Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

From the Chairman: Making Strategy Work

Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

From the Chairman: Making Strategy Work

Article excerpt

Earlier this year, the President and Secretary of Defense released new strategic defense guidance, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense. Six months on, I would like to share some of my insights about making the strategy and about making the strategy work.

Strategy is essentially about choices--choices about how to achieve our aims with the resources available to us. A sound strategy reconciles ends, ways, and means. Strategic coherence, however, does not just happen. Rather, it results from dialogue and debate. Our new defense strategy emerged from just such a collaborative process. The Service chiefs, who are charged with developing the force for the strategy, were heard early and often. The combatant commanders, charged with executing the strategy, all weighed in. And we were all afforded extraordinary access to our civilian leaders. Since the strategy was released, the Vice Chairman and I have gathered with the Service chiefs and combat-ant commanders for three full-day strategy seminars in Quantico, Virginia. We used these unprecedented forums to stress-test the strategy against some of the most challenging security scenarios we may face as a nation. This is exactly how it is supposed to work.

Strategic choices are not made in isolation. Instead, they are informed by a context. Once made, choices have consequences that create new context. It is an iterative process--that never ends. In this respect, strategy is as much emergent as it is deliberate.

The context we confront today can best be described as a security paradox. True, geo-political trends are ushering in greater levels of peace and stability worldwide. But destructive technologies are also available to a wider array of adversaries. Destructive--and disruptive--technologies are proliferating down and out. They are proliferating vertically, down to violent nonstate actors, and they are proliferating horizontally, across advanced militaries in the world. As a result, more people have the ability to harm us than at any point in many decades.

Another compelling feature of our time is a new fiscal reality. Cost has reemerged as an independent variable in the U.S. national security equation. We have often defined our desired endstates before fully considering the cost. The money was there for us. As we advance on the joint force that we will need in 2020, we must consider cost sooner in our decisionmaking. We need to be more affordable in every possible way.

Within this context, the strategy makes choices that are already being put to work. I will highlight three, but there are more. …

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