MR. : Ladies and gentlemen, the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. Sir, they’re fired up and ready for you.
ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN: Carry on, please. (Hoo-rah.) That’s a pretty weak hoo-rah. (Hoo-rah.) I know it’s getting to be late in the day, and I promise I won’t keep you here more than about three hours. (Cheers.) And I apologize for being a little late. I was tied up in Seoul traffic. That’s probably happened to you.
And I just want – I’ll make a few comments, and really, what I’d like to do after that is get at what’s on your mind and take some questions.
First of all, I just want to say: Thanks for what you’re doing. Thanks for raising your right hand, serving your country at an extraordinary time in our country’s history, in this country’s history and, actually, the region and the world. You make a huge difference.
Since our country was founded, we’ve placed the burden of service on our young people. And this is – I’ve been doing this for a long time. I won’t tell you how long, but I’ve been doing it since the Vietnam era. And I can tell you, you are what makes our military the best military we’ve had in the history of our country and, I’d actually argue, in the history of the world. You make a huge difference, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about you out here and what our troops are doing around the world to make that difference.
And I get decisions across – that come across my desk all the time. And I just want to assure you that those decisions are driven by an understanding and a consciousness about the service and the sacrifice and the level of professionalism and excellence in the superb force that you are a part of. So I appreciate that.
You don’t do that alone. We do it with great family support. Back to the course of my career, family support has obviously always been critical. We can’t do it without it. But it’s better now than it’s ever been.
And it comes at a time when it needs to be better than it’s ever been because of the stress that we’re under, the number of deployments, the wars that we’ve been in, the challenges that will continue to be out there, those that are predictable and some of those – and predicting is pretty difficult – and the challenges that are going to be out there that we don’t know about. And that, seems to me, is more the norm in the world that we’re living in right now.
So thanks, not just to you, but also to your families who have made such a difference. And basically, I believe that our family readiness is directly tied to our overall readiness. And we’ve invested an awful lot of resources, time, effort in our family programs and with our family leaders. And we need to be able to sustain that to continue to be the force that we are, and that we will have to do so in a way that allows us to meet the requirements which are coming.
Secondly, I always talk about change. And one of the reasons I talk about change is, first of all, it’s happening everywhere and it’s happening at a pace that I’ve never seen before. And also, leading during a time a change is extraordinarily difficult. And so things will continue to change. We’ve moved beyond any kind of steady state, from my perspective, across the board and whether you’re talking about education or promotion or operations or equipments or interactions with various people.
I mean, I came here yesterday after three and a – three-and-a-half-day trip that was sponsored by my counterpart in China. That’s the first time that I had been or my predecessor has been in China in four years. The individual, General Chen Bingde, who hosted me, was – I hosted him in May in the United States. And it’s the first time that that office, the head of the Chinese military, has been in the United States since 2004 – seven years. And that’s just too long. So that’s a significant step forward in a relationship that is – that is really critical, because we both have great interests in this area.
The United States is going to stay in this area. We’ve got great friends. And when I look at the relationship we have with a country like Korea – when I was here for the crisis last year, one of the things that struck me, as we worked our way through that crisis, was how strong that critical relationship was. I mean, we’ve built that relationship up over the course of 60 years. And in any given day or month or year or even tour, you may not think it’s moving forward, but it has moved forward and it is as strong as it’s ever been.
And in particular, I want to commend General Sharp, whose work – who left today, as you know – whose work has strengthened the relationship through some pretty tough times. He’d be the first to say he doesn’t do that alone, he does that with you, he does that because of you.
So things continue to change. They’ll change in our services. They’ll change how we operate together. We’re much more joint that we used to be; we need to stay that way. We’re actually changing in our services as we increase our time at home after – in our 10th year of war and after so many multiple deployments and challenges that are associated with that. And we’re moving to a point where we’re going to be – we’re going to be home at least twice as long as we are deployed.
We’re not there yet. We certainly got some units and some particular parts of our military that will continue to operate on what I call pretty close to one to one: You’re gone – or, you’re gone as much as you are at home. But by and large, in the Army and the Marine Corps, who’ve been the most stressed forces, we’re moving in that direction over the course of the next couple years.
s change continues to occur in Iraq, and we’ve come out of Iraq. And right now, the policy, the political decisions are that by the end of this year, we’ll be completely out of Iraq.
And if you’ve read the papers, you know that that’s certainly a point of discussion, but as we stand right now, there have been no decisions, there’s been no request from the Iraqi government at this point in time. And – so that issue is something that’s out there and certainly is focused on change as well.
Things are changing in Afghanistan. And we’ll continue to do that. You saw the president’s announcement not long ago. We will start to – we are starting to take troops out this month. We’ll take out 33,000 over the course of the next – by the end of next summer, total. We are standing up.
And what people don’t, I think, sometimes focus on is the extraordinary accomplishments associated with the – with the building of the Afghan security forces, army and police. Lots of talent is associated with that, but we’ll have over 300,000 of them by the time – the end of this fiscal year, by the end of September. We’ll add another 50,000 over the course of the next year or so. And so in 2012, despite the fact that we will reduce, we will come down over that 33,000 and our allies will come down some small – some percentage as well, there’ll be more forces in the fight, if you will, in 2012 than there has been.
And that really is our ticket home, because they have to take over their own security. They have to lead. And they are out – operating out like they haven’t before. And at the same time, there are over 30 – last week or two weeks ago, there were 35,000 Afghan forces that were in training. We’ve opened up – (inaudible) – school. We put training structure – infrastructure in. We’ve worked on literacy. So there’s a training aspect to raising up that army and – or, those armed forces and police that just wasn’t there 18 months ago. So watch the change associated with Afghanistan as well.
And I don’t have to – I don’t have to say too much about what’s going on in the world in terms of change – things that have happened. If we were standing here in January, I would’ve had trouble explaining to you why two months later, the two countries that were going to consume most of my time would’ve been Libya and Japan because of the challenges that are associated with that.
And that’s just indicative. When you look at Libya, you look at Tunisia, you look at Egypt, you look at Syria, you look at Yemen, you look at what happened in Japan, you look at bin Laden, there’s been a lot of things that have occurred just in recent months, and the world’s not fallen down. So things will continue to change.
And you represent a military that is bedrock to being able to stay engaged in the world and make a difference. That doesn’t mean that we lead with the military. And we have – in fact, some of the change that is going on is a more robust State Department, more robust diplomatic effort, which I think is incredibly important.
So lots of change going on. And change can be both exciting. There are opportunities as well as challenges when things are changing.
And the last thing I’ll talk about, because I believe so strongly in it, is about leadership. I talked about – I talked about General Sharp. You also have a new leader in the country, General Thurman. And I’ve known General Thurman for a few years. I knew him in his previous assignments. I knew him two assignments ago. He’s an extraordinary officer. He will continue to lead. And he cares an awful lot – he and his wife, (hey care an awful lot about people and their families. So I’ll – you will see him very focused on continuing to build this relationship.
Leaders are important, leadership is important. And the reason I emphasize it is because I think that when things are toughest is when leaders and leadership exert themselves or come forward to solve very, very difficult problems. And there are going to continue to be significant challenges.
And encompassed in all this – and I suspect and would encourage if you’ve got questions on the budget challenges that we have – but where I have been in these, with respect to the budget challenges and the additional pressures that have continued to build up is, we can buy a lot of neat stuff and we can go operate in a lot of places, but the number-one priority for me are our people and our families. And so no matter where we go or no matter what we buy, in the end, at the heart of who we are, it’s about you and making sure we get that right for the future. That doesn’t mean it’s an open checkbook, because that is not the case. But making sure we keep our force, our people front and center as we move through these challenges is really critical.
And in the leadership arena, and you’ll hear General Thurman talk about that, treating each other as we would like to be treated, whether it’s an individual, a unit or a country, focusing on making sure that we mentor those that are coming behind us. We are an upwardly mobile organization. We need to mentor those that make – that have a future. Nobody came in the military to stay at the same pay grade or not improve themselves. And we need to think about that. And there’s nobody that’s sitting here where somebody didn’t make a difference in their lives, all right? And I would ask you to think about that. And how you step out and make difference – a difference in lives in the future is critical as well.
And then making sure we address the very tough issues in leading, in people, making sure that the workplace is a safe place to be in, that we are actually getting out in front of the challenges we have with things like PTS, things like TBI, things like sexual assault, things like suicide – all those things, leaders have to make a difference here. There’s no one that knows more – isn’t closer to someone who is struggling than those – than their buddies. And you have to take steps, significant steps, to make sure we can get ahead of those problems. In the end, we have to take care of each other in these challenging times.
So – and then the last thing I’ll say about leadership is back to change – leading in a time of change is the most difficult, exciting time of leadership. And as things continue to change, the demand for great leadership will continue to be there.
So thanks for what you’re doing. Please, if you think of it, express my gratitude and my wife’s gratitude for your families and the support that they have provided and honestly will need to provide for the future, and the sacrifices that they have made.
We live in an extraordinary time of change. That will continue and I want to encourage each and every one of you to lead well. Thanks.
And with that, I’ll open it up to questions.
Q: Admiral, it’s a question about equipment.
ADM. MULLEN: Who are you and what’s your unit?
Q: Sampson David (ph) – (inaudible) – 94th military police.
ADM. MULLEN: Go ahead.
Q: I know we have active protective systems as far as armor or reactive armor. And I was just wondering why we don’t use more of that in combat zones. I know one could argue the budget, but if you averaged out the cost – (inaudible) – soldiers –
ADM. MULLEN: I’m – you’re – I’m not getting it. (Go ahead.)
Q: I meant for, like, active, protective systems, as far as armor or equipment, I know we don’t use as much of it as I think we should.
ADM. MULLEN: But like what?
Q: Like reactive armor or something like that to stop – (inaudible).
ADM. MULLEN: OK.
Q: I know we could argue the budget for that, but if you average out for the cost of losing a soldier for SCOI (ph) and things like that, where you’ve probably wasted more money on that; as far as focusing on protecting the soldiers – (inaudible).
ADM. MULLEN: OK. I can tell you from the standpoint of protecting those who are in combat there’s been no higher priority of mine or the secretary of Defense with respect to identifying the problem and putting resources against it.
If you have – and part of the rules here for questions is, if I can’t give you a complete answer, if you give me your email address I will go research it – this is one of the ways I learn – and then – and then get back to you with an answer. And I actually – I actually read my own email and answer my own email. So it helps me. And I won’t – if you send me an email, I won’t get you a set of orders somewhere else you don’t want to go, I promise. (Laughter.)
But in the area of protection – I mean I’ll use MRAPs as an example. The investment there, last I could count, was somewhere on the order of $26 billion, and the record – or, sorry – the speed with which we focused on that and got it in the field was truly extraordinary. We’re going through and we will – and it will take us probably six to 12 months – we’re going through an upgrade of M-ATVs, literally in theater, to add some protective armor as we speak.
I wasn’t happy with the first schedule that I saw; I just don’t have any feedback on – are we going as fast as we can based on – based on that. But there’s been a tremendous focus, not just in the services, but also with the senior military leadership, myself included, and the civilian leadership. And there is no – from my perspective, there’s no limit on the money that we will spend to get that right. And every single life is precious, and every time we do this we save a life. Quite frankly, I don’t care how much it costs. I’ll do the budget stuff somewhere else; I won’t do it there.
Q: How you doing, sir? Staff Sergeant Brown (ph) – (inaudible). I just have a quick question about actually the reenlistment promotions that’s going on right now.
ADM. MULLEN: The reenlistment –
Q: The way that they’re structured right now, a lot of these soldiers that work with me, first-time soldiers, aren’t able to reenlist because their MOSs don’t have the options for these guys to come back. And you just talked to us about leadership, and preparing them for the future. Well, some of them can’t even reenlist because they don’t have that option.
ADM. MULLEN: So the question is on – if I understand it right – the question is on reenlistment and who’s working for you. What MOS?
Q: I have all different MOSs –
ADM. MULLEN: OK. And none of them can reenlist?
Q: I’m not saying none of them, sir. Just certain MOS –
ADM. MULLEN: Give me –
Q: – they have to re-class. Like I have some mechanics with the 92Yankee supply.
ADM. MULLEN: 92Yankee.
Q: Roger, sir. So I mean –
ADM. MULLEN: And that’s a mechanic?
Q: No, sir, that’s supply. That’s –
ADM. MULLEN: That’s a what?
Q: Supply services.
ADM. MULLEN: OK. Got it.
Q: So it just goes on and on. And my soldiers that want to stay in, they – some of them don’t have the option.
ADM. MULLEN: Right.
Q: And there’s a lot of NCOs as well that, I guess, with the new – I forget what it’s called, SRB or RCC – are forced to get out. And they’re actually great and outstanding leaders out there.
ADM. MULLEN: Yeah. So that’s a great question. And it’s about retention and reenlistment and is there room to so this. And so I’ll give you a view I’ve had for a significant period of time.
We are right now – for lots of reasons, our retention is extraordinarily high. We’re not having any problem recruiting people. And when you get – and some of it – some of it is because the economy’s in very difficult shape. We’ll go through this cycle, I mean, we’ll come out of this bad economy at some point and we’ll – and our challenges in recruiting and retention will go up as opposed to where they are right now.
Obviously when you have that kind of situation you can be – I mean, you can be more selective about who you’re retaining and who you’re not retaining. We also – every service chief, the Army included, has a legal number of people that he can have in the Army. It’s legislated. This is the amount of money we get to support that, and that’s it. And so what happens when retention is so high, we start looking at MOSs and other services – (inaudible) – ratings. And you start to put a pretty bright light on where you’ve got too many people. And not only will different MOSs struggle with retention, but you’ll also struggle with advancement. In other words, advancement will slow down. Fewer people are getting out.
And that’s a very complex management problem in the personnel system. I can tell you, a lot of people talk about personnel issues and that it’s hard to assign people; and it is. It’s easy to assign people compared to dealing with the overall manpower challenges, as you’ve described it. What I’ve encouraged young people to do for a long time, and this isn’t just now, this goes back a long time, I think any of us – any of you that think you can run your career through a soda straw for 20 or 25 years – I just don’t think that’s a very good strategy.
I think you’ve got to have other capabilities, whether it’s through education or self – you know, you teach yourself so that you when – so that you can look to an area where there is a need, in terms of there are shortages at various pay grades or shortages of skill sets, and then move to – I think you called it reclassification – be able to move to reclassification. And at the same time, I mean, the system will look at exceptional performance.
Now, what is key – and I just don’t know the answer to this, although I’ve talked a little bit with General Dempsey about it – what is key is how do I know which – who are the best? And I need to get to you – I need to get to you so you can tell me, OK, I’ve got 20 people here, I can only keep – whatever the number is, let’s say 15. Who are the top 15 people and why? We need to have that discussion. It’s a big system, it’s a big Army, and sometimes the system can have momentum that foregoes the opportunity answer those kinds of questions.
So I think you got to stay at that with your NCOs, stay at it with your sergeant majors, as well as – as well as with the officer leadership to address these issues. And you have to attack the system, particularly if you feel so strongly about a certain individual. It’s just where we are right now. So having multiple skills is going to be key, not just now but also in the future.
Q: Good afternoon, sir. Lance Corporal Waters, Marine Corps Forces, Korea. The question I have for you today, sir, is after your recent visit to China, what is the influence that China will have of the succession of Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un – have, and what is the – what are the priorities that you’re going to pass on to your successor?
ADM. MULLEN: With – was that two separate questions?
Q: Yes, sir.
ADM. MULLEN: Priorities with respect to Kim Jong Il or overall priorities?
Q: Overall priorities to your successor.
ADM. MULLEN: OK. Certainly the issue of North Korea and stability and instability on the peninsula comes up in my discussions with the Chinese leadership, it comes up with the leadership here in this country, and throughout the region. It’s something that, the – from the United States’ perspective, we have focused on very heavily. I can honestly tell you that we didn’t spend much time talking about succession, although that – in North Korea – although that certainly is a concern because that – they’re clearly working their way through some – you know, some kind of succession plan.
But what we do focus on is the – is the stability piece of it. And I think all the countries in the region, and certainly the United States and others, have a responsibility to work towards continuing stability on the peninsula and in the region. And that’s not very easy because the North can be very provocative. They certainly – they certainly generated provocations, as they did last year, in the past. I just talked about Cheonan and obviously Yeonpyeong.
And we have to get to a point where we deter those because in the not – from my perspective – from the not-to-distant future, I don’t know when it’s going to be five years or 10 years, that given the goal that the North has with respect to nuclear weapons, the level of provocation – the potential for provocation starts to change fairly dramatically. And I mean, we’re in conversations with, clearly, the military leadership here as well as the political and diplomatic leadership.
We’re very – and yet, at the same time, I think we need to be – we need to be understanding that there are limits to what every country can do with respect to impacting North Korea in terms of influence, including China. And we have to – I think we have to recognize that. So it’s a combination of an awful lot of things to seek – to seek stability and sustainment and to deter him from the point of view of the kind of provocations that have occurred historically – and certainly the ones that ended up killing Korean citizens, Korean military last year.
So that’s what we’re working our way through. And leaders at level and throughout the government talk about this – not just talk about it, I mean, we’re very focused on this and trying to make sure that we can get to a point where deterrence really has the impact it needs to because the cycle of provocations is a very dangerous cycle. And I worry about escalation; I worry about miscalculation and misunderstanding. So it’s one of the reasons I got to China, because it’s not just that I was invited but that we can learn more about each other and understand each other, and also have a communications link particularly if we get into a crisis.
With respect to priorities with General Dempsey – General Dempsey, he’s got a big day job right now, he’s running the Army. So he and I have spent some time discussing the future, but not a lot of time at this particular point in time. He’s very focused on getting ready for his testimony which will come – his confirmation testimony which will happen here hopefully in the next few weeks. And then, after that occurs and he gets confirmed, certainly we’ll review the, you know, what I see as priorities, and certainly I’ll try to understand what his are.
All of that said, I’ve known General Dempsey for years. He’s an extraordinarily well-qualified officer to take this position – a combat leader, great with people, understands – obviously, just coming from TRADOC before he took the chief’s job – understands the challenges that are associated not just with the Army; I believe he understands it from the standpoint of all the services. So I would certainly hope he would continue to focus on what I said earlier, which is – which are you in the various services, people, families, et cetera – and also recognize that there are huge challenges, not just that we’ve had and that we’re coming out of with respect to 10 years of combat – or almost 10 years of combat, but challenges in the future. I mean, and I think – I think he’s the perfect match for that, personally.
That’s my personal opinion. And I was – I am very supportive of his – of the recommendation to have him succeed me. And I say recommendation because it’s not really official, it doesn’t really happen until the Senate confirms the president’s recommendation.
Let’s hustle to those mics.
Q: Staff Sergeant Pickman (ph), sir, second Infantry Division G6. I’m a satellite communications guy by my background, sir. Being stationed in Area 1 I’m cognizant that we fall within the (easy ?) rocket range of North Korea, so I’d like to build my general some options while I’m here. And I have a – my question upfront is, would you be willing to get rid of the USFK domain? And my reasons for asking –
ADM. MULLEN: USFK what?
Q: USFK.mil domain. The rest of the service uses army.mil or navy.mil and if we could go to that – if my general wrote me a check tomorrow to put in a satellite shot to Guam or to PACOM Hawaii, I could not make the networking side work because we have our own domain built here. And if we could do what the rest of the services are doing and get rid of the USFK domain, then I could build in some redundancy.
ADM. MULLEN: So I’ll do – I’ll do two things. One is, I think I completely understand the, I’ll call it domain competition or domain isolation, and the challenge that you have specifically. But what I’d like to do is take your email and dig into this, and look at – and I – you know, I mean your question’s a very serious question because it’s a – it’s the kind of question you don’t want to find out after the fact that you should have done something that slows you down, particularly with respect to a combat capability.
So I’ll – I’d be glad to take a look at it. And I just – I just don’t know. Now, I’ve been on both sides of issues like this, so there will be – there will certainly be a view that this is – this is a critical piece, and here’s why. I just need to find out more about it. And I’d be happy to look into it and get back to you. OK.
Q: PS – (inaudible) – PS – (inaudible). On behalf of all the sailors here, I want to say, we appreciate you for stopping by in Korea. My question deals with the Enlisted Retention Board. I’m a PS, and one of my ratings is in the 3,000 sailors who are going to be released back from duty. In your personal opinion, do you believe when this action does happen, it takes place, 3,000 sailors are gone, that ERB will go away, or do you think it’s going to stick around like PTS?
ADM. MULLEN: So you’re talking about an Enlisted Retention Board, which is – I guess I’d almost describe it as a de-selection board, a board that selects you to leave at the retirement level – at retirement age or not – I mean, sorry, retirement time –
Q: No, sir, it’s enlisted sailors between the years of seven years to 14 years.
ADM. MULLEN: OK, all right. So this also goes back to the question earlier about MOSs and ability to move from one to another. You should have seen – you should have seen bonuses go down, because bonuses are actually something that we use to incentivize retention and incentivize specific skill sets in retention, sometimes where we’re short and sometimes where we just can’t afford to lose anybody because the skill is so important.
But again, when things are as robust as they are right now, these kinds of measures, whether it’s the kind of directive that has been out by the Army or the Enlisted Retention Board for those years of service – and there are – there are selective early-retirement boards, which are also occurring in various services – these are all what I would call force-shaping measures.
And so the key, from my perspective, in the end is going to be performance. And these boards will essentially meet, whether – and we’re having them not just for enlisteds, because we’re having – we’re having some boards for officers as well. The key is going to be, what’s your record look like? And what is the – what’s your future potential look like? How many skills do you have? What kind of tours have you taken? All of those kinds of things will go into something like this.
And I mean, I’m in the Navy, but I’m not in the Navy, per se. I mean, this is really something that the CNO, the chief decides and executes. But the historic standard has been performance. So best records aren’t going to have any problem. There’s a combination of things, but dominant issue for those 3,000 I think will be performance. That’s how I would think it would be executed. I haven’t seen the specifics of this particular board.
But it’s the same method. I mean, we’ve got to retain our upward mobility. We’ve got to be able to promote people. We’ve got to be able to develop the skills that are required. And so it’s this combination of growth – and when I say growth, I mean upward mobility – with the requirement to make safe for that, if you will, tied to skill sets and performance and all those kinds of things.
So you’d never see a board like – from my perspective – I shouldn’t say never, I learned that a long time ago – it would surprise me greatly if you saw a number-one individual, enlisted or officer, picked by this board to leave the military.
But these are force-shaping steps that we’re taking because of the overall retention numbers, as I’ve said before. And we – you know, we also have to continue to recruit people. We can’t stop that. We’ve got to continue that system. And we’re just going through – we’re at a time right now where the, as I said, retention and recruiting is very good. And so we can be a little more selective. And so this board’s just an example of that. Yeah. Yeah, go ahead.
Q: Sergeant Peters (sp), 142nd military police company, sir.
ADM. MULLEN: Say that faster. (Laughter.)
Q: Sergeant Peters, 142nd military police company. Sir, I have two questions. The first one is, with the – we’re downsizing the military, but are we doing anything to downsize the civilian force? Because I know we have a lot of civilians that are working in military jobs. And we are downsizing the military but keeping the civilians, and I feel that that’s wrong.
ADM. MULLEN: Are you saying that’s going on here, or do you –
Q: Army-wide, sir. It’s – I was last at Fort Bush (ph), and we had – the majority of our road commitment for law enforcement was civilians. And we had more than enough empty –
ADM. MULLEN: The majority of what?
Q: The law-enforcement commitment. The majority of the personnel we had in law enforcement were – they were civilians. And we had at least 1,000 MPs on post, not – they were – they were trained, but they couldn’t –
ADM. MULLEN: Are we downsizing the MP force?
Q: We’re downsizing the whole –
ADM. MULLEN: Are we downsizing your MOS at every pay grade?
Q: We are, sir. Yes, sir.
ADM. MULLEN: OK, I need to understand that, because I’ve been signing orders, books for MPs for the last four years. And there are precious few MOSs that I am shorter in than MPs. So if we are – that’s why I asked the question. If we’re doing that, I need to know that and understand it.
Let me talk about – sorry, you had two questions?
Q: You can just answer my first, sir. I’ll ask the second after we’re done with it, sir.
ADM. MULLEN: No, you only get one shot with that mic.
Q: The second question is the weight-control program, sir. I feel that we have a lot of very large people in the military. And it goes with the taping system is – I think it’s very outdated, because you could have someone that’s very obese and they’ll have a very large neck. And so they’re going to pass the weight, but somebody that’s – they could be very built and they’ll have a small neck, and they’ll fail the tape measurement.
ADM. MULLEN: I’m just going to answer the first question. (Laughter.) I’ve been doing PT – I’ve been doing PT things and weight control, but sort of physical-fitness issues, which continue to be a challenge in all the services – all you have to do is read Army Times or Navy Times or Marine Corps times, and that’s always out there.
I would just – I would briefly say on that – and I’m actually happy to look at it, because I take your point about a big neck. I mean, I got all that. The – probably, the signal is, physical fitness is absolutely critical for who we are and what we’re going to do. There have been – an awful lot of people look at this over an awful lot of years. And at least from my perspective, I see no perfect answer to this issue.
I will say that when we are talking about shaping a force, you probably don’t want to put yourself in a position to fail a physical-fitness test, even though you might be able to fail that a number of times. That will start to surface and work pretty hard against you, for example. And I’m actually happy – I can take your – I’ll take your email address and I’ll get back to you on where it is. But I can tell you, I’m not going to solve that issue. And – but it’ll help me understand where the Army is on it right now.
Or were you talking about all the services –
ADM. MULLEN: And then – sorry, the first question was? (Chuckles.) Just go ahead, say it quickly, I’ll – yeah. So this is the issue of – to very specifically answer your question, the secretary of Defense has frozen the – any increases in the civilian workforce, which effectively has a downsizing effect all over this for the next – I think it’s three years, which effectively, because people leave, has a downsizing impact.
But let me talk about end strength a little bit. One of the things – because we’re going through pretty significant budget review right now and we’ve got to figure out how to come up with this 400 billion (dollars) over the course of the next 10 years, including the budget for fiscal ’12, which starts October 1st, and ’13.
And so we’re looking at a wide range – a wide range of measures, very specifically. And yet when you look at end strength, our end-strength discussions over the course of the last several years have focused on the Army, where we were at 400 – active Army, 485,000. We added – we went up to 547,000 permanent. We added another 22,000 to that, temporary. So we’re at 569,000. And right now, the plan is to come down from 570(,000) to 520(,000) starting in fiscal year ’15, which is a couple years out, in terms of actually putting the program together.
And whether or not that changes will, I think to some degree, be a result of these budget discussions that we’re going through right now. In the Marine Corps, we went from 175,000 to 202,000. So both of those were not insignificant jumps. But while all that was going on, the Navy came down about 60,000. Active Navy came down about 60,000. The active Air Force came down almost the same – the same number.
And so in the end, for our overall end strength, 10th year of wars, extraordinary changes, we’ve only increased our overall end strength by some 20(,000) or 25,000. And at the same time, when I was the head of the Navy, which was a few years ago now, but somewhere between 60 (percent) to 70 percent of my budget was people. That’s active, Reserve, retired, civilians.
And it is a bigger percentage for the Army and the Marine Corps, just because they’re more manpower-intense. So when we talk about these very difficult issues – what is pay going to look like? What are benefits going to look like? What is retirement going to look like? We have basically – we have – what does health care look like?
You know, our – since 2000 or so, our expenses, the amount of money we put into people has gone up faster than any other rate. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. What I am saying is, we’ve got to have a balance here, because I’ve still got to have money to operate and I’ve still got to buy stuff to operate with. And that’s the balance that we’re going through. That’s the work that we’re going through right now.
So the civilian workforce very much is on the table. In fact, we’ve all said, there’s nothing that’s off the table at this particular point in time. Saved – I shouldn’t say – I saved two things. Secretary Gates, before he left a couple months ago, said he wants to essentially make sure we continue to train and make sure we continue to support our family programs, which we’ve invested an awful lot in over the course of the last 10 years.
So everything’s on the table. I certainly understand, and I’m particularly intrigued by the MP piece of this, because the number of military police I have deployed overseas has been extraordinary. And I’m always short, seemingly. But there is a focus on the civilian workforce as well. Yeah.
Q: Specialist Carter (sp) – (inaudible) – CSH. With the things that’s going on now as far as Japan, Egypt and Syria, do you possibly seeing us going over there within the next five years?
ADM. MULLEN: You mean boots on the ground, going over there? I – again, the future is hard to predict, but I’m hard-pressed to believe that we’re going to be – I mean, President Obama has been very clear about Libya, no boots on the ground in Libya. We’ve got no boots on the ground in Libya. I don’t expect we’ll put any boots on the ground in Libya.
And certainly, my expectation is that that will continue in other countries. So I – you know, when I – when I look at what the change in that part of the world, it is extraordinary change internal to these countries. It is people who are saying they’re tired of being treated the way they have been treated. They’re not responding to external threats. They’re not – they’re responding to their own governments, and they’re responding to situations that they are fed up with. They want to make their own choices. They want a better way of life, in many cases. And I understand that.
But this – these are revolutions that are of the people of these countries. And in the end, it’s going to be the solutions that the people of these countries generate for themselves that will be the most effective solutions, not the solutions that are imposed on them by anybody else.
I can take one more question. Yeah.
Q: Good afternoon, sir. I’m Sergeant Kimball (sp), 8th Army Band. I wanted to ask you about future plans for education among the military. One of the best things our military has done in the last 10 years is support education and development in foreign countries. And in order to continue our development as a country and as a military force, what is the government’s plan on tuition-assistance cuts, further development for spouse independent education?
ADM. MULLEN: Great question. I – back to – and it goes back to the first question on force shaping. If you want to put yourself in a strong position, improve your education, no matter what service, what pay grade.
And I’m certainly one that recognizes – and this has been true since I came in a long, long time ago and had a small division of about 12 people. And there were two things that those young sailors taught me when I was a young officer – two of the most important things; they taught me a lot. One is, they wanted to improve themselves. And there were two paths that they wanted to get on to do that. One was training, and the other was education. And that has not changed at all since the ’60s, when I came in.
So we have invested heavily in education programs. And I could talk a long time about tuition assistance. Tuition assistance certainly is something that I’m sure each service will look at, because it’s a significant investment. And I think the long-term payoff is huge, quite frankly.
But – and I didn’t always agree with my fellow service chiefs on this. I also have felt for tuition assistance that it’s important to have some of your skin in the game, that it isn’t 100 percent the Army or the Navy or the Air Force or the Marine Corps covers your tuition, because I want to know you’re serious and that – and we’ve got – we have too many – we have a history where that just hasn’t been the case, where we’d invest the money and it wouldn’t turn out to provide the kind of educational support that we intended.
So clearly, I expect – I just don’t know – I expect service chiefs will be looking at this, but I have no idea what their recommendation will be. I know all of them value that investment. All of them value education and training.
And then to the point about spouses and dependents, you know, a huge step was taken when the law was changed to allow benefits to pass through GI Bill to spouses and dependents. I – honestly, I haven’t seen anything in addition to that. I think we recognize the importance of it. It’s a critical benefit.
One of the things that happens – and this is human nature, and I understand this – is when you make a change, it’ll work for a while, and then, you know, can there be additional? And we’re not living in an additional world right now. We’re living in a world where if we want it to be strong in the future – and again, we’ll get through all this – we’re all going to have to tighten our belts for a period of time to sustain this military, to be the military that we must be for the future, to sustain the health of this all-volunteer force which is so critical to our country and to the region and, quite frankly, to the world.
But it’s not going to be – in ways, we’re all just going to have to look around and tighten our belts, I think, for a period of time. And I don’t know how long that’ll be, but I think it’s going to affect all of us.
Thanks for what you’re – last thing, I’ve got coins up here if you want one. If you already have one, I’ll recognize you, so don’t come up and get a second one. But if you – and if you just swarm a horseshoe around me, I can get through this pretty quickly. Thanks for what you’re doing, thanks to your families, God bless and take care of yourself. (Applause.)