Radio Interview with Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey on Kansas City's Morning News, 980 KMBZ, Kansas City
Kansas City’s Morning News is hosted by John Dempsey and Ellen Schenk.
DEMPSEY: KMBZ News time 7:21. We're very pleased to be joined right now by the Secretary of the U.S. Army, Dr. Francis J. Harvey who is in our town speaking last night to the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.
Dr., thank you for joining us this morning.
SECRETARY HARVEY: Good morning to you, John.
DEMPSEY: We want to talk to you about why you're in our area but first I can't let the opportunity go by without asking you about the criticism that's been leveled at Pentagon Secretary Rumsfeld, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, by some of the retired generals. Isn't their criticism more valid because they've been on the inside and they have a perspective that other anti-war critics don't have?
SECRETARY HARVEY: I've also been on the inside and I strongly disagree with their criticism.
Secretary Rumsfeld is very competent, a very capable individual, has a great global perspective, and I don't think their criticism is justified.
His management style, he's straightforward, he's kind of blunt, and I'm personally used to working with people like that so I don't think it's justified. I don't think it's right for military personnel, particularly leaders, retired, to be criticizing civilians.
DEMPSEY: Why do you think they're doing it?
SECRETARY HARVEY: You'd have to ask them. Don't ask me. They're the ones who are criticizing. However, I'm saying that we have a long history as part of our Constitution that we have civilian control of the military. I think that's very important and I don't think it's appropriate for them to be doing that.
SCHENK: Our military, Dr. Harvey, seems to be stretched pretty thin at the moment. Now there are questions about what's going to happen with Iran. How is recruitment going here at home? Do we have the men and women to fill future requirements?
SECRETARY HARVEY: Yes, we do. When you talk about the strength of the Army you've got to talk about both recruiting and retention. Recruiting for the last ten months, actually 11 months, we have met our recruiting goals. That's going quite well. We had problems last year. We didn't make our goals. I instituted a broad-based task force to address the issue. I meet with them every three to four weeks. We instituted a number of initiatives in order to turn that situation around. So far we've been very successful with doing that, but let me just remind everybody it's a very challenging environment that we live in. We have our big summer coming up.
In terms of retention, that's a very good news story. Last year we exceeded our retention goal by ten percent which was the highest in six years, and this year we are ahead of last year. So retention continues to be a very good news story. I think that is a real indicator of soldiers taking satisfaction of what they're doing.
I like to quote the 3rd Infantry Division that just came back from Iraq from their second tour, had the highest retention rate in recent history. They exceeded their goal by 36 percent. I think that speaks volumes about the morale of the troops, it speaks volumes about our soldiers.
DEMPSEY: Can you understand why young people and their parents might be thinking, a parent might be thinking I don't want my son joining the Army because things aren't going well in Iraq? Can you understand that?
SECRETARY HARVEY: I can certainly understand, people are entitled to their opinions, and this doesn't only apply to Iraq, this applies to our nation's history and since the all volunteer force -- remember, it is an all volunteer force and young men and women in conjunction with their parents and their teachers and their counselors make their decision to join the Army.
I can just tell you that it's something that our soldiers are proud to be a part of, they know they're making a difference in the world. They're also learning a skill and they're defending our free way of life so I think it's a marvelous profession. But again, it's all volunteer, so each individual has to make their individual choice.
SCHENK: And very briefly, Dr. Harvey, running out of time, what can we do for the families back home who are waiting for soldiers to return?
SECRETARY HARVEY: Well, we do a lot for the soldiers and their families. We have a number of programs on posts to help families as their spouses and in most cases, husbands are gone for a year. We don't have time to get into it, but let me rest assured that on all posts, for example, on Fort Riley or Leavenworth, there are a number of programs for families. We have family readiness groups that the spouses meet often. There are all kinds of services and all kinds of programs for children.
So the Army is very sensitive to that. Let me just end by saying that my number one priority as the Secretary of the Army is to provide for the well being of soldiers and their families, so I take a very personal interest in it, and I'm proud of what we've done so far. We continue to change and adapt and improve the way we treat soldiers and their families.
SCHENK: Dr. Harvey, glad to have you in town. That's the Secretary of the Army, Dr. Francis Harvey.