Back to event page 

The Atlantic Council of the United States

Security and Partnership in an Age of Austerity

Frederick Kempe,
President and CEO,
The Atlantic Council

David Ignatius,
Associate Editor and Columnist,
The Washington Post

General Martin Dempsey,
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Location: Washington, D.C.

Date: Friday, December 9, 2011

Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C. 

FREDERICK KEMPE: Good morning. I’m Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. Welcome to you all, to what will be a truly marquee event for the Atlantic Council. It is a distinct honor for me to welcome U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the Atlantic Council for a conversation with my good friend and standout journalist-author-commentator David Ignatius of The Washington Post.

This morning’s conversation is particularly important, not only because it features General Dempsey in one of his first public appearances since taking over this hugely important job at a historic inflexion point – and David – but also because it combines the Atlantic Council’s longstanding Commanders speaker series with the work of our new defense austerity task force. The Atlantic Council launched the Commanders Series in 2008 to provide a platform in Washington for leading military officials from the United States and important allied and partner countries. We wanted them to come here to help shape the debate on the most important military matters of the day.

The series has featured chiefs of defense of crucial allies, such as General David Richards of the U.K., who I believe General Dempsey has just met recently. It has included French Chief of Defense Jean-Louis Georgelin, as well as many others. While the Commanders Series has regularly featured combatant commanders and service chiefs, today is the first time that the series has featured the chief of defense of the United States. So this is a great honor for us, sir.

The conversation is also important because it will inform the work of this new task force entitled “Defense in an Age of Austerity: Toward New Partnerships.” The title of General Dempsey’s conversation today with David Ignatius is, “Security and Partnership in an Age of Austerity,” a theme that ties perfectly into the substance of this important task force. There are no shortage of think tanks and individuals taking a look at how the United States is going to have to manage its defense budget in this financial situation. But the Atlantic Council, we think, is going to make a contribution to the debate that is nevertheless unique in looking at the international perspective to this conversation. Our task force aims to identify how the United States can better leverage partnerships, building partner capacity with allies in friendly countries, as well as with defense industry, to optimize limited resources. So we also want to thank Saab North America and the leadership of their president and CEO for North America and council board director Dan-Ake Enstedt, who has been backing both the Commanders Series and the defense austerity task force.

Finally, today’s conversation is a launch event of the Council’s new Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. It’s an honor that we have the chairman of our international advisory board, General Brent Scowcroft, with us sitting beside General Dempsey in the front row. Thank you for being here, General Scowcroft. We are – we are going to pay tribute next week, Tuesday night, to General Scowcroft’s longstanding contributions to the United States, its allies and the Atlantic Council, having a dinner in honor of General Scowcroft to build this Scowcroft Center, which will vastly increase and enhance the Council’s capacity to conduct cutting-edge policy analysis of the greatest global security challenges facing the Atlantic community and our global partners.

General James L. Jones will serve as the chairman of the Scowcroft Center, which will build on the Atlantic Council’s strong trans-Atlantic heritage, while bringing global partners into the policy dialogue on current and future challenges.

This dinner will bring – next Tuesday night, December 13th – will bring together seven former national security advisers, current members of the Congress, the Obama administration, senior leaders of the U.S. military, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for a celebration of General Scowcroft’s life of public service. If any of you wish to attend this dinner, please contact the Atlantic Council. You’ll see on our site,, ways to get involved.

Yesterday, also by coincidence, was the 50th anniversary of the charter that created the Atlantic Council, when some of the great leaders of those times, Dean Rusk, Dean Acheson, Christian Herter, Henry Cabot Lodge, Lucius Clay came together to create our Atlantic Council.

I was, at this point, going to turn over the floor to my boss, the chairman of the Atlantic Council, Senator Chuck Hagel, to introduce General Dempsey. He sends his regrets, General. He had emergency eye surgery on his retina just a couple of days ago. He thought he would be well enough to come here this morning, but he’s been forced to cancel this and also meetings at the Pentagon he had today. And he sends his regrets.

He really represents the kind of leadership we have the Atlantic Council – bipartisan, principled – he’s talked about how he has taken an oath to the Constitution, not to a political party. He and his brother Tom served side-by-side as infantry squad leaders in Vietnam in ’68 with the 9th Infantry Division, twice awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in battle. So you see, in our leadership we have a Marine, James L. Jones; we have the Air Force, General Scowcroft, and we have as Senator Hagel describes himself, a buck sergeant. And so it’s a great – it’s a great, you know, multi-services approach to things.

So now I look forward to introducing you. General Martin Dempsey is the 18th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, principal military adviser to the president, the secretary of defense and the national security adviser. He’s uniquely well-suited to lead the U.S. armed forces through a time of transition that follows over a decade of continuous warfare. Through his long and varied career, General Dempsey has developed a unique understanding of the host of challenges and opportunities facing the U.S. military in today’s complex world.

1974 graduate of West Point and career armor officer, he is supremely educated, holding three master’s degrees, including a master’s in English from Duke University, combat-hardened veteran, deployed with Operation Desert Storm, later commanded the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad in 2003 for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In addition to these combat duties, he has experience and insights gained through training and developing U.S. and partner forces, which speaks also to today’s subject. Trained in – trained the Saudi Arabian national guard, later trained the Iraqi security forces during a difficult time in Iraq’s history. Further developed – experienced in the Middle East as deputy commander and then acting commander of USCENTCOM.

General Dempsey would return to the United States to command U.S. Army training and doctrine command, 2008-2011, after which he was appointed chief of the Army staff. It is a distinct pleasure to have General Dempsey here today for this important event. Thank you for your service. Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to be with us.

David Ignatius, I am pleased we have no less distinguished of a journalist to moderate today’s discussion. This will be more of a discussion than a speech. It will be a discussion, that’s the way General Dempsey wanted it. I’ve known David for many years and consider him not only a source of personal inspiration, but also a person whose advice and counsel to me and many others has been quite important.

I’ve been an avid reader of his award-winning journalism and best-selling novels. Any of you who are watching, please buy his newest novel “Blood Money.” It’s really quite fantastic. He didn’t pay me for that. David’s presently the associate editor and columnist for The Washington Post, writes a twice-weekly column on foreign affairs, distinguished 35-year career as a journalist, columnist and editor at great newspapers – Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, and we worked together at The Wall Street Journal. I’m delighted to have him here.

Welcome, please, General Dempsey and David Ignatius to the stage. (Applause.)


DAVID IGNATIUS: Thank you. Do you want to sit on the left or the right?

GEN. DEMPSEY: I’ll sit on this side.

MR. IGNATIUS: So we’ll take our seats. General Dempsey has – unfortunately has a hard 10:30 close. So we’ll have that in mind. General Dempsey, if you’d like to open with a brief statement of your – of your thoughts on the topics of budget and partnership, and then we’ll go into questions from me, and then we’ll turn to you in the audience for your questions.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Great. Well, I’m delighted to be here. I very much appreciate the work that the Council does. And when invited to be among – to have this among my initial encounters here in Washington, D.C., I very much appreciated the opportunity. I want to add my congratulations to General Scowcroft in having the center named for you, but also for your lifetime of service to your nation.

And it occurs to me as I look at what I will be asked to do in my tenure as the chairman, it seems to me I will be a chairman that has to manage three big transitions – a transition from the armed forces of the United States being generally and predominantly in conflict to a military that will remain in conflict at some level, but also get back into the business of preparing for conflict. So that’s one big transition.

Second one is, this is going to – if this makes news, you – we got a real problem. But the second transition is I’m going to manage the armed forces from bigger budgets to smaller budgets. And how much bigger and smaller is yet to be determined. But that’s the second significant transition that I will owe the country, if you will.

And the third one is the transition of a – of a significant number of young men and women who will transition from being in the services, routinely – because we always have turnover – but more pronounced, I think, as we reshape the force. And so there’s this issue of transitioning and building a different kind of relationship with the Veterans Administration and so forth.

So those are the three big transitions I see as occurring over the next three or four years. And I’d be happy to talk to you about whatever you’d like to talk about.

MR. IGNATIUS: Let’s start, General Dempsey, with one of those transitions that you mentioned that’s going to drive everything else, probably. And that’s the budget. As you say, we are – we are in a time when budget pressures and austerity mean that there’re going to be some changes in the Pentagon budget. From little leaks and reporting, we have a sense that, as Secretary Panetta and the White House work with you and the combatant commanders to shape that budget, there’s some basic outlines.

And one of them seems to be a reduction in ground forces, on the expectation that long, large-scale counterinsurgencies of the kind we’ve fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are not likely. Another, the president couldn’t have been clearer in Asia; we’re not going to cut Asia. And so help us to understand, you’ve been in the midst of this process, what the shape of this budget is likely to be. You know, are the – are the leaks that I described – do they have the contours of that right? Are there issues that you’re still worried about as you – as you put the budget document to bed?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Leaks in Washington? Wow, that’s a – something with which I’m not familiar. Let me say this about the process, first of all, because it’s – I think it’s important to understand the context, you know, and then we can, to my willingness to do so, we can get into it at greater or lesser detail. The process has been actually quite encouraging to me, and at the president’s direction and with Secretary Panetta’s leadership – and I really mean that – we have managed to achieve what I thought was unachievable on the timeline available.

And that is, we’ve got a process in place to figure out the ’13-’17 budget through the lens of an emerging strategy. You know, so we’re – we clearly are in a position where, even if I had all the money I needed or wanted – if I could – if I had a blank check, we would certainly want to take a look at our strategy, take a look at our force structure, modernization programs, training and leader development through the lens of what we’ve learned over the last 10 years, and we’ve learned an enormous amount over the last 10 years, through the lens of emerging capabilities, things that we didn’t have 10 years ago.

I mean, notably, cyber was not a significant factor in military operations 10 years ago. Cyber is a significant factor today. We have a much better capability in our special operating forces than we did 10 years ago. So the question is, are those additive to what we’ve always done, or do we have an opportunity here to build a different kind of relationship inside of our armed forces, and redefine ourselves based on the lessons of the last 10 years? The answer is we darn sure should be if we consider ourselves to be a learning organization.

And then, you know, the other – the other factor in this is a look at our strategic risks. What are the strategic risks to our nation? Are they exactly where they were before or are they shifting? And of course, you know that – as the president has already discussed in his trip into Asia, we see strategic risk as shifting – demographics have shifted, economic power has shifted, military power has shifted. And so it’s incumbent on us, as military leaders, to discuss with and inform and advise on how we should adapt ourselves to those shifting strategic risks – importantly, not at the expense of our traditional strategic partners – but this is about rebalancing.

And so in terms of the process, I am actually quite encouraged that we’ve got strategy slightly in the lead of our budget decisions – and one final point. Secretary of defense has made clear to all of us, in frequent meetings with service chiefs, combatant commanders, his group of advisers inside the department, that nothing is decided until everything is decided. And so that’s where we are. And we’re moving along, I think, quite nicely.

MR. IGNATIUS: I want to just make sure I’m clear on these broad strategic strokes that the world that you’re preparing for, as you do this strategic process, is one in which you don’t think it’s likely that large-scale, 150,000-troop deployments for protracted counterinsurgencies is likely. And that therefore, in sizing your ground forces, you’re not assuming we’re going to do another Iraq or Afghanistan soon. Is that right?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Let me – let me – this is going to surprise you, David. Let me rephrase that a bit for you. (Laughter.)

MR. IGNATIUS: That’s never happened.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, I know. I’m not prepared – nor should our allies be prepared – to ignore or wish away any kind of conflict in the future. I mean, that’s just not the way the world works. You can’t say, well, I’d really never – you know, as far as I’m concerned, we’ll never do another Iraq. I’m not prepared to say that or give that advice to the commander in chief or to the secretary of defense.

So the question is, you know, how do we – based on what I mentioned in the answer to your previous question – you know, how do we rebalance that force so that it is capable – it is not a niche organization, it’s not a one-trick pony. How do we rebalance ourselves so that we’re capable across the full spectrum – but, look, we’re in a new fiscal environment. And in fact, I should have mentioned that right at the start. I mean, everything we do is in the context of understanding the economic condition of our nation and understanding that our national power is the sum of military, economic and diplomatic power. You can’t – you can’t ignore that fact.

So we’re looking at what we can afford to do, how do we rebalance ourselves to be able to maintain that which we must provide to the nation in terms of options across the spectrum. And I had the same conversation with Sir David Richards, as you mentioned, you know, because they’re under enormous budgetary pressure over there. And, you know, frankly I worry about our allies coming to the conclusion that they can be capable only in niches of conflict. So this isn’t about giving up any particular capability. It’s about rebalancing.

MR. IGNATIUS: Let’s talk a little bit about this theme of partnerships and burden-sharing. It’s one of our themes for this session this morning. I can’t remember a time when I wrote about defense issues that I didn’t hear U.S. officials almost pleading with Europe to do more, to be more active, to share the burden. We’ve just come through a war last summer into the fall in Libya in which there was some real burden-sharing. And I think we’d all be interested in your assessment of how the Libya campaign went and the extent to which it showed that those NATO burden-sharing options are real.

And then second, every day’s newspapers bring us news of how serious – potentially catastrophic – Europe’s financial – fiscal problems are right now, which has to make someone like you, as you plan for the future, worry a little bit about the ability of our European allies to fully step up. So let me ask you to take those two – first Libya, how’d it go; second, what about this fiscal crisis in Europe and the implications.

GEN. DEMPSEY: OK. There’s a couple of things that when people’s – I hope you’re not going to ask me these questions – well, I’m going to answer them now. So, you know, there’s no need for you to – you know. I was over in Great Britain last week, as you mentioned – two weeks ago.

One of the British media, who can be, you know, rather – not like you – who can be kind of confrontational, said to me: So what’s it like to be the leader of military in decline? And I – you know, and I said, look, you know, in case you haven’t noticed, you know, we’re doing pretty good, thank you very much. And I’m not going to be the chairman that kind of watches over the decline of the United States armed forces. And by the way, it won’t happen.

The second thing they – that they are – they do often is they talk about the decline and the irrelevance of NATO. And I find that to be kind of surprising actually, because NATO is not the same NATO that I joined in 1974 as a young 2nd lieutenant to be sure, but it’s actually adapted itself – not exactly as we would have probably, and not with the same resources committed to it for security as we have – but it has adapted itself and done reasonably well since the Cold War when General Scowcroft kind of oversaw our adaptations.

They have 300 – you know, if you take each of their countries individually, their contributions to security pale in comparison to ours, but so does the rest of the world. If you aggregate their contributions to security, it’s about $300 billion. And it seems to me that’s not an insignificant amount of money in a – in an environment in which they are – they have – they too are sorely pressed economically.

Libya – I’m always loathe to pick a template, you know? Somebody would say, is this the template of future warfare? My answer to that is easy. No, it’s not, because if we ever decide we’ve got a template, we’re going to find our template – it’s just a square hole in the – the square peg in the round hole. There are no templates for conflict, but I think we’ve got some lessons coming out of there about the opportunity to partner, to provide capabilities that we have uniquely, to call upon them to provide capabilities that do – they do have.

We’ve learned lessons, I think they have as well, about intelligence sharing, fusing of intel and ops in a way that it probably surprised them, but we’ve been at it for about 10 years. So I think – I think Libya is actually worthy – first of all, I consider it a success for NATO. And secondly, it’s worthy of great study. We’re not – we’re not far enough removed from it yet to decide that we’ve got the lessons right, but there are lessons to be learned.

Economics – when I took this job, some of you may have read about this, but I went up to West Point, I went over to – this was in between jobs, actually. I had about two weeks. I went up to West Point as a matter of priority. I went to the department of economics. I walked into the head of the department. And I said I’m really sorry.

And he said, what are you sorry for, General? I said, I’m sorry I didn’t pay attention back when I was a cadet here – said, what you were talking about macroeconomics and microeconomics and all that, because I said, I’ve just now realized that this is going to be a big factor in my life for the next two or four years. And so I spent a day up there with the department of economics.

I was in New York City three weeks ago and spent about a half-a-day with the Fed. And I had Director (sic) Bernanke in my office for two hours last week. And the – and the topic is, you know, (with their ?) economics, not only here but also in Europe. And Europe – the eurozone is at great risk. I know that they’ve taken some measures here with the 17 members of the eurozone to try to better align – and I guess that’s the right phrase – monetary and fiscal policy. But it’s unclear, to me at least, that that will be the glue that actually holds it together.

And you’re right that we are extraordinarily concerned about the health and viability of the euro. Because in some ways, we are exposed – I mean, literally through contracts and programmatics, but also because of the potential for civil unrest and the breakup of the union that has been forged over there through the – with the euro as somewhat of its basis. So yeah, we’re concerned. They’re concerned. I know that the – that our government has dispatched all of our leading economic advisers to try to assist them through it. But I – it’s something we should all be concerned about.

MR. IGNATIUS: Let me ask you another question about the raw numbers. It’s my sense that the exercise that you’ve been through with Secretary Panetta in preparing the 2013 budget has not taken into account the possibility that funds would be sequestered with the failure of the supercommittee, this across-the-board set of cuts that, by Secretary Panetta’s estimate, would roughly double the total cuts you were facing from, you know, something on the order of 500 million (dollars) to a trillion (dollars).

Talk about that world. The supercommittee has failed to come up with a proposal, so technically we’re now on a glide path toward an additional $500 million in cuts. What would that mean for the military, for this process that you’ve described of trying to make strategic choices? Secretary Panetta has suggested that you might have to make really hard choices. We can’t do CENTCOM and Asia in the way that we want if we’re going to have to take another 500 million (dollars) out. But give us your sense of what that world would look like.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah. I don’t know what that world would look like. And I say that sincerely. And I recall that we got the deficit reduction target that we were handed, $450 billion plus. We only received that about eight or nine weeks ago if I recall correctly; it was one of the first gifts that I was given as the chairman.

And so our effort has very much exclusively focused on determining what – again, with 10 years of learning behind us – what we wanted to be and then what force could we build against that, that $450 billion. But we just literally have not had the intellectual bandwidth to think about and to do any of the analytics related to sequester.

But I will say this. So I – and I say that with great integrity: We have not done any thinking or any work on what further cuts might mean.

And we’re not even done, anyway, with 1317 (sp). It doesn’t lock until this – we’re on or about the about the 6th of February. So we’re – that’s why Secretary Panetta has been very careful to make sure we all know that nothing is decided until everything is decided.

But that said, the other thing I want to point out here is that – I – one of my priorities areas when I became the chairman was to establish this idea, really – it’s mostly an idea that would pull us along, that we need to figure what we need to be in 2020. What is the joint force? What capabilities, what capacity must it – what options must it provide for the nation in 2020?

And I picked 2020 for two reasons that are – I find noteworthy, and I’m the chairman. So to the two reasons that I chose were, if I’m the chairman for four years, it is absolutely a fact that I and the service chiefs, the Joint Chiefs, with the secretary and the president, we will build the joint force of 2020 because we’ll submit four POMs in my tenure: ’13, ’17; ’14, ’18; ’15, ’19; ’16, ‘20. So if we don’t – if we don’t think now about what we need to be in 2020, then we’re going to find ourselves in this kind of annual, you know, revision and an annual effort to try to figure out, you know, what we need to provide the nation. That’s just not a place we should be.

So we’re actually working toward 2020. And that means that we’ll get four at-bats. We’re going to – we’re having – we’re at bat right now, figuring ’13,’17. But I want to make sure that everybody in my sphere understand that we don’t – you know, we don’t submit the budget, you know, kind of wipe our brows, move on to something else. We’re going to – we got to – we got to walk toward 2020 in four POMs, which means we have options and opportunities off-ramps, decision points each year to get us to 2020, but it’s in that context.


So that’s why I’m not overly concerned to start the work yet on sequestration, because I want to make sure we get this particular effort right, whatever right is. And then we’ll have – we’ll have time to deal with it if it becomes a reality.

MR. IGNATIUS: Let me turn to Afghanistan, a war that thousands of your soldiers – service people are fighting. And I want to ask you for your candid assessment of how that war is going.

And I’d like to start by asking you about something that was reported this week in The Wall Street Journal, a statement by General Allen, your commander in Kabul, who is said to have told visitors, including prominent congressional visitors, that as he looks at his campaign plan, he thinks that it would be wise not to plan for additional troop withdrawals – if I read him right – in 2013. As we know, the president has got a timetable for the withdrawal of the surge force by September of next year, and General Allen is saying, beyond that, given where we are and all the things we still need to do, I would like to see us hold steady through 2013 and then – and then look at our final year to 2014.

I’m sure you talk regularly with your – with your commanders. I’d be interested in your own sense. Does that – is – should we stop the automatic assumption that we’re going to have a steady downward glide path and listen to General Allen saying, let’s hold on; let’s look at where we are next year?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, thanks for the chance to put that in context. I find John Allen remarkable, by the way. I mean, he’s – he is – he’s both a great tactician. You know, he kind of lives in three worlds – tactics, operational and he lives at the strategic level as well. And he’s very capable in all three levels. And we have spoken. I probably speak with him twice a week, once at least a week to see how he’s doing; that’s a pretty tough job over there. And then, more substantively, in the other conversation, we have a VTC with him almost every week as well.

You asked me how Afghanistan is going. You know, I’m on the record for saying that I think the military aspects of the surge have actually achieved their intended purpose. You know, we have – we have reversed some of the Taliban’s momentum. You know, as you know, we’ve had – there are issues over there related to the other lines of effort that are not moving as well as we would like, although I will say, I was personally quite encouraged by the Loya Jirga – you know, the traditional gathering of Afghan tribal leaders, some 2,000 or so, to seek some kind of consensus. It’s an informative body, not a legislative body, but you know, they came together and, again, in a very encouraging way they noted that they need and want and aspire to a relationship with us longer term, not one that ends in ’14. And we haven’t determined what “longer term” means yet, nor what that’ll – what we’ll be providing and what they want us to provide, but, I mean, it was an encouraging step.

Pakistan, the sanctuary for the insurgents, persists, and that is a factor that we have to continue to work – to work hard to control its influence on our Afghan mission.

OK, the way ahead in Afghanistan: In that context, we are reviewing with General Allen and – but importantly, with General Mattis, and I’ll tell you why that’s especially important to me. Based on what I just described as what we’ve accomplished in terms of the campaign objectives, and being committed firmly to the Lisbon objectives as they have been articulated, the question we’re asking ourselves – and I mean – I sincerely mean ourselves, that is, the department and its military leaders – is, what do we need to do between September of ’12 when the surge will be off-ramped, and December of ’14. So, you know, what is it that’s going to pull us along, milestones, you know, objectives, assessments? And then, and only then, we will ask John Allen to do the troop – the troop-to-task analysis against those objectives.

So again, if you – if you were to ask me as a commander – well, I have been asked on occasion – as you know, congressional leaders pass through, media pass through, and others, I have been asked, you know, what do you think you need today.

Well, you’re going to look at the answer to that question in what you need literally today. But if missions change, if we establish additional milestones, if we – if we re-assess and make any changes, then the commander will do what they do, which is to say, OK, you want me to do that. Here’s the troop-to-task analysis.

So asking John today what he thinks about 2013, you’re going to get an answer through the lens of today. My suggestion is that John and I and Jim Mattis are in contact about how – what do we need to do to get from September ’12 to December ’14 to accomplish the Lisbon objectives. And if we change that narrative, it’ll change his answer to that question. But we’re not there yet. So I found that conversation that he had to be unremarkable, to tell you the truth, although some tried to pit him against the president’s stated objectives. One of his stated objectives in the West Point speech was a steady reduction in our force presence.

Now – break – I’m also on the side of those who believe that we sometimes are reluctant to turn over responsibility to those forces that we’re building. You know, we – I said this in Iraq and I got cross-threaded with some folks, but we hold on to the bicycle seat sometimes a little too long. And so, you know, we’re asking ourselves tough questions about, are we asking and actually enabling and empowering our Afghan partners to do more sooner. Are we asking that question? And how – if we’re asking it, what answers are we finding? Because that will influence that glide slope of force structure. But we don’t have the answers yet. So again, John’s answering the question based on what he sees today.

Now, the reason I said Jim Mattis is a key factor is we hold Jim accountable for understanding how we distribute our resources across the region, the 21 nations of CENTCOM, many of which you could convince yourselves that it’s not all that good a neighborhood. And so, you know, there’s other requirements for resources around the region that might – should, actually, be part of this equation. And then, if you ratchet it up one level to me, I’ve got to look at the strategic risk to the nation globally.

So we can’t look at this through the soda straw of Afghanistan or Iraq. But I also assure, while we’ve got soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and Coast Guardsmen in harm’s way, we’re going to give them what they need to accomplish the missions we’ve asked them to accomplish. But then Jim Mattis has to see that from the regional perspective, and I’ve got to see it globally, and we’re just not there yet.

So I wasn’t surprised at all by John’s answer; it’s the answer I would’ve given. But we haven’t yet done our analytics on how to get from September ’12 to June of ’14 – I’m sorry, December ’14.

MR. IGNATIUS: So I want to – I want to make sure I understand your answer.

GEN. DEMPSEY: That’s good.

MR. IGNATIUS: Your battlefield commander is saying that he does not now want to project further additional cuts after September 2012, and you’re saying that you’re not – you’re not there, that you – that you may well need to have a continuing glide path down after September 2012; it’s just not a decision you’re prepared to make yet. Is that – do I understand?

GEN. DEMPSEY: No, you – yeah. I mean, to put it – to make sure that it’s in my words – (chuckles) – we are reviewing what we need to do to deliver on the Lisbon objectives, what do we need to do as the – as U.S. forces with ISAF to get from September of ’12 to December ’14. Once that review is completed, then we will discuss glide slope, if you will, with the tactical commander through the combatant commander.

MR. IGNATIUS: Let me ask you about the continuing ability of our adversary in Afghanistan to stage spectacular attacks that are destabilizing for the population there, certainly affect world opinion. Hearing our uniform military, you tend to get pretty positive accounts of how the campaign is going, and yet there are these big events. The latest is of particular interest because it was an attack on Shia mosques on a special holy day for Shia, and it reminded me hauntingly of Iraq and the period in which al-Qaida in Iraq was very deliberately seeking to create sectarian war, and you wondered whether some splinter of al-Qaida in Afghanistan, allies of al-Qaida in Afghanistan, are trying that same tactic.

So maybe you could speak to those two things: Why does it sound to me, if it’s being degraded, still so capable of taking big, roundhouse swings in Kabul? And what about the sectarian card being played against the Shia?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, let me start with the latter and move to the former question. But the – I’ve asked the same question, and it’s just happened this week. I will say the demographics in Afghanistan are far different than they are in Iraq. You know, Iraq sits on that literally geographic and traditional culture of fault line between the Shia and Sunni sects of Islam. Afghanistan doesn’t sit on that fault line. And I think, as I remember the statistics, 80 (percent) to 83 percent of Afghanistan is Sunni, and about 17 or so percent are Shia, and there’s no history of sectarian conflict.

So I don’t know the answer yet, though; it could be. We’ll see if it becomes a pattern. Right now, it’s not. Right now, it appears that because the Shia were assembling in a – for the Ashura holiday, they made a pretty lucrative target for a couple of different attacks around the country. But we’ll see. I mean, it could very well be. And that, again – you know, back to our previous question, when things like that manifest themselves, we’ve got to assess their impact on the – on the campaign.

As far as the ability of insurgents and terrorists to conduct the high-profile attacks, I mean, that – there is a – there is a – now, there is – there is a pattern of high-profile attacks. And we don’t talk about the ones that – we tend to talk about the ones that happen. We kind of gloss by the ones that didn’t happen. Frankly, back to the Loya Jirga, I was absolutely – because the intel all – leading up to the Loya Jirga, the intel was pronounced that groups like the Haqqani network and some of the Afghan Taliban sanctuaried in Pakistan would come across and try to disrupt this Loya Jirga. Because they didn’t this affirmation of a relationship with the United States. And it – they did not succeed. And by the way, it was – the security for that was run by the Afghan national security forces – you know, police and military. So that didn’t happen; we have had the attacks that do. I think that’s a pattern that has proven lucrative for them in the past and will remain lucrative in the future.

But what will turn – although there’s a psychological to that, clearly, what will turn the Afghan campaign is not that high-profile attack; it’s what happens out where, you know, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are walking point. And that’ s why you’ll tend to find a little more optimistic than those that stay in Kabul, because they see that at the local level, they can actually turn things. Now, whether it will be maintainable: a fair question. But I’ll tell you that that’s why the high-profile attacks, we tend to see them as one off rather than indicative of an impact on the entire mission.

MR. IGNATIUS: Let’s turn to the Pakistan side of Af-Pak strategy. Pakistan was a special area of responsibility, sometimes a special headache for your predecessor, Admiral Mullen. Give us your assessment of the situation, the U.S.-Pakistani military relationship, starting with whatever you can say today. I know there’s an investigation going on, but what can you tell us today about what happened that night up in the mountains along the border that led to the deaths of several dozen Pakistani troops?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah. You’ve been up in the mountains along that border.

MR. IGNATIUS: Yes, sir.

GEN. DEMPSEY: And you know, we’re kind of the victims of our own success sometimes. We’ve portrayed a picture to the world that we are sort of – not – I mean, we haven’t specifically said this or tried to do this, but the rest of the world sees us as completely all-knowing, all-seeing, completely precise. And you know, look, warfare is really – when you really get down and touch it, it’s just ugly and it’s messy and it’s unpredictable and it’s chaotic. And there’s fog and there’s friction. And I don’t know what happened as I sit here today, because I’ve been very careful – now, I want this investigation to have the freedom to really tell us what happened.

So what can I say about this event today? What I can say, absolutely say, is it wasn’t something we did intentionally. Regrettably, the Pakistan military believe we did. They do. They believe we did this intentionally, in some way to either discredit them or goad them into further action or – I mean, it’s incomprehensive to me that they believe that, based on our efforts to build a relationship over time. But they do believe that, and so we’re trying to address each other on that basis.

But what I can say: Absolutely. And I mean, I can’t imagine anyone in this room wouldn’t believe me. We did not attack a border post, a Pakistan military border post, intentionally. If you think we did, I’d have to ask you in return: What in the world would we hope to gain by doing that? So I can say that, categorically, the relationship is strained.

I mean – and I’ve spoken with General Keane, who was, by the way, my Leavenworth classmate. I’ve spoken with our own leaders, of course, over there to encourage this investigation to get really get to the facts and to take the time it needs to be done correctly, so that we can engage our Pakistani counterparts. We’re in touch with our defense representative in Islamabad, Lieutenant General Ken Keen, who’s doing a great job helping us try to restore some balance. We’re adapting to some of the things they’ve done – you know, the closures of the ground lines of communication and so forth. We’re assessing the cost of that. There is a cost. And you know, what we’re trying to do is have – show some patience, asking them to show some patience and then we’ll try to get back in touch with each other, and see if we can work through it. But yeah, it’s – it’s a mess.

MR. IGNATIUS: On the question of our ability to supply logistically our forces in Afghanistan, as you mentioned, two key transit routes through Pakistan into Afghanistan are closed. We had torching of field trucks yesterday that were backed up. Just thinking about fuel alone – well, let me ask it directly: How much longer can we go with those passes closed? Is there an alternative way to get fuel in through the northern distribution route that would at least make up for what – some of what is now blocked if that continued?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, I mean, the simplest answer is we can change the percentages of reliance upon – we have three ways to get things into Afghanistan. One is through the Pakistan line of communication, the Northern Distribution Network, and then we fly things in. We can adjust, and we can get it done. It’ll be more expensive, it’ll be a bit time consuming, but we have the time to do it, based on the available supplies in Afghanistan.

The real problem for me is not the cost, although as the new fiscal environment, I am sort of cost-conscious. But what’s troubling to me is that they would close the (lock ?), and what it says about the relationship So what it’s going to do us inside of Afghanistan, we can mitigate. What it says about the relationship is the more troubling aspect and we need to try to get through that.

On the fuel issue, just so everybody in this room understands, we don’t pay for the fuel until it’s delivered into our operating bases. So when they torch fuel at some of these staging points near Chaman and up near Torkham gate, it’s not our fuel they’re torching. So you know, I think at some point we’ve got to understand what is going on and what’s not going on.

MR. IGNATIUS: Let me ask one final question of my own, and then I do want to turn to the audience, so be thinking of your questions for General Dempsey. My question concerns Iran – the crisis that’s just over the horizon, if you will.

Secretary Panetta was asked, last Friday night at a public event, what he thought the benefits – military benefits would be of bombing facilities in Iran. And he said he thought it would retard them, the nuclear program, by one to two years, and then listed a whole series of potential costs and risks for the United States, if that were done by Israel. You said, back on November 30, that you think sanctions and diplomatic pressure are the right path for now as you look at the situation. And you were asked about the Israel debate about bombing Iran, and you said, I’m not sure the Israelis understand that, but we think that these are the right options now.

I know this is sensitive area, but it’s a time for that reason when – you know, real clarity from our military leadership about what you think is valuable. So let me ask: As you look at the situation right now, would you say, as you did last month, you think sanctions and diplomacy are the right course?

GEN. DEMPSEY: I do. I think that the current – well, for one reason, I mean, right now our stated policy is that we’ll pursue an economic track supported by a diplomatic track, try to build a coalition of nations that have the same sense of urgency about this that we do. And that – and in the meantime, you know, as I’ve also said, as have others, we won’t take any military options off the table because clearly we have to be prepared in case the economic and diplomatic tracks fail.

Now, to the Israelis though, I also said – and I want to mention it here: I understand that they’re in a different place than we are in this regard. But look, they’ve got what they see as a genuine imminent, existential threat, and I appreciate their position in this. We may not have been complete concurrence on how to address that threat, but I do understand their position on it. And we’re in close touch with them on the issue, obviously.

MR. IGNATIUS: So let me turn to the audience. I’m going to start – cause it’s easiest in the first row. Yes, please. And if you’d please identify yourself, and keep your questions short.

Q: Sure. Thank you. My name is Andrei Sitov, and I am with the Russian news agency, Itar-Tass, here in Washington, D.C. Thank you, General, for doing this. Thank you to the Atlantic Council for hosting this. Great presentation, sir.

The subject of the discussion is partnerships. Our two presidents told us that we are supposed to be partners in military matters, aside from everything else. My question to you – two things. Generally, is it, in fact, a task that you have been given to build a military partnership with the Russians, and how you propose to go about it?

And my specific questions on the hot subject of the day, the missile defense, your Russian colleague yesterday said: We are trying to find a common ground. We have given the Americans two different proposals. Both have been rejected. We are willing to look at other approaches, but we are being proposed nothing. No proposals from the American side.

The specific question: Is any proposal from the American side on that matter is being prepared for the Russians? Thank you.

GEN. DEMPSEY: To your first question about partnerships, is that a specific task we’ve been given to build on our existing traditional partnership but also try to create new relationships? Absolutely. And I think that – that it’s in our – in all of our best interests to do that. I mean, there are some common threats. Certainly, violent extremist organizations have affected your nation in dramatic and profound ways, and that’s an area – a very lucrative area for a common approach.

On missile defense, I personally believe that we will find common ground with the Russian military on our European Phased Adaptive Approach because it is not threatening strategic nuclear deterrence. It is very much oriented, as we’ve said and I think you’ve acknowledged, against a rogue nation breaking out with some kind of nuclear and missile technology. And so the answer to your question is we are committed to finding a way to move this thing forward, and that’ll continue until we figure it out.

Q: (Off mic.)

GEN. DEMPSEY: You know, the proposal is so – it changes. You know, the approach is constant, so there’s constant interaction. And I’d be a little reluctant to tell you what I believe the current proposal is, although I know that it’s an ongoing work, and we’ll stick with it.

MR. IGNATIUS: General, if I could just follow up on that. The Russians are asking for a real sharing of what is highly classified information so that this is a joint system. If we’re going to call it a joint system, they want to be in on it. Are you comfortable with the degree of sharing of technology that the Russians are asking for, pretty directly, as a condition?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, I think –

(Cross talk.)

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, and I’m aware of that request. I’m also aware of the current proposal’s approach to sharing intelligence, to sharing a common picture of the threat – you know, tracking and so forth. And I think we have to work at this through stages. You know, before we get to technological exchange, I think we have – we should work out way through the other stages first, but I think that’s part of the process.

MR. IGNATIUS: Yes, in the third row. Steve.

Q: Thank you, General. Steve Clemons with The Atlantic.

At the Halifax Center National Security Summit, Leon Panetta seemed a bit frustrated. Part of his message was there’s an age of austerity upon us, and that NATO members, particularly NATO defense secretaries, were there. He pushed them sort of hard to say: You need to do more with less. We understand you have less, but you need to do more.

And there was some grumbling about the notion that there wasn’t a lot of talk about how the U.S. would do more with less. And he made a statement. He says, I refuse to believe that we have to choose between fiscal responsibility and national security.

But in the talk, it essentially was something in a sense, while he was admitting that there were financial hits coming, as you have done today, he tilted more – almost disbelief that it was really happening, as opposed to talking about shifts in strategy in – when Don Rumsfeld came in as secretary of defense before 9/11, you may remember, he wrestled with the generals a lot –


Q: – and talked about smart soldiers, smart systems, the applications of IT, the changing nature of war; that we were going to create greater efficiencies in this sector. And I’ve been surprised that we haven’t seen more discussion of that kind of changing role – how can you actually get more security deliverables, even if you are going to have less fiscal resources? We talk a lot about dollars, but not about capacity, and I’m interested in your reactions. And that was the tone you got from Leon Panetta in that Halifax summit.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Sure. I’ll have to go back and tell him thanks a lot for (it ?) – that’s the third time now he’s been quoted to me – (laughter) – to react.

Let me pick up on one thing you said, and maybe I can tie it together. And that is you said you’ve been surprised at the lack of discussion about, you know, what kind of shifting strategies, what kind of – I’m actually quite remarkably pleased by that – (chuckles) – that we haven’t played this out in the media. And – I mean, no offense, but we’ve had to make some – we’ve had to really go through – I’m talking about multiple tank sessions. And you know what the tank is. It’s where military leaders gather and try to have conversations without note-takers. It’s just to try to, you know, wrestle with ourselves these complex problems, to provide advice; then do the same with combatant commanders, do the same with our civilian leaders.

I frankly – I can only tell you that I’m encouraged by where we are. I think some time in the next couple – well, before the budget is submitted, we’ve actually got to consult with Congress. I carry a little Constitution or a little pamphlet of the Constitution in my black jacket with me to remind myself of who’s responsible for what. And the Congress, of course, is responsible for maintaining a Navy and standing and, you know, organizing training and equipping an Army. And that’s not to say they’re not interested in the Air Force or the Marines, but the point is they’ve got some responsibilities.

We’ve got to consult with them, and then we’ve got to show what the budget does to build a force for the nation. I think we’re going to be – I think the process we’ve made, the progress we’ve made has been encouraging. There are hard decisions that will manifest themselves here shortly, but I wouldn’t read too much into the silence. I think the silence has allowed this thing to follow a process that is best for the country.

MR. IGNATIUS: Barbara Slavin in the second row.

MS. SLAVIN: Thanks. Barbara Slavin from the Atlantic Council. Good to see you again. I’m going to ask another Iran-related question, if I may. There are a number of incidents that have occurred over the last few weeks and months that suggest that there is a kind of war going on with Iran, not in overt fashion perhaps. We recently have the downing of the drone, various explosions, so on. Can you comment at all about your concerns that this may be, not a substitute for a big war but taking us down that road toward an overt war? And is there anything that you might be able to do in terms of negotiating an Incidents at Sea agreement – any kind of way of opening a channel to the Iranian military that might prevent a miscalculation that could lead to something bigger? Thank you.

GEN. DEMPSEY: You know, Iran has stated that they intend to become nuclear-capable, and we’ve equally, stridently stated that that’s not an outcome that we can accept. And so, as I mentioned earlier, we’ve got military options that we have been examining, and we’ve got an economic track that we’ve been pursuing. And what links those together is the diplomatic track. We have discussed – have not come to decisions – about opening up links, hotlines, you know, to seek – to seek, to have an option for, you know, de-escalating any incident.

But, you know, truthfully it’s not our behavior that’s the impediment to progress here. And I think it’s got to be clear – I think it’s fairly clear in this country, but it’s – it may not be as clear elsewhere around the world that the pressure needs to brought on Iran in this regard, and that we are doing everything we can to find a way to accomplish the stated objective without resorting to military force.

MR. IGNATIUS: Yes, sir.

Q: My name is – (name inaudible.) General, I have a really different question. Is political unrest created by social engineering in the world?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Could you say that again?

Q: Is political unrest –


Q: – it’s created by social engineering?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Is political unrest created by social – ?

Q: Engineering. Or does – social engineering is economical engineering, political engineering, military engineering, or just cultural misunderstanding.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Is it creating political unrest?

Q: Yes, and social engineering.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, might be a little out of my league, but that doesn’t mean I won’t answer the question. (Laughter.)

Q: What I mean is many leaders have open eyes; however, few only have – see what’s going on. And that is a problem because misunderstanding the world cultures – respect to Russia; respect to my native country, Poland; respect to Germans –

MR. IGNATIUS: Let’s give General Dempsey a quick chance to answer that question. That may be better posed to a Republican presidential debate or some higher order of –

GEN. DEMPSEY: How would you describe the – I guess I’m still not connected to –

(Cross talk.)

MR. IGNATIUS: I would describe the – I think you’ve already answered the question, General.

GEN. DEMPSEY: That it’s out of my lane?

MR. IGNATIUS: Yes, sir. Please.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Sorry. I’m alerted to the challenge you posed – that, you know, the problems we face in this age, in particular because of – the proliferation of information and social media, are far more complex and develop far more rapidly than they ever had. And we need to be alert to that. But I do agree with David that that’s as far as I want to go with (that ?).

Q: General Dempsey – (inaudible) – (couple of ?) items may be a little closer to your lane. I’m Mike Kostiw, just recently retired from the Senate Armed Services Committee. In partnering, where are we in terms of the discussions, and how our partners feel about the need for a fifth-generation fighter in the years to come? And have you had a chance yet to give much thought to the decision-making process on this going forward? Particularly in light of the fact that now coming out of the Navy – and I’m asking this as you in a purple suit position – (but ?) coming out of Navy, that the Navy – some have made comments to the effect that the carriers might be vulnerable 10 years down the line if we don’t have fifth-generation aircraft aboard, particularly in Asia – item number one. Number two: Afghanistan. The force that we have built for them basically is 6 (billion dollars), 7 (billion dollars), $8 billion to sustain. How do you anticipate that this will be paid for down the line?

GEN. DEMPSEY: We are committed – that is to say, the U.S. military – to the development of the fifth-generation fighter. Clearly, there’s some fact-of-life changes that we’ll probably have to make, based on the ability to procure it on the timelines that we’d like to have it.

When I mentioned earlier, our exposure to a potential problem in the eurozone – that’s – one of the issues that is – that I was alluding to is, you know, their ability to continue to partner with us in that joint venture. It will clearly put them, you know, at risk. If all the economic predictions about a potential collapse were to occur or inflation, you know, devaluation, all that – then they would have some – obviously, they’d have to make some national decisions about reallocation of resources that would – could potentially affect the JSF.

As far as the – my purple suit, you know, tomorrow is the Army-Navy game. So actually for today and through the weekend, I’m not at all neutral in that regard. I do predict an Army victory over Navy. It has nothing to do with my fondness for aircraft carriers.

But yeah, I mean, look, I said we’re looking at 2020. And when we look at 2020, we got to – you know, I think our challenge is: What are – what are the naval forces we need and the capabilities they can project? I also think that it’s important to note that, when I turn over this job to my successor, I will also tell he or she that I’d built the force of 2020, but that’s not the force you’re going to need, you know? I mean, that’s not the way the world is anymore. You can’t build one and expect that that’s what you’re going to need for 30 years. Things just change. Technology changes – what – every 18 months, if you believe in Moore’s Law, so – and I think it might even be more rapid than that.

I’m struck by – this is – this is – one of my passions is trying to figure this out. I’m struck by the increasing capability in nonbiological intelligence. So, you know, we’ve been following a pretty steady track to build our systems on the basis of, you know, human intelligence. And nonbiological intelligence, also known colloquially as artificial intelligence, is increasing even more rapidly than Moore’s Law would have predicted. So the question is not, what I’m going to do 2020. The next guy or gal is going to really have to figure it out, and my guess is that in the interim we’re going to see some significant changes in technology that are going to inform the aerial and the maritime domain in particular.

MR. IGNATIUS: General, let me jump in to ask a question that focuses on that. The president has said we are not going to cut our forces in Asia. And in practical terms, that means that our traditional means of projecting power, naval and air forces, will be robust in Asia. How do we – how do you prevent that from simply being more money for what I’m going to call legacy systems – our existing fleets of aircraft, our naval task forces, the shipyards that build them, the assembly plants that assemble them, and all the politicians who are behind that? Give us your insight as to how you as chairman are going to try to drive something that’s not simply building more legacy systems in Asia.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, well, welcome to my – welcome to my world. And by the way, you mentioned earlier about why we haven’t been more open in trying to come to these conclusions about strategy and so forth. It’s because we do have this legacy of – you know, this is going to sound pejorative, and I don’t mean it to be. But we do have this defense industrial base that is both an enabler of our capability and, as well, provides us what we might describe as reversibility. You know, if we get the future wrong, you have to have the defense industrial base to adapt off of it. But it’s also part of the force that is least likely to be open to change. I mean, that’s just – you know, that’s – there’s a fact of life that I’m sorry I had to confront you all with, but that’s – that is the challenge.

And so, let me just juxtapose two things here. I think the answer to how to address our – the challenges we’ll face as – in terms of – (inaudible) – I would describe it as kind of a global network approach. What we’ve learned over the last 10 years is that, when we network capabilities – whether they’re military capabilities, you know, conventional capabilities with unconventional capabilities, emerging capabilities like cyber – when we successfully network our capabilities, we dominate, we prevail, we succeed, and actually you often can do it at less resources than you did before, because you’re networking and build a different kind of relationship.

I don’t know how you take that, yet. What we’ve got to figure out is, how do you take that, you know, kind of global network approach and apply it to the defense industrial base, which is not – you know, is not organized that way. You know, shipbuilders build ships and plane builders build planes and, you know, never the twain shall meet. I mean, what you’d really want going down the assembly line is something that could turn out to be a Swiss army knife, you know, not a stiletto so – but that’s a horrible metaphor; I’m sorry I said it. But anyway, whatever the – (laughter) – however you choose to describe it, the point is, you’ve identified – the real challenge with managing change, is that you can come to conclusions about concepts, but then driving them through the organization, through training, education, leader development and into the industrial base, is really the art form of all this.

MR. IGNATIUS: Yeah, yes, please.

Q: General, I’m Harlan Ullman. I’d like to get back to the strategic debate that’s going on. Because obviously there’s always going to be a huge tension, to put this in understatement, between incremental change, which the process wants; and profound change. We’ve had profound change before: Nixon going to China, Eisenhower’s massive retaliation, Kennedy’s flexible response. Some worked. Some didn’t. It seems to me that the process is going to try and freeze out really bold thinking. So what is your estimate about how you get some really interesting ideas into the process, and what degree can you share with us? And how do you make sure, if that’s the right answer, you really can implement against the forces that really don’t want to see much change, even though the budgets are going to get badly slashed?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, I don’t want to sign up for describing the current process – the one in ‘13, ’17 – as either incremental or bold. It’s significant. I mean, the adaptations that we’re contemplating – they’re not decided upon yet – are significant. So they’re not incremental but nor are they yet something I would describe as bold. But that’s why I’ve been very clear with my own circle of friends that we got to look to 2020. Because it’s in looking to 2020 that I can aspire to something that’s bold. Changes to the unified command plan – you know, what is cyber’s role in the future? Is SOCOM currently – SOCOM is currently a functional command. Should we consider that SOCOM is the global combatant commander and most everybody else is – you see what I’m saying? We haven’t decided any of that, and we won’t in this cycle. We just haven’t had the time, and – or the inclination.

I mean, don’t forget, you know, back to your point, that we still have forces in Iraq and Afghanistan that are fighting the way we have wanted them to fight. But again, even there, when we think about how do we get from September 12 to December 14, you know, the talk is normally about what’s the glide slope? You know, how quickly are you going to tip over and take your forces out? I’d rather have the – I’d rather drive that discussion about, what do you want us to do. You know, what do we need to do, and is there a different way to do it, other than what I might describe as the Starbucks approach. You know, do you want a tall, a grande, or a venti? I mean, that’s what we normally do to ourselves. You know, if you give me this much force, I’ll lower the risk. If you give me this much, I’ll increase the risk. If you give me this much, I’ll tell you the risk is unacceptable. Small, medium or large? Well, maybe there’s some opportunities out there to do it different, and to have a force that is organized differently. I’m not there yet, but I will tell you, that’s (where ?) – exactly where we need to get.

MR. IGNATIUS: Gentleman here in the second row, please. And actually I’m going to collect two questions. You also had a question; let’s get these two questions and then General Dempsey can answer both.

Q: My name is Boyko Noev. I’m a former minister of defense of Bulgaria, and now I’m with Atlantic Council. And, General, it’s generally recognized that military-to-military relationships within the alliance have been the sound foundation, which helped the alliance live through political change in Europe. And today, as we see and as you said, the euro crisis is a fundamental problem, which also affects the political relationships. Now, what would you say to those in Europe and in the United States who feel concerned about the future of EUCOM, and the levels of funding and the size of EUCOM? Because we all know that without EUCOM there is no NATO.

MR. IGNATIUS: So let’s, General, before we answer that, let’s just add one final question, and then –

GEN. DEMPSEY: I can answer them together?

MR. IGNATIUS: Yes sir.


Q: Thank you very much. My name is Tom de Bok. I’m the defense attaché from the Netherlands. My question also relates to NATO. We touched a little upon the burden-sharing already. The speech of former Secretary Gates in June basically addressed that very robustly. We have the NATO summit coming up in May next year. What should be, in your opinion, the outcome of the NATO summit?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, those two questions are related, aren’t they? First of all, in terms of, you know, is – I mentioned that what you’re – what you – what you’re hearing is that we’re rebalancing our assessment of strategic risk, and I think – even my European colleagues, when I engage them, agree that the strategic risk is migrating to the Pacific. So the strategic risk is migrating, and we have to decide what we’re going to do about that.

But I also said – and I hope you heard it – is that, whatever we do, we’re going to build on the strong foundation of our traditional allies. If the United States goes to war tomorrow or five years from now, who are we going to call first? We’re going to call our traditional NATO allies. And so, you know, we are not going to walk away from NATO. We might very well change our presence in Europe; we might, as well, change our presence in the Pacific and elsewhere. Some of what is currently permanent presence could become rotational. Some of what’s currently rotational could become permanent. We just haven’t gotten there yet. But what I can assure you is that this is not a strategic pivot where we, you know, turn from one – facing in one direction to another. That’s just not the way the world is.

As far as the NATO summit, you know, we’re working, and will work in January – there’s a series of ministerials and military consultative meetings – to exactly frame that question. I think prominently will be the future – it has to be, the future of Afghanistan, a recommitment to the Lisbon objectives, maybe some fresh thinking about how we get there. And in fact, as I’ve been traveling around in discussion with my – with our closest allies, what I’ve asked our European partners is, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You know, let’s not announce in December that we’re going to do something in 2013 before the NATO summit. Let’s work toward the NATO summit together and have that be a significant moment for all of us. That would be my aspiration for the NATO summit.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, General Dempsey, I want to thank you. As I mentioned at the beginning, you have a commitment at 11:00 at the White House and, you know, as much as we’d like to hold onto you, we know we can’t. This is the first chance a lot of us have had to really hear you think out loud about the issues you’ll be facing as chairman. We’re grateful. I do have to ask you, the press – your traveling press reports that you have sung “Christmas in Kilkarney (sic)” three times, by their count, in the last few weeks. And I want to ask you whether that’s true.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, first of all –

MR. IGNATIUS: And if it’s true I want – I’m tempted to ask you to prove it. (Laughter.)

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, first of all, it’s “Christmas in Killarney.”

MR. IGNATIUS: I’m sorry. (Chuckles, laughter.)

GEN. DEMPSEY: Kilkarney (ph) is something in New Brunswick or something. I don’t know. (Laughter.) Secondly, if I can ask you all to turn off your cameras back there – (laughter) – I will serenade myself out the door. I’m serious. (Laughter.) And if I see the red lights, I ain’t doing it. (Laughter.) If I see the red lights, it ain’t happening.

Sorry, fellas. (Laughter.)

MR. IGNATIUS: Cameras, out.

GEN. DEMPSEY: They have to cooperate. I’m the chairman. Turn them off or we’ll find a way to do it remotely. (Laughter, applause.) There’s still two little red lights back there. You know, I’m not – I’m – I may be a little deaf after 37 years of being in tanks, but I’m not blind. (Laughter.)

(Off mic.)

GEN. DEMPSEY: No, no, it’s not you. This guy over here’s still got his little red light. (Laughter.)

MR. : We’re live – (inaudible) –

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, then I can’t, either. (Laughter.) Sorry. I’m not showing up on YouTube again. I’ve been there too much. (Laughter.) All right, real quickly.

(General Dempsey sings “Christmas in Killarney.”) (Applause.)

MR. IGNATIUS: That was great. Thanks. See you next time.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Thanks very much.

(Off mic.)


Related Experts: Barbara Slavin and Harlan Ullman