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Gen. Dempsey's Remarks at the Naval Academy to Class of 2014

By As Delivered by General Martin E. Dempsey
U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD —

GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY:  I would think as an ensign, you could be a radio personality. Thanks for the introduction. (Laughter.)  I did put a little pressure on them.  I said, don’t forget any part of my career now.  And after 40 years I’m not even sure I knew I did have the things that he just said.

It’s great to be here with the class of 2014.  Let’s give – let’s give yourselves a round of applause.  (Applause.)

You know, we’re really counting on you to be extraordinary, for reasons that I’ll explain in a moment, why you’re going to need to be extraordinary as a class, as individuals but also as a class.

And by the way, one of the things I want you to know is that you will have a class identity as well as your own personal identity as you go through your career, riding those careers, measured in single digit years or decades. And so, you know, as you step out the gate and put this place in your rearview mirror, something you’ve been waiting to do for four years.  But by the way, as soon as you get out and you see it in your rearview mirror, there will be a part of you that says (inaudible).  But the point is, you’ll take with you your class persona, and you will build on it.

So, I mean, look.  I’m 40 years in, almost now 40 years from graduation from West Point.  And we got to compare ourselves to other classes and how we’ve done and what we’ve contributed.  You’ll be the same.  At some point when Bush was famous somebody will send you a note and want a lot of money from you to rebuild a football stadium.

By the way, I am really glad to be back here with you, especially on a day when I don’t have to worry about losing a football game.  No, you don’t have to clap for that.  (Laughter.)  That was confessional in nature actually just to get it off my chest before some of you said it to me.

I do have a special connection to a couple of people in this class, Sam Sites (sp?) was christened in my living room in Friedberg, Germany, too many years ago to remember, I guess that would be about 22 since you graduated with your class. Some of your class, the baseball team, have made me an honorary member of your team. Your lacrosse team has erased me – The rest of you can go to hell. (Laughter, applause.)  I’m just kidding.

Let me talk about two commercials with you, television commercials.  I find this easy to connect with people on the basis of television commercials.  AT&T.  You know the AT&T commercial where that guy's sitting there surrounded by kids and says, what’s better, bigger or smaller? Go ahead and answer.  What’s better, bigger or small?


GEN. DEMPSEY:  What’s better, faster or slower?


GEN. DEMPSEY:  I have just now given you everything you need to know to come to Washington and negotiate our budget.  (Laughter.)  That’s it.  You don’t need to know anything else.

I say that because I want you to graduate and not be distracted by that.  I’ll tell you what I want you to be distracted by in a moment, but I don’t want you to be distracted by our current budget meanderings.  We’ll figure it out.  That’s what those who are much more senior than you are paid to do.  What you’re paid to do is to provide global presence, to deter our enemies, to assure our allies and to maintain that bond of trust with the American people based on their behavior.  And so that’s what I do want you to be distracted about - not these other things that tend to draw a lot of – a lot of headlines.

The second commercial, a little more seriously, is the Bank of America.  Remember the Bank of America commercial?  What’s in your wallet?  Anybody not seen that commercial?  You really haven't? You’ve been studying too hard.  As soon as you leave here and well before you take term end exam, I want you to Google that television commercial.  What’s in your wallet?  Because I got a question for you.  What’s in your heart?  And I don’t need you to answer that question but I want you to answer it for yourself, but at some level, you’re also answering it for your country.

Let me mention at this point before I go any further, let me express my condolences for the loss of your teammate (inaudible) freshman, Will McKamey, who as you know passed away just last night.  Don’t forget that what we do – by the way, god bless him and his family, but don’t forget that what we do for our nation will require sacrifice.  It just will.  I can’t tell you when or where, but it will require sacrifice.  And in times like that, when those sacrifices become personal, and become very painful, it’s the time to recommit yourself to be better than maybe you thought you could be. 

And I think as you graduate, between now and then -- you only have 58 days left, but whose counting.  But between now and then, you got to answer that question, what’s in your heart, what are you taking out of here.  Not what’s in your brain.  I know what’s in your brain.  I know your curriculum.  I just left a great session with your faculty.  I sat in on your classes.  I’ve spoken with many of you.  I know which classes you actually like, which ones you don’t really care for that much.  I know that. 

But I don’t know what’s in your heart.  And you may not even know it yet.  But I’d just ask you to think about, in those 58 days left, as you get into the fleet, into the corps, or you report to BUDS, or Pensacola or wherever you’re going to find yourself.  Answer the question for yourself.  Until you know what’s in your heart, you’re really not going to know what it means to lead, because we don’t lead with our heads.  You lead with your heart.  You will execute missions with your head, but you lead with your heart.  And so think about what’s in your heart a little bit before you graduate.

27 March is tomorrow, and on 27 March, 1794, the Naval Act was passed by Congress.  Those of us in the Army, we were well into our careers by that point.  (Laughter.)  We wondered why they were even bothering frankly. No, don't get excited.  They didn’t pass the Naval Act to authorize the construction of six frigates, that initial thing we call the United States Navy.  So it’s in 1794, this Navy and its Marine Corps, have protected this country.  Quite a history that you are now taking ownership of. 

That’s another point I’d like you to remember.  Once you graduate, you own – I don’t know what just happened, but I just had a stroke.  It sounds like I got – I’m in a tunnel.  I don’t know, maybe I am in a tunnel.  (Laughter.)  But you – when you graduate, you stop being a net consumer and you become a net producer.  And you stop admiring the profession and you begin owning it.

I had a midshipman in an ethics class earlier today on the issue of sexual assault – say to me, "hey, General, we’ve been watching and noting that we’ve got some pretty significant issues we're grappling with, among them is the issue of sexual assault; what are you doing about it?"  I said, well, I’ll tell you what I’m doing about it, but maybe even more importantly, let me tell you what I need you to do about it, because I don’t own this thing called the armed forces of the United States.  I have a certain influence over it actually, but I don’t own it.  We all own it.  In fact, we’re co-equals in that regard. 

And as I look across how we’re going to solve these issues that are in front of us, whether it’s professional behavior or crimes or just behaviors, that has to happen at every level among leaders.  So at your level what you have to do on those issues is you own the responsibility to establish a climate in the Sailors or Marines that you lead, of dignity and respect.  I guarantee you if you at your level establish a climate of dignity and respect, then your CNO at his level can put in place the policies and initiatives that allow for things like prevention and for prosecutions, for victims’ care.  We can put all those policies in place, but we need junior leaders, noncommissioned officers and officers, to establish a climate where everyone is treated equally. If they are, then actually the profession will do what the nation needs us to do.

Put up that image for me, would you?  Let me tell you a little story about – I got to Baghdad in 2003 in June to take command of an armored division, the 1st Armored Division.  And one of the first things I wanted to do – the unit was dispersed all over Baghdad, so I wanted to figure out where it was and how it was deployed, to get a feel for the city, get a feel for my soldiers. 

So I hopped into my Humvee – this isn’t my Humvee, by the way – I hopped into my Humvee and I introduced myself to the gunner, not the gunner,  the driver, the vehicle commander – that’s where I sat – a radioman and a rifleman and then there was a turret, that did look like that, looking up at it.  There was a turret, and in the turret, you know, I started slapping the soldier on my left in there – who are you? – I slapped the guy on the right - who are you? - I slapped over here - who are you? - I slapped the leg that was standing next to me.  I said, who are you?  She said, I’m Amanda.  I said, you’re Amanda?!  Because, remember, I’m from a different generation of our Army and our armed forces.  That’s not her, but that is a female turret gunner in – someplace in Baghdad and I said to Amanda, you know, I said, wow, they’ve assigned a female to be my machine gunner, as we drive off into Baghdad.  I said, not sure how I feel about that, Amanda.  I was kidding with her, actually. But then I asked the only question that mattered.  I said, do you know how to shoot that thing? And she said, hell, yes, sir.  And I said, let’s go.

So, look.  If everybody believes – you can’t do the things we’re going to ask you to do.  You see that word at the bottom of that slide?  That’s not a slide about how hard it is to serve in combat, and it’s not a slide about, you know, a turret gunner; it’s not a slide about Humvees; it’s not a slide about Iraq.  It’s a slide about trust.  You don’t walk out the gate of a forward operating base, you don’t walk up the brow of a ship, you don’t walk out the gate with a squad of Marines, you don’t strap yourself into a fighter jet unless you trust everybody that has something to do with that operation.  Mechanics, the person who puts the fuel in – what if they forget?  That's a joke.  But you don’t go out the gate, you don’t put the uniform of the armed forces of the United States on unless you trust the man or woman to your left and right, the one in front, the one in back.

And yet somehow, you know, you find a way to compartmentalize it.  OK, I trust you in combat,  but I’m going to come back here and I’m going to – I’m going to allow a climate to exist where we really don’t trust each other.

I’m not going to lecture you about this, but I will tell you, on issues that we’re grappling with right now, they will be solved at your level long before they’re solved at my level.  And I need your help.  So I want you to strap on this issue of establishing climates of dignity and respect.  And I hope that that’s one of the things I can convince you to put in your heart as you answer the question, what’s in your heart.

Just a couple of other things.  Some of you may be thinking, you know, I’m going to graduate and I missed my chance.  Iraq is over; Afghanistan is largely over.  You know, we’re going to try to reach out and make peace with our current adversary.  And so I missed it.

No, you didn’t.  You didn’t miss it.  I don’t know what it is, but you didn’t miss it.  Because I’ll tell you, I think in a world – in a very – I have a strategy that I really pay attention to, and it’s deliberate, it’s rigorous and comprehensive.  Then I got my elevator speech.  So here’s my elevator speech about strategy.  Two, two, two, one:  Two heavyweights will influence our future strategy, Russia and China.  Two middleweights, North Korea and Iran.  Two networks, al-Qaida and transnational organized crime from our southern hemisphere.  And one – domain - cyber. And those things have influenced, are influencing me today and will influence you in the future.  One of them or more.

And so you haven’t missed it at all.  It’ll be different for you – in fact, I hope it’s different for you.  But you haven’t missed it.  So if you’re sitting here worrying about whether you’re going to have a job, we’ll find you one.

Couple of books that I’d like you to read – probably after you graduate.  If I tell you to read them now, you’ll blame me when you get a D on your end of term exam.  One book is by Moises Naim, called “The End of Power.”  The other is by a guy named Douglas Rushkoff, called “Present Shock.”  You don’t have to read them word for word or read them chapter for chapter, but just get in there and understand the thesis.  And the thesis is, in Moises Naim’s book about the end of power, is that the real problem the world faces today is that – is one of weakness, not strength.  Everything is collapsing.  The normal structures of government in the Mideast are collapsed.  Economic fora that used to hold things together are weakened.  Hell, the church, whatever church you happen to belong to, is weakening, a central structure.  There’s a lot of diffusion of power, which makes it hard, by the way, to apply a military instrument of power.  That’s why I want you to read it.  This isn’t about me turning you into a social scientist.  It’s about me asking you to think about the world you’re going to join in the context of what’s the best use of military power.

The other book is about present shock, talks about the fact that in today’s world, everything is – you’re confronted by information constantly and there’s this insane desire to solve problems immediately.  It’s an almost insatiable appetite to fix the problem today, when in fact, most of the problems that we address tend to be – require a long-term approach.  And you take those two books together – the collapse of the middle, if you will, or the collapse of the center, and the fact that everything seems to be urgent – you will be confronted, as you matriculate up through the ranks, which a very real question about, what’s the best use of military power in that role?

In a way, that I wasn’t actually, my world was actually, until just recently, fairly bipolar.  And you will confront this.  And it’s exciting, because your world will mean – you’ll be used differently and creatively and innovatively, and you’ll have to adapt in a way that my world – my career path was pretty clear from the time I graduated until I climbed into that Humvee .  Yeah, it’s been kind of a – it’s been kind of sporty since then, but for the first 35 years of my career, it was pretty clear.  I don’t think it’s as clear for you.  But that clarity also brings with it some incredible opportunities that I hope you seize.

There is one constant in all of this, and that is leadership.  If we get it right, then organizations will follow, equipment will follow, guidance will follow from on high – by the way don’t wait around for guidance.  You’ll be well on your way to fixing things before you get the guidance on how to do it.  But leadership is that enduring constant.  What I need to do as an ensign or as a lieutenant?  Master the basics, you know.  Be the best lieutenant or ensign you can be – the best fighter pilot you can be, the best frogman you can be.  Whatever it is you choose, don’t settle for mediocrity.  The world I just described doesn’t have any sympathy or tolerance for mediocrity.  It really doesn’t.

And let history come to you.  I hope there’s nobody in the audience that wants to be the chairman when they grow up.  First of all – I’m telling you, you shouldn’t want to be the chairman when you grow up.  Secondly, if you want it right now, then you’re not the right person to have it.  Let history find you.  You just be ready for history to find you.  That goes back to my opening question:  What’s in your heart?

You know, Stockdale, a very famous figure in all of our lives, said that character is permanent, and it’s issues that are transient.  That’s really true.  If you can balance your competence – and I just told you, be the best you can be – that’s competence – with character, where you’re a person to be admired – someone who feels ownership of things – then we’ve got the right people.  And then I think the class of 2014 will probably end up making history the way I think they can.

Let me stop there and take your questions.  All right; I know it is after lunch.  Anybody have any questions?  Really? Do you want me to make one up?  All right, usually the first ones the hard one. Actually, if there’s a question in the upper deck, I’m not going to see it, so if somebody in the upper deck wants to ask a question, just throw yourself over the railing and I'll (inaudible) (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Sir, how's your bracket Sir?

GEN. DEMPSEY:  What did he say?  Not worth a hoot. I had Duke.  Does that answer your question?  (Laughter.)  Nope, no love this year in the bracket for me, but it’s been a very interesting year.  What else?


Q:  Sir, Midshipman 1st Class Beason (sp?), what do you expect the U.S. to do with Russia annexing Crimea?

GEN. DEMPSEY:  All right.  Did you know that tomorrow, in 18 – you probably didn't know this – tomorrow, 27 March, 1864, the United Kingdom declared war on Russia, thereby beginning the Crimean War?  You can’t make this up, really.  But it’s what I said to you a moment ago.  It’s really – history may not repeat itself, but it rhymes.  And that’s why I said two, two, two and one – Russia and China.  What do we do about Russia?  A couple of things.  First of all, we have to separate out what our treaty obligations for NATO happen to be – Article V – the collective self-defense of the 28 nations of NATO from what we see as our obligation to the preservation of international order, frankly, which is where Crimea comes in.

Now, Crimea is a member of the Partnership for Peace, and so it has a relationship with NATO.  To answer your question, we’re trying to work the issues related to the Crimea through our NATO alliance because the NATO alliance has the relationship with Ukraine.  Most of our efforts at this point, as you noted, are diplomatic and economic, and the military things we’ve done are really more to reassure our NATO allies than to actually imply in any way that we would take in a part in a conflict in Ukraine.

More broadly, though, I think we have to ask ourselves whether this is a resurgence of Russia in its near abroad.  And what makes it so dangerous, by the way, is not just that it’s Russia seeming to be repeating, you know, issues of haven't been seen since the 1940s.  What makes it dangerous is that if Russia is allowed to assert its right to protect ethnic Russians in Eastern Europe, there’s a lot of enclaves all through Eastern Europe, and it’s not just ethnic Russians in other countries.  There are 400,000 Romanians living in Ukraine.  I mean, these nations are really intermingled because when borders were drawn, they were not always drawn – in fact, some could argue they were never drawn – strictly on the basis of ethnicity. 

So we got to – we got to march carefully here and deliberately and with resolve, so that we don’t put ourselves into a position of having another Cold War, while recognizing that we do, our nation is the standard-bearer of international order.  So the debate goes on; I promise you that. 

What else?  Yeah, please.

Q:  Sir, Midshipman First Class Mears (sp).  You obviously were commissioned in 1974, towards the end of the Vietnam conflict.


Q:  What lessons did you learn in your own career, in the restructuring of the military following the Vietnam conflict and Vietnam War, that will help you prepare the U.S. military as it goes through a restructuring this year?

GEN. DEMPSEY:  OK.  For those of you that there’s no way you heard this question way up there. 

The question is, when I was commissioned in 1974, we were right at the end of the Vietnam War, and what lessons did I learn that might help me now as we go through another period of changing financial resources?

The first thing is, I’ll be honest with you, and that is, I didn’t think about that till – I didn’t think about what was I learning very much until probably 10 or 12 or 15 years later.  At the time what I was thinking about was that we had a conscript Army, you know, so that there was a drafted Army.  I was thinking about the fact that we were transitioning to all-volunteer Army.  I was – I was aware of the fact in our service you wear a patch on your right shoulder of the unit you serve with in combat.  I hadn’t served in combat, but everybody in my platoon had served in combat.  So I was thinking about how I could make myself credible to a group of combat veterans when in fact I had not served in combat.

And what I found was that – back to my earlier point – what actually is the glue that holds all this together over time, whether it’s in a dramatic change from an all-volunteer – conscripts to all volunteers, from big budgets to little budgets, big militaries to smaller militaries, it really is about leadership at every level that holds – that holds it together. 

And what I worried about in terms of my own personal credibility – I should haven’t worried about – you may be worried about that too, by the way, some of you, because, you know, our Navy has been actively involved in two conflicts, just as the other services have, and you may be joining a unit with mostly combat veterans and asking yourself, you know, why should they listen to me?  They’ll listen to you if they find you to be credible, eager, humble and someone who cares about them.  And I think at every level, if you take those attributes, maybe, I think we should always be ambitious but not overly ambitious.  Ambition’s is not a bad thing, but ambition taken to extreme is a bad thing.  But if you can be ambitious and at the same time somewhat humble, and if you can be eager to learn and really demonstrate that you want your sailors to be the best sailors they can be, then you’ll get through this time, and I think that’s the enduring lesson.

By the way, that’s also the way I interact with the service chiefs.  You know, if I’m sitting in there with the chiefs of staff of the Army and Air Force, CNO and commandant of the Marine Corps, you know, that’s a pretty – that’s like the freaking march of the pachyderms, you know.  Everybody’s in there, elbowing each other out of the way.  But what we’ve been able to do in the face of what I think is probably a set of problems that are more prominent than any of our predecessors in our memories – what we’ve been able to do is agree that we would solve these problems together and not go our separate ways we’re not doing the country much of a service.  So I don’t know if that helps. 

What else?  Yeah, please.

Q:  Sir, Midshipman 1st Class Ovlov (sp) my question is regarding your 2-2-2-1 elevator analogy, for the cyber command. How does a rifle (inaudible), rifleman (inaudible) embrace that new (inaudible

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Well, that is the question.  It’s mostly about enabling – let me describe it this way – and it applies to your service too.  What we’re trying to – what we’re trying to do fundamentally – if I’m right about the way the world has kind of decentralized things, diffusion of power, then what we have to do is be willing to do as a military is become less hierarchal.  In other words, you have to match your environment.  So in an institution that has historically been extraordinarily hierarchical, we’ve got to allow ourselves, in fact force ourselves, to push power, authority, responsibility and capability to the edge, is the phrase you’ll hear to describe it. 

In so doing, we have to leverage technology so that that rifleman or that Marine, or that sailor for that matter, that airman, will need access to information and capabilities that probably used to reside at the 0-4, 0-5, 0-6 level.  And you can only do that through leveraging technology.  The problem is when you do it and you expose yourself, you make yourself more vulnerable to attacks against the systems who provided that information technology architecture.

So that’s the balance we’re trying to strike.  We want to make ourselves more adaptable by pushing things to the edge to you, leveraging technology.  But every time you take as step, you have to make sure that you’re not exposing yourself to vulnerabilities that could actually make you far less effective if you lose those capabilities.  It’s a delicate balance and it consumes a lot of our time, as chiefs especially, trying to get organizations correct, to adapt to that – really that new strategic environment.

But cyber, I'm sure some of you will go into the cyber area.  We actually have made some pretty significant strategies just over the last couple of years.  We're marching toward a thing we're calling a joint information environment, cloud-based, in order to – you know, what I’d like the services to be at some point are app stores.  So you get a mission and you know where to look inside of your service and into the joint information environment, and pull whatever appropriate applications, whether it’s, you know, mission command applications or – firing solutions, whatever it happens to be.  The idea would be the services would provide applications against this existing joint information architecture.  I think we’re going to get there in probably another three or four years.  That’s where we need to be, which is the world, by the way you're familiar with.  We just have to catch up frankly. 

What else?  Yes.

Q:  (Off mic.) 

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah, good question.  Well as you know there’s a Marine Corps four star running our Southern Command right now that is doing a terrific job, by the way, John Kelly. The role – I don’t know if I want to be as specific as you've – as you’ve asked me to be.  The question was, what is the role of the Navy and the Marine Corps in addressing transnational organized crime that migrates from our Southern Hemisphere up to North America, or from South America over to Africa and up into Europe. 

It’s a larger question of what’s the role of the military in an issue that’s largely than law enforcement, but I’ll tell you what we’ve done.  We established a Joint Interagency Task Force that happens to sit in Key West.  It’s called JIATF South.  And it’s an interagency.  It’s got joint force agencies:  TSA, FBI, military intelligence, military capabilities, Coast Guard.  And what we do is we bundle our authorities for intelligence gathering as well as interdiction.  We have a goal of trying to interdict about 40 percent of that which transits. 

So that’s kind of a macro picture, but let me neck it down a little bit and suggest to you that the reason that we should all be – we especially, those that wear the uniform, should be worried about this network is not just because they’re – you know, they’re bringing drugs into our country that affect our social fabric, that then turn into dollars that purchase weapons that are pushed south into Mexico and beyond.  That’s a reason to be concerned, but the real reason to be concerned is that a network of that sophistication, and it is sophisticated, with that capability, could as easy transport a weapon of mass destruction or a terrorist cell as they could a boatload of narcotics.

So that’s why it got our attention.  And frankly, in my view we’re not doing enough about it.  But as we restructure ourselves – this budget challenge has actually had – you know, there’s always opportunity in crisis.  The phrase never waste a crisis actually applies.  So it’s caused us to do is see if we can rebalance our assets a bit and do a better job at addressing that network. But the reason I included it in my elevator speech is that it is one of two networks that we ignore or we release pressure, we do so at our peril. What else?

What else?  Yo, hello.

Q:  Sir, 1st Class Boyer (sp), I was wondering if you could speak on the congressional proposal to do with the 20-year pension and how this will effect retention ranks within the officer corps.

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah, actually that’s a good question and one that we've – we've are participating in a congressional commission to look at revisions to retirement, but we’ve done so with a couple of principles that we have – all the Joint Chiefs have sent a letter to both the secretary of defense and the Congress, establishing our advice and assertion that any change to retirement shouldn’t be done with the current population of those serving grandfathered.  So whatever change you make, whatever change Congress mandates you make, that change would not affect you unless you chose to allow it to.  And now let me explain.

So there’s a couple of models out there.  The current model, as you know, is you accrue retirement at two-and-a-half percent of your salary a year – two-and-a-half (percent) per year.  So if you get out to 20, it’s 50 percent.  If you get out to 30 years it’s 75.  And if you get to me, in June I will be eligible for a hundred percent of my salary, which actually means I’ll make more in retirement than I make currently serving.  So I’m getting money back to get that crap kicked out of me, is the way I look at it. Naw, I’m kidding.  I mean, I’m only (inaudible).  (Laughter.)  But that’s one model. 

Then there's a model where you might, at a certain point, be invested or vested into a program in a 401(k)-like system, where if you left at 10 years you could take – you could take the money that has accrued and you can depart.  And if you chose to stay, there would be a bonus to encourage you to go out to 20 years.  So there will be increments along the way that would be more like a 401(k) as you might find in a civilian setting. 

And if it comes out the way we’d like it to, these two systems, maybe three, could actually compete against each other and an individual would have a choice about whether or not to enter into the traditional system or into one of the modifications.  But that – those decisions are probably several months to a half-a-year away.  I guess what you need to know is – for you, you will – you will be eligible for the current system and it will change for you only if you choose to change it. 

What else?  And by the way, I should mention another thing:  Although we are looking to save some money by slowing the growth of pay, compensation and health care, I think that there’s an impression that we could save a lot of money by changes to retirement.  Actually, you can’t.  If you want to – this gets to your question about recruiting – if you want to recruit and maintain the best of America, you’re going to pay for it.  And the retirement systems that I’ve just described pretty much cost the same thing. 

The reason, in fact, the modification could cost more is that currently only about 17 percent of you will actually retire.  Well, that’s not true of an Annapolis class, but 17 percent of the force currently serving today will likely retire.  The other 83 percent will not.  So if we go to one of these other systems where there’s a payout sooner, it could actually end up costing us more money, and we’ve got to watch for that as well.  But the thing to remember is if you want America’s best and brightest, you’re going to pay for it.  I’m trying to make that point, by the way. 

What else?  Yeah.

Q:  (Off mic.) 

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah, you know, it’s funny, when I interact with groups like you, I often find myself developing phrases that I didn’t have before.  (Laughter.)  No, I’m not kidding.  It’s – this is why I come to visit groups like you –  the Military Academy at West Point, the Air Force Academy, war colleges, or even ship visits.  And in interacting I actually try to take the opportunity to learn something.  And so a particular question might cause me to be a little more articulate than I ever would otherwise be sitting at my desk.. 

There’s a good book out, by the way, called “The Chaos Imperative" that talks about – white space – that creative thinking is actually, and I'm going to make your superintendent mad here, probably – that creative thinking is only possible if the brain is allowed to be at rest.  And that – yeah, I know, that’s what – you know where I’m headed with that one.  And that it’s during periods of white space that the best thinking actually occurs. 

Now, that’s not our system.  It’s not our education system.  I can promise you, it’s not the system inside the Pentagon.  I mean, literally, every second of the day is consumed inside the Pentagon.  And then I often wonder why there’s not much creative thinking that goes on. 

Now, the superintendent builds your curriculum toward a purpose of giving you that whole person concept: athletics, academics, leadership.  And it’s pretty hard to actually build white space into a military academy.  But here’s what I’m telling you, when you get on active duty, you’ll actually have the chance to do that.  You will be far more the masters of your own calendar and your own schedule and your own destiny than you are right now.  And you ought to think about this idea of white space in your life. 

And to your point, I think that elaborating on why I say that you execute missions with your brain is because you have all this accumulated data that allows you – the best of us to take complex problems and disaggregate them, understand them, reaggregate them and solve them.  But that’s kind of mechanical, frankly. 

The interaction with the people who you will lead, the interaction with the people can’t be from the head alone, it has to include the heart.  If you bring someone in to counsel them on a fitness report or if you bring in someone in to counsel them or if you go out and inspect a motor  pool or inspect an arms room and it’s just a mechanical procedure, that there no commitment on your part to actually develop those who work for you, they’ll see right through it.  I mean, they will see right through it.  If, on the other hand, they sense that you’re both doing your job and you care about them because that’s what’s in your heart then, I think, you’ll be the kind of leader that the nation needs you to be. 

So I don’t know if that helps.  But now that I’ve said it, I have to make sense of it. 

What else?  Yeah?

Q:  (Inaudible.)  In light of recent events in Venezuela and because of the country’s close proximity to our own, do you see any type of response, either military, diplomatic, as the situation escalates?

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Well, one thing – that question was, do we have any security issues and are we planning activities in response to Venezuelan – in response to what Venezuela is doing and its – the political turmoil in which they find themselves. 

First of all, there is this, as I’ve described, the valance of the instruments of power, diplomatic, economic and military.  Militarily, obviously, we don’t have a relationship with Venezuela, but we have a relationship with its neighbors.  And so we spend our time ensuring that we enhance our relationship with Venezuela’s neighbors. 

Second, Venezuela has made some assertions about their airspace, and we deny those assertions and so we fly into the airspace.  Now, that’s part of what we do is we assert freedom in navigation.  You’ll do flying ops – soon after you graduate, somebody will steam you into some piece of waters that are probably disputed.  And we do that to uphold this issue of freedom of navigation against international order and not allow nations to make excessive claims in any domain.  So you’ll do that. 

We are pushing very hard diplomatically as well as economically.  So I would suggest to you that in terms of responses to Venezuela near term, they will largely be economic and diplomatic, with our effort or our emphasis on the periphery.

Yeah, thought I saw a hand. Anybody else? Ok

Well, I might be able to give some, did you have your hand up?  Yeah, go ahead.

Q:  Sir – (off mic) – drawdown of the wars – (off mic) – what do you see the future of the warrior transition battalion – (off mic)?

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah, the question is, you know, when the – as we were suffering such significant casualties in these last 10 or 12 years – and we stood up warrior transition units, in some cases warrior transition units, warrior transition battalion, warrior transition brigades –  thankfully, as the population has declined – it’s not gone away; it won’t for a while – but as it’s declined, what we’ve been able to do is consolidate so that we’re probably less prominent geographically, meaning if there were one or two of these in every state at that point in time – you know, now there may be – in the near term may be one for every couple of states, and so we will gradually consolidate our footprint while making sure that we continue to care for them.

You know, and that’s one of the things you’ve got to remember here, is that the casualties that have been suffered in this conflict, we have a moral responsibly to them that will last for decades.  And so you’ll see us adjusting our footprint, but it will persist.

All right.  Anything else?  OK.  Let me end by offering you some white space on your calendar. Second, by thanking you for your service.  It will be my great honor to serve  the Class of 2014 from the Naval Academy.  I’ll have the same chance with the Class of 2015 briefly, and then I will pass the torch to someone else. 

But I will always remember my time as chairman over here at the Naval Academy with you. The graciousness and hospitality of your superintendent and I will be watching the Class of 2014 as it goes off into the fleet or the corps. And I will leave you with this thought, if you're wondering what, how the chairman will think about you as you graduate and become leaders for our nation all you got to remember is this, I trust you. Thanks very much.