. I run the requirements process but also play very strongly in the budgeting process as well. So as the JROC chair, we are trying to do a few reforms in that process to make it more agile and better for the U.S. taxpayer.
First of all, we’re the largest and slowest company in the entire world, and we’re trying to obviously streamline that and speed it up and also to get more coherence. As I mentioned earlier, every little program looked great when it’s presented in a PowerPoint presentation in its own little stovepipe. One of the things we’ve started doing is opening up and looking at portfolios. And that – when you do that, you tend to reveal that maybe a program isn’t quite as important as you might like it to be when its measured against all the other potential systems that might serve the same need.
We’re also dramatically speeding up the requirements process. I can’t even describe to you how slow it’s been in the past. Three hundred page initial capability documents that we’ve streamlined down to 10 pages. And writing them a lot more quickly, but I don’t think we’re losing any fidelity in the process. Congress has asked the JROC to consider cost in our deliberations. And we are very definitely doing that, and we’re driving ourselves to try to get more reasonable, less costly, less high-end, less gold-plated solutions to problems that work.
We’re trying to get more commonality among the services. If a service can buy a vehicle that does 85 percent of what they need it to do, and the other service buys the same vehicle that does 85 percent of what they need it to do, but we save the taxpayer a whole lot of money, then it makes sense that maybe people compromise just a little bit in that process.
We’ve been very flexible in the – in the requirements process itself, including driving requirements down a little bit. You’ve heard of requirements creep, where requirements tend to get tighter and more challenging, which drives the acquisition side crazy. We’ve actually taken some steps to reduce requirements on some systems in – where it makes sense to do so without compromising for the war fighter.
We’ve also worked on speed of acquisition. We have three different categories now – emergent operational requirements, urgent operational requirements and then the standard sort of long-term requirements. And we’re actually fitting certain systems into those bins to try to get the systems acquired much more quickly.
And you know, we’re also focusing a lot more on payloads than we are on platforms. I would tell you that we need a new payload a couple of times a generation, maybe, in my career, but I could use a new platform on a UAV about every month. And so we’re going to try to focus on that, what I would call post-Newtonian or quantum payloads, if you will.
So I’ll use as a brief example unmanned aerial vehicles. We have a broad portfolio there of aircraft performance and survivability, and we’re fitting everything into those portfolios as we should. We’re very, very quickly developing requirements – for example, for the Navy’s unmanned aerial vehicle that is going to fly off of its aircraft carriers. And we’re working very hard on agile payloads. I’m looking for what I call the payload czar, who will be able to very quickly, and in a nimble way, develop payloads to meet the need – emergent needs as we see them come out.
So I’ll leave you with a couple of closing thoughts before Barry comes up here and tortures me. (Laughter.) First of all, as I said earlier, we’re trying to avoid what I call institutional hubris. We could have this completely wrong, and we want to make sure that we build in the ability to do course changes as we see are necessary and all of the processes that we have in the department that support this. I would also emphasize that every war is an experiment. As we found out in every war that we’ve fought in my service in the military, you never get it right the moment you go into the war; you have to be able to adapt quickly, and that’s one of the things we want to build into this force, is exceptional adaptability, because the person to – the force that adapts the quickest, all other things being equal, is the one that’s going to win. There’s a great quote from a book called “Surfing the Edge of Chaos” that is referring to biology, and it says equilibrium is the precursor to death. And so we are trying to avoid that stasis, that equilibrium – what Roberta Wohlstetter said was the stubborn attachment to existing beliefs; it’s a constant struggle in a department as big as the Defense Department, but we’re getting there.
And we’re going try to foster the twin concepts: one of fostering creativity and agility among our young people while capturing the advantages that we have in the hierarchical organization that we have, and that’s one of the challenges that we fight every day, is to try to keep the innovation in the department going as well as we can.
So, I have a lot more that I could probably talk about, but I think the smartest thing to do is to – is to stop right there and invite my friend Barry to the – to the stage and take a few questions. So thank you very much.
BARRY PAVEL: Thank you very much, Admiral Winnefeld. I promise to minimize torture in the remaining 20 minutes. (Laughter.) I am sensitive to the time, so I’ll just be very brief. I would like to ask you one follow-up question, but first of all, thank you for joining us today; it’s quite a privilege. And before I begin, I wanted to also thank Mr. – (name inaudible) –and Ambassador Henrik Liljegren for their support of the Commanders Series, and also thanks to General Scowcroft for introducing Admiral Winnefeld. This is the first Commander Series event since the Scowcroft Center launched on September 21st; I think it’s very fitting that we have the vice chairman here for such an important event, and I’m also thrilled that General Scowcroft is here to help us with this – with this session.
I was very impressed with a couple of your thoughts – with a lot of your thoughts, but a couple in particular stand out. Your statement that a more careful consideration of ends will be very important if budget – if the budget stringencies continue, and also, your framework, I think, is a very sound one regarding interests. Let me – let me just ask one question because of the time, but I don’t think I heard the word Iran in your – in your remarks. And it – sort of the basic question I had is, do you see any greater foreign or national security policy challenge in President Obama’s second term than Iran? I mean, assuming that sort of activities continue on all of the different clocks, is there any greater challenge that you see as a military commander and as a senior adviser to the president?
ADM. WINNEFELD: Very good question, and I did mention Iran, actually, as a proliferator and that sort of thing, but I think your point is very valid. And I don’t, off the cuff, see any greater challenge than Iran, and I think the best way for me to explain that is, as you go down that list of national security interests, Iran touches almost every one of them in one way or another. If you think about the second one that I listed, which is the security of the global economic system, and you look at the potential for choke point interference and that sort of thing, among other forms of mischief that Iran could be producing, there’s definitely a challenge there.
Prevention of catastrophic attacks on the United States – Iran, we believe, is trying to believe a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it, and that would certainly have the potential for a catastrophic attack on the United States. As you get into secure, confident reliable allies and partners, we have a host of very good friends in the – in the Middle East region and elsewhere in the world who are very concerned about Iran and their – not only their status as a proliferator, but all the other mischief that they tend to produce in that part of the world where we have so many good partners. And it goes on from there, but I think you get the point that almost all of our national security interests, you can find Iran trying to touch them in one way or another.
MR. PAVEL: Thanks very much. Well, I have – I have many more questions, but I also don’t want to monopolize the time that’s left, so I’m happy to take questions from the audience. And please wait for the microphone and please identify yourself when the microphone comes.
Yes, the lady in the back to the right.
Q: (Off mic) – defense – you first unveiled the strategic guidance in January. If you’ve already had to make adjustments to it, if there are things that you’ve already found maybe don’t work, maybe were the wrong assumptions, and what those might be. Thanks.
ADM. WINNEFELD: The question was, of course, have we had to make adjustments in the strategy, and so far, we have been able to adhere to it and we haven’t had to – had to rewrite the document or make a, you know, line in, line out change to it. It seems to be holding its consistency pretty well. We are going to have to examine the question of – if, for example, sequester kicked in and we took another large budget cut, we would have to introspectively ask the question as to whether we would have to re-examine the strategy. We don’t know the answer to that question. We might not have to, but we, again, may exit the risk band of resources for that strategy, but we’re not – we’re not considering that question right now. So we’re on pretty good ground; the strategy’s holding very well.
MR. PAVEL: I see. So even if sequestration – it’s just a brief follow-up – even if there are no changes in budgetary conditions today, have any conditions changed more broadly that would cause you to modify or refine or revise the Defense Strategic Guidance? Because there will be a QDR; presumably it will last for a good deal of 2013.
AMD. WINNEFELD: Sure. I think the adjustments we’ve had to make are not so much in the strategy, it’s how we resourced the strategy the first time around, because it was done fairly quickly. There are a number of decisions that we made that we’re considering now, and obviously I’m not going to get into those, because we’re in the middle of that process, but we are – we’re smarter a year later in terms of the – how we would apply resources to bring that strategy to life, and, you know, we – organizations do that. They learn as they go, they find new efficiencies, they find new ways of doing business, and they find that certain circumstances have changed, but we haven’t had to change the strategy.
MR. PAVEL: Yes, in the back – the gentleman in the back.
Q: Thank you, Admiral. My name’s Donqui (ph) with China, (the real news agency ?) of Hong Kong. The U.S. navy secretary, Mr. Mabus, is visiting China. And how do you see the U.S.-China military-to-military relationship in Obama’s second term? I know the standard answer would be, like, we would like closer ties with China with more transparency, but how – do you have any certain plan to get a closer tie, and also improve the mutual trust?
And secondly, China just achieve a successful landings and take-offs – the jet landings and take-off on its first aircraft carrier. Do you see – is a surprise or concerns for the United States? Thank you.
ADM. WINNEFELD: OK. To your first question – I think you almost answered it for me, and that is – (laughter) – of course we would like to have very good relationships with the – with the Chinese military. We’ve found that – I’ll use Russia as an example. During the Russia-Georgia crisis a few years ago, there was a period in there where the only contact between our two governments was between General Makarov and Admiral Mullen, and it was very important that that relationship had been developed in advance and they were able to talk to each other, and I think made some good progress in enhancing the understanding between our two nations as the – as the diplomatic side came back together.
Now, that’s sort of an extreme example. We would like to have very good relationships with the Chinese military. We realize that there are going to be differences between us that are political differences, employment differences, what have you, but we think that we both win when we have a strong military-to-military relationship, and there are areas of common interest that we can focus on. For example, counterpiracy and humanitarian assistance, and that’s always a good place to start, and you can start moving into more challenging areas like counterterrorism and the like realizing that there’s always going to be a little element of competition between us.
To your second question regarding the success that the Chinese navy had on landing an airplane on an aircraft carrier – I want to talk to the pilot to see if he had as much fun doing it as I always did when I did it. (Laughter.) But you know, congratulations to the Chinese Navy for that accomplishment. It is remarkable to be able to do that. Having done it during a solid chunk of my career, I can tell you that there’s a lot more to operating an aircraft carrier effectively than just landing an airplane on an aircraft carrier, and I think that the Chinese Navy would probably be the first to admit that they have a long way to go to learn how to employ this system the way they would want to employ it. But it’s a good accomplishment, and I congratulate them for it.
MR. PAVEL: Let me ask you a brief geopolitical follow-up to that. Here at the Atlantic Council we have a practice that looks out on long-range trends called the Strategic Foresight Initiative. We have a big conference on December 10th looking at some of those trends. One of the trends we see are energy trends, and those energy trends tell us that the U.S. is looking very good in 2030 in terms of becoming a net exporter in energy. China on the other hand is getting most of its energy from the Middle East. And the question I have for you is, do you sort of look at that time frame at all in this sort of analytic context, and do you have any thoughts or any plans? Is it possible we could have a world where we’re happy with Chinese aircraft carriers in the Middle East securing the energy sea lanes – the U.S. still with a presence there but sort of working with China, potentially cooperating with them in some way?
ADM. WINNEFELD: I wouldn’t say it’s impossible to visualize that. It’s hard right now because we just haven’t developed that kind of relationship. We have excellent relationships with our partners in the Arabian Gulf and along the Indian Ocean who I think trust us. And so for the foreseeable future I think that I wouldn’t call us the guarantor or anything like that, but I think that we’ve developed the kind of trust over decades that is hard to replace.
MR. PAVEL: Yes, in the front.
Q: Thank you. I’m Mitzi – is this on?
ADM. WINNEFELD: It is.
Q: I’m Mitzi Wertheim with the Naval Postgraduate School, but I’ve been connected with the Navy for 35 years when I was their first political appointee before you came into the Navy.
ADM. WINNEFELD: Not that long. (Laughter.)
Q: One of the things I was struck by – you were talking, you were talking about relationships. So my question – my first question is, how do you get the importance of relationships built into the way in which we train our force?
And my second question is what is what I would call the 21st century definition of national security today? When Mullen says our biggest threat is our economy, the president is saying our biggest threat is education, I think defining it so narrowly in terms of having weapons to fight others gives – leaves a gap in the nation’s understanding about what we need to address and that it’s altogether. It isn’t these separate pieces.
ADM. WINNEFELD: OK. So addressing your question on relationships, we and the military, and particularly in our ground forces, have learned an awful lot about building relationships over the last 10 years. The success that we saw in Anbar province with the Marine Corps out there was built almost exclusively on the relationships that they built with the tribal elders in that area, and that’s been replicated, and Provincial Reconstruction Teams and brigade combat teams on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq – and I think that’s really sunk into our culture. And it’s not just relationships with the country in which we may be operating, it’s relationships with our interagency partners, it’s relationships with our coalition partners and the absolute criticality of getting that right and building –
Q: People get rewarded for doing that?
ADM. WINNEFELD: Well, you know, I think –
Q: (Off mic.)
ADM. WINNEFELD: I think that people get rewarded when they operate effectively, and you can’t operate effectively unless you have good relationships. So it’s sort of a derivative, but it’s not – you know, I don’t know that there’s a line in their performance report that says builds good relationships, but it’s inherent in everything that we do.
And along with the ops intel, you know, fusion that I talked about, this is something that we’ve learned. We’ve always known it, but it was really hammered home to us over the last decade. And it’s one of those things that applies beyond counterinsurgency to everything that we do. So first question.
Your second question regards, I think, the elements of national security. And I think it’s naïve to think – and I’m – of anybody to think that national security is the strength of your military. It’s much more than that. No nation has a strong place in the world without having a strong economy, and that’s why Admiral Mullen said it, I’ve said it, Marty Dempsey’s said it, that there is a national security imperative of deficit reduction, and we have to contribute to that. And there are a lot of other elements of national power that have to be tended and nurtured if we are going to have a secure country to include the diplomatic power that we have, that the State Department wields so well, I think; the economic power we’ve talked about, military power, education, as you spoke. So all of these things come together. And I think what people have maybe focused on is which ones are most threatened, and I think that we would say – conclude right now that the most threatened one in the last few years has been the economy. Hopefully, we’re pulling out of that right now.
MR. PAVEL: Time for a couple more quick questions. The gentleman in the middle there, and then we’ll go to the corner and I’ll – we’ll take the two at once and then we’ll allow the admiral to answer them.
ADM. WINNEFELD: Is that because I can remember two questions?
MR. PAVEL: I’m going to go to three or four if you can do this one successfully. (Laughter.)
Q: Thank you, Barry. And thank you, Admiral. I’m Michael McLashir (ph) from National Defense University. There’s an emerging emphasis, it seems, on building partnership capacity, building strong partners to help us with COIN, counterterrorism, counternarcotics, counter everything, regional stability. What are the risks inherent on this growing dependence on partners, and how are we mitigating against those risks such as the risk that we build a state like the shah’s Iran or Suharto’s Indonesia, that kind of risk? Thank you.
ADM. WINNEFELD: OK.
MR. PAVEL: And Hannah (sp), if you can go to the gentleman in the corner there.
ADM. WINNEFELD: Why don’t I start –
MR. PAVEL: Why don’t you start, yeah. Please.
ADM. WINNEFELD: We’ve always depended on partnerships. We have a wonderful partnership with our NATO allies. We have partnerships all over the world, you know, Japan, Korea – and I wouldn’t want to leave anybody out. I’ll stop there. And then there are the building partnership capacity pieces not only with those people but also with emerging states, emerging militaries. And there’s almost – unless things go very badly – which they can – it’s almost always productive for us, because, first of all, we have somebody who might join us in an important campaign, bringing their capability but also their moral power with them. We also find that as we engage with our partners, that it tends usually – not always – to lead their militaries to understand human rights better, to understand civilian control of the military, and all of the hopefully positive things that will rub off of us onto them. And we think it helps build a stronger foundation inside (their own ?) country. So building partnership capacity is very, very important to us across the world.
There are risks, as you point out. If you – if you build partnership capacity in Libya, let’s say, which we’re trying to do, and Libya turns south on you, you may have given them capabilities and capacities that they might turn on you. But I don’t think that’s a reason to shy away from doing it. We just need to do it with eyes wide open.
MR. PAVEL: And then the final question in the corner.
Q: Thank you. Hi, I’m John Glenn from the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, and thank you very much. I’d like to pick up on the question of how we’re defining national security. And as you so nicely said, so many of the threats you identify don’t have simple military solutions, and you talked about the different kinds of national power we have to cultivate. In many ways, I’d like to ask you to talk more about what you talked about, improvements in bringing together an interagency team to bear on these. At one time – sometimes it’s called a comprehensive approach to national security – and ask you what we’re doing well in that area and what we still need to do.
ADM. WINNEFELD: It’s a good question. We learned, I think, beginning about a middle of the way through Iraq, that we certainly weren’t going to kill our way out of this problem and that the way to win there was to try to build strong institutions, to try to remove the underlying causes for extremism to the best extent that we could, and that the only way we were going to do that is to have strong relationships with State Department and with USAID, with the intelligence community and with a host of other interagency actors in the government, to bring all elements of power to bear – diplomatic, informational, military, economic, law enforcement, intelligence and the like. So it’s just something that grew on us where you see a success – someone goes, hey, you know, that actually worked, having a political adviser in my brigade headquarters or my division headquarters. I want more of that. So how about giving me somebody from DEA in Afghanistan, or let me have somebody from the Treasury Department who can help me counter threat finance or what have you. And you find that when people get into the same room in one of these little headquarters that we have in various places in the world, that they shed their institutional egos and they bring their institutional resources to bear. They all are full of good ideas, and synergies begin to build and networks begin to build and the whole thing just gets better. So we really have learned this lesson over the last decade, and it applies not just at the tactical level and the operational level but at the strategic level as well. And so there’s much more closer integration, even in the Pentagon, with our fellow governmental departments as it were, than there was a decade ago, just because we’re all trying to solve the same problems together.
We don’t always agree, by the way. That’s understandable. Sometimes we all feel that our hammer is the best way to hit the nail. But I think in the long run, working together has really paid big dividends for us. We’re going to continue to do that.
MR. PAVEL: I only wish we had more time for more questions. Admiral, just thank you for some very, very thoughtful comments that I think do give us some things to study here at the Atlantic Council, a lot of very rich issues that you raised, and I look forward to engaging you again. And please join me in thanking Admiral Winnefeld. (Applause.)
ADM. WINNEFELD: Thank you, thank you.