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Admiral Vern Clark Gives Spring Policy Briefing

By Brett Wilson | February 20, 2014

Admiral Vern Clark, USN (Ret.).

"Whenever you talk about the future, it puts the pressure on the speaker to be a forecaster," said Admiral Vern Clark, USN (Ret.), as he discussed the future of the United States Military during the semi-annual policy briefing on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

The distinguished professor in the School of Business & Leadership (SBL) and Robertson School of Government (RSG) opened a discussion with students, faculty and staff about the aftermath from the last 12 years of the military's presence in Afghanistan.

During the briefing, Clark also addressed topics such as how the United States government expects to use military forces in the future, and whether or not the nation will have a response to events unfurling around the globe.

"This isn't just about what has happened in Afghanistan," said Clark. "This is how the United States evaluates the investment it makes in the national security apparatus."

Clark explained that in determining the future trajectory of U.S. military forces, three factors must be taken into consideration for the force: structure, posture and readiness.

Force structure comprises the issues that shape the military. It begs the question "what issues exist?" and mirrors the investment strategy. For instance, Clark explained that for every 10,000 members of the military forces, the government must spend $1.6 billion.

"Force posture is different; this is how we invest, train and get ready to respond to future events. The question here is 'postured for what?'" said Clark. "While we are going through an adaptive period—post sequestration—the services are struggling with what its posture should be for the next few years."

Clark explained that force readiness speaks to the military's ability to execute within a certain period of time; can the military respond and meet the objectives for which it was postured?

"Agility costs money," said Clark. "But lack of agility costs a number of things—for one it costs the president options."

The need for force readiness is a cyclic debate between Republicans and Democrats that, according to Clark, will continue to rage on.

"Sequestration is having negatives effects, as expected. It has been characterized like trying to shave with a chainsaw," said Clark. "If national security is reduced, we don't want to be seen as letting our force readiness go down the tubes."

Clark encouraged his listeners to keep an eye on what is going on with the approaching 2014 midterm elections, in order to keep apprised of the future of the military.

Learn more about Robertson School of Government.

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