Military News

Friday, July 31, 2015

Winnefeld Would Repeat 37-Year Career ‘In a Heartbeat’




By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2015 – Looking back on a 37-year career, Navy Adm. James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr., says he “would do it again in a heartbeat.”

The ninth vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired today. As the day approached, he spoke about his experiences as the military’s second-highest-ranking officer.

Budget concerns dominated Winnefeld’s four-year term. He spent much of his time battling for more resources during an era of budget cuts.

He took office Aug. 4, 2011 -- two days after the Budget Control Act became law. A naval aviator, he flew F-14 Tomcats and commanded at every level from squadron to combatant command. Air Force Gen. Paul Selva succeeds Winnefeld, and will now take up the budget battle.

The vice chairman serves as the chairman in the chairman’s absence and has portfolios all his own. Those break down to investment, strategy and policy and people, the admiral said, adding that they must all be in balance for a healthy military.

Budget Control Act Generated New Challenges

The Budget Control Act threw the system off-kilter, he said. “Whenever you ask a large organization to either not grow as fast as it thought it was going to grow or actually shrink as far as its resources go, it’s a tremendous internal and external challenge,” the admiral said.

The external challenge is making sure the public and members of Congress know exactly how these changes affect the military’s mission to protect the national security interests of the United States, he said.

Internally, the challenge is to “marshal your creativity and keep people out of denial,” Winnefeld said, “and actually try to get something done where you can rebalance this portfolio so that we can defend the national security interests of the country as well as we can with the means that we’re granted.”

The military will continue to look for ways to save resources, either by cutting ineffectual programs or finding new ways to employ forces and equipment, he said. And, Winnefeld said, he and the rest of the Joint Chiefs will continue to stress that any forces sent into harm’s way will have the training, equipment and leadership needed to get the mission done.

But military readiness has suffered under the Budget Control Act and sequestration, the admiral acknowledged.

“I have a saying that ‘Readiness has no constituency,’ and it’s really true,” Winnefeld said. Saving force structure at the expense of readiness hollows out the force, he said.

“The services early on in this kind of process will say, … if we have to get smaller, we’re going to stay ready,” he said. “But when it comes to jumping off that cliff of actually cutting force structure, it’s very hard for them to bring themselves to do that.”

Cuts Worry Troops, Impact Strategy

Many leaders say it is easier to build readiness than it is to recover force structure. But these cuts have a deeper effect, Winnefeld said.

“When the money goes away and you’re not flying anymore, it hurts morale, it hurts retention, it hurts your ability to go off and fight quickly if you need to be able to fight,” he said. The services can recover over time and with a lot of money, the admiral said, but it is difficult to climb out of the readiness hole.

With already announced personnel cuts, many service members are worried that they will pay the price with longer and more frequent deployments, Winnefeld said. That concern is echoed by senior military and civilian leaders, he added.

“There have been a couple of instances lately … where we’ve come to the conclusion that … we have to do less,” the admiral said.

Winnefeld said that the military’s senior leaders understand that budgetary issues will force them to adjust missions.

“When we’ve gone over to the White House and explained that, when we’ve gone upstairs to the secretary of defense and explained that, they always ask a lot of questions,” he said.

“They want to make sure that our facts are right and that sort of thing. But they’ve never once pushed back and said, ‘No, I understand that this is going to be harder on your people, but you just have to do it.’ They’ve never said that.”

Sometimes, it is the military ethos that causes the problems. “Part of it is we’ve got such a can-do ethic around here that we don’t want to say we can do less,” the vice chairman said. “That’s part of the battle.”

It takes money and resources to fulfill a strategy -- particularly in terms of operational tempo, he said. “At some point we’re just going to have to say I’m sorry, we can’t do this one thing,” he said. “We’re going to have to trim back.”

This may mean fewer intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance patrols, Winnefeld said. It may mean reducing the Navy’s forward presence, he said, or it may mean fewer Patriot batteries.

“Every service feels this,” he said. “We’re going to have to be willing to stand up and say we’re going to have to do less with less. And we can -- and I’ve never had pushback on that,” the admiral said.

Respect for Those Who Serve

Winnefeld and his wife are champions of service members and their families, especially of wounded warriors. “These are young men and young women who have raised their right hand, volunteered,” he said.

“They went in and they got hurt serving their country,” the admiral said. “And we owe everything we can to try to do the best we can for these warriors and their caregivers and their families to make sure that we take care of the ones who have given more than the average in the service of their country. It’s a moral obligation that we have, and it’s going to be with us for decades.”

Winnefeld said he wants the military to remain one of the most respected entities in America.

“The most important thing that we can do is maintain the trust of the American people,” he said. “It means, first of all, your own personal integrity and always doing the difficult right thing rather than the easy wrong, and purging it from our ranks when we find people who don’t get that.”

It also means being competent, the admiral said. “What that means is working hard, going the extra mile to learn your job, taking care of your people, making sure you can execute the mission, and just being dead-set dedicated to the mission that you’re on,” Winnefeld said.

He says that when he asks young service members if they want to trade places with him, none take him up. “It’s a delight to see these young millennials coming in, and they’re so smart, and they’re better than we ever were, and capable,” he said.

“They want to serve,” he said. “They want to do something important. For all the challenges that we deal with every day, seeing those young people come in just gives you all the faith in the world that we’re going to be OK.”

An Unexpected Career

Winnefeld has had a plethora of experiences in his 37-year Navy career. He flew off the wing of a Soviet Tu-95 Bear bomber right after a Sukhoi Su-15 shot down a Korean Air Lines 747 passenger jet and killed all 269 passengers and crew. It was one of the tensest moments of the Cold War, Winnefeld said.

While serving as an instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School, he worked on the 1986 movie “Top Gun,” and later flew combat missions during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

As commander of the USS Enterprise on 9/11, he ordered the carrier -- then completing a deployment -- to turn around and head back to the Arabian Gulf. The ship was in position to launch some of the first strikes against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. He went on to command U.S. Northern Command before his selection as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

When he graduated from Georgia Tech’s Navy ROTC program, he had no plan “other than to be a fighter pilot and take it from there,” he said.

“I almost left the Navy when I was young. I was in this sort of two-month window when I had to decide whether to take a bonus or leave. But I knew I was going to miss the people and I was going to miss the mission and the excitement, and so I decided to stick around.

“And it’s just gotten more and more interesting every year that I’ve been in,” he continued, “and it’s just a wonderful life. I’d do it over again in a heartbeat.”



By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2015 – Looking back on a 37-year career, Navy Adm. James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr., says he “would do it again in a heartbeat.”

The ninth vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retired today. As the day approached, he spoke about his experiences as the military’s second-highest-ranking officer.

Budget concerns dominated Winnefeld’s four-year term. He spent much of his time battling for more resources during an era of budget cuts.

He took office Aug. 4, 2011 -- two days after the Budget Control Act became law. A naval aviator, he flew F-14 Tomcats and commanded at every level from squadron to combatant command. Air Force Gen. Paul Selva succeeds Winnefeld, and will now take up the budget battle.

The vice chairman serves as the chairman in the chairman’s absence and has portfolios all his own. Those break down to investment, strategy and policy and people, the admiral said, adding that they must all be in balance for a healthy military.

Budget Control Act Generated New Challenges

The Budget Control Act threw the system off-kilter, he said. “Whenever you ask a large organization to either not grow as fast as it thought it was going to grow or actually shrink as far as its resources go, it’s a tremendous internal and external challenge,” the admiral said.

The external challenge is making sure the public and members of Congress know exactly how these changes affect the military’s mission to protect the national security interests of the United States, he said.

Internally, the challenge is to “marshal your creativity and keep people out of denial,” Winnefeld said, “and actually try to get something done where you can rebalance this portfolio so that we can defend the national security interests of the country as well as we can with the means that we’re granted.”

The military will continue to look for ways to save resources, either by cutting ineffectual programs or finding new ways to employ forces and equipment, he said. And, Winnefeld said, he and the rest of the Joint Chiefs will continue to stress that any forces sent into harm’s way will have the training, equipment and leadership needed to get the mission done.

But military readiness has suffered under the Budget Control Act and sequestration, the admiral acknowledged.

“I have a saying that ‘Readiness has no constituency,’ and it’s really true,” Winnefeld said. Saving force structure at the expense of readiness hollows out the force, he said.

“The services early on in this kind of process will say, … if we have to get smaller, we’re going to stay ready,” he said. “But when it comes to jumping off that cliff of actually cutting force structure, it’s very hard for them to bring themselves to do that.”

Cuts Worry Troops, Impact Strategy

Many leaders say it is easier to build readiness than it is to recover force structure. But these cuts have a deeper effect, Winnefeld said.

“When the money goes away and you’re not flying anymore, it hurts morale, it hurts retention, it hurts your ability to go off and fight quickly if you need to be able to fight,” he said. The services can recover over time and with a lot of money, the admiral said, but it is difficult to climb out of the readiness hole.

With already announced personnel cuts, many service members are worried that they will pay the price with longer and more frequent deployments, Winnefeld said. That concern is echoed by senior military and civilian leaders, he added.

“There have been a couple of instances lately … where we’ve come to the conclusion that … we have to do less,” the admiral said.

Winnefeld said that the military’s senior leaders understand that budgetary issues will force them to adjust missions.

“When we’ve gone over to the White House and explained that, when we’ve gone upstairs to the secretary of defense and explained that, they always ask a lot of questions,” he said.

“They want to make sure that our facts are right and that sort of thing. But they’ve never once pushed back and said, ‘No, I understand that this is going to be harder on your people, but you just have to do it.’ They’ve never said that.”

Sometimes, it is the military ethos that causes the problems. “Part of it is we’ve got such a can-do ethic around here that we don’t want to say we can do less,” the vice chairman said. “That’s part of the battle.”

It takes money and resources to fulfill a strategy -- particularly in terms of operational tempo, he said. “At some point we’re just going to have to say I’m sorry, we can’t do this one thing,” he said. “We’re going to have to trim back.”

This may mean fewer intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance patrols, Winnefeld said. It may mean reducing the Navy’s forward presence, he said, or it may mean fewer Patriot batteries.

“Every service feels this,” he said. “We’re going to have to be willing to stand up and say we’re going to have to do less with less. And we can -- and I’ve never had pushback on that,” the admiral said.

Respect for Those Who Serve

Winnefeld and his wife are champions of service members and their families, especially of wounded warriors. “These are young men and young women who have raised their right hand, volunteered,” he said.

“They went in and they got hurt serving their country,” the admiral said. “And we owe everything we can to try to do the best we can for these warriors and their caregivers and their families to make sure that we take care of the ones who have given more than the average in the service of their country. It’s a moral obligation that we have, and it’s going to be with us for decades.”

Winnefeld said he wants the military to remain one of the most respected entities in America.

“The most important thing that we can do is maintain the trust of the American people,” he said. “It means, first of all, your own personal integrity and always doing the difficult right thing rather than the easy wrong, and purging it from our ranks when we find people who don’t get that.”

It also means being competent, the admiral said. “What that means is working hard, going the extra mile to learn your job, taking care of your people, making sure you can execute the mission, and just being dead-set dedicated to the mission that you’re on,” Winnefeld said.

He says that when he asks young service members if they want to trade places with him, none take him up. “It’s a delight to see these young millennials coming in, and they’re so smart, and they’re better than we ever were, and capable,” he said.

“They want to serve,” he said. “They want to do something important. For all the challenges that we deal with every day, seeing those young people come in just gives you all the faith in the world that we’re going to be OK.”

An Unexpected Career

Winnefeld has had a plethora of experiences in his 37-year Navy career. He flew off the wing of a Soviet Tu-95 Bear bomber right after a Sukhoi Su-15 shot down a Korean Air Lines 747 passenger jet and killed all 269 passengers and crew. It was one of the tensest moments of the Cold War, Winnefeld said.

While serving as an instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School, he worked on the 1986 movie “Top Gun,” and later flew combat missions during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

As commander of the USS Enterprise on 9/11, he ordered the carrier -- then completing a deployment -- to turn around and head back to the Arabian Gulf. The ship was in position to launch some of the first strikes against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. He went on to command U.S. Northern Command before his selection as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

When he graduated from Georgia Tech’s Navy ROTC program, he had no plan “other than to be a fighter pilot and take it from there,” he said.

“I almost left the Navy when I was young. I was in this sort of two-month window when I had to decide whether to take a bonus or leave. But I knew I was going to miss the people and I was going to miss the mission and the excitement, and so I decided to stick around.

“And it’s just gotten more and more interesting every year that I’ve been in,” he continued, “and it’s just a wonderful life. I’d do it over again in a heartbeat.”

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