Dempsey unveils blueprint for Pentagon's future force

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Friday released his vision for what the U.S. military will look like over the coming decades. 

The document, dubbed the "Capstone Concept for Joint Operations: Joint Force 2020," represents a shift from the types of missions and forces that dominated the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

"The strength of any joint force has always been the combining of unique service capabilities into a coherent operational whole," the four-star general wrote. 

"Future joint forces will routinely employ more such combinations than ever before, with [international] partners as well as within ... to achieve efficiencies and synergies not previously feasible," he added. 

DOD leaders have been aggressively pursuing new partnerships and bolstering existing ties with allies across the globe in recent years. 

Fostering standing regional alliances, particularly in the Mideast and the Pacific, have helped the DOD set the stage for the pending American withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Pentagon's shift into the Asia-Pacific region. 

Conversely, Pentagon officials have been busily building up partnerships in emerging global hot spots, such as Africa, to prevent terror groups from gaining footholds in those areas. 

Under Dempsey's new strategy, those efforts will be put into overdrive and allow "expertise and resources existing outside the U.S. military to be better integrated in a variety of operational contexts," according to the guidance. 

Along with leaning more on allies' resources, the future U.S. military will look to increase its "strategic flexibility" by leveraging more specialized, tailored capabilities -- from cyberwarfare tactics to special operations forces -- to achieve its goals. 

These methods will impart a precision strike-type approach, backed by allied support, to tackle global conflicts in the future. 

That approach will "add to our strategic flexibility and global responsiveness ... [and] perhaps most significantly, their use does not always constitute an irreversible policy commitment" as seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. 

Dempsey's approach to future conflicts should move DOD away from the massive engagements American forces experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it could help military leaders cope with the looming fiscal pressures facing the Pentagon. 

DOD is facing a $500-billion, across-the-board reduction to its coffers under sequestration, which is part of the White House's deficit reduction plan. 

While Congress is looking for a way to avoid those cuts from going into place next year, those reductions will have a massive impact on how and where U.S. forces operate worldwide. 

Panetta and Dempsey have repeatedly stated the cuts, if they happen, will not affect DOD's ability to execute any mission around the world at any time. 

That said, the strategy's emphasis on tailored operations with exact objectives, with the large-scale military operations shouldered by partner nations, should help help DOD alleviate its fiscal concerns as well as its strategic ones. 

"The ... implications of adopting this capstone concept are potentially dramatic and wide-ranging, and will far exceed those noted by this paper," Dempsey wrote. 

"We offer it so that all of us can begin exploring its validity and what it might achieve for the Joint Force of 2020," he added.