Mullen, Cartwright Pledge to Represent Force to Best of Ability
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 31, 2007 President Bush’s nominees to fill the nation’s top two military posts today pledged to do their best to represent the men and women of the U.S. military.
Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chief of naval operations, and Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, commander, U.S. Strategic Command, prepare to testify at their Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing on their nominations to become chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, July 31, 2007. Defense Dept. photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, USN
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen and Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee today. Mullen currently serves as the chief of naval operations, and Cartwright is commander of U.S. Strategic Command. They are nominated to serve, respectively, as chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Mullen told the senators that if confirmed as chairman, he would represent the nation’s soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and their families ”with the full measure” of his “effort, to listen, to learn, and to lead.”
If confirmed, Mullen said, he sees three overarching challenges he’ll need to face.
“The first challenge is the defense of our national interests in the Middle East,” he said.
The admiral cited Iraq and Afghanistan, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Sunni-Shiia rivalries, the rise of Islamic militants, the resurgence of al Qaeda, and the volatile situation in Lebanon as issues that “threaten to tear at fragile seams” and bear directly on the safety of the United States. “I'm especially concerned about the increasingly hostile role played by Iran,” he added.
Mullen said he supports diplomatic efforts to counter Iran, “but I find their support for terrorism and their nuclear ambitions deeply troubling.”
On Iraq, Mullen said the surge is working and is giving commanders the forces needed to execute more effective tactics and improve security. “That is happening,” he said. “Security is better; not great, but better.”
Security gives the Iraqi government the headroom to work toward political national reconciliation and economic growth. “Barring that, no amount of troops in no amount of time will make much of a difference,” Mullen said.
The admiral said he believes the military will plan for an eventual drawdown and the transition of responsibilities to Iraqi security forces.
“I understand the frustration over the war,” he told the senators. “I share it. But I am convinced that because security in Iraq is tied to security in the region, and because security in the region bears directly on our own national security, we must consider our next moves very carefully.”
Addressing Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, the committee chairman, Mullen said he plans to visit the U.S. Central Command area soon to help him understand the conditions on the ground.
“We are a military at war, Mr. Chairman, and war is ugly and messy and painful,” he said. “Our troops are fighting with honor. They are sacrificing bravely and greatly, sometimes with their own lives.”
“I'm committed to making sure our wounded warriors come home to the very best medical treatment possible and the very best medical facilities we can provide,” he said. “I'm committed to providing the equipment they need – specifically and urgently right now more (mine resistant ambush protected vehicles).”
The second challenge he sees is resetting, reconstituting and revitalizing U.S. forces, particularly the ground forces.
“There is strain. We are stretched,” he said. “Though recruiting and retention figures in general remain good and morale is still high, I do not take for granted the service of our people or their families, and I worry about the toll this pace of operations is taking on them, our equipment and on our ability to respond to other crises and contingencies.”
Political and economic progress is the most important aspect to creating success in Iraq, Mullen said. Solving the country’s security issues is important in creating the environment Iraqi leaders need to bring that success about. “And clearly, the space is being created, and the political environment in Iraq, and that government needs to move forward,” he said.
The Iraqis, Mullen said, need to make progress in reconciliation, de-Baathification, passage of an oil revenue sharing law, bringing about constitutional reform, and forging relationships among the central government the provinces. “Their progress there has not been good, at least that's the current assessment,” he said.
The admiral said he wants to wait for the assessment that Multinational Force Iraq Commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker will deliver to Congress in September.
“I still maintain that if we aren't making progress in that realm, the prospects for movement in a positive direction are not very good,” he said. “But waiting until then, I think, is important.”
Mullen said he is fully committed to a 2-to-1 troop rotation as soon as possible – meaning twice as much time at home station as deployed.
The U.S. military remains the strongest military on Earth, Mullen said, but it is not unbreakable. “Force reset in all its forms cannot wait until the war in Iraq is over,” he said.
The third challenge he sees is the need to balance strategic risks of the future. Current operational commitments Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, Korea, Germany and others – create significant demands on the force, he noted.
“I worry that with all the focus on Iraq, which is certainly appropriate, the nation might lapse into complacency about our still-mounting global responsibilities,” he said. “The longer, larger war on terror – and I believe it is a long war – will likely take our troops to places we do not now foresee and will demand of them skills they may not yet possess.”
The United States military must remain strong enough and equipped to deter or defeat threats from regional powers that possess conventional and, in some cases nuclear capabilities, he said.
Cartwright said that if confirmed as vice chairman, he would continue to be guided by the sense of commitment and duty that has marked his career since he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1971.
“It is an honor to be considered for this position. It represents a major personal challenge, and I'm humbled by the responsibility it entails,” he said. “If confirmed, I will provide my straightforward, candid professional advice.”
Cartwright also said he thinks the United States can win in Iraq. “It's going to be a challenge,” he said.
“In September we're going to get the opportunity to assess that the path we're on is the right path or whether we want to make adjustments. But we do have the ability and we do have the staying power to do that, and to, from a regional perspective, create the environment that we want to create over there.”
Cartwright said that though the enemy in Iraq has proven to be resilient the surge is having an effect.
“They seem to have an unlimited pool from which to draw from if you're on the battlefield,” he said. “In other words, as we defeat, others come in behind. But the environment in which they are finding in Iraq with the surge currently is an unfriendly environment, and that's challenging their ability to be resilient in that area.”
Cartwright said he agrees with Mullen on how best to handle Iran. “The only thing that I would add … is at the tactical level, we should never cede our responsibility and ability to defend ourselves,” he said.
“So if we find these adversaries in Iraq and they're challenging our forces, we don't give up the right to go after them, No. 1. And No. 2, if we know, with attribution, who they are, then we ought to hold them accountable, first through the discussion you just had. But like the admiral, I would not take off the table force if all other means don't work.