In a luncheon keynote speech to the U.S. Naval Institute's West 2015 forum in San Diego this week, Adm. William Gortney, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the U.S. Northern Command, described a way in which the aftermath of the two recent wars has varied from the nation’s experience after other wars.
In the past he said, the country has come out of wars more secure. That is not the case today, and many factors play a part: the Islamic State, the still unfurling Arab Spring, ambiguity in relations with Iran and its nuclear stance, and a North Korean leader who is difficult to predict.
And there’s more. In particular, he pointed out the difficulties poised by cyber attacks and homegrown terrorists.
Gortney explained his view of risk and how planning is a critical element of managing it.
Risk to the nation does not develop in a linear fashion, he said. Security problems can occur exponentially, making planning and a forward look critical. That applies to manpower considerations, he said.
“A force does not get hollow at the flick of a switch,” Gortney said.
“Investments in today’s readiness are investments in tomorrow’s readiness.”
That preparedness calculus involves some predictions that are hard to make.
When a DoD budget is being reducing, one thing is certain: It will go back up again, Gortney said. “We just don’t know when.”
In looking at the right mix of platforms going forward, Gortney said the Navy has never been offered what it wants; it’s a fact of budgetary life. “Striking that right balance is what’s really important,” he said.
That balance affects the nation’s position in the world.
“It’s only through credible threat that bullies blink,” he said.