DOD sees 'opportunity' in Army's postwar strategy, says Carter

The Army of the future will be "discriminately lethal" on the battlefield while possessing the diplomatic skills to forge military alliances across the globe, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a speech Wednesday. 

That approach will be the backbone of the Pentagon's postwar strategy and is the basis for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey's blueprint for America's future force, Carter said during his speech at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference in Washington. 

Dempsey's strategy, 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 Army is poised to shed thousands of soldiers from its ranks as part of Dempsey's plan, as the U.S. prepares to pull out the remaining 68,000 troops from Afghanistan over the next two years. 

Roughly 60,000 of those forces remaining in Afghanistan belong to Army units, Carter pointed out. 

Critics of Capitol Hill have questioned the Pentagon's decision to significantly shrink the Army's total force, claiming the service's reduced ranks will not have the necessary manpower to deal with potential threats from China, North Korea, Iran and elsewhere. 

But despite its smaller size, the Army is now a "battle-hardened . . . total force" as a result of its over decade-long engagement in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Carter said. 

Leaning on that direct combat experience, combined with the counterinsurgency skills developed over the last 10 years, Carter said the DOD can now forge the Army into a force that can be "tailored and scaled" to fit any mission requirement. 

He added that that tailored force will be needed to address the constantly changing threat scenarios facing the United States after Afghanistan. 

"While we have been fighting . . . our friends and enemies have not stood still," according to Carter. The first mission for that tailored Army force will be in the Pacific, he added. 

The Asia-Pacific region has been the Pentagon's main focus and the crux of the White House's post-Afghanistan strategy, unveiled in February. 

While the strategy will be primarily supported by increased air and sea power in the region, the Army's ground presence will be key in securing the necessary military partnerships with Asian allies. 

Considering that 10 of the largest land armies reside in the Asia-Pacific, partner nations "will see more of the Army [units] rotating through the region" as those forces begin to cycle out of Afghanistan, Carter said. 

Carter's Wednesday speech was his first since meeting with top military leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the Gulf region during a weeklong goodwill tour in the Middle East. 

In February, at the same time the White House announced its new Pacific-focused strategy, Army leaders began reviewing what options exist to shift the service's massive stockpiles of prepositioned equipment out of Iraq and Afghanistan and into the Pacific. 

Service and combat command leaders expect to begin hammering out possible locations and amounts of equipment sometime next year, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said after a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Feb. 17.