Military Must Understand, Master Change, Mullen Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2007 The U.S. military needs to understand change and the pace of change to succeed in the future, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told students at the Army War College earlier this week. (Video)
“Some of the change is happening so quickly we have no idea how (it) will end up,” Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen told the students, at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., on Nov. 28.
The admiral used two examples to illustrate his point. The first example was how drastically the mission of reserve-component forces has changed. The mission of the reserve components did not significantly change from World War I to the end of the Cold War: They were forces in reserve. In the war on terror, the National Guard and reserves have become integral forces that have deployed alongside the active components. Personnel in the Guard and reserves have to worry about not only training and equipping the force, but also “balancing their reserve duty with civilian life” in a way they did not have to do before, Mullen said.
Another example is advances in the military medical field. The changes and breakthroughs in battlefield medicine have been incredible, he said. “It is difficult to predict what these will mean in the future,” the admiral said.
Change is not limited to processes; it extends to relationships among nations, the admiral said. Mullen thanked representatives of more than 40 nations attending the U.S. Army College. He said their contributions in the United States and back in their native lands will help bring peace and stability.
Change in the strategic landscape presents incredible challenges, Mullen said. The whole war against radical extremist jihadists and the potential of proliferation presents a “huge potential for great catastrophe,” he said.
While the problem of the Middle East consumes most of America’s attention, the United States also must be concerned with other potential hotspots, he said. “Governments that are challenged by famine and disease are fertile grounds for growing terrorists,” Mullen said.
But, he said, there are some constants in this time of change. “The United States in the future is going to stay globally engaged,” he said. “I’ve tried to keep my head up and focused on those challenges. We will be a global force focused on the complete mission set from full-up war to counterinsurgency operations.”
Another constant is that the United States cannot provide security around the world alone. “We will need partnerships and coalitions all over the world,” he said.
The global environment has potential for pandemics. Natural disasters, such as this month’s cyclone in Bangladesh, will challenge the world. Other aspects need to be watched, as well, he said. “We certainly need to be mindful of the growth in China,” Mullen said.
The country can be a huge economic engine for progress, Mullen said, and he told the students that U.S. officials have raised questions about “transparency” with Chinese military leaders, urging them to be more open about their military programs.
He also mentioned Russia as a country that needs to be watched. “Russia is emerging again,” he said. “What does that mean?”
The military will be part of overcoming the challenges of the strategic environment, but the “clear lesson in Iraq is the military can’t do it all,” he said. “One of the changes I think has to occur, is the organization of our government.
“We in the military have raised question marks about generating capacity out of other parts of the government, which hasn’t occurred to the degree that we in the military would like,” he continued. “Part of the answer to that is they are not organized for that; they are not trained for that; they don’t have the depth; they don’t have the career paths. We haven’t stepped up to that in the last 15 to 20 years in ways that would position them to make the contributions that we need.”
The admiral said military officials “need to argue for a strategic assessment for what our other agencies need to look like, what the interagency needs to look like, and how they can provide the needed capability and capacity that we have to have for the future.”
Above all, one thing that will not change is the need for leadership, the admiral said. “You must lead in all that you do,” he said. “The reason I am still in the Navy is because I was given leadership challenges when I was young, and it continues to be the case right through this time.”
People are at the heart of the military, Mullen said. “They are pressed right now; the O-3s are having to make tough career decisions,” he said. “I also see it in the faces of the E-5s and 6s. They are our most precious resource, and we’ve got to reach them and we’ve got to reach their families, too, and it’s got to be an active reach. The decisions to stay or go are made by families.”
Mullen said that taking care of those wounded in battle is a top priority with him. “I’m of a mind that we need to take care of them and their families for the rest of their lives,” he said. “The Marines do this well. They talk about people being a Marine for life.”
In many cases, the admiral said, wounded servicemembers’ lives are dramatically changed for the rest of their lives. “The least we can do as a country is to make sure they are OK,” he said. “This is not just physical -- traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, we cannot just ignore that.”
He told the students that the military has to be much more aggressive in treating such ailments. Leaders standing up and seeking help themselves are keys to changing the prevailing mindset. “If our juniors see us do that, they will see it’s OK,” he said. “If we do not do that, they will think their careers will be in jeopardy. This is a tough nut do crack, but crack it we must, lead it we must, or we will be dealing with it decades later.”
Things Mullen saw as a young officer in Vietnam shape his priorities as an admiral, he said. “As someone who grew up with Vietnam, I am dealing with the aftermath of what we did and didn’t do there. I am committed to make sure that doesn’t happen to those who are injured in this war,” he said.
Mullen also thanked the War College students for serving their country in “the most vital, the most unpredictable and could be the most dangerous time” that he has seen in his 40 years of service.