When Gen. Martin Dempsey was a student at Duke University, his favorite past time didn’t involve attending lectures.
But the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest ranking military officer in the country delivered one of those lectures Thursday, joking that he would rather be at a sports bar.
“My recollection of my time at Duke suggests that before basketball games, I’d find my way not to a lecture hall, but rather to Shooters,” he said at the speech.
Dempsey, who received a master’s degree in English from Duke in 1984, told a packed audience about a new national security strategy. This is the first time Dempsey has spoken about the strategy outside of Washington, D.C. since President Barack Obama revealed new strategic guidance for the U.S. military on Jan. 5.
Dempsey talked about his career in the military and his time at Duke, before discussing some specifics of the new strategy.
“It seeks a balance of principle and pragmatism,” he said.
When he unveiled the strategy, Obama had said the military’s budget would be slashed. This could include a possible $487 billion cut throughout the course of the next 10 years.
The military’s priorities will also be shifted to an emphasis on the Middle East and East Asia.
“We as service chiefs don’t feel victimized by this,” Dempsey said. “We clearly have a role to play, all of us, in helping the nation address its economic deficit.”
Dempsey said the new strategy responds to recent changes in the world, such as the Arab Spring revolutions, a regime change in North Korea and the proliferation of information technology and non-biological intelligence.
Past strategies have been designed to allow the military to fight two major wars at once, but this capability will not exist in the future, Dempsey said.
David Gray, a peace, war and defense professor at UNC, said U.S. troops will be removed from countries in Europe, like Germany, and shifted to the Middle East.
“They’re going to cut the Army and the Marines, but they’re going to plus up the Navy and the Air Force,” he said.
Gray said Dempsey’s speech is part of a political campaign to sell the new military strategy to the public.
“You’ve got to put it on the table and let people throw rocks at it,” he said.
Dempsey said securing U.S. economic prosperity will lead to greater national security.
“We’ve got to rebalance ourselves,” he said. “If we haven’t learned anything over the last 10 years, shame on us.”
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