Shelton Shares Priorities, Views at "Enlisted Encounter"
By Tech. Sgt. Anne Proctor, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 15, 1999 Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met June 3 to share his priorities and views with enlisted members from all the services in the metro Washington area.
The "Enlisted Encounter" at the Pentagon, sponsored by the Air Force Pentagon Enlisted Council and Washington D.C. Top III, is part of a series of forums for enlisted people with senior leaders. The nation's principal military adviser also took questions from his audience of 700.
In his opening remarks, Shelton said his job as chairman is to represent to the president "what is best for our men and women in uniform, what is best from our warfighting standpoint." He said he has three day-to-day priorities he always keeps sight of: taking care of people, readiness and modernization.
"First and foremost is making sure we take care of the great quality people that we have in our armed forces today," Shelton said. "They are the key to being better than we've ever been in the past.
"We are much smaller, as you know. We have come down 40 percent since Desert Storm," he continued. "We are a great force today because the quality of the forces (has gone) up even as the size came down. Our No. 1 priority, not only mine but of all our service chiefs, is that we retain that focus on quality, the underpinning of everything we do."
Day-to-day readiness is the chairman's second priority. Shelton said that no one has ever asked him if he and his unit were ready to carry out the mission.
"They've always said, 'Here's what time we need you there and here's what we want you to do,'" he recalled. "So I have a great concern when I see our readiness starting to fray or go downhill.
"Ultimately, the first to fight, first to deploy will be ready because that is where the services keep their focus," he explained. "But if you go below that to Tier 2 or 3, then you are starting to put people in harm's way. They may not have all the right equipment, or be properly trained, and that will lead to an increased number of casualties. That's not the way any of us in uniform want to see it done."
The chairman related modernization to what will be available to today's junior enlisted and junior officers when they face problems 25 to 30 years from now.
"If we concentrate on trying to fix stuff we have today rather than continuing to purchase the advanced technology we will use in eight to 10 years, we will have you, in a more senior grade, using the same stuff you are using today," he told the audience. "That's not the right way to do it, particularly when you are small. You have to keep technology on your side."
The general added the president has helped modernization efforts by increasing the military budget. "The president in the last several years has done a great job in this regard. Next year we should achieve $60 billion per year. That has been a goal for about five years. For a long time we were losing ground, now it's getting up near that mark," Shelton said.
The chairman ended the session by thanking the audience. "We have the finest force I have seen in 35 years," he said. "You are the wind beneath the wings of the greatest institution in America and I thank you."
The Chairman's Views
On Quality People
A successful military starts with recruiting great quality people and building upon them. People should be adequately rewarded for serving their nation. The services have focused on pay and pay reform, retirement and quality of life issues in the past year.
Success is more than attracting people to serve, it's a combination of bringing in the right people, the right qualifications, then building up leadership skills and technical and tactical competence. Noncommissioned officers are important to retention because they have to train, teach and mentor the people who work for them and also the young officers who come in, because their ramp-up can be so much steeper.
Attitude, or selling the "warrior spirit," and leading by example are keys to success. The warrior spirit is about fighting and winning the nation's wars and not about getting rich. We are not motivated by some economic incentive per se, but by being prepared to defend the nation and carry out whatever mission we are asked to do. That takes warriors and a warrior spirit.
The truth is, we have to remember we are part of the greatest team in the world. The public has more respect for our armed forces than any other institution in the United States -- the Supreme Court came in second, and it was about 10 points behind.
Leadership is best done by example, and service members are always on parade no matter what rank they are. Think about it. People are watching. I know I can't have a cup of coffee without someone reporting if I had cream or sugar. You can really embarrass your service or our armed forces without even trying.
Setting the right example and being accountable are attributes vital to maintaining a quality force. Young sergeants, for example, have a tremendous amount of influence over those who work for them. Whether you are in an office or out in a crew, you have a chance to influence more people than you realize.
On Personnel and Operations Tempos
The services continuously look for better ways to balance the workload, and they have taken steps to lessen the impact of the Balkans campaign. Exercises will have been cut by 25 percent by October and we canceled nine joint exercises in just the past few weeks.
The Guard and Reserve contributions have grown tremendously. One out of every four individuals deployed to is from the Guard or Reserve. That enables the active component to carry out its mission and keep the personnel tempo lower than it would be.
On Force Protection
Force protection has improved, but it still needs work. I've seen tremendous emphasis on it, and we have to keep working on it, because there are people in the world who wish us harm. As leaders, ask yourself, "What can I do to better protect my force?"
The following questions and answers have been edited.
Question. How long will our 7,000 soldiers be in Kosovo as peacekeepers, and what is going to be done to make sure it doesn't drag on?
Answer. No. 1, you will never get me to tell you that I think we will be there for one, two, three or 10 years. I think we've learned from Bosnia that the military is only one piece of power the United States and our international community can apply to a country like Bosnia. Diplomatic, political and economic agencies of our government and the international community are also involved in fixing a country.
The way out of Kosovo, and Bosnia, is to maintain a safe and secure environment until the civil institutions are built up. You have to have a police force, a judicial system and the other things that are related to treasury and commerce if you are to have any kind of democratic society. Our exit strategy is tied to getting them stood up. Unless we can do that, we stay. That is where we are in Bosnia today.
Question. With all the well-documented recruiting and retention problems, do you see a need to return to the draft to meet our requirements?
Answer. The short answer is no. I don't want to go to the pre- Vietnam era of recruiting standards, because from my perspective that isn't where we want to be. As small as we are today, we want to be very good at what we do. I think we have to stay the course if we want to see the same quality people as we have today.
We've been through the toughest recruiting period in a long time. We have come down in terms of compensation since 1982 and, at the same time, the economy has been cooking. The propensity to serve has gone down since Desert Storm. We didn't focus on telling the great job we are doing, on advertising, on keeping quality people. So recruiting went down.
Each of the services is working on the issue. For example, the Navy was 7,000 recruits short last year, but things are looking up now.
Question. Is there any chance there will be a standard pay increase, such as giving junior enlisted a higher than across- the-board raise?
Answer. There are lots of concerns and the answer is, we aren't finished. There's a lot of pay compression at senior NCO grades and junior to mid-officer grades. The next Quadrennial Defense Review needs to look at pay structure.
We are concerned about getting some pay reform this year and giving raises where retention and recruiting need it. Our individuals in the computer world can leave the service after three to four years and make three times what they are making now. So how do you tell an infantryman to put himself on the line and live a tough life when someone in an air-conditioned office makes three times what he does?
It's a really tough issue and we have to come to grips with it. It may be in the way of bonuses or some other incentives, but we have to fix the pay structure first and look at those critical skills. We have to have a pay system, a reward system, that matches.
[Tech. Sgt. Anne Proctor is assigned to the chairman's Public Affairs Office.]