By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Aug. 7, 2015 – The U.S. military faces multiple threats and it must be prepared for every contingency, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said Aug. 5, after viewing night operations as part of the Joint Forcible Entry large-scale exercise at Fort Irwin, California.
The two-day exercise at the National Training Center is one of the most challenging and complex missions in the Army, with 1,500 fighting forces from the Army’s Special Operations Command, Joint Special Operations Command, XVIII Airborne Corps and the Air Force, according to Army officials.
“As all our senior leaders and [Defense Secretary Ash Carter] has said, the number of threats we face have multiplied and they’re all interconnected in different ways, and it requires a really strong military,” Work said.
DoD Focused on Five Threats
The deputy said Defense Department senior leadership is focused on what he called “five big threats.”
One is countering the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. “It’s a fight that’s going to hold on for a while, so it is a fight we have to get ready for and we do it every day,” Work said. “Then we look where potential contingencies are: Iran, North Korea, the South China Sea or China and Eastern Europe.”
Fort Irwin’s National Training Center hybrid warfare exercises reflect those concerns. “We have so many threats, the Army has to be prepared for every [contingency],” the deputy defense secretary said.
For that reason, the training center is reorienting its approach to exercises, Work said.
Training Meets Today’s Needs
The NTC has changed its focus from conventional warfare, Work said, to hybrid and counterinsurgency warfare.
With special operations forces integrated into the exercises, one group focuses on Europe, another on Africa, and one on the Far East, he explained.
Special operations forces are in good shape today with about 70,000 personnel and significant capabilities, Work added. Special operators, he said, were heavily employed during 13 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And as Afghanistan moves toward 2016, DoD hopes to “maintain a sustainable pace” of operations, Work said.
Army’s at the Right Strength
The deputy secretary defended criticism of the Army’s strength as being either too large or too small.
“The last two years, we’ve said an Army of 450,000 active, 335,000 National Guard and 195,000 in Army reserves [that] total 980,000 is the right Army,” Work said. “It’s an army we can afford and one we believe can be shaped to handle the full range of threats our nation faces.”
President Barack Obama has said, “‘We will protect any NATO ally,’” so the Army has to be prepared, the deputy secretary added.
But U.S. military strength is not just about numbers or equipment, Work said.
“What underlines our military is our people,” he said. “Our people are endlessly innovative themselves.”