Pentagon Holds First Worldwide Town Hall Meeting
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 29, 2005 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers held the first worldwide town hall meeting today at the Pentagon.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers addresses the audience during a worldwide Town Hall meeting at the Pentagon, June 29. Myers joined Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld at the session. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The session was beamed worldwide on the Pentagon Channel. In addition, some questions received via DoD's official Web site were asked.
The meeting was a chance for servicemembers and DoD civilian employees to ask Rumsfeld and Myers questions in an open forum. The leaders addressed issues such as the budget, retirement and recruiting.
This was an appropriate time to hold a meeting like this, because the upcoming July Fourth holiday holds a lot of meaning, Myers said.
"It has a lot of meaning to what the American spirit is all about, particularly the spirit of the men and women in the Department of Defense," he said. "We are used to defending this country's freedoms."
Keeping the best people in DoD is important, Rumsfeld said, and therefore a way needs to be found to keep eligible employees in service past their mandatory retirement dates. These people often are the "best and brightest" in the service and have valuable experience and talents that are useful, he said.
"If they want to go, that's fine," he said. "But if they would prefer to stay, we ought to find ways to do that."
In addition to keeping current talent, it's important for DoD to work on recruiting new talent, Myers said. Enlistment bonuses and educational benefits are being increased and more recruiters are being added to the force in efforts to boost recruitment, he said. Another important way to improve recruitment is for senior leaders to speak out and spread the message of the nobility of military service, he said.
In response to a budget question, Rumsfeld stressed that there is not a problem with the amount of money available to the military, but with how it is allocated. There is always competition with how money is spent, and it is up to leaders to make the right decisions about how to fund "the single most important thing we do," which is defending the country, he said.
"We certainly ought to be smart enough and wise enough to allocate the resources here and go up to the Congress and say, 'Here's how we believe it ought to be spent,'" he said.
Looking forward to Independence Day, Rumsfeld and Myers both emphasized the strength of America and the spirit that has been present throughout our history.
"(The) troops and their families are showing every day that the spirit of July Fourth is as strong today as it was in 1776," Rumsfeld said. "America still remains what President Lincoln called 'The last best hope on Earth.'"