By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
NAPLES, Italy, June 11, 2015 – The United States military needs to be forward-deployed because America does not want to “play a home game,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said in an all-hands call at the naval air facility here.
During the event, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke to service members, DoD civilians and local nationals, answering questions about the extremist threat, Russia and cyber security.
Dempsey said that when the budget gets tight, there is an inclination for many to think the best way to save is by bringing troops back from overseas postings and doing everything from the continental United States. “The truth is, in our line of work, the very last thing we want to do is play a home game,” he said.
“We really want to play an away game and we need teammates to do it. We need to be forward. You need to be forward," he continued. "We need to be closely partnered with NATO allies and other partners who share our values. And we need to be sure that as conflict approaches -- and conflict will approach -- we have a shot at shaping it before we’re in it.”
Dempsey quoted Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu, saying “The side that understands when to fight and when not to fight will take away the victory.”
The American military expends great effort training for the fight, the chairman said, but equal thought is placed on when and when not to fight. “We need to make sure that we have friends and partners in a web, a network of allies so that we bear this burden together,” he said.
This security network -- tended by service members around the world -- is what sets America apart from other large powers, Dempsey said. They do not have these allies and partners, the chairman said, and this worries them. “We’ve got to preserve that system of alliances and we’ve got to play away games,” he said.
Dempsey took questions from service members, and many wanted to know if the United States is doing enough to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The extremist group is the latest manifestation of extremist ideology and is operating in the Middle East, North Africa and West Africa.
The chairman said part of the campaign against such extremists is military, and part of it is building regional partners so they “don’t get sucked into this crucible.”
He said the United States is providing capabilities and ensuring regional partners provide the capabilities that they should provide, but asked, "Will it continue to be enough?”
Dempsey detailed the recent decision to open a new training base in Anbar province to train Iraqi forces and reach out to Sunni tribes. It is one of a number of bases in the country to train and supply Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
"If we get to the point where we have to protect our interests, our people [and] our facilities and to guarantee the success, then we’ll have to do that," he said. "But in the meantime, the strategy is to enable them to do it, to have them develop the strategy and we enable it.”
The United States military can do a lot, but it’s up to the Iraqis, Saudis, Israelis and Turks to create an environment where these groups don’t keep appearing, the chairman said. “I’m not portraying for you that I think this will be easy or quick,” he said. “I think we’ve got the right outcome identified and now we have to navigate toward it.”
Addressing Cyber, Budget Issues
On cyber, Dempsey told the service members that there is a healthy debate going on in America over privacy versus security. He said some modest progress has been made. “We do need cyber standards, we do need information sharing agreements between the government and the private sector,” he said. “As to the future, I think like most things we will figure it out. I just hope it doesn’t take a crisis to get us there.”
The DoD budget continues to concern service members. Dempsey explained the situation in Washington and said that the service chiefs are united in telling Congress that American defense is endangered.
“Since we testified to that, we’ve had the following issues manifest themselves: We’ve had an emerging threat from Russia as it becomes aggressive in Eastern Europe, we’ve had ISIL increase its capabilities, we had a deployment because of Ebola, [and] Libya and the Chinese reclamation project in the South China Sea,” the chairman said.
On Russia, Dempsey said the need is to harden allies in Eastern Europe. NATO has to maintain a technological advantage, and the United States must ensure the trans-Atlantic link cannot be severed.
“All of which makes it clear to the Russian Federation that may have had success in eastern Europe with countries that are not NATO allies, that it won’t work on countries that are NATO allies,” he said.