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Dunford: US should never send troops into a fair fight

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford, Jr (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

The US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff repeated to the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee what has become a mantra to him: he doesn’t believe the United States should ever send American service members into a fair fight.

“Rather, we have to maintain a joint force that has the capability and credibility to assure our allies and partners, deter aggression and overmatch any potential adversary,” Gen. Joe Dunford, who was joined by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, told the committee members.

Carter and Dunford provided testimony on Defense Department’s fiscal year 2017 budget request.

Improving current capabilities, restoring full-spectrum readiness and developing leaders for the future are key to maintaining the greatest advantage the U.S. military has over any rival — its people, the chairman said.

No Shortage of Challengers

The United States has no shortage of challengers from state adversaries to non-traditional foes. The five challenges the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2017 budget request focuses on are Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and violent extremism.

Russia, China, North Korea and Iran continue to invest in military capabilities that look for the soft spot in American defenses, Dunford said. “They are also advancing their interests through competition with a military dimension that falls short of traditional armed conflict and the threshold for a traditional military response,” he said.

The actions of Russia in Ukraine, China in the South China Sea and Iran throughout the Middle East are examples of the challenges the DoD must address, he said.

But the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and al-Qaida still pose dangers to the homeland, the American people and friends, allies and partners, the general said. “Given the opportunity, such extremist groups would fundamentally change our way of life,” he said.

Nuclear Capabilities

Added to these challenges is the priority to modernize the nuclear capabilities of the United States, Dunford said

The nuclear triad underpins deterrence in the world, but new domains also must be considered, the chairman said. Space and cyberspace are now realms of combat, and the nation must develop and maintain credible capabilities in these realms as well, he said.

Underlying all these threats is the reality of the fiscal environment, Dunford added.

“Despite partial relief from Congress on sequester-level funding, the department has absorbed $800 billion in cuts and faces an additional $100 billion of sequestration-induced risk through fiscal 2021,” he said. “Absorbing significant cuts over the past five years has resulted in our under-investing in critical capabilities. Unless we reverse sequestration, we will be unable to execute the current defense strategy.”

Right Trajectory

Overall, he told the senators, DoD’s FY 17 budget request “puts us on the right trajectory, but it will require your support to ensure the joint force has the depth, flexibility, readiness and responsiveness that ensures our men and women will never face a fair fight.”

But, the chairman warned, a bow wave of requirements lie ahead, including those tied to the Ohio-class submarine replacement program, continued cyber and space investment programs and the B-21 long-range bomber program.

By Jim Garamone

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