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Odierno: Service branches must partner to weather lean times

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Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 12:00 pm

By Lisa Daniel

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - The Defense Department must expand joint service, interagency and allied partnerships during tight fiscal times, and avoid the pitfalls of "doing more with less," Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said last week.

"We must avoid the trap of doing more with less, which is a recipe for creating a hollow force," Odierno, the commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, said at the annual Joint Warfighting Conference in Virginia Beach, Va.

Odierno also said the military services "may have to do less with less," in coming years due to leaner defense budgets and adjusted priorities.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates last year directed that Joint Forces Command be closed and that its assets be redistributed as part of his budget efficiencies initiatives. Odierno said more savings can be found in the department's budget, especially in eliminating redundancy.

Calling the nation's fiscal crisis "perhaps our primary threat to national security," Odierno said leadership will be more important than ever.

"We must determine the risks to our national security objectives, and then set priorities," he said.

While previous decades have been characterized by expansions across the U.S. government and those of its allies, the future decade likely will be one of contraction, the general said. It will require greater creativity, more resourcefulness, and sharing cost burdens across joint U.S. forces and their coalition partners, he said.

"We're now forced to make decisions that previously we could avoid," the general said. "We have to have a national security discussion about ... what are we going to stop doing?"

As the department moves toward tighter budget years, Odierno said, the strength of the military will depend on the makeup of its leaders. Ten years of war have honed highly skilled military officers and a framework of joint services, interagency cooperation and stronger coalition partnerships, he said.

"Effective leadership today doesn't mean protection of a service budget, or a particular weapons system," Odierno said.

"Effective leadership during strategic uncertainty means navigating painful changes with moral and ethical courage, with physical and mental toughness, with an appreciation for the greater goal of our nation's long-term prosperity and security."

The general called on listeners to encourage young people to stay with the military.

"I believe our future depends on our future military leaders," he said. "They will lead us through these difficult times."

Requiring the military services to perform jointly - and also with civilian agencies and coalition partners - is paramount, Odierno said, and is something that should be included in the services' training and doctrine.

"Coalitions don't just enhance international legitimacy for action," he said. "They also bring valuable perspective, unique capabilities and assets." NATO's ongoing air campaign and sanctions in Libya are an example of that, he said.

Odierno encouraged leaders to take a "whole-nation approach" to problem-solving in a rapidly changing world of haves and have-nots, where the disenfranchised "now can challenge the status quo at the speed of Twitter."

"Prosperity is not a zero-sum equation. It is in our best interest that every nation has better prosperity and security," the general said. "It's hard to see a move toward peace unless we move to constantly influence it. ... In my experience, partnering in peace is a really good deal in the long run."

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