Mullen Discusses World Issues with Tomorrow’s Leaders
By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 12, 2009 In the midst of working through today’s global issues, leaders should not forget to foster tomorrow’s generation to carry on their efforts, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen shared his experiences and insights on the challenges the United States is facing today with about 150 members of the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy organization during a lecture at the Center for Strategic and International Studies here.
“What I’ve always tried to focus on in every job I’ve been in is my relief,” Mullen said. “Who are our young people we’re raising up to face [future] challenges?”
Today, diplomats and national leaders are engaged in persistent conflict and wars, a world financial crisis, and building international relationships to prevent further divergences, he said. Mullen touched on the continuing turmoil in the Middle East and the importance of understanding the region’s history and culture. And he noted that although vast security and governance improvements have been made in Iraq, the insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan continues to grow.
“The area from Tehran to Beirut is the most unstable and daunting challenge we have as a country,” he said, “It’s not just one country; it’s a regional issue with a rich history that we need to understand … to move forward.”
Mullen lauded the resilience of American military members and their families, while addressing the health of the force. Soldiers and Marines aren’t given enough time at home between deployments, which has presented a “huge” problem for the Pentagon, he said.
The Army and Marine Corps are growing their forces as the Navy and Air Force reduce their manpower to build more time at home for continuously training and deploying combat troops, he said. The Navy and Air Force are stressed thin too, he said, but the ground forces have been “extraordinarily” stressed.
“We’ve stretched our ground forces in ways that many of us never imagined we could,” the admiral said. “They have been brilliant, but they are stressed, and the tempo continues.”
Mullen also addressed the global financial crisis and the need to engage and build partners with countries in every region of the world. About 80 percent of the U.S. military’s forces are focused on the Middle East, but other relationships must continue to grow too, he said. He stressed the need to participate in more joint-military exercises as well as civilian partnerships with federal and nongovernment organizations.
“We’re getting to a point where the United States can’t do it alone any more,” he said. “We’ve got to have partners. We’ve got to have allies. That’s the global world that we’re living in, and I don’t think that’s going to change.”
He referred to a trip he took last week to Mexico and South America, calling the regions “extraordinarily important” partnerships for the United States. The Mexican drug trade and related violence there have escalated to a level requiring military interference, while South America has risen to become one of the world’s “economic engines,” he said.
“We’re economically tied, and those relationships are vital and will continue to grow over time,” he said, also noting China’s and Europe’s economic influences on the world. “These economic engines are very much tied to the ability to create a better life and higher standard of living. We are inextricably linked economically.”
Tomorrow’s global issues, he said, are going to be even more challenging than today’s.
“One of the biggest worries I have … is the world [in] which we live is one that is going to challenge you probably more than any challenge that has ever come up in my lifetime,” the admiral said.
Mullen told the audience it’s not too early to begin thinking about the health of their professions -- how to recruit, educate and bring other individuals into their career paths as the next leaders.
He said the cycle of preparing today’s youth for tomorrow’s issues is much like a parent raising a child to a higher standard of living with more opportunities and more resources to succeed.
“[Mentoring] is a wonderful opportunity, and it’s going to be a lot of work,” he said. “So I’m really encouraged to see you out here, and would love to follow your careers over the next three or four decades to see you make a difference. You are our future.”