Joint Chiefs Chairman Weighs In on Issues Facing Forces
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 13, 2008 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today discussed the state of the Air Force, his desire to end stop-loss, his vision for a modified GI Bill, and the Army’s birthday.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen shared his outlook on these issues and others in a Pentagon Channel podcast interview at the Pentagon, ahead of his visit to several Air Force bases in the western United States.
“Airmen are really making a difference,” said Mullen, who is slated to visit McChord Air Force Base, Wash., and Creech and Nellis Air Force bases in Nevada. “They’re in this global fight,” he said. “They’re pressing hard against the terrorists, [and] they’ve made a big difference in so many places.”
Last week, Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley resigned following an investigation revealing a decline in the focus, performance and effective leadership of the Air Force's nuclear program.
“I have great admiration for General Moseley and Secretary Wynne for stepping up to the plate, recognizing not just that they were responsible, but held themselves accountable and submitted their resignations,” the chairman said.
“Clearly we have some challenge in the nuclear mission,” he continued. “That’s been widely discussed, and I have every confidence that in fact we’ll make the turn on that and get it to the standard that we need to. Every airman should be proud of their mission, of their ability to accomplish their mission, and I think their future is very bright.”
As quickly as possible, Mullen said, he hopes the military can eliminate stop-loss, the policy of involuntarily extending a servicemember's active duty term. At any given time, some 12,000 are affected by this extension of duty, a number which may grow slightly in the near term, Mullen said.
“It’s where we are right now in terms of personnel requirements,” he said. “Hopefully, in the next couple of years, we’ll certainly be able to start to come down. … All of us would like to eliminate it as soon as we possibly can.”
On the GI Bill, the chairman said he supports a “more robust” package, including an enhancement of education offerings, and he noted that President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates share that view.
“I’ll let the politicians work out what version should eventually be out there -- it’s something I know that Secretary Gates has supported, the president has supported, and all the senior military leaders should support,” he said of a modified bill offering more generous education benefits.”
Gates has expressed a concern, however, that a GI Bill in which robust benefits kick in during a servicemember’s first enlistment could lead to problems with retention. Mullen agrees.
“I’d like to see [the bill], to some degree, tied to a second enlistment -- meaning you get through your first enlistment, and then as a part of your second enlistment, you become eligible for a much more robust benefit,” Mullen said.
He added that he hopes a new bill will allow servicemembers to transfer unused education benefits to family members.
Ahead of the Army’s 233rd birthday tomorrow, Mullen sent a message to U.S. soldiers across the globe: “You are the military’s ‘center of gravity.’
“The Army has performed exceptionally well -- all the services have -- but I take special pleasure in wishing the Army a happy birthday at this 233rd milestone,” he said. “It’s the best Army we’ve ever had. I argue it’s the best Army -- not just that our nation has ever had -- but it’s the best Army the world has ever had.”