JCS Chairman Gives 'Stockholders' Report
By Paul Stone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 6, 1998 The "Chairman of the Board" presented his annual report to "stockholders" during a March 2 address at Washington's Sheraton Hotel.
But this chairman was actually Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Hugh H. Shelton. And the stockholders were actually members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars who had gathered for their annual convention.
Shelton said he felt like the chairman of the board reporting to stockholders because of the veterans' long-time investment in national security.
"You gave your youth, your time, your sweat and hard work," Shelton told the 2,000 veterans gathered for his address. "And in many cases you gave your blood to keep us free and strong."
Shelton told the packed room U.S. forces remain strong and ready to respond to crises throughout the world, including fighting two major theater conflicts.
Citing operations in Iraq, Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda and Haiti, Shelton said U.S. forces have contributed to a safer world while building new security arrangements left in shreds after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"Other nations can be important regional powers, but only the United States is truly a global power," Shelton said. "And that ability to project our military anywhere in the world and with overwhelming strength, is crucial not only to our security and prosperity, but also to the peace and stability of the entire world."
While the news was good, the chairman also told the veterans there are concerns on the horizon. Citing the booming economy, Shelton said it's more difficult to recruit for infantry soldiers and retain pilots. Additionally, he said "our men and women in uniform and their families are challenged to keep up with the demanding tempo, and rigorous training combined with frequent deployments."
He pointed out service members have conducted more than four dozen major operations in the last four years, and said more than 50,000 troops are currently deployed in 12 major operations throughout the world today.
Shelton said improvements have been made in tracking operations tempo. DoD is also scaling back exercise programs. But he emphasized America's role as the only remaining superpower has resulted in greater responsibilities, especially with the revival of ethnic, tribal and religious conflicts previously kept in check by the Cold War.
Shelton told the veterans the military has done everything it can to cut costs and asked for their help in building the military of the future.
Although sensitive to the need for balanced budgets, Shelton said "we have to find the resources to invest in new technology and new systems to keep our force up to date."
He called on the veterans to help get congressional support for programs outlined in Defense Secretary William Cohen's Defense Reform Initiative, including additional rounds of base closings, privatization of some functions, streamlining operations and improving business practices.
"We need the Congress to make the tough decisions," Shelton said. "And we'll need your support as we work with legislators and the American people to build a 21st century armed forces for a 21st century America. With their support we cannot fail. Without it, we cannot succeed."