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Dempsey lays down a marker on potential cuts

Even before the president's talk about budget cuts this week, incoming Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey made clear that whatever happens going forward, he's not going to let the Army get to the point where soldiers are marching with sticks instead of rifles. Dempsey issued a letter to soldiers saying that they're the finest who've ever served, and he acknowledged that nobody knows what's around the corner of Iraq, Afghanistan, and America's pauper future.

But that doesn't mean Dempsey's going to sit idly by and watch budget-cutters disassemble the Army. "The 'talk on the street' is all about how resource constraints are coming and about how we must act to ensure a 'soft landing,'" he wrote. "You won't hear that from me. I didn't take the job as your 37th chief of staff to orchestrate a 'soft landing.' I took the job as the 37th to team with an incredible group of senior military and civilian leaders to make our Army smarter, better and more capable -- with the resources we are given -- so that we provide the nation with the greatest number of options for an uncertain future."

Translation: Dempsey and the Army will play ball as part of austerity America, but the general apparently expects to move forward with his program of "reassessing the profession of arms," buying a new fleet of Ground Combat Vehicles, and the service's other longstanding priorities. More basically, Dempsey's guidance makes clear that although he sees the Army in a time of transition, he  thinks he and other leaders can steer it the way they want, rather than just try to arrest its slide. Or as Dempsey put it himself: "As our resourcing changes, we'll change -- but we'll be changing from a position of great strength. That's why I like the problem we have."

Plus: What do you think are the top three challenges and opportunities for the Army? You can tell Dempsey what you think on his Facebook page -- but don't forget to comment here, too.

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