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18 March 2005

U.S. Military Strategy Focuses on Preventing Future Conflict

One goal is working with allies on strategy development, Feith says

Washington – As the United States pursues its military strategy in the years ahead, it will focus on preventive measures designed to keep security problems from developing into crises -- and crises from erupting into wars, according to a senior defense official.

Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith told reporters March 18 that these measures will include conducting stability operations, pursuing the Proliferation Security Initiative, positioning U.S. forces in locations where they can be readily deployed when needed, and solidifying security cooperation with other nations.

In addressing requirements for coalition warfare in the ensuing years, Feith said the United States wants to work with its allies not only to carry out combat operations, “but also in the development of strategy.”

There is a recognition, the official said, that as the United States pursues its national interests, such as in prosecuting the War on Terror, there are certain missions “that can be done as a practical matter only by other countries.”  Terrorism operatives are scattered about in countries with which the United States is friends, Feith said, but the only effective action that can be taken against the terrorists will be that by governments of the nations where the terrorists are located.

Feith made his remarks as the department released two key reports: the annual National Defense Strategy (NDS) and the biannual National Military Strategy (NMS).  The reports draw upon the lessons learned from liberating Afghanistan and Iraq as well as humanitarian operations that have been conducted in various parts of the world.  The strategies will also serve as the framework for the Quadrennial Defense Review; the next QDR will be issued in early 2006.

In the foreword to the NDS, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says the strategy is focused on “the importance of influencing events before challenges become more dangerous and less manageable.”  The notion, he said, “is to create favorable security conditions around the world and to continue to transform how we think about security, formulate strategic objectives and adapt to achieve success.”

The full text of the unclassified NDS may be viewed on the Internet in PDF format at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Mar2005/d20050318nds1.pdf.

Feith said the United States wants to work with its international partners to develop a common assessment of the overall security environment, existing and future threats, and the kinds of capabilities needed to address them.  The objective is to identify what actions can be taken to shape the environment to make it less likely that a crisis will occur, he said, offering the intervention in Haiti and humanitarian assistance to nations hard hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami as two examples.

Much of the NDS addresses the need to deny ideological support to terrorist networks, Feith said, whether that is denying safe havens, weapons, or access to targets.  Countering ideological support for terrorists was a subject Secretary Rumsfeld addressed in a town hall meeting earlier the same day.

“We know that freedom and opportunity are the surest antidotes to extremism,” Rumsfeld told employees at the Pentagon.

“Extremist ideologies suffer when governments such as in Afghanistan protect women and imprison terrorists instead of protecting terrorists and imprisoning women,” the secretary said.  “Extremists ideologies suffer when millions of Iraqis vote in defiance of a Zarqawi or a bin Laden,” he continued, “And the enemy’s extremist ideology will meet its end when [the] wider Middle East sheds itself of tyranny and of violence and extremism and carves out a future of tolerance.”

Various actors around the world are seeking ways to attack or constrain U.S. interests, Feith said, and they will try to do so in creative ways, such as pursuing legal or technological lines of attack.  Asked by a reporter what he meant by legal lines, he said some individuals will try to “criminalize foreign policy and bring prosecutions in where there’s no proper basis for jurisdiction under international law as a way of trying to pressure American officials.”

Asked if he were referring to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Feith answered affirmatively, and he restated the U.S. position that the ICC “should apply to the countries that have signed the International Court Treaty, and it should not be imposed on countries that have not signed that treaty.”

Navy Rear Admiral William Sullivan, vice director for strategy, plans and policy on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also addressed this point at the rollout for the two reports.  If there are nations that don’t share U.S. goals, he said, “they may try to use established international fora to inhibit us [from] doing what we need to do in our own national interest.”

Sullivan also highlighted aspects of the second report, the National Military Strategy.  He said both the NDS and the NMS were developed in parallel, but the NMS takes broad strategic guidance contained in the NDS and operationalizes it so that the military services and those combatant commanders assigned geographically and functionally can ascertain what types of military capabilities they need for their missions.  Some of the key points include the need for military forces to be agile and to react and deploy rapidly from disparate locales, and for the military and various U.S. government agencies to be able to work together “in a more interactive way,” he said.

The full text of the unclassified portions of the NMS are available on the Internet in PDF at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Mar2005/d20050318nms.pdf. The NMS is unclassified, but its annexes are not.

Feith said one of the major factors behind the two reports is the requirement for the military to cope with strategic uncertainty.  “We need to plan to be surprised,” he said.  Asked if any particular regions of the world should be the focus of U.S. attention, the under secretary said the military does not have that luxury since U.S. interests extend across all regions of the globe.

For a transcript of the Feith/Sullivan briefing, go to: http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2005/tr20050318-2282.html

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)