tv Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Dunford Talks to Washington Post CSPAN December 7, 2018 12:41pm-1:37pm EST
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listen on the free c-span radio app. >> the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff general joseph dunford speaks with washington post columnist david ignatius. using --e pentagon is the conversation is just under an hour. >> good afternoon everyone. welcome to the washington post i am fred ryan, a bush appeared we are meant to be joined i to senior leaders from the department of defense to discuss security challenges that america faces in the 21st century. as one of our speakers, general joseph dunford observed earl yer in this year the fundamental nature of war remains unchanged.
what is new are the evolving technologies and battlefields like outer space and cyber space, that have dramatically increased the speed and complexity of modern warfare. as a result, the united states faces unprecedented threats to its security from many nations and from terrorists and combatants who follow the flag of no nation. this afternoon, we'll learn about these new dangers and about the technologies and strategies the united states can imemployee to de employ to defeat them. before we begin, i'd like to thank today's presenting sponsor, northrop grumman, and the vulsonos school of engineering at george mason university. it's my pleasure to introduce the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, general dunford and the "washington post's" david ignatius. [ applause ] gen. dunford: thanks, david. david: thank you, general. it's a great pleasure for all of us at the woest"washington post" to have general dunford with us today for this conversation. as in all our conversations
here, we invite the audience in the room and streaming to send us any questions to the #postlive. just to say a word about general dunford, to me, he's been a symbol of continuity in our country in two ways i want to mention. first, he was initially appointed as chairman in 2015 under president obama. he was reappointed in may by president trump for a second two-year term. so there's that first continuity that really is a symbol of what endures in our country. secondly, i note every few days, it seems, that general dunford is talking with his counterparts around the world from allyied countries, from potential adversaries and this continuity of military-to-military contacts, again, reminds me of what's continuous. what has nothing to do with the daily ups and downs that we're
often reporting in the newspapers. so, general dunford, thank you. gen. dunford: thanks. david: i want to begin with an area that you have focused on with the chiefs, with the administration, and that's looking anew at our peer competitors. the countries who would challenge us in renewed great power competition. obviously, russia and china. and i want to take each of those in turn and start with russia and the events of several weeks ago that got all of our attention in which the russians intercepted and captured three ukrainian vessels in the kerch strait in the area off the ukraine coast, off crimea. if you watched the tapes that
were disseminated of that, you heard the russian captain of one of these boats screaming and cursing as he drove his vessel right into the ukrainian tug with an enormous crash. and i couldn't help but worry watching that about russia's willingness to take risks. so i want to ask you from a military standpoint, how did you read what happened in that instant? what did it tell you about the russian military, about president putin's willingness to use power, and what do you think we should do about it? gen. dunford: sure. i think it says a lot about russia's respect of international norms and standards, and in what took place in the sea of azov is consistent with a pattern of behavior that really goes back to georgia, the crimea, then the donbas in the ukraine. and what we refer to this as, you know, competition that falls short of armed conflict where what the russians are really doing is testing the international community's resolve in enforcing the rules
that exist. and in this case, clear violations of sovereignty have taken place and that doesn't by in any means indicate that this should be a military response, but i think the international community certainly has got to respond diplomatically, economically, or in a security space or russia will continue to do what they've been doing now over the last couple years. david: so there have been calls in the aftermath of this for providing naval weaponry to the ukraineians who obviously were very vulnerable in this incident. the administration decided to provide javelin antitank weapons to deal with vulnerability -- to do with ukrainian vulnerabilities. what do you think from a military standpoint of having those kinds of missiles? would that be stabilizing or destabilizing? gen. dunford: sure. first of all, our relationship with ukraine is focused in two areas. one, we're assisting them in
reforming their defense. i'm speaking in a military dimension. and the second is we have equipped them with capabilities that allow them to defend themselves. there is not, so we don't confuse the two issues, there is not a discussion ongoing right now about a military dimension in response to the sea of azov. obviously, my job in uniform is to make sure that the president has options available should he decide to respond with military force, but there's no -- been no military response, nor has there been a discussion about a military response to the sea of azov in public. and, again, our focus with the ukraine is we believe that the ukraine sovereignty is something that's sacrosanct and we've assisted them in defending their sovereignty. david: you talk often, as i indicated earlier, with your russian counterpart general garasmof. i'm curious if you've had conversations since this incident, about this incident, to try to establish some understandings, rules of the road, has that happened? gen. dunford: no, i haven't -- i
do speak to him fairly regularly. we met three times since i've been in my assignment. we've communicated many, many times by telephone. a couple things i would say about that, one is the nature of our conversation is designed to mitigate the miscalculation with russia and in event of a crisis help manage a crisis, and you referred to in your opening comments, david, syria, and we obviously have spoken a great deal about deaconconfliction in syria, and ensuring that incidents at sea or incidents in the air don't precipitatione a crisis crisis. rules of the road that pertain to our forces at sea and forces in the air. i haven't spoken specifically about this incident. typically, were i to communicate on an incident like this, it would be to deliver u.s. policy and right now, that, you know, whatever messages we're delivering are being delivered by our political leadership. david: if this audience could listen in on one of your conversations with general
garasamof, would we be reassured there's more stability and continuity in this relationship than it sometimes seems? gen. dunford: sure. the one thing i would say to the audience is we've worked very hard to ensure that our relationship doesn't become politicized. i think we're both very aware of the nature of our political relationship right now between the two countries. and we both are committed to maintaining lines of communication. i think his perspective is similar to mine in terms of the risk of miscalculation and making sure that we have open lines of communication and to the extent that we can some degree of transparency that would mitigate the risk and miscalculation. i think that while i have never spoken publicly about the substance of the phone call and one thing you should be comforted by is that we conclude each phone call with a commitment to each other, not to publicly discuss the nature of our phone call, and i'm now three years plus into this relationship and never once has that been violated. in fact, we inadvertently
violated it once when i shared the information with somebody else who shared it and it went public. the only violation of our commitment not to share information was something that we did inadvertently. i would just say about general garasamof, he's a military professional. we clearly havere reconciling -- we clearly have challenges reconciling the political differences between 2005 countries. in terms of military commitments, discussion, trying to do the best we can to support our political leadership and give them the space necessary to work through some tough issues, i think we have corrected to stability with that line of communication and certainly in syria, without going into too much detail, we can later if you want to, the communications between general garasamof and myself have been very important for us to the conflict operations in syria. that's allowed us in a very complicated, complex battle space, it's allowed us to prosecute the campaign against isis while deconflicting with russian forces on the ground and obviously regime forces writ
large. david: i should, just to take this moment to ask you about syria, are we now finally after this long nightmare of war, heading toward some stabilization of syria? do you see that ahead? gen. dunford: sure. well, you know, we go back to the beginning in the fall of 2015 and you certainly were paying very close attention to it during a particular time. in the fall of 2015, i think we'd be having a different conversation about isis. they hold about 2% of the ground that they held back in 2015. we've reduced the flow of foreign fighters in and out of syria and iraq significantly since that time and they have access to far less resources and i think i would argue as well, harder to measure, but the narrative has less credibility than it did back in 2015.
so they hold less physical ground. their narrative is probably resonating a bit less. i am not at all complacent about the work that remains to be done. so we've largely cleared except for the last vestiges of isis in the euphrates river valley, we largely cleared the physical manifestation of isis in syria. that doesn't mean there are fighters in syria, the work that needs to be done, the word you used, stabilization, that means we have to complete the training of local forces that can prevent isis from coming back and in conjunction with our state department partners, we've got to make sure there's effective governance. i'm not talking about reconstruction. i am talking about basic water, sewage, jobs, power, those kinds of things in order for us to say the area has been stabilized. so, i would say we're well along in clearing isis from the ground they held in syria and still have a lot of work to do in terms of the stabilization phase. david: just a final question of special interest to me because i've been lucky enough to travel
with our special forces in eastern syria a number of times. how much longer do you expect they'll stay there? we have the sense that something under 2,000 special operations forces are still in eastern syria. that they're there on an indeterminate, unspecified timeline. what would you say about how much longer you think? gen. dunford: yeah, the one thing, i've probably gained some humility over the last few years about projecting timelines, and so i won't do that. i will give you some idea the order of magnitude of the work to be done. we estimate, for example, about 35,000 to 40,000 local forces have to be trained and equipped in order to provide stability. we're probably somewhere along the line of 20% through the training of those forces. so we've trained and equipped forces that have cleared, combat forces, syrian democratic forces, a balance of arab and
kurdish forces who have done the majority of the fighting in syria against isis. but with regard to stabilization, we still have a long way to go and so i'd be reluctant to affix a time. i would highlight, though, that our military campaign is designed to do two things. one is to defeat isis and that includes the stabilization that we just discussed, and the other is to provide support to secretary pompeo in a diplomatic efforts that he has to resolve the syrian civil war and that is through a geneva process, the united nations geneva process and so our presence in syria is associated not only with the isis fight but also in support of the democratic effort of secretary pompeo and that's why it's difficult for me to speculate as to how long we might be there. but certainly, the conditions changed a great deal over the last three years. i think we are certainly at a point where we can say the presence we have in syria right now is sustainable and can be -- and can be adjusted based on conditions. david: my takeaway from that,
they're not leaving any time soon, at least you don't have that prospect -- gen. dunford: no, that's right. david: four friends of syrian stability is probably good news. let me ask you a final question about russia, and that involves the announced u.s. intention to leave the inf treaty and the concerns i think are widely shared that we may be heading into a new arms race with russia in strategic weapons. i want to ask you whether you think, again, as the president's chief military adviser, that it would be useful to have some discussion, again, of arms control that can fill in the gaps that are obviously there in the inf treaty. in another, is this a time should we think again about what arms control dialogue we have? gen. dunford: that's a great question. first what i would say, conceptually, i believe the arms control agreements that we've had in the past have contributed to strategic stability.
i think there can be no doubt about that. the regime of arms control agreements that really began in earnest in the 1980s have provided a degree of strategic ability. the issue is in order to have strategic stability as an outcome of arms control, both parties have to be compliant with the agreement. and we have now for three or four years highlighted russia's noncompliance with the inf treaty, and then secretary pompeo this week at nato indicated that within 60 days, we will suspend our compliance with the inf treaty unless russia comes into compliance. he emphasized our strongest desire is that russia does come into compliance and, again, this a message that has been delivered fairly consistently now over a couple years. we've been public about it. we've been public with our allies about the concerns of the inf. it'd be best if russia would comply with the inf which would set the conditions for a broader
conversation about other arms control agreements to include the extension of s.t.a.r.t. i will not obviously make this decision. i'll make recommendations, but it's very difficult for me to envision progress in extending s.t.a.r.t., too, as an example, if the foundation of that is noncompliance with the inf treaty. so i think working our way through the inf treaty, bringing russia back into compliance, ought to be what's in all of our interest and we can begin to have a conversation about mechanisms that can contribute to strategic stability in the 21st century, much like it did in the 20th century. conditions have changed. weapons have changed. some capabilities have been fielded or weren't even envisioned when the current regime of arms control was put if place. those are difficult issues in and of themselves and if you don't have a foundation of compliance with yesterday's treaties, it's difficult to talk about tomorrow. david: is there still time for that discussion of how russia could meet our compliance concerns? still time for that to take
place? the clock is ticking and this one -- this train is about to leave. what do you think? gen. dunford: i think secretary pompeo's presentation in brussels, similar to what took place in the g20, was designed as one last effort to afford the russians the opportunity to become compliant. so he didn't say we were suspending our compliance with the treaty. he said within 60 days we'll suspend our compliance if russia doesn't come into compliance. i think also there was an effort there to make sure as many voices speaking to russia right now, not the least of which is the voice of nato as a whole, the 29 nations of nato, all highlighting for russia the concerns about noncompliance with the inf and the implications for european security. david: so let's turn to china, the other peer competitor. general, i have the feeling that when we think about china, in some ways we're thinking for the first time in our modern history
about a genuine peer in the future. a country that's, as rich as we are, that's as technologically sophisticated as we are, a country that really can challenge us in a way that, frankly, russia and the soviet union never entirely could -- it for their nuclear want to ask you, as you think about china, describe for us what kind of military capability you think they're trying to build. do they want to challenge us globally? do they want to challenge us regionally? how do you think about this? >> sure, sure. first, when we look at ourselves, the u.s. military, there are two. the main areas that give us a competitive advantage. one of them is the important andork of nato allies partners we built up since world war ii. the other has been the historic
ability to project power when, where necessary, to advance our interests. and in that latter area, which is specifically the military dimension of our source of strength, we have been largely uncontested over the last few decades. that changed. that changed in the past decade. i would argue that china, we spoke about russia a minute to china and russia studied what we did in desert shield, desert storm. certainly took a hard look after what we did throughout the campaigns of the late 1990s and certainly looked at what we did in in our ability to project 2003 vast amounts of equipment, material, people, around the world relatively quickly. so they have focused on denying the united states the ability to project power into the pacific and then operate freely across what we call all domains. that's pentagon speak for sea, air, land, space, and cyberspace. and i think what is fair to say and really gets at the heart of your question is, china has developed capabilities in all of those domains to challenge us. and the outcome of challenging us across all of those domains
is challenging our ability to project power in support of our interests and alliances in the region, and so what we have to do on the military side is, we believe that conventional deterrence has rested on that ability to project power when and where necessary to achieve our interests. the strength of our alliances has depended on that in the sense that our allies know that we can respond, and we can meet our alliance commitments because of our ability to project power and operate freely once we get to that area. from a military perspective, the way i would frame the problem is one, it is our responsibility to develop capabilities that ensure our capability to project power, and then operate freely across all of those domains. so china, in large debates about how much china is spending in their capability development, and with the recognition that it's fairly opaque, both china's fiscal -- the investments they make as well as the capabilities they develop, i think what's not in dispute is over the last 10
years, they have significantly advanced what the pentagon has described as interactive area denial capabilities, and that gets at the ability of the united states to move into an area and again operate freely once we get there. that's a critical element, again, of deterrence and then our ability to respond the event that deterrence would fail. i would also remind everyone that is listening that we have five treaty allies in the pacific. these are allies that we have a hard commitment to their security. when we talk about projecting power and being able to move freely across all domains, what we are talking about is our ability to meet those requirements of those five treaties. >> just to drill down, when you think about the future, when you read about chinese efforts to build port facilities in pakistan or djibouti, this place or that, do you envision, let's say, a chinese navy that will seek to be a global bluewater navy, like what the united states developed, or do you think that their ambitions are different?
that we shouldn't see them in terms of competing with us in each of these spheres? >> sure. i mean, i would lead towards the former, not the latter, despite the fact that china has been opaque in terms of what they are spending on defense and what specific table abilities they may be investing in at any given time. they have been very transparent about their aspirations. to xi jinping last year at the communist party committee, he was pretty clear about wanting china to be a global power with global power projection capability. and among the capabilities they're developing are aircraft carriers, which would certainly indicate a desire to project power beyond their territorial waters. >> so one particular area of potential chinese power is that the frontier of military technology, and that is artificial intelligence.
all of the systems, autonomous weapons systems, the algorithms that will drive warfare. the chinese seem particularly eager to dominate. you mentioned xi jinping for the speech last fall. of chinaat the center commanding technological highs in the future. i want you to talk a little bit about how you see transforming power,siness of military and whether you worry that we are not doing enough, given it importance to get our focus set on meeting this chinese challenge. >> sure. first of all, in our profession, one of the areas that will really determine future outcomes is speed of decision-making. ai is certainly relevant to speed of decision-making. if you think about cyberspace, ai is critical to being able to implement effective ways of
protecting ourselves in cyberspace. if you think about operating in that environment i spoke earlier, the access of area denial, and the capacity that is sufficient to be able to operate in the complex operating -machine -- -- man, man-machine teaming is obviously a critical element. and i don't think it would be an overstatement when we talk about artificial intelligence to say that whoever has a competitive advantage in artificial intelligence and can field systems informed by artificial intelligence could very well have an overall competitive advantage. that important. -- i mean, i think it may be that important. i don't think it's something we can say definitively at this point, but it's certainly going to inform and be the preponderance of the variables that can go into, hey, who has an overall competitive advantage? ai will be a key piece of it. in regard to whether we are doing enough, i will tell you this -- in so many areas, i would never be complacent in telling you that we are doing enough. we are clearly in a competition
for competitive advantage. without exaggeration, i can tell you that our overall competitive advantage has reduced over the past 10 or 12 years. -- 10 or 12ears ago years ago, whoever was sitting in my seat could have said we are uncontested in all domains, uncontested in our ability to project power when and where necessary. i can't say that today. what i can say is that we can defend the homeland and our way of life, we can meet our alliance commitments today and we have an aggregate competitive advantage over any potential adversary. i'm equally confident in saying that if we do not change the trajectory we are on for that 10 2002, 2003,between to maybe 2015 or 2016 -- maybe more than 10 years -- if we do not change that trajectory, whoever is in my seat five to seven years from now will not be as confident as i have. -- as i am. the trajectory is in the wrong direction. technologies like artificial intelligence are going to be a critical element to our ability to have a competitive advantage
in the future. and again, when i benchmark our competitive advantage, i really talk about things like conventional deterrence, our ability to respond effectively if deterrence fails. >> let me ask you about one of the trickiest parts of this competitive problem going forward. one thing the chinese can command is the very best brainpower in china -- >> sure -- >> to work on these problems in ways that serve the government. our arguably best ai company, google, was asked and agreed to be part of a pentagon program called project maven where google computer scientists would write algorithms that would be useful for pentagon war fighters. the employees of google learned .f this and rebelled that is the only way to put it. there was a petition campaign, and all of a sudden google decided that because of its
unhappiness, they were going to have to back out of project maven. and so i -- just to put it to you simply, what would you say google employees if they were watching this streaming, or employees at microsoft or amazon, for that matter. what would the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff say about the need for this brainpower? >> sure. first thing i'd say in very simple terms, were they all sitting here right now, i'd say, hey, we're the good guys. we are the good guys. and it's inexplicable to me that we would make compromises in order to advance our business interests in china, where we know -- where we know that freedoms are restrained, where we know that china will take intellectual property from companies, strip that away, put the companies in the dustbin of history and then use that intellectual property for their own advantage. we know those things are taking place, so it's inexplicable to me that we wouldn't have a cooperative relationship with
the private sector. i would also say that if you look at the world order that since world war ii and you look at the values that are represented in that world order, we have been, arguably, the leader of the free world since world war ii. to have the capability of leading the free world and advancing the values and interests that reflect our country posey values and interests and the western world's values and interests, there will be alternatives to create an alternative order. i am not sure that the people at google will enjoy a world order that is informed by the norms and standards of russia or china , using the two dante examples that we discussed -- using the two examples that we discussed earlier. that is what i would share with the people at google. we are the good guys, in a sense that we do stand for what is right. we might make mistakes from time to time, but our record of
standing up for principles of sovereignty, our records of standing up for human rights, freedom and navigation to the global commons is uncontested. if you highlight a single incident incident here or there, you can see where humans have made -- made mistakes. but if you look at it over the course of 70 years, i think it's indisputeable what we have stood for. so if you believe in what we have stood for over the past 70 years, then you need to understand that has only been possible because of the relationship that the u.s. military has enjoyed with industry. and when of the -- you know, i talk about competitive advantages. one of the competitive advantages the u.s. military has enjoyed for decades has been that public-private partnership, where we've been able to leverage the full human capital and ideas of american people. if we don't have access to that, we are not going to be competitive. >> that's a pretty stark statement. you're basically saying if that connection's broken, we cannot compete at the level that we traditionally he known.
-- have known. >> well, at best, we're playing with one hand behind our back, right? i mean, again, if it you believe what i believe, and you look back at our experience in the past, that relationship with industry, the fact that human capital is unleashed in our country, that ideas can rise to the top and we can be out in front, it's not a mistake that academically and intellectually we've led the world, it's because of our form of government, and absent the ability to tap into silicon valley and have those kinds of relationships, we will not have that advantage that we've traditionally enjoyed. i think that's really the point i'm trying to make. >> i want to come closer to home . in fact, right at home, and and that's to ask you about the deployment of regular u.s. military troops to the border in november. that was something that i -- i guess it was actually late october. >> right. >> that was a decision that surprised a lot of people, and
as we've looked at what those troops have been doing, general, frankly, it looks an awful lot more like a paramilitary set of tasks, the sort of thing that national guard or law enforcement personnel do, than what you ask our uniformed military to do. so i want to ask you why you as chairman thought it was appropriate to go along with that order of -- >> sure. >> the president and how much longer this is going to last. >> sure. let me walk back to what problem we're trying to solve. the department of homeland security has the primary responsibility for enforcing the border. the department of homeland security indicated to the president they had gaps in their capability. those gaps included engineering capability to reinforce the points of entry. it included rotor wing helicopter support and in some cases, fixed-wing aircraft to move their people around and they had some medical shortfalls and logistic shortfalls. those are all things in the department of defense.
so we worked very closely with secretary nielsen to refine what capabilities she needed us to provide, and then the president gave us a legal order to support the department of homeland security. if we i would tell you are in a hurricane or a fire, we routinely provide what are called title 10 forces, active duty u.s. military forces to support the department of homeland security. we go all around the world to respond in the wake of an eahquake, to respond in the wake of a natural disaster, with u.s. military capabilities, to do things that they're not primarily trained or organized and equipped to do, but they have the capability and capacity to support. so to me, one, it was a legal order to support the department of homeland security. the mission was absolutely clear. the troops had the proper training to execute that mission. in the rules of engagement, they were clear to me. why -- it starts
with why did i support it? well, it was a legal order. and why am i not concerned about it? because those things are all in place. when i look at recommendations to use military forces, it starts with, is the mission clear? to our people have the wherewithal to a congress that mission? that is training and agreement. the conditions under which they are operating, are they clear enough for me to provide them guidance on how they should conduct themselves under those conditions? it met all of those criteria. >> and what i hear you saying, just to close this out, is that you do not have authority as chairman to refuse a lawful order. whatever you may think about that order. >> no, that's right. and i think the american people would not want generals to be making policy decisions and would not want generals to determine when we should use force. you expect me to provide a device to our political leadership about how to use the military instrument. you expect me to provide a
device about the appropriateness of using the military instrument , but ifrtain conditions i receive a lawful order, i expect the american people expect me to execute that. i think it is problematic for generals to start making decisions based on one political party or another being in office, saying no, i do not really like it so i am not going to do that area to me, it comes down to whether or not it is a legal order. if i had a concern based on principle, you really only have one choice, is to obey a lawful order or to resign. and i can't imagine too many conditions where i would resign if given a lawful order since my code kind of tells me that lance corporals and pfcs and seamen can't resign when they're told what to do if it's a lawful order, and in my own code -- informed a bit by general marshall in, you know, we all point to him as kind of one of the north stars of civil military relations, when i look
at civil military relations in a democracy, that is kind of where i land. >> i want to turn to another really interesting but also controversial issue, and that is the president of the desire to create a space force. this is anrump -- area where i have some sympathy heh his views, actually, felt the air force was not moving fast enough, that we were not responding to challenges in space, so he said i want to create a new branch of the military. you were in the room when he made this announcement and as i remember, he looked right at you, and said, you got that, general? so he did not leave any doubt -- >> i got that. [laughs] now,e question we all have where is this all heading?
>> sure. sure. >> we've had kind of an official set of reactions, we're puzzled as to whether you think, the joint staff thinks you ought to be heading towards something like a corps, forgive me, marine corps, former marine corps commandant, something like the marine corps that would be space but it would be under the air force, as the marines are under the navy. whether you can take space command and shoot some steroids into it and kind of make that work. what are you thinking right now? >> sure, sure. first, let's, if we can, just stipulate that, and if we talk military operations, space is increasingly important and there's no question about that. so the basic what problem are you trying to solve is to make sure that we have the proper organizational construct to deal with space. and there's three main areas in that regard. one of them is making sure we most effectively use the capabilities we have currently fielded. the second we are trying to solve is making sure we have the right organizational construct
to develop the capabilities that we need tomorrow. and the third is really the service type functions of training people, recruiting people, retaining people, growing people, all the things that you might associate with a service. so those are the three main elements that we're -- when we look at space, we're trying to solve those three problems. with regard to the first problem, we've already moved out. and we will in 2019 establish a unified command. what that means is, you know, we have what we call functional commands and they're really commands that have global responsibilities. united states strategic command that has a nuclear enterprise is one example. united states special operations is another example. united states cyber command is another example. transportation command is another example. each of those commands has a four-star that is responsible, works directly from a command authority's perspective for the secretary of defense, and we do that to elevate those particular functions to the right level, to make sure that the right voice is there to employ our cape nlt
-- our capabilities and provide advice to the secretary. so we will in 2019 elevate space to a unified command. it will be a four-star in charge. that four-star's responsibility will take all of the resident capability that we have inside the department of defense today, uniform military capability, put it under one single commander so that we most effectively employ that. the second two problems, the -- to develop capability and come up with the right organizational construct will come from a legislative proposal that will come from the president to the congress and the outcome will result on the dialogue that takes place between the president and the congress on what is the right approach, what is the right organizational construct, after those second two issues? the first issue is a responsibility i was given, we're moving out, we have already, you know, kind of moved behind the scenes to develop that organization. we've conducted two tabletop exercises to inform how we'll do that.
and we'll have a major exercise in february and march to refine our understanding of what space command will look like and what the right command relationships will be and so forth. and then that legislative proposal, i would imagine, would come out some time in 2019. again, that will be a legislative proposal from the president to the congress, and i imagine in subsequent budget years is when it will be addressed. >> so really, the details of this are still basically to be announced, subject to the president and congress making a joint decision. >> yes sir. until you get that, it's going to, as you said -- >> until we get that, it isn't that we're not doing anything. there's already an organization inside the united states air force that's responsible for capability development in space. that's already being taken care of. and the united states air force and army for that matter all have components that have space capabilities.
so what we are talking about is would we change that because we view it as a more optimal arrangement to develop capabilities for tomorrow and to manage our space force, space people? and i think everybody has probably concluded that we can make some changes in those two areas to be better. and to make sure we're out in front of space as an emerging separate domain, if you will, war-fighting domain. again, one of the five. and you've seen some of the options. and so i'd probably just tease you with a few of them. look, you can establish a separate department of space with a separate service inside of that department, so a completely separate organization. >> i think the president wants new uniforms. i mean -- >> you can create a separate service inside the department of the air force as a second approach to that. so there's many ways to do that and i think what we'll see is a legislative proposal. the vice president is chairing the space council.
this issue is being discussioned that is being discussed in the context of the space council and like i said -- so fair to say there's some details remaining, but i wouldn't want to leaf you -- leave you with nothing's happened since the president's speech. quite a bit has happened to include our progress in standing up a separate command to make sure we're most effectively employing the capabilities we have today. >> we only have about five minutes left and there are a couple of important things that i wanted to get to. one of them is saudi arabia. here at the "washington post," as everyone knows, we feel deeply the loss of our colleague and friend, jamal khashoggi, who was murdered in istanbul in october. since then, there has been a lot of turbulence, to put it mildly, in the u.s.-saudi relationship. and i'm wondering whether that
is affecting, will affect the u.s.-saudi military relationship and specifically, general, i want to ask you about the war in yemen. >> sure. >> and what your own military advice is as members of congress seek your views, members of the administration, that that war is a humanitarian nightmare? i'm just stating what everybody knows. it may get worse. but what kind of advice are you offering? first about the relationship with saudi arabia, second what to do in yemen. >> yeah, no. with regard to saudi arabia, i mean, saudi arabia is no different than any other country in sense that the military-to-military relationship that we have with a given country is completely informed by our policy, so there's been no change in our policy with regard to saudi arabia that has informed our military-to-military relationship to date, and i was -- and i mean this sincerely -- express my condolences both to the "post" and his family. i've seen his family many times on television and read what they have written in the "post" and other periodicals.
and so if the policy changes, our military-to-military relationship changes. we have historically had a strong military-to-military relationship with saudi arabia. it has been historically a fact that saudi arabia's contribution to security and stability in the middle east is important, and so we have approached our military military-to-military -- approached our military-to-military relationship with that in mind. with regard to yemen, i think it's probably important to clarify, u.s. military operations in yemen are focused on two things. isis and al qaeda. we are not a participant in the civil war, nor are we supporting one side of the civil war or the other. my advice has been to continue with the support to martin griffiths. the good news is there's an ongoing discussion in sweden this week which is, you know, hope springs eternal, but arguably one of the more important diplomatic developments in a few years with regard to yemen is the parties are actually in sweden and there's a framework that gives
us some reasonable expectation of an outcome that advances the situation in yemen to some degree. but again, i would continue to recommend that we are not a participant in the civil war in yemen and we remain an honest broker, if you will, with the ability to contribute to a diplomatic solution in yemen. there is not a military solution. you've covered that as much as anybody has. there's not a purely military solution in yemen, as just like there isn't any complex contingency of the sort in yemen. so our military advice is focus on al qaeda and isis and making sure we have the partnerships in the region to make sure we can disrupt what has been over the last few years the most insidious strain of al qaeda, which has been al qaeda in the arabian peninsula, and obviously concerned about isis there as we are elsewhere. >> there have been calls increasingly from congress to cut off military sales to saudi arabia. again, strictly from a military standpoint, what would be the
consequences of that in terms of regional security, in your view? >> yeah, i mean, i think that it's fair to say that saudi arabia would be less capable without access to u.s. technology and capability. i will not weigh in on whether or not we ought to do that because the military dimension in this case is but one of the considerations that our nation is going to have to make when determining whether or not to continue to sell weapons to saudi arabia. right now, there's been no change in our policy, so that's what we're doing. but i do understand the debate that's taking place with regard to whether or not we'll do that in the future. and again, most of the considerations are very important, but they're not military considerations. >> so i have one last question, and some ways it's probably the hardest one. and that's afghanistan. this is a war that's been going on now for 17 years. you were in afghanistan earlier this year, and i think you said that you thought we were making progress. we have just been through a
period in which the cost in american lives has seemed to spike up again. there are efforts under way to try to find some negotiated settlement of the conflict. but at what point, general dunford, do you -- would you say, as chairman, it's time to stop putting american soldiers' lives at risk in afghanistan and begin to draw that down? what -- in your mind, i know you don't like timetables, but i'm sure there is a point at which a military commander says that's it, we're not going to spend another american life in this -- in a particular conflict. >> look, it's a fair question. it's a good question. and certainly, this week, having lost five soldiers in in the past two weeks, a question that
-- five soldiers in the past two weeks, a question that weighs heavily on all of our minds and it isn't that we don't every day think about that. what i would say about afghanistan, we have to go back to a fundamental assumption. this is an assumption i make and we can argue this assumption, but it is an assumption i make and it is informed by the intelligence. were we not to put the pressure on isis, al qaeda, and other groups in the region that we are putting on today, it is our assessment that in a period of time, their capability would reconstitute and they have, today, the intent and they in the future would have the capability to do what we saw on 9/11. so when i look at afghanistan, it starts with that assumption in mind. so, again, people can argue that assumption. so, my -- what problem am i trying to solve has less to do with security and stability in afghanistan than it does first and foremost with making recommendations for the employment of military force that protects the american people, the home larnd,land, and -- the homeland, and our allies.
so that's where we start. it's my judgment that the presence that we've had in afghanistan has, in fact, disrupted the enemy's ability to reconstitute and impose a threat to us. and we assess this probably for and we assess this probably for those that don't pay close attention to afghanistan on a regional basis there are 20 trained groups operating south of the area. so the question to me is not when we should leave. i bieveeleg interests in south asia and we will have an enduring economic presence, an enduring diplomatic presence in south asia. today my recommendations on the character of our presence are informed by my assessment of the threat in the region and the level of efforthat is required to disrupt threats to the homeland. and were the afghan forces capable on their own of dealing
with isis and al-qaeda and were we to have a political reconciliation which is our long-term instate in afghanistan which would set the conditions for us to just our posture i think all of us would be happy. but in my judgment today in order to achieve our political objectives the force on the ground, the level of assistance we're providing, the capabilities we're providing afghans to take the fight to the taliban are necessary for one piece of our strategy, which is military pressure. the theory of the case in afghanistan is we will put sufficient political pressure, sufficient social pressure and sufficient military pressure on the taliban so they will reconcile an afghan owned, afghan reconciliation process. what i said was that with regard to political pressure, the recent elections were another element in terms of being positive in putting political pressure on the taliban.
social pressure i was encouraged by the fact that indonesia in pakistan and in saudi arabia had issued fatwas that truly i think advanced the case of the afghan government. and the third piece was i believe with the changes we made in the southeast asia strategy and the approach nato and our partners took and the fact we were willing to provide resources to support the afghan defense security forces through 2024, which was a decision made at the natoeeting last summer, what i said was that in my judgment particularly with some of the initiatives on the diplomatic track the pressure on the taliban was moving in the right direction.
and we were seeing for the first time certainly in many, many years we were seeing some opportunities to initiate that afghan owned, afghan led reconciliation process. i am very measured in terms of making predictions about where we are in that process. i think anybody that has studied negotiations know you never really know where you are in a negotiation until it's over. so there's plenty of work to be done in regard to an afghan owned, afghan led reconciliation process. but to bring to bear that political, social, and military pressure is necessary. i have not recommended we leave afghanistan, because again ibin my judgment leaving afghanistan would not only create instability in south asia but in my judgment would give terrorist groups the space to plan again the american people, the homeland and our allies. and that really is the problem we're trying to solve. i will tell you for those critical of what we're doing, my level of confidence, if i had
all the answers when i was second lieutenant was up here. and my level of confidence based on my experience today is way down here. if someone has a better idea than we have right now which is to continue support the afghans and continue to put pressure on those terrorists groups in the region, i'm certainly open to dialogue on that. >> great conversation. i'll be back in a few minutes for a discussion with the darpa director steven walker. but for now we'll move onto the next portion of our program. before we do that, please join me in thanking our terrific speaker. >> thank you, everybody.
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