VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., May 13, 2009 – A greatly changed global security environment makes it imperative for the United States to field balanced military forces that can meet the challenges posed by both conventional and irregular warfare, a senior U.S. military officer said here today. The 9/11 terrorist attacks on America ushered in a new, complex and dangerous era, whereby extremists and fragile states can wage irregular warfare to confront militarily stronger adversaries, Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, told attendees at the annual Joint Warfighting Conference that’s being held here through tomorrow.

“We need to be responsive enough to adjust rapidly to what the enemy throws at us,” Olson said, “and we need to have the agility to transcend the spectrum of conflict; the ability to do so proactively requires a holistic approach to warfare.”

Current anti-insurgent campaign plans call for a two-pronged strategy, Olson said, that involves a direct military approach to attack and eliminate the enemy, and an indirect approach that includes host-nation and international participation to provide economic and governmental stability in order to root out the causes of extremism.

Globalization has created new economic opportunities for many, Olson said, but it also has helped extremists and terrorists spread their ideology of intolerance and hatred in lawless, poverty-stricken regions of the world.

The U.S. military is bred to take the fight to the enemy, Olson said, but the “surest means of winning against an irregular enemy is to defeat him before the shooting starts.”

The holistic approach to combating irregular forces “requires both a balanced operational focus and a balanced force,” Olson said.

Current and projected operational requirements “should shape our force structure and not the other way around,” Olson said. “We must build a balanced force to respond to what we need.”

Otherwise, he added, “we are doomed to needing what we haven’t built.”

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