The Defense Strategic Guidance – Address to the OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation

Major General Mark Schissler
Director, Strategy and Policy, Headquarters U.S. European Command
July 18, 2012


Thank you, Mr. Chairperson, for that introduction. Ambassadors and representatives, thank you for having me here today. For me, it is an exceptional honor to be invited to speak to such a prestigious international organization at such a crucial time in the history of international security affairs. I am truly grateful for this opportunity and I hope my remarks will be of interest to you as I discuss the background and implications of the United States’ new Defense Strategic Guidance. As the Chairperson just noted, I’m Major General Mark Schissler and I lead the Policy, Strategy, Partnering, and Capabilities Directorate at Headquarters, United States European Command in Stuttgart, Germany. My Directorate is responsible for the formulation and execution of military-political policy and planning for activities involving relations with other U.S. agencies, allied militaries, and other international military organizations. Now what does that mean? It means we manage the military-to-military bilateral and multi-lateral strategic relationships between the U.S. and 51 nations within the European region, including most of you in this room. We coordinate closely with the U.S. State Department and our Joint Staff headquarters in Washington D.C. to determine the best ways we can support U.S. international policy. We engage the militaries of your nations by helping to develop professionalism and capabilities so you may better provide for your – and the region’s – collective defense.

So with that bit of background in mind, let me say that I have prepared my remarks to be brief to allow us more time for questions and discussion. The discussion is always the most enjoyable part of any speaking engagement.

The Origins of the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance (DSG)

The origins of our most recent strategic review process stretch back to last spring, when heightening concern about the federal deficit began to generate pressure on the Department of Defense’s budget. A confluence of these fiscal pressures and strategic imperatives – including the Arab Spring, the end of the US troop presence in Iraq, and a more defined timeline for Afghanistan drawdown – led President Obama to order a ―fundamental review‖ of the Department’s missions and activities, with the goal of contributing to deficit reduction while meeting U.S. national security responsibilities.

To meet these dual objectives, the President, former Defense Secretary Gates, and current Secretary Panetta all insisted the review would be strategy-driven — that is, it would be based on an analysis of the international environment and would use that analysis to make corresponding adjustments to our objectives, missions, capabilities, programs, and posture. In sum, a strategy-driven approach to budget reductions would ensure adjustments – to include cuts – would preserve DOD’s ability to deliver planned strategic effects.

Secretary Panetta gave us four key principles to guide our efforts:

  1. Maintain the world’s best military;
  2. Avoid a hollow force – meaning we would not re-create the post-Vietnam phenomena of a large force structure without enough resources to adequately train and equip it;
  3. Balance reductions, making cuts strategically; and
  4. Keep faith with our All-Volunteer Force.

Secretary Panetta also made clear that aside from these points, everything was on the table. If the process was to be truly strategic and rigorous, then all programs had to be subject to review on the basis of their merits and their relevance to national security.

Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: The Strategic Guidance

The lives of Americans today are influenced more than ever by events beyond U.S. borders, a fact that reaffirms the long-held, bipartisan strategy that U.S. engagement in the international system is the best way to advance America’s interests. This is the strategy that underpins the United States’ continued commitment to working together with international partners in multilateral organizations like the OSCE.

America’s economic and security futures are intertwined. Continued U.S. strength and influence depend on strong economies both at home and abroad. The U.S. military constitutes only one element of our strategy, but it is a key investment.

To maintain both the vision and the reality of the military’s contributions to U.S. global engagement, the Defense Strategic Guidance identifies several new approaches the Department of Defense will take to achieve U.S. national security objectives.

First, the strategy outlines a rebalancing toward Asia and a continued focus on U.S. military capability in the Middle East – even as we seek to be the security partner of choice across the globe. Indeed, the new strategic guidance calls for tailoring our global defense posture and presence around the world, with the right capabilities and activities in the right places. Let me describe the strategy’s implications for Asia, the Middle East, and Europe:

  • U.S. defense posture and presence in East Asia, Oceania, and Southeast Asia demonstrate, perhaps more than any other manifestation of U.S. engagement, the fact that the United States is a resident in the region.
  • The U.S.’ Asia-Pacific defense posture will be geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable. Meaning we will not seek to limit our presence to only a few isolated locations. We will create integrated supply chains and rotational forces capable of sustaining enduring operations throughout the region. We will do so with the full cooperation and integration of our allies in the region, ensuring we are strategically aligned and focused on common goals which we will achieve through common means. This includes adjustments to our presence that will affect operating patterns, rotationalschedules, basing footprints, and the types of forces and capabilities we can employ.
  • Concurrently, we will maintain an emphasis on the greater Middle East to deter aggression and prevent the emergence of new threats.
  • Our defense efforts in the Middle East will be aimed at countering violent extremists and threats which could have destabilizing effects, as well as upholding our commitments to allies and partners.
  • Of particular concern is the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. U.S. policy will emphasize regional security – in collaboration with Gulf Cooperation Council countries when appropriate – to prevent Iran’s development of a nuclear weapons capability and counter its destabilizing policies.
  • And, of course, the United States will continue to advocate for Israel’s security and a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement.
  • Europe remains vital to much of what the U.S. military accomplishes. Here we will focus our presence on training and engaging with European partners both in and out of the region to enhance interoperability within NATO and sustain Alliance commitments. Enhancing military-to-military interactions with all of our European partners remains a key goal.
  • Obviously, there has been considerable debate about the impact of this rebalancing and how it will affect our engagement within other regions, particularly with respect to Europe.
  • I want to underscore that the U.S. government carefully examined its posture in Europe in the context of present and future security needs and operational demands.
  • Europe is home to our some of our most stalwart allies and partners of choice in addressing global security challenges. We work closely with our European partners and NATO Allies every day in current operations while simultaneously enhancing our collective future security through processes such as ―Smart Defense‖ where we pool, share, and specialize capabilities and resources.
  • Recognizing the evolving nature of the global security environment, and consistent with the NATO Strategic Concept, we decided to modernize our force posture in Europe to meet the full range of 21st century challenges. I know that many of your militaries have undertaken similar efforts to modernize your force postures to address current security challenges as well, and doing so in a transparent way remains an important goal of this organization.
  • In particular, adapting the posture of our ground forces in Europe is an essential part of meeting our collective defense commitments under NATO’s Article 5. As you know, we will reduce our legacy heavy armored brigade presence and deactivate the Army’s storied V Corps headquarters. To balance this reduction, we will allocate a U.S.-based brigade combat team to enhance interoperability with, and reinvigorate our commitment to, the NATO Response Force. As part of this effort, we will work with our Allies and partners to find ways to enhance training at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Grafenwoehr, Germany.
  • Beyond these ground force changes, we are implementing a number of other adjustments to our presence and activities in Europe. We will continue to enhance NATO’s ability to address ballistic missile threats aimed at Europe with radar systems in Turkey, forward-stationed Aegis-capable ships in Spain, and land-based ballistic missile defense sites in Romania and Poland. We will enhance our Special Operations Forces’ capabilities and continued partnership with the NATO Special Operations Forces Headquarters. Finally, we are creating an aviation detachment in Poland to capitalize upon allied training opportunities there.
  • The reduction of ground forces in Europe is phased for minimum operational impact over the next five years. During the past ten years, half of EUCOM’s ground forces were deployed into the Central Command area of responsibility at any given time. This essentially left us with two brigade combat teams in Europe with one of those always preparing for their next wartime deployment. Upon the troop drawdown from Afghanistan, a steady state condition of two brigade combat teams represent an adequate ground combat maneuver force for assigned missions, including activities required to preserve our strategic partnerships.

The United States’ broader activities, capacities, and capabilities are relevant to the future international security environment and deserve attention. Beyond our global posture, there are several other key elements of the strategy I would like to discuss.

As our European allies well know, global leadership has long meant the capacity to take on more than one security challenge at a time. For this reason, we have updated our ―two-war‖ construct into one of being able to defeat a major adversary in one theater while denying aggression elsewhere or imposing unacceptable costs on an aggressor. In simpler terms, this means the United States can still confront more than one adversary at a time, anywhere in the world.

Another of the major tenets of the strategic guidance is that while U.S. forces will be ready to conduct limited counterinsurgency and other stability operations if required, we will no longer size our forces to conduct large-scale, protracted counterinsurgency and stability operations. The United States will emphasize military-to-military cooperation and non-military means – diplomacy and development – to address instability and reduce the demand for significant U.S. force commitments to stability operations.

However, this strategy also recognizes that the future is ever-evolving. Given this uncertainty, we will maintain a broad portfolio of military capabilities that offer versatility across the full range of missions. This means U.S. forces will retain and build on the lessons learned during the past ten years of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will be ready to conduct counterinsurgency and other stability operations, if required, operating alongside coalition forces wherever possible.

Indeed, a smaller force does not mean a lower profile or reduced responsibilities. We are exploring new ways to project power, including our intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance proficiency; precision strike assets; partner security force assistance; rotational forces; and increased networking among our own Services. To do

so, we are protecting key investments in these capabilities which we believe will be highly relevant in the future.

Taken together, these measures ensure the force remains capable across the full spectrum of possible missions and we maintain the ability to surge capacity when needed.


Let me end by underscoring that although I am speaking today about a Defense Department strategic guidance document, achieving U.S. national security objectives requires a whole-of-government approach as well as cooperation with our allies and partners around the world. Our goal in crafting the Defense Strategic Guidance, and the defense budget that flows from that guidance, was to make a down-payment on a future joint force that will be agile, flexible, and ready. That force, combined with the diplomatic and development tools of statecraft, provides the President with many options to guarantee continued global leadership.

Let me conclude my formal remarks here, and now I am pleased to open the floor for your questions and discussion.