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Official Cites Innovation as Hallmark of Future Force

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2012 – The same budget constraints that are helping to produce a smaller, more agile and technologically enabled joint force by 2020 also will drive the growth of innovation in the Defense Department, a senior Pentagon official said today.

“We have objectives for the United States as a leader in the international environment that are aggressive,” said Kathleen Hicks, deputy undersecretary of defense for strategy, plans and forces, in an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.

To achieve such objectives, U.S. forces and other instruments of national power must think through innovative approaches for executing their mission, Hicks said. “I think you’ll see an era of real innovation -- a transformation, we would have called it maybe 20 years ago in the U.S. military,” she said.

Innovations, she said, are under way in the cyber domain and in space, as well as in the Navy-Air Force air-sea battle concept, in which air and naval forces integrate capabilities across domains. They’re also taking place in missile defense, and in leveraging advantages in undersea warfare and in prompt global strike -- an effort to develop a system that can deliver a precision conventional weapon strike anywhere in the world within an hour, she added.

Other new approaches acknowledge realities of the recent defense budget preview delivered Jan. 26 at the Pentagon by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The preview provided a first-order representation of the hard choices involved in implementing President Barack Obama’s defense strategy guidance, she said, including cutting force structure, drawing down ground forces, maintaining the current focus in the Middle East and increasing the commitment in Asia.

Partnerships and smaller footprints will take up the slack for the Defense Department in places such as Africa and Latin America, where the Budget Control Act has curtailed growth in military capacity building, Hicks said.

“The net effect on an area like Africa should be relatively minimal,” she added. “The strategy clearly calls for the United States military to continue to engage with nations throughout the world -- like-minded nations that have common values and can help us partner in areas like counterpiracy and counterterrorism and humanitarian and disaster relief -- and certainly that applies in regions such as Africa … and Latin America.”

In those regions, Hicks said, the Defense Department “will continue to ensure that combatant commanders are resourced so they can engage effectively.”

The strategy, she added, calls for defense leaders to think about low-cost, small-footprint approaches to doing that. “And frankly,” she added, in both [U.S. Southern Command and the U.S. Africa Command], we already undertake a lot of innovative, small-footprint approaches, and we’ll continue to explore new ways to do that.”

In areas of increasing importance, such as Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region, DOD is seeking new ways to partner, Hicks said. In Australia, she noted, there will be a rotational deployment of U.S. service members part of the year, and growing opportunities to operate and train with an ally.

“That will really be the hallmark of our approach going forward,” Hicks said. An agreement with Singapore, she added, will base four U.S. littoral combat ships there.

“These seemingly small investments are incredibly beneficial in terms of what we get and what the partners get in terms of engagement and stability,” Hicks said.

Kathleen Hicks

Related Sites:
Panetta Announces Fiscal 2013 Budget Priorities

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