Pentagon Town Hall Meeting Produces Broad Range of Questions
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 18, 2005 Questions popped up on everything from space programs to transformation to recruiting and retention at today's Pentagon town hall meeting.
While the lead-off topic was progress in Iraq over the last two years, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace offered responses across the gamut from inquiring servicemembers and DoD civilians in the audience.
Rumsfeld said space would continue to play an important role in the global war on terror.
"We need a balance," he said. "If you look at intelligence-gathering, for example, there are certain things that you can't do (with space systems), and human intelligence is something that is enormously important. (But) I've been impressed in the last four years to see the progress that's been made in this department, in the space area. It's an important part of our activities in this department, and I expect to see it continue to expand and play an important role."
While Pace joked about putting a questioner on his Quadrennial Defense Review team, he said the question regarding the next big step in transforming services to fight in the future went to the heart of the QDR study.
"You need to start, first, with a joint concept of operations," Pace said. "How do we envision doing whatever it is the nation needs us to do 15, 20 years from now? Then, what does each service currently have that can accomplish that mission? And is it correct for that service to continue to do that, or might there be a better mix of service capabilities to provide the same outcome?"
Pace noted that the use of the word "joint" may no longer be necessary, because the services have become very joint in the last 20 years. But, he said, it's important to continue to use the word because it is a reminder that the most efficient solution to most military challenges will be a joint one.
"And whether it's got wheels on it, or wings on it, or whatever it has on it, we want to find the best way to mix and match and get the job done," he said.
Another way to ensure that the job gets done is to make sure troop numbers are adequate among the services. How to meet recruiting and retention goals with an increased operations tempo that recruits and existing servicemembers are not expecting is an issue the military is taking seriously, the vice chairman said.
"Each service has redirected leadership to that in the form of great staff (noncommissioned officers) who have been added to the recruiting force to be able to get out and get more information to more prospective volunteers," Pace said. "And they've also added to the advertising budget to get the word out."
Talking about value of service to the country also is an important aspect of the recruiting effort, Pace said. He said that there are sufficient numbers of young Americans who want to serve -- they just need some information and encouragement.
On the issue of retaining those already in the military, Pace said military people who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have higher re-enlistment rates than those who have not. Part of the reason for that, he acknowledged, is the untaxed enlistment bonus received for re-enlisting to a war zone.
"But it's also a fact that those folks are coming home feeling very, very proud of what they've done in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said. "They see the results of their efforts, and they're saying, 'I feel good about this. I'm staying.'"