Chairman’s Corner: Military Professionalism and Ethics
By Navy Adm. Mike Mullen
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2011 I had the privilege to speak last week at the National Defense University’s Conference on Military Professionalism – a forum I called for in order to discuss what the military is, what it has become, and what it should be.
I view this not as merely a one-day event, but the beginning of an ongoing dialogue. The time for these conversations is now, I believe, because as I reflect on my years of service – particularly those during the Vietnam era – it occurs to me that the military tends to focus on these fundamental questions only after we are pierced by events that hurt us, both as an institution and as a Nation.
We never want our actions to move us away from the American people, because our underpinning, our authorities – everything we are and everything we do – comes from them. We’re an institution that the American people hold in great trust and confidence – a neutral instrument of the state – but we simply can’t survive without their support.
As we begin our tenth year at war, our all-volunteer force hails from less than one percent of the population, and we are based in fewer places across our country than in previous generations. I worry that we could wake up one day and that the American people will no longer know us, and we won’t know them.
An ongoing and open relationship with the American public has never been more important – not just in the communities where we are based, but across the country. This is one way we stay connected to the American citizens we protect and represent.
But what I really think it comes down to is accountability. Within the military, we need to be constantly asking ourselves, “Am I holding myself and those I am responsible for to the highest standards?”
Ultimately, our quality of work and our personal conduct will say far more about who we are and what we stand for than any other thing we do. Simply put, we owe the American people nothing less than our very best every single day.
The state of our profession is strong, but let’s continue to look at – and to dig deeper – into who we are and what we need to do to keep it that way.