War on Terrorism

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gates: Services Must Balance Old, New Capabilities

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

MOSUL, Iraq, April 8, 2011 – As they move ahead, the services must find the right balance between the new capabilities they’ve had to develop in Iraq and Afghanistan while maintaining the traditional capabilities they used in previous wars, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.

During a visit with soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Advise and Assist Brigade serving here in U.S. Division North, Gates said that when “dwell time” at home stations between deployments increases to two years, which should happen by the end of the year, soldiers will be able to resume the full-spectrum training that has suffered from long and frequent deployments over the last decade.

“What I want to be sure of is that as we come out of Iraq, and eventually out of Afghanistan, we don’t forget what we’ve learned in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said, “and we [also] need to get back to people training with armor and artillery and so on.”

The secretary noted that aircraft carriers have dominated the Navy, fighters and bombers have dominated the Air Force, armor has dominated the Army, and amphibious capability has dominated the Marine Corps.

“What I’m trying to get people to appreciate is that in the 21st century, … the [U.S.] Army meeting an army like the Soviet army coming through the Fulda Gap in Germany is not likely to happen,” he said. “So the Army has to have a full range of capabilities -- and it needs to buy equipment that gives a full range of capabilities -- so it can do all of the different aspects of the mission.”

As another example, Gates noted that the United States hasn’t had an Air Force pilot shot down in air-to-air combat since the Vietnam War, though air-to-air and bomber capabilities have dominated the Air Force for most of its history.

“But guess what?” he said. “Last year, the Air Force flew 37,000 combat support missions in Afghanistan. They medevaced 9,700 soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors. Those are important missions. So I want the Air Force ... to have bombers and tac[tical] air and an air-to-air capability, but I don’t want them to forget about that combat support mission. I don’t want them to forget about medevac. I want them to have the equipment to do all of that.”

The big challenge facing all of the services, Gates said, is finding the right balance of capabilities and how to go about it jointly.

“We’ve operated jointly in this theater and in Afghanistan in ways we’ve never done before in the American military,” the secretary told the soldiers. “But we don’t procure jointly. Very few of our acquisitions are joint, so I think we’ve got to figure that one out, too, particularly in a time of limited budgets.”

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