Friday, September 30, 2011

Mullen Offers Advice to Dempsey on Chairman Job

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By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2011 – The job of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is often misunderstood and more than a little confusing, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said here today.

Mullen made his final public remarks as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before an audience that included President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, senior military officers and other distinguished officials.

They gathered at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., for the ceremony marking Mullen’s retirement and change of responsibility to the new chairman, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the nation’s senior military officer, charged with advising the president, defense secretary and Congress on military matters.

“I’ve always taken that responsibility very seriously, always considered that a low profile was best ... sort of like my hero, George Marshall,” the admiral said. Marshall, who died Oct. 16, 1959, was the Army chief of staff during World War II. Afterward, as the Cold War began, Marshall served as secretary of state and then defense secretary.

Though many people have asked him what advice he has offered to Dempsey, he has been reticent to answer, the admiral said.

“A big part of the job is discretion; it’s keeping private the counsel you give our nation’s top leaders,” he said. But, he added, his advice is “pretty simple.”

Mullen said Dempsey will be not just the president’s advisor, but also the personal representative of 2.2 million U.S. service members and their families.

“I told him he had a bully pulpit in this job and that he should use it to voice their needs and their concerns and their accomplishments,” the admiral said. “They won’t ask him for that help, but they will need it.”

Mullen said the service chiefs and combatant commanders he has led are “the best team of leaders with whom I have ever served,” Mullen said. “To the degree we are a truly joint force, it’s because of them and their selflessness.”

He said he advised Dempsey the president will listen to him.

“That’s the president’s way,” the admiral said. “He seeks counsel. He appreciates candor, except for certain delicate matters concerning the Chicago White Sox.”

Mullen said he had every opportunity to offer his views to the commander in chief.

“All of my advice has been heard,” he said. “A military man or woman can ask for nothing more of their civilian leaders, and they should expect nothing less.”

Mullen said he told his successor his biggest challenge will be Afghanistan, and “[seeing] this critical transition through to its completion, in making sure that the security gains we have made are not squandered by the scourge of corruption or the lack of good governance that still plagues the country.”

America’s strategy in Afghanistan is the right one, he said, and “we must keep executing it.”

“I urged Marty to remember the importance of Pakistan to all of this, to try and do a better job than I did with that vexing and yet vital relationship,” the admiral said. “I continue to believe that there is no solution in the region without Pakistan, and no stable future in the region without a partnership.”

Mullen said he also told Dempsey to compare the chairman’s job to running a marathon, not a sprint.

“Time is both his best friend and his worst enemy. I never seemed to have enough of it to do the things I wanted, and it’s hard to believe it’s over,” he said.

“Marty, you’re going to be great. You’re absolutely the right person for this job, a combat-proven leader. And with Deanie at your side, the two of you are the right team for these times. Deborah and I wish you both all the best,” Mullen said.

Mullen: America Can’t Lose Its Military Edge

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By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2011 – America can ill afford to lose its military superiority, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said today, his last day as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Speaking to the audience gathered at Virginia’s Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall to watch him transfer the chairmanship to Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Mullen said decisions made in the coming months will determine what kind of military the nation will have during the next 20 to 30 years.

The admiral noted the U.S. military forces have fought for a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now face “looming threats” posed by Iran and North Korea, challenges in cyberspace and China’s growing military capabilities.

“We have become the best counterinsurgency force in the world, but we have done so at the expense of critical conventional capabilities we necessarily let lapse,” Mullen said. “We have become the most expeditionary force in our history, but in the process sacrificed some of the basics of garrison leadership and continuity that preserve the health of our all-volunteer force.”

Difficult budget decisions are ahead, the admiral acknowledged.

“Cuts in defense spending are fair game. We should do our part,” Mullen said. “But cut too deeply, and we will burn the very blanket of protection we have been charged to provide our fellow citizens. Cut too deeply now, and we will harm, perhaps irreparably, the industrial base from which we procure the materials of war.”

Mullen said as the senior military advisor to the president and the secretary of defense, he has been fortunate in those he has served.

Addressing Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, he said, “Our time together has been short in days, but long on substance. I consider myself fortunate to have had this opportunity to … learn from you, as I did under Secretary [Robert M.] Gates – another extraordinary man I consider a good friend and a mentor.”

Mullen added, “Thank you for your leadership, sir, and for the trust you placed in me.”

The chairman then addressed the American public, as he has in scores of visits to colleges, town halls and other venues across the nation during his “Conversation With the Country” travels.

“The men and women of your armed forces are the best we have ever known,” Mullen said. “They believe in what they are doing. All I ask is that you continue to believe in them.”

He urged Americans to reach out to service members, veterans and their families -- “to wash over them in what I call this ‘sea of goodwill’ that I know exists in the country.”

War has changed America’s service members forever, but it has not changed their dreams, and their fellow citizens can help make those dreams come true, Mullen said.

“Hire them. Help them buy a home. Get them started on the path to an education,” he said. “Give them a chance. That’s all they want.”

America and its citizens are struggling amid a global economic downturn, he acknowledged, and the wars young men and women in uniform are fighting aren’t “exactly foremost on everyone’s minds.”

But they are foremost in the minds of service members in the fight, the admiral said.

“We talk about the resilience of our troops and their families as if it is something apart from the rest of society,” he said. “It isn’t, or at least it shouldn’t be.”

America’s troops learned to be brave and steadfast in their homes, schools and communities, the chairman said.

“Welcome them back to those places, not only with bands and bunting or yellow ribbons, but with the solemn recognition that they have done your bidding, they have represented you well, they have carried the best of you and of this country into battle,” he urged.

Those troops have done things and seen things and bear things in their souls that civilians cannot know, the chairman said.

“Help them through their trials, be tolerant of them and each other,” Mullen said. “Give them a chance, and together we will prove the greatness that is America.”

Chairman’s Corner: A Farewell Message

By Navy Adm. Mike Mullen
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2011 – To the men, women and families of the armed forces of the United States:

It has been the greatest privilege of my life to serve as your Chairman for the last four years. Everywhere Deborah and I went to see you and your families we walked away humbled by the magnitude of the responsibility you have volunteered to carry and strengthened by the willingness and dignity with which you carry it.

From my first day on the job, I pledged to ensure you had the right strategy, leadership and resources to accomplish your missions. I believe we worked hard to get that right. But you are the ones who turned back the tide of violence in Iraq, made huge strides towards a more secure Afghanistan and defended our Nation’s interests around the globe. Even with all the demands we’ve placed on you, you still look for ways to do even more to help those in need.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the burdens placed on you and your families. Your sacrifices will be forever fixed in my heart, and I am eternally grateful for your service.

Following the Battle of Britain, Winston Churchill said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Today, I could use those very words to describe our thoughts of you. We are deeply honored to have served for and with you. May God bless you and your families always.