Rumsfeld, Myers Describe Civilian-Military Working Relationship
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2005 As America confronts violent extremists, the military and civilians of the Defense Department must work more closely than ever before, and the example starts right at the top.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers confer June 23 during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the U.S. military strategy in Iraq. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have possibly the closest working relationship in the history of the two positions.
"It's complete," Rumsfeld said during a recent interview. "I've decided that his position as the senior military leader is so important that to try to put things in neat compartments is very difficult to do. What we've done is included General Myers in almost everything that goes on in the department."
Myers, who steps down as chairman September 30, said his working relationship with Rumsfeld is collaborative. "The secretary is not the type to dictate how things will happen," Myers said. "He wants the best, most thoughtful advice he can get."
Rumsfeld said that military leaders are involved in policy and decisions from the beginning of the process. "His background and experience and his military perspective can be so valuable in the evolution and development of policy that he should be included continuously," Rumsfeld said.
The secretary admits that this type of process can be "personality dependent," and that may be the case between he and the current military leaders. "You have to have a person who recognizes that it's a good solid way to construct the process. Someone whose judgment you respect," Rumsfeld said. "Certainly that's true of General Myers. He's a superb human being with a wonderful background, great deal of experience, engaging sense of humor. He's decent as a human being, and it makes it a pleasure to work with him."
A few critics have said that Myers has not disagreed enough with the administration. "I think that's partly ignorance," Rumsfeld said. "They don't know that he has in fact been involved in the fashioning of policy from the very beginning. For him then to agree with a policy that he has contributed so significantly to, ought not be a surprise."
Rumsfeld and Myers both say that when there are areas of potential disagreement, they have worked together to craft policies or decisions both support. Myers jokes about being in a "dead-end job" as the chairman, but he says this idea gives him the freedom to speak up if needed. "I'm not going any higher," he said. "There is no need for me to craft an answer to suit a set of circumstances. I wouldn't have the inclination to do it anyway."
Rumsfeld's political career began in the late 1950s. He has known or worked with many of the 15 chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He gives Myers top grades.
"I would expect if you looked back over time, he would rank up at the top in effectiveness because of the model we adopted gave him the opportunity to effective than other chairman in history," Rumsfeld said. "He has had an opportunity on a working basis to be involved in every conceivable type of decision that's been made in the department over the past years.
"And because of the type of person that he is - the skill and professionalism he brings to his post -- positioned him to have an influence in policy than many other chairman didn't have the same opportunity."