Mullen Issues Guidance Listing Priorities for Joint Staff

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2008 – Dealing with the greater Middle East, avoiding the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, resetting the forces and speeding up the Joint Staff are among the priorities the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has set for the coming year.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen issued his guidance for the coming year yesterday. Some of the guidance has not changed since last year, when Mullen first took office, some has been fine-tuned after the experiences of the past year, and some new items have made the list.

The chairman said he issued the guidance to give the 1,500 members of the Joint Staff the path ahead and to prioritize the strategic objectives for the future.

Mullen said the U.S. military is the most combat-hardened force in the world today, and that the force has global responsibilities and will continue to have them.

“The sustained presence and persistent engagement of our forces are the most effective way to develop the lasting relationships and cooperation necessary to secure our vital national interests,” Mullen wrote in the guidance.

The chairman said the U.S. military advantage could slip if not maintained. Still, he said, not all problems in the world will respond to a military solution.

“We cannot meet the challenges of today and those of tomorrow with military power alone,” he wrote. “We must guard against further militarization of our foreign policy.”

The chairman said he wants not only military capabilities, but also the capabilities of other U.S. agencies and foreign partners, to be successful against the threats facing the free world. He called on Joint Staff members to “think ahead on the strategic level, stay current at the operational level and be informed by tactical developments.” He said the U.S. military and Joint Staff still are more reactive than anticipatory.

The greater Middle East remains the focus of the chairman’s guidance. This area stretches from North Africa to Pakistan, and includes the Horn of Africa. “Combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan remain our immediate priority,” he wrote. “We must do all we can to win these two wars.”

Afghanistan and Pakistan are linked throughout the chairman’s guidance. “I believe the nexus of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction remains the greatest threat to the United States and our vital national interests,” he wrote. “Al-Qaida sanctuaries in the under-governed regions of Pakistan further contribute to regional instability.” He said the safe havens in Pakistan are the greatest potential source of an attack on the United States.

He called on the Joint Staff to conduct continuous assessments of strategies and campaign plans for the United States, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. He also called on the Joint Staff to work to develop a military strategy to support the national security strategy for the greater Middle East.

Resetting and revitalizing American forces is another priority for the chairman. The pace of operations since Sept. 11, 2001, has precluded full training for many American servicemembers, he noted. Further, he said, many men and women have deployed multiple times.

“We have been at war for more than seven years, and I remain concerned that the high pace of operations will further degrade our warfighting systems, equipment, platforms and people if we fail to deliver on initiatives such as grow the force and reset funding,” he wrote.

The chairman said he wants to change peacetime processes that continue on the Joint Staff and the services, and that he also is concerned about the metrics used to measure the health of the force. He also said it is important to develop and fund an operational reserve within the reserve components.

The chairman also asked the members of the Joint Staff to look at the global and long-term view of American military posture.

“It is imperative that we remain capable of executing our war plans and engaged around the world – building partner capacity, improving international and interagency cooperation and fostering both security and stability,” he wrote.

He also wants no let-up in deterrence as the new administration takes the reins of power in January. The chairman said he wants to work with the new administration to craft the National Military Strategy and ready the ground for the next Quadrennial Defense Review. He also called on planners to “articulate a vision for the future force, including an estimate of future threats and the military requirements to counter those threats.”

The chairman made it clear he wants to speed up the decision process on the Joint Staff. He said the organization “must be capable of responding at the speed my job requires, not the speed a particular process currently allows.”

Processes on the Joint Staff will change, and the guidance calls on the director of the Joint Staff to act. “No process is sacrosanct – [the director of the Joint Staff] shall break and redesign as needed – outcomes are what counts,” Mullen wro