U.S. military service chiefs discuss defense strategy in conflict areas around the world and cooperative efforts with U.S. allies.
The Robert B. McKeon Endowed Series on Military Strategy and Leadership features prominent individuals from the military and intelligence communities.
HAASS: Well, good evening. Welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations, to the Robert B. McKeon Endowed Series on Military Strategy and Leadership. And as you can see, we are extraordinarily blessed, fortunate, and then some to have the six service chiefs. It doesn’t get better than this.
I’m the fortunate guy who presides over this meeting. I’m Richard Haass, president of the Council. We are going to have a discussion for about forty-five minutes, give or take, then we’ll open it up to questions from our members, both here in the room and in Zoomland.
Let me say one thing about this series. The Robert B. McKeon Endowed Series on Military Strategy and Leadership features prominent individuals from the military and intelligence communities. It is made possible by a generous gift from Bob McKeon, who was the founder of Veritas Capital. The series was inaugurated, wow, fourteen years ago. Since Bob’s death a decade ago, the series continues in his honor and his memory. And I’m extremely glad that his widow, Clare McKeon, and other friends and family are joining us virtually.
As you can see, for the first time in one meeting we have six service chiefs. We’ve got James McConville, General McConville, who is the chief of staff of the Army; General David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps; Admiral Michael Gilday, the CNO; General Charles Q.—as known C.Q.—Brown, chief of staff of the Air Force; John—or more commonly known as Jay—Raymond, General Raymond, chief of space operations and is the wearer of the coolest uniform in town—(laughs)—and Admiral Karl Schultz, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. Again, we are thrilled.
I want to—I want to thank them for being here tonight. I want to thank them for the support of our Military Fellows Program, where we get the best and the brightest and it’s our collective commitment not to get in the way of their extraordinary futures. And lastly and most importantly, I want to thank them for—I’d say between or among the six of them we’ve got close to 250 years of extraordinary service to this country, so thank you all, really. (Applause.)
As I warned them beforehand, this meeting is on the record. And as I said, if I can find them, I will ask some questions to begin with and then we will open it up to—you know, we need—it goes without saying and rather in a context we haven’t met in in my memory, in the context of a major war in Europe. So I’d like to begin with that because it is the 800-pound gorilla. The war’s almost three months old now. And so my question for you is: What do you see as the emerging lessons? What’s surprised you? What hasn’t surprised you? What do you see, in some ways, as the implications for us not just in terms of the outcome, but what you’re learning as you and the people around you watch, observe closely the unfolding of this war? What are you making of it? And we can—why don’t we go—you know, we’ll start—(inaudible).
MCCONVILLE: I think, you know, one of my biggest takeaways as I take a look at it—you know, we often like to find militaries, at least from where I sit, with capabilities, capacity, and will to fight. And you take a look at two forces, and one has much more capability as far as weapons systems and the other one—and a lot more capacity, but there’s this idea of will to fight that is so important that we’re seeing the Ukrainians standing strong. And it starts at the top of the leadership. We’ve seen other places around the world where leadership didn’t stay, we didn’t have the will to fight, and I think that’s a(n) incredible lesson for us all to take away.
HAASS: Can I just follow up on one thing? Are you surprised by how good Ukraine has done? And the other side of that coin, are you surprised by how poorly the Russians have fared?
MCCONVILLE: Well, we have been working very closely, a lot of the services, with the Ukrainians. They’ve been trained over the last eight years, and a lot more than many people know. So we’re very pleased with how well they’re performing. And again, we take a look at on the Russian side, you know, there’s that old adage about, you know, professionals study logistics and the will to fight, and so they’ve had some challenges in those areas.
HAASS: Just one last follow up. Was there—when there’s a postmortem done—in some ways if the head of DNI—the DNI were here and the head of military intelligence here, did we essentially overestimate Russian capacities militarily? Are we, in a sense, you might even say pleasantly surprised, but surprised nonetheless about what we’ve seen and haven’t seen?
MCCONVILLE: I like to plan for the worst, at least, and then see. If it—if it doesn’t turn out that bad, I think we’re in much better shape. So I would not underestimate what the Ukrainians have done. This is a pretty vicious fight that’s going on that’s not over.
HAASS: General Berger, do you want to—
BERGER: General McConville mentioned to have been training with them for eight years. I think it’s probably fair, then, if you’re talking about lessons learned, the last ninety days are not the—are just the latest. It began, in other words, eight years ago. So there’s some things that are very clear eight years later that I don’t think are near-term lessons learned that we’ve watched very closely since 2014.
People talk about the nature of war and the character of war. I think, for me, that’s an easy framework because the nature kind of—those are the enduring things that we’re watching that don’t change. They’re very clear. And you—and General McConville mentioned them. The character of war—different weapons systems, different concepts—that’s—clearly, we got to watch that in the last ninety days and see what it takes to apply going forward—the proliferation of sensors, the ability of small units that have tactical mobility. And like General McConville has pointed out, the kind of mission intent that can operate, make decisions, decentralized, boy, they have a huge advantage over the big, bulky, can’t-move-very-quick kind of formations. Just that evolution in warfare is fascinating to watch. We definitely need to take lessons learned from that.
GILDAY: Yeah. I’ll touch on information and also cyber. And so I think—I think that the United States and our allies effectively used information to take away Putin’s strategic surprise, his operational surprise as we moved closer to what we considered to be the date that they cross the line of departure, their tactical surprise, and then pulled the rug out from under him with respect to Putin’s ability to really use false-flag operations in an effective way. I also think that—I was—I was a bit surprised by their lack of effective use of cyber warfare, which I would have expected to precede anything they did in a much more significant way.
HAASS: Yeah. For a lot of people, that seems—if Sherlock Holmes were here, it would be the dog that didn’t bark in the night. Do we have any sense of why? Is it that they weren’t what they were cracked up to be, that we’re better than we—our defenses are better, that we’ve deterred them? Do you have any sense of why they haven’t played that card or whether that card is still sitting in their hands and they can still play it?
GILDAY: I think probably the latter. I think that there are a number of escalatory possibilities that are left on the table. That could be one of them. I think there was some cyber action targeted at Ukraine itself, but I think it was narrowly targeted and we didn’t see, you know, a more broad use of it.
HAASS: One specific naval question. You know, with the loss of the Moskva, the flagship, was there anything about that—even though in the immediate tactical sense it was, obviously, a good day for Ukraine and we were pleased to see it, as someone who oversees a large navy with all these platforms, was there anything about that that also made you slightly worried about future or uncomfortable?
GILDAY: Well, I think you can never have a sense of hubris. A ship like that is a formidable warship, you know, prickling with weapons. But at the same time, any commander has to understand—has to understand your environment that you’re operating in. You have to understand the capabilities of your adversary and your own vulnerabilities and your own capabilities. And I think that Moskva, where she was positioned off the coast of Ukraine, I would have been concerned about that as a commander, given the fact that they could get their hands on weapons that could put—could put—could put them within reach. And then, you know, what kind of—what kind of information and warning did Russia have on—or not—on Ukraine’s use of weapons like that. So I think that they’re—I think that Moskva was mispositioned, and I don’t know exactly why she did not see the threat or engage the threat, but—
BROWN: I’d build on what Mike said. You know, one part is the information and how that played out, but I would take it maybe a step further and align to some of the aspect of relationships and allies and partners—the ability to use all the information that we had and the previous relationships to have the international community respond as quickly as they did.
And then I’d build on what the—both Jim and Dave said. There’s a state partnership program where we’ve had states working with different countries not just for eight years, but since the wall came down in some aspects, and California is a state partner with Ukraine. And so you have these long-term relationships and personal relationships that really add value.
The other piece that I look at as an airman now is the aspect of air superiority on both sides of the coin. Right now there’s contested airspace over Ukraine, and the fact that the Russians don’t have air superiority and the fact that the Ukrainians are being able to actually deny them air superiority based on how they use their surface-to-air weapons systems, and to be very dynamic in how they’ve done that, to put doubt into the Russians that they don’t necessarily fly into Ukraine. And this is probably one of the first times in a long time we’ve had real contested airspace. I’d probably go back to Desert Shield/Desert Storm was probably the last time we really had, or aspects of Iraqi Freedom where you really had contested airspace. And this is something that we’re going to see in the future that we, collectively, can’t take for granted, that we’ll have air superiority.
RAYMOND: Yeah. I’ll touch on it from the space side. Clearly, access to space is important. We have integrated it into everything that we do. What’s been interesting with Russia-Ukraine is the value of commercial space, especially to a country that may not have all the space capabilities—their own organic space capabilities. So the value of commercial space and bringing partnerships together and sharing information—allowing us to share information more broadly, and I think that might be one of the big things that comes out of it from our perspective.
SCHULTZ: Yeah. Maybe just a few points.
Not original but to Mike’s point, I think the power of information and transparency of the information, I think that changed things from day one.
I think this team here has demonstrated repeatedly the ability of the United States armed forces for logistics. We see the criticality there.
Dave’s point of mission command I’d foot-stomp.
And I always make the joke sometimes when we’re talking about things and numbers, I always say: As the Russians say, there’s a certain quality and quantity. But I would tell you, I think what we learned is there’s a certain quality and quality. It’s the readiness of the NCOs. It’s the—it’s the soldiers, their will to fight, you know, General McConville’s point. I think what we’re seeing here is, you know, the NCOs, the petty officers of the Navy and Coast Guard, that is the nation’s advantage here, that we develop and invest in these young men and women. And they’re professionals, and when you put them in whatever the challenging situation is I think they rise to the occasion because they are trained professionals. Costs a lot of money to train them. They’re harder to find. But I think that’s the key ingredient here.
HAASS: General, can I just ask you one question? I assume the Army was—took the lead—if I’m wrong on this, tell me—in training, starting in 2014, Ukraine. Can you say something? Because as I see it as an outsider, it is—it represented almost a fundamental change in military culture, not just organization but culture, pushing decision-making and responsibility down and so forth. Do you have any special insights into it? Because I’m hard-pressed to think of any—an organization that could evolve so significantly in so short a span of time and then perform as well as it has. It just—it seems to me something of a rather unheralded, remarkable success, both for us on one side but, obviously, for them as well.
MCCONVILLE: I think there was—you know, certainly all the services and allies and partners, we’re working very closely. We talked about the State Partnership Program. We have talked about special forces. We have talked about exercises. And you know, they went through a—pretty rigorous, combat training center-like rotations for their brigades, so they were kind of taught in how we do warfare, and they took to it. They didn’t go through a scripted-type exercise that some of our adversaries have done, where they script everything and they don’t have to go against a very aggressive enemy that’s going to show you where you have some issues in training. And I think they took that on, and I think the fact that they recognized it was a threat, they were very serious about their training. And even to this day, the feedback we get, they are very serious about how they train and the ability to execute what they need to do with the weapons system they’re getting.
HAASS: When we had this conversation a year ago, the—much more of the conversation was on Asia or the Middle East, Afghanistan and all that. So what—we now have this conversation essentially in a context of three theaters of American national security policy: obviously, the European theater; the Indo-Pacific, as it’s called; and Middle East, or greater Middle East.
When I was in the Pentagon back when, you know, there was the big debate about the two-war stressing and testing of the military, and we had endless conversations about two-war strategy, swing strategies, and everything else. Well, now we’re in some ways contemplating a three-theater or three-venue strategy for the U.S. military. Say something about that. I’m just curious whether—is that the right way to look at it? Does that put—does that ask, in some ways, too much of you all? Does it mean that we have to think again sequentially? What is—what is it—or we have to think about larger numbers of smaller, perhaps less-capable platforms? How do we think about a United States that has to now prepare for potentially three major sets—although different—contingencies in three very different theaters of the world? We can reverse it this time and we’ll give General McConville a break.
SCHULTZ: I think if you turn—we looked at spring of ’21 and we saw some feint of Russian forces towards the border, and I think—you know, I don’t think we envisioned, you know, less than a year later we’d be where we are, Richard. So I think the facts are, yeah, you do have to think through that lens.
The pacing threat, the National Security Strategy, you know, there’s a—you know, a classified version that’s still in the works, the final touches, but I think we are talking about the Russia situation much differently than we were six months ago. I think the Middle East remains an area. From a Coast Guard perspective, we have a small footprint there of 350 or so folks operating six patrol boats. You know, that is still an area where there’s kinetic activity against merchant vessels and things.
So I think reality dictates strategy. I mean, you can write a strategy and want to align it to the world you want to sort of defend against, but I think what we find ourselves is—the reality we find ourselves is there’s a very real—not U.S. forces on the ground, but a real problem affecting the stability of Europe for the first time in seventy-seven years. That’s a fact. Pacing threat remains China, and you know, we got to think about the Middle East in still a very constructive, informed fashion.
RAYMOND: I agree. I think it’s clear to me—it’s clear that China is our pacing challenge.
You know, on the stage here one of these things isn’t quite like the other, and that’s the Space Force. We operate global capabilities all the time. And so if you—if you build a satellite constellation to provide global—or provide capabilities over INDOPACOM, you’re going to get the same—you’re going to get the use of that at EUCOM as well. We don’t deploy, largely, to the fight. It’s more of having capabilities globally to be able to support all—support all theaters, and that’s really what we’re focused on. But it’s a little bit different from what the other services have to deal with.
BROWN: I would say, you know, we’re still going to have global interests.
HAASS: Pardon me?
BROWN: We’re still going to have global interests. And the aspect as a military is—it goes back to my first comments on allies and partners. And when you look at this National Defense Strategy, it does, just like all the others, have allies and partners, but I’d say it has more teeth in it. And this is where we have to work more closely with our allies and partners so that we do this together.
We saw some of this coming together with NATO, and NATO’s probably stronger than it’s ever been because of current events. But what I also see is many of our partners—and I’ve talked to one just this week—they’re looking at capabilities to increase their capabilities, and how do we work more closely with them so we do all this together and it’s not just on the backs of the United States. We may be the catalyst because they’ll follow our lead, but they have a lot of capability in quantity and in quality that we can all work together.
HAASS: So not to put words in your mouth, but does that in some ways answer the question that there’s limits to how much more we can realistically do ourselves? But then the good news is we don’t have to do it ourselves and that we’ve got, you know, Japan and South Korea and Australia and others in the Indo-Pacific; we’ve, obviously, got NATO; and we’ve got a growing group of countries in the Middle East; that in each one of these theaters, essentially, we’re talking about a coalition approach? And is that, essentially, the way we square the circle?
BROWN: We’re going to have to. The world is getting more and more complex. I mean, it’s not as simple as it used to be. And when you think about how much information flows and how quickly things can change and happen, we’ve got to work together. And that, to me, is going to be one of the important aspects that help us address many of these problems, you know, early in the process so they don’t become much larger problems at a later date. And that’s why I think the allies and partners piece is important, because you don’t want to get into a conflict. And so that’s why I look at it that way.
RAYMOND: I think it’s a great advantage that the U.S. has.
HAASS: The advantage of having partners?
RAYMOND: Having partners.
GILDAY: I’ll build on that and I’ll make a second point.
With respect to allies and partners, I think what you’re seeing with the services, with the joint force, and some of our allies and partners is that we’re focusing more on interchangeability and not merely interoperability. And it’s an important distinction, where somebody can actually—as an example, last year at one point we did not have a carrier strike group to fill in in the Arabian Gulf. And so the French Charles de Gaulle Strike Group, under U.S. tactical control, filled that gap for us. There are other examples. I think expanding allies and partners—India is a really good example, an important ally in an important region, some important real estate there.
The other thing I would say is our sharing of technology. And what our Navy’s doing right now in the Middle East with partners like Israel, Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE is we are sharing unmanned technology in a way that we never have before—experimenting, learning quickly, leveraging foreign countries to help us solve some difficult technical problems. So I think perhaps being a little bit more permissive in terms of what we share, willing to assume just a touch more risk I think in some areas is going to be important going forward because of the reasons that you stated upfront.
HAASS: So let me ask an undiplomatic question, since I’m no longer a diplomat. You mentioned India. India has basically, shall we say, been guarded in its behavior in this crisis. It, obviously, imports a big chunk of its military hardware from Russia. Does this not also highlight some of the limitations to a coalition approach, the uncertainty about who necessarily dresses up and comes to the dinner party?
GILDAY: I think so. I think you have to take them one at a time. And so, with respect to India, there are conversations to be had with respect to their reliance on Russian hardware and what that looks like in the future. They certainly are clear-eyed about China. And one of the—I think the benefits of having India in our camp is the fact that China, who has been focused to the east on the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, now has to look over their shoulder at a pretty formidable partner.
BERGER: Yeah. I want to tackle the diplomacy part, I think, your inference that it’s not binary anymore, like, all on one side or all on the other suggests, and you’re hearing that in spades. I don’t think—I think it’s beyond the whole win one and hold one, as you infer, but it’s not as simple as three geographic areas and then we can handle it, only because at least one of them is beyond a regional challenge for us.
So it’s not as simple as containing it regionally and you can handle three areas of the world and you’re good. I think that the discussion—I know the discussion on both sides that you highlight, the force sizing, the overall size, and the force shaping of what we have, what does it look like, both are happening now to address what you’re talking about. How do you address the pacing challenge that’s no longer just regional but has aspirations way beyond that? And in other areas, how do you deter—how do you prevent using the allies and partners, as my teammates described, which, you know, when we were growing up war is something that you exercised with once in a while. Nice to go visit, good to exercise with. Now are essential. Have to—have to have it.
MCCONVILLE: Yeah. You know, one of my big takeaways as I take a look at this, you know, it seems like a regional conflict but it has global implications, and, you know, as all of us talk to our counterparts around the world and, you know, with relationships and it’s just amazing to me, you know, as I talk to, you know, chiefs in the Middle East, you know, this is affecting their food supply, or even in Asia. And so everyone is really concerned about a conflict of this type and it goes to other places. If there’s a conflict in Asia or a conflict in the Middle East, especially when we’re talking about nation-states of this size, it’s going to affect everyone. And I think it’s in their interests and we’re seeing, at least from my viewpoint, NATO come together as a team like we’ve never seen before. And a few years back, we were looking at, you know, actually taking a lot of troops out of NATO and I think this has brought them back together, and I think people take a look around the world and there’s value in strength and having strong allies and partners around the world to counter these type of conflicts.
HAASS: There’s a big debate going on about things nuclear, in the specific sense about whether the Russians might use a nuclear weapon and, if so, what effect, how we might respond, and if anybody wants to weigh in on that I’d be more than happy to hear it. The other half of it, though, is, you know, the president has often articulated his obvious desire to, quote/unquote, “not get into World War III.” It’s what drives the decision not to establish a no-fly zone, not to have U.S. troops directly in Ukraine.
But do you worry that what—in some ways, what we’ve done is increased the value or the perceived value of nuclear weapons? China, for example, is already on course to dramatically increase its nuclear arsenal, in part because they—we have a piece that just came out. One of our fellows, David Sacks, wrote about it today—yesterday in Foreign Affairs. The idea that in order to give us pause in a Taiwan scenario in the same way that we’ve had to take into account Russia’s nuclear forces in the context of the Ukraine scenario. Other countries around the world, either motivated by what North Korea is doing, what Iran is doing, are also, potentially, rethinking their nuclear options.
Are you worried that we—you know, you all, you know, planning, obviously, traditionally, for conventional forces that, increasingly, you’ve got to think about the nuclear dimension? That this has now, in some ways, crept back into your thinking and planning in ways that you didn’t expect when the Cold War ended? Is this—or am I exaggerating how much there’s now a nuclear overlay on what you’re all doing?
BERGER: I don’t think it’s an exaggeration, no. But, perhaps, it was simple to put them in three different buckets, as you articulated, of conventional, strategic, and nuclear and treat them as three separate things. They are, clearly, interrelated. In terms of deterrence, they’re not Let’s go to paragraph A and worry about that and then we’ll talk about B and then we’ll talk about C. There’s, clearly, an interrelationship Russia is using. We need to learn from that, going forward. We need to develop our own deterrence conversation to a higher level, for sure.
HAASS: And if Russia were to introduce either the threat or actuality of nuclear use, how does one plan in terms of thinking about, you know, what difference it would make? Forget —I don’t mean in terms of the norms but in terms of actually the situation. And if we don’t want to respond in kind, and there’s all sorts of powerful reasons why we wouldn’t, where does that leave us?
BERGER: Hypothetical policy questions. It’s the worst kind to ask us. (Laughter.)
HAASS: I should know better than that. I apologize.
BERGER: We’re all, like, who’s going to—(laughter).
RAYMOND: Yeah. Everyone’s going, OK—
SCHULTZ: General Berger’s got some thoughts on that. (Laughter.) On the record.
HAASS: I could apologize.
BROWN: Nice try, though. (Laughter.)
HAASS: OK. Well, let’s ask about a different then—I have a hypothetical, but it’s also real. There’s another big debate about whether this crisis is making it more or less likely that China moves militarily against Taiwan, and the analysts are, in some ways, distributed on this. You can argue it round. You can argue it flat. But I can’t remember which one of you said it, you got to plan for the worst. And there’s also the question, maybe not immediately but down the road, it’s, obviously, in the bucket of probabilities and all that.
What are the lessons of this for either deterring or defending against that? What is it we need to take from this crisis in which a major power has attacked a smaller neighbor in terms of transferring that to Taiwan? What lessons are, potentially, valuable?
BROWN: A couple of things, I guess. The will of the smaller nation to fight—that has to be factored in. The reaction from international community and how quickly they may or may not come together. And so in that regard, I don’t know that you can actually, you know, lay it on top of the Indo-Pacific. But from a broader aspect, it does tell us something that—I think we all learn a few things, whether—no matter which country you are as you watch this.
And then the other thing I do think through is, you know, how do we then, all of us, you know, try to prepare not just for what might happen if it’s—you know, we’ve only been in this for, roughly, three months but what is the long-term impact and effect of an event like what just happened in Europe and what could be, potentially, happening in the Indo-Pacific? And so, you know, it’s easy for us to take a look at how did we do something in the past or should have done or could have done in the past three months, what we might do in the next several months, but what’s going to happen over the long term and what is that long-term impact?
So we got to be able to look at both of those and figure out how best to approach what we might learn and how that might respond. And I think as—you know, we’ve got to think through that aspect which may change your decision calculus on how you might approach the situation.
SCHULTZ: And, I think, Richard, you can make an argument if you’re China and you’re watching—and we talk about the logistics and the Russian shortcomings there and you say, hey, that might drive you to think it can go fast. But you also watch the strengthening of NATO, which I don’t think was the plan of Putin’s behaviors. I think what does long ball look like and where is Russia seen on the world stage and, you know, it’s premature to make that calculation plus or minus eighty days into this.
So I think there’s a school or camp that could, certainly, create some urgency in, you know, the five-, six-year conversation, pull us left. But I think there’s another school of thought that says it is very premature to sort of make those judgments right now. I think we just got to give this some time and see, you know, what is Putin’s standing on the world stage here and it’s, obviously, pretty universal. But you say the Indians, the other folks—Jim talks about food sustainment. We read about India this morning not shipping wheat. This interconnected global society, I think, is—there’s a little bit more deliberative thinking before, I think, we will understand societal—global society’s views on Russia here. I think China’s going to watch that.
BERGER: Go ahead, please.
GILDAY: I think—I go back to General McConville’s first points when he talked about not only the will to fight but also a force that has the right kit and is well trained. And so that shouldn’t be lost on us with respect to Taiwan, and also the fact that, geographically, it’s a different problem set from Ukraine. It has to have this stuff up front. You’re not going to get it there quickly or easily after the bullets begin to fly.
And so I think that is a big lesson learned and a wakeup call, particularly, with respect to not only having the right kit but also are people trained to use it the right way.
HAASS: Well, that would argue for Taiwan doing a much greater national effort, both prepositioning material and so forth, as well as, essentially, building up their own military capabilities much more.
GILDAY: Absolutely. Yeah.
HAASS: Among other things. I’ve got one more general question. Then I want to ask some individual questions. The president today gave a powerful speech in Buffalo. It was, obviously, in response to the killing of people there but also talked about American democracy and about racism in the country and white supremacy literature online and the rest.
So the question I have for you is—it came up just over a year ago in the aftermath of George Floyd, it’s now come up again—the question of the people under your command. To what extent is this a concern? What are we doing to, essentially, make sure that the military, the rank and file, on these issues both in how they treat one another, also if they’re called upon in certain situations, that they maintain the kind of professionalism and discipline they have to?
What is your sense of whether this is an issue that is—you know, is, rightfully, a concern or that this is something that’s, essentially—it’s where it should be? That, you know, through your education and other efforts you feel good about the attitudes and thinking of your troops?
RAYMOND: I think, you know, 99 percent of our forces—I don’t want to speak for my partners—but come to work every day and do the right thing. But I do think over the course of the last year or so we’ve been able to have conversations, and I would give a lot of credit to this gentleman sitting here to my right. He came out and did a very powerful video, and just being able to have conversations and being able to have—give people the space to have uncomfortable conversations. Even though 99 percent do it right, a small number could have significant readiness concerns.
And so I think what I have seen is the ability to have conversations with folks, give them the space to have those conversations so we can all learn.
BROWN: Yeah. I would add just to Jay’s point. You know, I would say, you know, all of our airmen live up to the core values and the vast majority, you know, well over, you know, 99 percent get it and live by those core values. But we can’t shield them from what’s going on in the world, and so this has an impact on them. It has an impact on me, just watching what happened in Buffalo, how tragic that is.
And so the ability for our airmen to talk about those kinds of things and put it out front also helps us to check ourselves and set the expectations of what we want from our service members and how they should carry themselves and the things that we tolerate and don’t tolerate, and I think that’s been helpful because of these conversations. We can actually—you know, I think our airmen are more inclined to say something when something’s not right versus being a bystander and not speaking up.
HAASS: And just to be clear, does this—I mean, one, there’s issues of, you know, gender. Obviously, there’s issues of race. But there’s also issues of January 6 and support for democracy, and do the conversations extend to that as well and the military’s role in American democracy?
BROWN: Well, it does, because we do talk about why we serve. And you know, when we did our down day with my staff, the conversation was why do we serve. Not so much about all the bad things that happened but why do we actually put on the uniform every day, why do we raise the right to take an oath of office or oath of enlistment and why we serve the Constitution of the United States. That, to me, you know, really brings us together because when we’re standing side by side in conflict, that’s what you want to be able to count on. And so from that perspective, it really resonated with me because it really—I think inside the military our camaraderie tightened up a bit more when you think about how important what we do is to protect our democracy.
MCCONVILLE: I would—you know, I agree with everything that C.Q. said. I would argue that the secret sauce in our military is unit cohesion and where everyone treats everyone with dignity and respect and everyone takes care of each other. And you can have liberal or conservative viewpoints and all those type of things. You can come from different places. You know, you can have a Boston accent and still make it in the Army and all those type things. (Laughter.)
But at the end of the day, you know, and what we coach our soldiers is you want to have an organization where everyone is willing to run through withering fire when their buddy is being carried away by the Taliban and go get them. That’s the type of organization you want to have, and it’s in your interest and it’s the right thing to do to treat everyone with dignity and respect because if you’re getting carried away you don’t want your buddies to go, we never liked him anyways, you can keep him, you know. (Laughter.)
But there is something there, and that’s what we want. (Laughter.) Absolutely.
HAASS: Because I promised you at the end a kind of lightning round of individual questions, can you—we’ll start with you. You know, we talked about the three parts of the world and China and the Indo-Pacific being the pacing challenge. Is it your sense, though, for the Army that that leaves you, in some ways, more focusing on Europe since so much of the Indo-Pacific is going to have an air and naval emphasis because I think—and, particularly, given Russian—you know, the reemergence, if you will, of Russian aggression, have you had to really rethink and, in some ways, reorient the Army back towards Europe?
MCCONVILLE: No. I think we do more than one thing at once. As we take a look, even with the—all the forces we deploy to Europe, we still have a large contingent in the Pacific. There’s a lot of work to be out there when we take a look at all the services. But I think some of the capabilities with long-range precision fires, air and missile defense. The Army does logistics. We know how to do that and supporting the joint force, and there’s a lot of things that, I think, if we get to a conflict, working with allies and partners, that the Army needs to be able to do this to enable the other services.
HAASS: General Berger, I’ve gotten a few emails, and I bet you’ve gotten a few thousand emails, a certain spirited debate going on about the future of the Marine Corps and heavy versus light, this or that. Kind of say something about it in terms of what the thinking is about the modernization and the future of the Marine Corps.
BERGER: First, the debate part is healthy. I mean, all the services have a long history of critiquing themselves and a(n) open debate to look at where would they need to go in the future. I think if you didn’t have that, in other words, that’s when you start to stall. That’s when you get stale. So the debate itself has always been very healthy.
As service chief we all have, you know, a dual obligation to make sure that the force can do what the combatant commanders need them to do now, today, but we also have to prepare them for the future. This is the secret sauce of being a service chief. You’re doing your—all the time balancing both of those requirements. I think the debate is all healthy, but very clear to us what the joint force, which is what really we’re talking about—not a service but what the joint force needs from each of us, that’s the direction that we’re going and we have to move quickly.
HAASS: Admiral Gilday, our magazine, Foreign Affairs, is celebrating its hundredth year, and about forty or fifty years ago there was an article in it with the provocative title along the lines of one plane, one tank, one ship, looking at the trend in the military, smaller numbers of ever higher value and ever more expensive platforms.
What does that mean for the Navy, which is, you know, I remember when we were having big arguments over the six-hundred-ship Navy and all that and now we’re, roughly, what, not even half that. How do you think about that? How should we think about that?
GILDAY: I think numbers are important. But I think that Russia is a really good example of placing a premium on capacity over readiness and capabilities, and I think you have to be very careful in making decisions like that. You know, when capacity is king, you’re not investing in readiness of today’s force and you’re not investing in the modernization of the force that you have. And so there’s risk there.
Certainly, you talked about potential near-term risk with China, and so that’s not lost on me or anybody on this stage in terms of our readiness investment in the force that we have today, and for the Navy we’ll have 70 percent of that force a decade from now so we have to take care of it. Magazines have to be filled with ammunition. People have to be trained. We have to maintain those ships, submarines, and aircraft, and so that’s an important emphasis for us.
I talked a little bit about unmanned and disruptive technologies that we’re investing in. Our R&D budget is focused on things like hypersonics, quantum computing, directed energy, high-power microwave capabilities to defend the fleet, and so we are looking for ways where we can take a navy and make it—take the Navy the size that we have and make it as capable as we can rather than having a larger Navy that is less capable, less ready, and less lethal.
HAASS: C.Q., a similar question with the Air Force, and, particularly, there’s been a lot of attention given to the Turkish drones in the current war, and what you all see as the significance of the emergence of drones and a wider use for them.
BROWN: Oh, sure. I mean, over time, you’ve seen that continue to—capability continue to improve from various nations. You know, one of the things as an Air Force that we’re looking at is how we do collaborative combat aircraft that go with a crewed aircraft, and you have the uncrewed. And so when you look at next-generation air dominance in the family of systems versus as you already had a very—one very expensive aircraft, it’s that aircraft with a series of other capabilities and those combat collaborative platforms have some level of autonomy with them. But it can be a decoy. It could be a sensor. It could be a jammer. It can be a weapon or a weapons carrier and being able to multiply in numbers but also be able to use the technology that we already see out in a—parts of the commercial sector to bring all that capability together and using the network to go forward.
So it’s something we are very interested in and that’s one of the operational imperatives that the Department of the Air Force is working on not only with the next-generation air dominance and one of our future fighters but also with the B-21 bomber—our new bomber.
HAASS: General Raymond, you’re the—you’ve stood up the first new service—we were talking about it before—in, what, seventy years, plus or minus—like, sixty years since the Air Force.
HAASS: Yeah. Say something about it, about the challenges, how it’s going, where things stand with Space Force.
RAYMOND: So we’re two and a half years old. It’s gone very well, and I’ll tell you it’s gone very well because of the great support that we get from pretty much everybody, all my partners here on the stage—that I think the nation realized a handful years ago that space was really, really important. It’s a vital national interest. It’s a huge force multiplier for each one of the services represented here on the stage and you can’t take that for granted anymore.
And so that—you know, back in 2013, I couldn’t have sat here tonight and said space as a warfighting domain in the same sentence. It was not something that we wanted to talk about publicly. It’s still something that we don’t really aspire to. We want to deter conflict from beginning or extending into space.
But now I say it in pretty much every speech I give, and the implications of space as a warfighting domain are significant and is requiring us to modernize our forces to make sure that we can uphold our sacred duty of making sure that everybody on this stage has the capabilities and the forces that they represent have the capabilities that they need to do their mission.
And so our big—probably over the next decade our big modernization effort is to go from a handful of very exquisite, expensive, big, slow, not easily defendable satellites to a proliferated architecture that’s more defendable and to capitalize on commercial industry and to capitalize on allies and partners in a greater way to be able to do that.
And so I’m really pleased with where we are. We still have—trust me, there’s—in our 2 million things to do list we’ve gone—kind of prioritized it and have checked off some really important things. Probably the biggest, though, is this pivot, this transformation, to a new force structure that allows us to survive in a contested domain.
HAASS: Is one of those 2 million things getting your own service academy one day?
RAYMOND: No, it’s not. We bring—that might be 2,000,001. (Laughter.) We bring—you know, we enlist five hundred people a year—five hundred enlisted guardians a year—and we commissioned about five hundred officers. It’s a 50/50 split. And, today, the Air Force Academy provides us about a hundred every year. We’re hopeful that we’ll get a couple out of the other academies as well.
We have more people knocking on our door wanting to come in than we can take because of just our small numbers and we really don’t see the need to stand up our own academy. We will stand up some professional development schools because I think one of the foundational things you have to do as a service is develop your own people.
But we’re really happy with the quality of the officers that we’re getting out of the Air Force Academy and that will meet our needs just fine.
HAASS: Karl, in two weeks you move on to your next chapter. You’re going to be succeeded by Admiral Linda Fagan, and Linda will—Admiral Fagan will be the first woman to head one of the major services. Tell us something about the reaction to that. When it was announced not too long ago, what’s been the reaction?
SCHULTZ: Yeah. Well, first, I want to thank General Raymond because after two-and-a-quarter centuries of being the smallest service it’s good to be the fifth-largest service. (Laughter.) Thanks, brother.
RAYMOND: And C.Q.’s out because he’s not the youngest anymore, so I—(laughter).
SCHULTZ: It’s good not to be Jay. No. (Laughter.)
That’s a great question. And I would say the first service chief in the United States Coast Guard—first female service chief in the nation, and Linda Fagan is going to be the twenty-seventh commandant confirmed this past Wednesday, a week ago from tomorrow, and because she’s the right person to lead the United States Coast Guard, and she’s a woman officer and I’m excited because there is a buzz. You know, we’re a service where, at our service academy in New London, Connecticut, it’s about 40 percent incoming class is women. I think that leads the service academies. But across the service the officer corps is about 22 percent. When you factor in enlisted rank and file, men and women, it’s about 15 percent overall.
So I think this sends a very clear signal that, you know, leadership—quality of leadership matters. There’s opportunities for all. I would say there’s a real buzz. But there’s a real buzz because Linda’s an exceptional leader and there’s a real buzz because it knocks down another barrier. We had the first SJA, so Special Judge Advocate—CGJAC, the judge advocate of the Coast Guard. There was a woman here about three years ago, the first engineer in the Coast Guard is Carola List. She’s a woman, the first engineer. It’s 2022 and we’re still knocking down some of these barriers. I think this is a logical next step and we’re pretty excited that that opportunity falls on the United States Coast Guard.
HAASS: Great. OK. With that, we’re going to segue to questions from our members. I think we’re going to start with—here in our nation’s capital, and then we are—we may or may not go virtual. I see someone in the second or third to last row, just for geographic—(inaudible). By the way, it’s on the record. Stand up. Let us know who you are, where you’re employed, and keep questions short and we’ll get as many answers as we can.
Q: Thanks, Richard. Nick Schifrin from PBS NewsHour.
If I could ask two personnel questions, which, I would argue, are readiness questions. General Brown, I had you on the show last summer and I asked you about extremist groups and I asked you whether membership should be banned and you suggested yes, they should. That, of course, did not happen in the decision.
So I wanted to ask you directly whether you think the military has done enough to tackle the few members of extremist groups that are in the military. If I could broaden it out to sexual harassment and sexual assault—there’s been an effort—an independent effort—to have the military make significant changes. Congress has been part of that. But some of the changes recommended have not been followed through. So wondering, for the panel, whether you think there’s been enough done to tackle sexual harassment and sexual assault. Thanks.
BROWN: Nick, on the extremism, I think we have done all the right things, and it goes back to what I said earlier, our ability to sit down and take a look at ourselves. Whether you look at membership or not, it’s the behavior that our airmen need to have to live to our core values and that, to me, is the most important part.
It’s the dignity and respect they share with not only their fellow airmen but their fellow service members, and it goes into the whole aspect of everything we do to ensure that every one of our airmen, every one of our service members, can reach their full potential without some level of distraction, whether it’s extremism, racism, harassment of any type. Those are the things that we are—you know, I know I’m personally focused on, and not to speak for my teammates up here but I think we all—in the conversation we had, we all think quite a bit alike, and I’ll let them maybe comment on the other topic.
HAASS: Anybody want to—just jump in if you want.
MCCONVILLE: I’ll just jump on, you know, getting back to cohesive teams that we’re trying to build. And so we can’t have sexual assault, we can’t have sexual harassment, we can’t have racism, we can’t have extremism because they go against everything that we stand for. And if we want, you know, fathers and mothers to send their sons and daughters to join our military, we got to make sure they’re going to be taken care of or they’re not going to do that.
And just on the sexual harassment, sexual assault, to me, that’s a deliberate fratricide. We would never tolerate that in training, we don’t tolerate it in combat, and we’re trying to get people to feel the same way they would if they’ve ever been involved in a fratricide where a soldier gets hurt. And when you think about it, it’s intentionally hurting another soldier. We can’t have that in the Army and I think, you know, we can’t have it in our services.
HAASS: Have we got a virtual question?
OPERATOR: We will take a virtual question from Don Loranger. Please accept the unmute now.
We’ll take our virtual question from Mansoor Ijaz.
Q: Good afternoon. Thank you all for your service to our country and for giving us your time today.
Regarding Putin’s nuclear stance, which type of action worries us the most—the use of tactical weapons in Ukraine, the use of a first strike weapon against a NATO ally, or an intercontinental strike against the United States? All are possible, but which one do you guys really worry about the most? Thank you.
BROWN: Easy toss-up question. (Laughter.)
MCCONVILLE: D, all of the above. (Laughter.)
HAASS: It’s probably the right answer.
BROWN: I mean, agree. All of them—
BROWN: —because they all have an implication in some form or fashion on what impact it might have on how we—not only the United States, but we as an international community respond.
BERGER: And the good thing is, I mean, there are different combatant commanders who are handling each of those. The NORTHCOM commander is, clearly, defense of the U.S. He’s focused on the intercontinental threat from wherever. The European SACEUR commander, clearly, focused on the tactical nuclear challenge. So there’s—in our framework, there’s senior leaders who are handling that for sure. Our job is just to support them with the forces that they need.
HAASS: OK. Yes, ma’am, on the fourth row.
Q: Thank you so much for being here. My name is Sofia Gross. My civilian job I’m the head of social impact and policy partnerships at Snapchat and I’ve also recently commissioned as a PAO through the DCO program in the Navy. So thank you for the DCO program and the tremendous opportunity.
I also served to support Task Force 59 out of Fifth Fleet, which it sounds like you were alluding to, really focused on unmanned and AI efforts. And one of the biggest things that we’ve seen as we continue to invest in unmanned is, really, the role of the mind through all of this, and as the warfighter changes in terms of the role they’re playing, I’d love to understand how you, as our leaders, are thinking through how we can support readiness when it comes to mental health capacity for the future of the armed forces. Thank you.
GILDAY: It’s a big challenge, and so there are not enough mental health professionals right now in our country, not to mention in our military. What we’ve done in the Navy is try to push out about 40 percent of our mental health professionals out to the tactical edge to our ships or squadrons, specifically.
But, more importantly, we’re also trying to train front line leaders in how to handle and how to see the first indications of stress, how to try and determine whether or not somebody’s just having a bad day or whether they have significant problems where they need a higher level of care.
It’s going to take an all-hands effort from all of us. We are making investments in AI to help us take a look at conditions that are out there across the force, you know, what lead indicators in a unit and a ship might lead you to take some more preventative action. But it’s a tough problem.
RAYMOND: I agree, it’s a really, really tough problem. As we build this new service we think our size gives us a little bit of an opportunity to be able to put a little bit more hands on because, again, today we’re about seventy-two hundred active duty and about an equal number of civilians.
So we’ve developed what we call a holistic health assessment program that has three parts. One is a science-based fitness program based on data. One is—another aspect is more comprehensive medical examinations throughout their career, and then the third is an education piece. We’re also embedding—just as Admiral Gilday said, embedding what we call a GRT team—a Guardian Resiliency Team—forward in our operational units to be able to have a little bit more hands on.
HAASS: Admiral Luttwak. Please wait for the microphone.
Q: My name is Admiral Luttwak. I’m a—I suppose I’m a military contractor and that kind of stuff. We met—I’ve met several of you.
On February 23 it is no secret the president of the United States and the president of the Russian Federation received identical estimates of the outcome of the war—that is, Zelensky would run away—indeed, the U.S. offered to help him; the government would dissolve; the armed forces, left without orders, would then surrender or disperse. And as a taxpayer, I’m sort of worried that we have seventeen different intelligence agencies, and for them to have completely misunderstood that meant they have no contact with the Ukrainians. I heard the chief of staff of the army, the actual Ukrainians who could walk around, anybody went to Kyiv run into them, and you could see them.
HAASS: Is there a question?
Q: Now, the question is this. On the Russian side, we have received an explanation. And the explanation is that the Russian military in their academies and their wargames grossly overestimated the value of hybrid warfare, fourth-generation warfare, this warfare, that warfare, as opposed to kinetic. The word “kinetic” became a dirty word in those circles, and kinetic means bloke gets up his gun and shoots some other guy. And that was—that is how the FSB excuses its mistake. And my question is: What happened on our side? On the FSB side, they made the wrong estimate. The military owned up to the fact that they were wrong about the nature of war. So what happened here? How did the president of the United States is informed that the Russians would win in twenty-four hours and how did it happen? That is my question.
HAASS: That’s a nice un-leading question. (Laughter.)
BERGER: First, on the Russian angle, I think a lot of their models were probably wrong. Logistics, the individual soldier, and a lot of ways they’re modeling probably told him a different story. On our side, I think this is a good reminder that, as you used the phrase, an intelligence community is not one voice. So senior leaders all the time have to push back from a single answer into I need to understand the full spectrum of what might be possible.
When we asked the question, if we were to, what does the intelligence community think, we’re already headed down the wrong path because we’re actually asking for a single answer to something that could be four, five, six different scenarios. We have to push back all the time on the siderails to listen, maybe not the canary in the coalmine, but to different people’s opinions on how something might turn out, because the intelligence community is full of really bright people. We have to make sure it doesn’t neck down to a single voice.
MCCONVILLE: I think one of the challenges, when it comes to soldiers in combat, is, you know, this thing called grit, or, you know, this inner, you know, kind of, you know, strength. And we could be sitting here—looking around, a lot of people wearing uniforms. But you really don’t know until the bullets start flying. And people surprise you in combat. Some people, you know, you would think that, you know, maybe they wouldn’t do very well. Other people who you thought, who said they would do all these type things, when things got really rough, they didn’t.
I think leadership is extremely, extremely important at the highest levels and the other levels. And, you know, when people are sharing adversity together and they’ve built this thing we call cohesive teams, they stick together and they fight and they do things that maybe were unimaginable before. But that’s really hard to measure.
HAASS: I would just sort of say that I remember we were very wrong in a lot of our estimates of Iraq in the run-up to Desert Shield and Desert Storm. We apparently were again here. I would hope that if there hasn’t been—if it hasn’t happened already because people are busy doing their day jobs—when the dust settles, there is something of a postmortem on the intel side about lessons learned and where we did get it wrong, to ask why we did, because, again, but there are some systemic challenges here or patterns that we’ve got to—we’ve got to correct for.
MCCONVILLE: I was going to add, because, you know, there’s a lot of folks that are involved in simulation, and you take a look at systems and you go, OK, this Russian air-defense system ought to be able to do this. You know, I’m surprised that the Turkish—the TB2s are able to fly around pretty much, you know, doing very, very well, given that, you know, if you laid out some of the Russian air defense systems, you’d be surprised that they could survive in that environment.
So it really depends, you know, because a lot of times we’ll do things. We’ll look at radars, we’ll look at the ranges of systems, and we assume we can’t do certain things. But again, how they operate them, how they use it, the tactics, techniques, and procedures people use, can change the whole situation.
BROWN: I was going to add, you know, let’s think about what the intel community got right. In the aspect of the information they were able to share, like we’ve never done before, in bringing the international community together like they did, NATO together like they did.
I mean, I think we underestimated how quickly NATO could come together. For those of us that worked in NATO before, you know how slow and bureaucratic they are. I mean, they’re like doing land-speed records on the decision-making that they’ve never done before. And that’s because of the information we were able to share from the IC. And so we do have to think about it. There’s two sides to the coin on some of this.
HAASS: No argument. I think there’s a general agreement to what you just said. The creative use of intelligence, in getting ahead of things, was really quite remarkable. And a lot of us, looking back, would say, gee, we wish we had done that in previous scenarios. I still think there’s an assessment issue, though, on both the Russian side and the Ukrainian.
Laura, you have lots of questions from remote land.
OPERATOR: We’ll take our next question from Lucas F. Schleusener
Q: Good evening, gentlemen. Luke Schleusener, president of Out In National Security.
Numerous states are passing laws that target the LGBTQIA+ community. I know the Air Force has made some efforts, but I wanted to get a sense from you about how the services are assessing the impact on servicemember and family readiness and what countermeasures you are putting in place to protect servicemembers, their families, and military health providers.
HAASS: Anybody want to address that?
BROWN: Well, I mean, part of what we’re doing is actually just staying in contact with airmen and their families, because each—you know, not to drive policy, but our job is to make sure we do the best we can to take care of them. And that’s our responsibility as service chiefs. That’s our responsibility as leaders. It’s kind of hard to, you know, talk specifics, partly because each situation is just a little bit different.
HAASS: We’ve got another question from Washington. Yes, sir.
Q: Good evening, gentlemen. Thank you for your service. My name is Cameron Thomas-Shah from the State Department.
HAASS: Speak up a little bit, because you’ve got—
Q: OK. Sorry. Cameron Thomas-Shah, State Department.
Last week the administration convened the ASEAN summit. And I was hoping the gentlemen can speak a little bit about any surprises, successes, or opportunities which came in the context of the Indo-Pacific theater. Thank you.
SCHULTZ: Richard, I’ll take a shot at that.
There was a lot of mention in the president, the White House release, about the role of the United States Coast Guard in the region. I think we—you know, when I listened to the secretary of defense and OSD talk about campaigning, you know, I look at—I think about this flat surface and I say, you know, we cooperate, we compete, and there’s a lethal—somewhere between zero and 150 degrees, I think, is that cooperate-and-compete space. That is Coast Guard work.
I think there are many maritime services, naval service, that look a lot like the United States Coast Guard. You know, we go look at China over the last decade and there’s now spits of land where there wasn’t land before. Now there’s runways. There’s antiaircraft missiles. You know, we watch a little bit of accretion of assertion of coercive behaviors, and now, you know, disputed spaces. The Chinese coast guard comes right into the maritime militia and runs folks down.
I think the White House sees, I think State Department—(inaudible)—see opportunities where we can bolster the maritime forces. It’s an era of coast guards in the region. I think it’s really an era for the United States Coast Guard to press in and help build capacity. You know, below that lethal wedge, we’re written in the warfighting plans to support the other joint forces. But I think when you’re playing the long game, you’re offering an alternative, you’re human-to-human contact.
Now, there’s a finite amount of United States Coast Guard capacity, but how do we stitch together folks? We’ve raised our role on this IUUF, Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported Fishing; you know, China distant-water fleets fishing off both coasts of Africa, off of South America, you know, with no flag-state oversight.
So for us coming out of there, we see a role. They’re talking about an adviser in ASEAN, that we’re going to put some type of an Indo-Pacific ship with probably multilateral crew. Once we get a ’23 enacted budget, maybe a year down the road we’re going to up our game in the region and sort of show this is how, you know, the world’s best maritime forces operate. We don’t use a, quote-unquote, fisherman to run down, you know, people in disputed spaces, backed up by the China coast guard, and then they keep the PLA navy at arm’s length. We bring in a credible voice to call out those behaviors.
So for us it’s an increased role, and we welcome the opportunity.
HAASS: OK, I’ll try another virtual one.
OPERATOR: We’ll take our next virtual question from Chris Thomas.
Q: Thank you very much, gentlemen, for the time today.
Going back to the situation with China, there’s a situation of compete and cooperation. In the past against all potential adversaries, the United States has had a marked advantage in economy, finance, technical capabilities, number of engineers, industrial capacity. But when you line up against a potential adversary like China, you actually see a situation where their industrial capacity has exceeded that of the United States and is going on an opposite direction.
What are the key issues you worry about in just the American ability to turn out ships, turn out planes, turn out ships against an industrial capacity at this point which is about 25 percent larger than that of the United States and growing faster? What can we do to close that gap so that, if it does move into a conflict situation, we’re going to be able to keep up on delivering everything against a very strong industrial powerhouse?
HAASS: This is to piggyback on the two words we haven’t heard in this conversation—just an observation—are supply chains, and to what extent those kinds of consideration entered into your own thinking about what we now need to essentially take into account as we think about future conflicts.
RAYMOND: I think, if I were to say what I worry about, it’s our ability to go fast. And I think in not just speed, but speed and delivering the right capabilities. I think, in the space sector, I use this term, and it’s a really terrible term to use in space, but there’s an explosion of commercial space companies. I think they’ve been very innovative. And the force-design work we’re doing is trying to leverage and capitalize on that. And I’d bet on U.S. industry all day. I think it’s a huge advantage for us, and we’ve got to capitalize on it.
But I think we have had the luxury of having time on our side and we’ve forgotten how to go at speed. And we’ve got to pick up the pace.
GILDAY: I think predictability and stability that we provide industry are important attributes, specifically in our budgets. So if I’d give an example of in the undersea, where we actually have overmatch against China right now, the fact that we are producing, out to probably 2040, two attack boats and an SSB in a year, with the stretch goal of possible three attack boats a year, is a really clear set of headlights to that industry in terms of where we’re going. There are investments in infrastructure, investments in training their workforce.
We’re trying to get to the same place with surface ships. And you’re not going to put over that rudder very quickly when you talk about very complex machines that you want to get right. Land-based prototyping is a way that you drive down technical risk. You have to be smart about this.
And so the stuff that we feel has to work, there is a speed component to this, but there’s also a deliberate nature to this that you can’t ignore and that you have to get right or you’re making major investments in something that just doesn’t pan out. And we’ve seen that movie before.
HAASS: Let’s get a question. Yes, sir.
Q: Larry Korb from Center for American Progress.
If I could raise it to the question of nuclear weapons, in this year’s budget President Biden has canceled the tactical nuclear cruise missile. Your boss, the chairman, and the vice chairman have already come out against it. I think the Navy has said they support it. What are the pluses and minuses of tactical nuclear weapons?
GILDAY: So I think that there’s a gap. It’s been established that there is a gap. The question is how are you going to close that gap? And so SLCM-N has been offered as a single-point solution. My own position on this is I think we need to understand it a bit better. I think that the point that was made by General Berger about deterrence earlier is not so simple as one might think, right; that there are different aspects of it. Hypersonics would be an example. How does that potentially fit in? Low-yield nuclear weapons; well, we’ve already made a decision on those based on the nuclear posture of 2018. They’re already in play.
And so my own position on this is to keep the R&D warm on SLCM-N but not necessarily commit to a $31 billion program at this point. I also think that there’s work to be done to understand not only case one, which is a single nuclear actor, but case two, which would be the Russians and the Chinese acting in collaboration. And so understanding the whole deterrence, that complex problem, I think, deserves more effort and more thought. There are people in the department that are very dedicated to thinking about it.
HAASS: We’ve got time for one last question. Yes, ma’am, I see in the fourth row. Right. Last quick question, hopefully quick answers, and—
Q: Thank you, sirs. April Wells, U.S. Department of State.
Would you please share your vision for the next two years of engagement in Afghanistan, particularly considering our abiding counterterrorism and other national-security interests there? Thank you.
HAASS: General, you want to take that?
MCCONVILLE: Well, as far as our vision for Afghanistan?
HAASS: Yeah, like what we plan on now that—
MCCONVILLE: Yeah, I’m not really prepared to provide the vision for Afghanistan. I’m not sure anyone else is either as far as—
HAASS: Is there—the question was also about particularly counterterrorism, contingency planning for that.
MCCONVILLE: Well, that’s—OK. So is that the question, I mean, as far as going—you know, making sure—and really, from where I sit, you know, I could give you some ideas, as the chief of staff of the Army, having spent some time there. But I’d probably—you know, I mean, there are certainly concerns about what’s going to happen in Afghanistan. You know, we spent twenty years there. A lot of us spent a lot of time in getting after that. And we’re concerned about, you know, the violent extremists and what happens to them and how they grow and how we counter those violent extremists.
We’re also very, very concerned, at least from where I sit, about our Afghan friends, who many of us made over there, and what their future looks like. There was a lot of opportunities, from education and everything else that’s going on there. And so we’d like to see that come to fruition. But to me that’s a policy part that the government will take on. And then the United States Army, we will support that as required.
HAASS: We could go on, but we won’t. Many of you have spent many hours today doing the joyous task of testifying before various committees of the Congress. And I know there must be a drink in your future as a—(laughter)—as a result.
I want to thank all of you, not just, again, for tonight, but for, again, the other 365 days of the year, for all that you do. I really do think the military in general is, in some ways, the most extraordinary institution in our country; its ability to reward excellence, to train and invest in its own people, to learn from mistakes. We would do well in the civilian world to pick up a good deal of that. And we here at the Council are fortunate not just to you visit us, as you have tonight, but you give us what will soon be a half-dozen of your most talented O-6s every year to spend a year with us.
And I want to send special tribute to the gentleman on my right, who, after thirty-nine years, is going to be retiring. And sir, we wish you only good things for all you’ve done. Thank you for everything. (Applause.)
This is an uncorrected transcript.