Dempsey: Global Security 'as Uncertain as I've Seen in 40 Years'

President Obama’s outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff warned Congress today that the global security environment “is as uncertain as I’ve seen in 40 years of service.”


Appearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense for the last time, Gen. Martin Dempsey added that “we are at a point where our global aspirations are exceeding our available resources.”

“We’ve heard the Congress of the United States loud and clear that we have to become more efficient and we have to do the rigorous strategic thinking to determine the minimum essential requirements that we believe — that is to say, the uniform military — are essential to protect our national interests across the globe,” he said, testifying for a budget proposal that “represents a responsible combination of capability, capacity and readiness. But we are at the bottom edge of our manageable risk in achieving and fulfilling our national security strategy, as it is currently designed.”

Dempsey said he views the security situation as the most challenging of his career because “we face emerging threats from both state actors — you mentioned the threat that Russia poses to Europe, the threat that Iran poses not just in the nuclear arena, the threat of the DPRK, a rising China, which is not yet a military threat, but if left — if that relationship is not managed carefully could become one.”


“So we have state issues, with state actors, and we’ve got a large body of nonstate actors, ISIL, al-Qaida, other groups that have aligned themselves. And for the first time in my career, they are both manifesting themselves simultaneously,” he continued. “This is not a time to be withdrawing from the world.”

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter noted “the Iranian behavior is concerning on a number of fronts and in a number of locations, both as regards the stability of Gulf countries, freedom of navigation, which is very important, and other things, in addition to their nuclear program, of course, which is the concern that inspires the negotiations to which you referred.”

“I’ll say that for us in the Department of Defense, I think this creates a continuing requirement for a presence in the region, reassurance of allies and partners in the region, particularly Israel, but not confined to Israel, but particularly Israel,” Carter said. “And also, of course, with respect to the nuclear agreement, the president has said that he would take no deal over a bad deal. And, therefore, we are under instruction to have a military option, which we work hard to maintain.”


ISIS, Carter said, is a “continuing threat, both in Iraq and Syria, and then you see the ability of it as a movement to inspire the lost and the radical worldwide to acts of violence.”

“Just to touch on North Korea, North Korea’s behavior — I was in South Korea just a couple of weeks ago — continues to be provocative. Considerable uncertainty about their future behavior, so we need to watch it carefully,” he said. “We say that South Korea is the place where our slogan is we need to be able to fight to night, because it’s not a game over there. We need to be ready every day. And so, as we talk about our budget and our presence and so forth, one thing we can’t trim is our deterrent in the — in the Korean Peninsula.”

“I’ve gone on long enough. We can talk about Russia later, perhaps.”


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