Chairman, Undersecretary Visit Deployed Troops
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Apr. 24, 2011 The man who is responsible for personnel and readiness issues for the Defense Department observed how his decisions impact the fight during his visits to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq this past week.
Dr. Clifford L. Stanley, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, accompanied Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to meet with overseas-deployed military members serving at forward operating bases and main installations.
“I’m responsible for all people in the military,” Stanley said yesterday during an interview aboard a C-17 aircraft en route to Washington. “I can’t do my job just by pushing papers. I need to be out here understanding the operations, understanding what our troops go through.”
In Afghanistan, the retired Marine Corps major general visited service members at Bagram Air Field and Forward Operating Base Salerno in Regional Command—East and Kandahar in RC-South. He also met with military personnel assigned to the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. In Iraq, Stanley visited facilities in and around Baghdad. And when the C-17 he was riding in on the way home stopped at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Mullen and Stanley met with troops at Landstuhl Medical Center.
“I was able to speak to a great many people,” Stanley said. “This [experience] will help me do my job.”
As undersecretary, Stanley has responsibility for setting military and civilian personnel policy, the DOD health care system, family matters policies and issues, wounded warrior policies, DOD dependent schools, recruiting, retention and manning issues, to name just a few.
Stanley has been involved in personnel policy issues related to the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law, and he has helped to develop the training the services are putting into place.
Stanley also is a key player in Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ campaign to seek efficiencies across the department. The closure of U.S. Joint Forces Command and the decision to reduce Army and Marine Corps end strength beginning in fiscal 2015, he said, were among the personnel recommendations in DOD’s drive to save taxpayer dollars.
Visiting troops deployed to combat zones, Stanley said, helps him to focus on what is truly important, and what it is the nation is asking these young men and women to do.
“This helps me do my job better, and gives me more information to set priorities in the Pentagon,” he said.
Stanley said he found that the troops are proud of their service and “they felt they were making a difference. They really are heroes.”
This does not mean service members don’t have concerns and they expressed them to the chairman and undersecretary at “All Hands” sessions in Afghanistan and Iraq and during smaller meetings with senior noncommissioned officers and junior officers.
Service members asked the undersecretary and the chairman how budget cuts might affect personnel issues. Both Stanley and Mullen said that they want to ensure that personnel items in the budget are addressed first, so that service members receive the training, supplies and equipment they require before deploying. They also said that they will protect effective programs that support military families.
Both men emphasized that the U.S. military must continue attracting the right recruits, and also retain the best of this generation’s combat-hardened officers and NCOs. If that happens, the services will weather the budgetary storm, Mullen said.
Stanley said he was not pleased by the threatened shut down of the federal government on April 8, which was averted by an 11th-hour compromise on Capitol Hill.
“I need to tell you personally, we don’t need to be having any more conversations about government shutdowns that affect [service members’] pay,” he said. “That is totally un-sat, totally un-sat.”
Military pay ought to be exempt from the effects of any shutdown, Stanley said. Political leaders can shut down the government, he said, but service members should be paid.
“Don’t touch their pay -– not them,” Stanley said. “We ask too much of them. They are risking their lives for us, and their families depend on getting those paychecks on time.”