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Cartwright Calls for Balance in Missile Defense Construct

Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden - American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2010 - Modern missile defense requires the U.S. military to strike a balance between offensive and defensive capabilities to meet today's changing threat, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.

Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright spoke to an audience of more than 200 missile defense experts at the 8th Annual U.S. Missile Defense Conference at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center here. He touched on a need to balance the construct of offensive and defensive long-range capabilities as well as the importance of integrating those means with international partners and allies.

No real changes have risen in regards to ballistic missile developments to defend against nuclear weapons. However, the United States must tailor capabilities, such as bomber jets and Patriot missiles, to address actions from nations with nuclear weapons as well as individual terrorists. And the United States can't do that alone, he said.

"We can't do the defense all ourselves, and we certainly can't do the offense ourselves," Cartwright said. "We're going to work as a coalition, [and] ... what used to be extended deterrence now has to take on an attribute of sharing."

The general explained that this change in culture is necessary because the United States can't carry the burden of keeping up with technology and the financial load alone. Bringing foreign partners into the equation must be the new norm in order to be the most effective, he said.

Whether it's nuclear deterrence, weapons acquisition or sensory capabilities, the United States can't afford not to partner and consolidate capabilities. The United States and its allies also can't afford for potential enemies to gain confidence in their abilities, he added.

Taking advantage of foreign partnerships and striking a balance between offense and defense will make it very clear to U.S. adversaries that they will "pay dearly" should they attempt a missile attack. Otherwise, the United States and its allies are vulnerable, he said.

"There just can't be any doubt in the [enemy's] mind," Cartwright explained. "We've got to demonstrate that day in and day out with our exercises, our planning, our rhetoric. All of this has to come together, and it's got to be meaningful from the individual terrorist all the way up to the peer nation states."

The general also called for the missile defense community to work toward an "open architecture" to bring together capabilities from different systems to avoid redundancy and unnecessary costs. "We've got to understand it's the same data," he said. "We manipulate it differently, process it differently, [but] these have to be pulled together in very similar ways.

"As we work our way forward, we can't let ourselves lose track of the fact that we're out there to assimilate, use it to our advantage, the advantage of our friends and allies to have better deterrence," he added.

Looking forward, missile defense experts and the Pentagon are working toward manning the U.S. military's individual geographic areas of responsibility with the correct balance of effectiveness and affordability, Cartwright said.

Cartwright said he's confident in the United States' ability to move in the right direction, but stressed that the "adversary gets a vote." He noted that the United States and its allies are more than capable of adjusting to potential threats, but "we have to be ready and maintain cutting-edge technology and management and resources."

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