By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
May 20, 2008 - While the United States fields the best military in the world today, that power "is not assured tomorrow," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee today. The president's fiscal 2009 defense budget request is important for the long-range strength of the U.S. armed forces, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said.
Ensuring the strength of tomorrow's armed forces is why the budget request raises readiness funding by $5.7 billion. "That's why it calls for more than $180 billion for strategic modernization," he said. The budget also calls for a $700 million increase for research and development to $11.5 billion.
The request calls for completing the stand-up of U.S. Africa Command, growing the Army and Marine Corps, and improving U.S. cybersecurity and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, Mullen said.
"I'm convinced this budget reveals balance in our vision for the future: a realization that, while we must continue to develop irregular warfare skills needed to effectively wage irregular warfare both today and tomorrow, we must also prepare for, build for and train for a broad spectrum of warfighting capabilities," he said.
The chairman stressed that the Iraq war is America's No. 1 strategic priority. "We cannot afford, the world cannot afford, to have an Iraq unable to govern, defend or sustain itself in effect and in practice as a failed state," he said. "[If] we get it wrong there, we place an unacceptable risk on our national interests throughout the Middle East.
"We get it wrong there and Iran's growing and negative influence, Hezbollah's growing extremism or al-Qaida's ability to reconstitute itself only intensify and imperil the region that much more," he continued. "That's why we've worked so hard to improve our counterinsurgency skills and to adapt when necessary to changing conditions. We've attained far too much experience in this type of warfare to ignore the lessons learned or the practicalities of application elsewhere."
Counterinsurgency operations are more than simple small-arms firefights. Precision air strikes, cyberwarfare against extremists, and diplomatic efforts are all part of these operations, Mullen said.
The Iraqi government is becoming more confident, and Iraqi security forces are becoming more capable. "We saw that in Basra recently," Mullen said. "We're seeing it today in Sadr City. And Iraqi security forces are leading in many areas in our current fight in Mosul. I'm encouraged, but we are far from done."
In Afghanistan, the United States is working with NATO allies to ensure similar progress.
"Fresh violence in the south, a burgeoning poppy trade and increasingly unstable and ungoverned border with Pakistan all tear at the very fragile seams of security," Mullen said.