Chairman Highlights Families, Budget in Podcast
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2011 The “Strengthening Our Military Families” commitment President Barack Obama announced last week is a “tremendous initiative,” the nation’s top military officer said yesterday.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed that initiative, defense budget concerns and the situation in Egypt during his regular podcast to troops worldwide.
The president’s initiative, Mullen said, focuses especially on education, child care, spouse employment and benefits for veterans as they transition back to communities throughout the country.
The admiral noted that all of the Cabinet secretaries had signed the report. “As the president said during the roll-out,” the chairman said, “he’s focused on those Cabinet leaders, and he has expectations that they will support our military families.”
Mullen said supporting military families and veterans has been a priority for him and his wife, Deborah, for “many, many years.”
“So to have the president focused on this –- and particularly in these key areas, … I’m excited about it,” he said.
“I know the president well enough to know that he is focused on delivering,” Mullen added. “This isn’t just something he wants out there. He wants to produce results.”
Mullen said the initiative will “make a big difference for a group without whom we would not be anywhere close to as successful as we’ve been in these wars.”
Military families, the chairman said, have been through a lot.
“They need this kind of support,” he said. “The country, from the president on down, is very focused on making their lives better.”
The admiral then turned to budget concerns, saying Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ recent announcement of eventual reductions in Army and Marine Corps troop strength isn’t an issue for immediate concern.
“It’s certainly something that we think is about right, based on what we understand the future to be,” the chairman said. “[But] the future can be very uncertain. I’m much more concerned with what happens in the next couple of years.”
Mullen said the continuing resolution under which the Defense Department is now operating holds spending at last year’s level. A continuation of that resolution, which expires March 4, would be “a disaster for us in terms of executing the budget,” Mullen said.
While the military can continue to operate under the resolution’s constraints, “the inefficiencies that are associated with it -- the programs that we can’t start, the impact that a one-year continuing resolution will have on us -– will really, really force us into extreme measures,” he said.
With respect to the force reductions, “those really don’t happen until [2015 and 2016]. So we’re several years away from that,” the chairman noted.
Mullen has endorsed the current defense budget plan as necessary to help the country weather a tough economic climate, but he cautions against long-term flattening in defense spending. Because Gates’ plan calls, essentially, for halting growth to the defense budget in 2014 through 2016, Mullen said, beginning in 2017 “we’re going to have to start to grow the budget again in order to carry out our national security responsibilities as the president has given them to us.”
The chairman also addressed the crisis in Egypt and that country’s military response, noting that he has spoken with his Egyptian counterpart, Army Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, by phone and received an update on the situation.
“He assures me that they’re very focused on this, and they will continue to be a stabilizing influence within their country,” Mullen said.
While the situation is very volatile, the chairman added, “so far, the Egyptian military have handled themselves exceptionally well.”