ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN: Good morning. I really appreciate the opportunity to be able to spend some time with you today. I’ll try to give you some of my perspectives on diversity in the military.
I also, as I look around the table, see some old friends – Leo, John, Willie – and, obviously, Les. And when I think of Les, because of our initial relationship I can’t help thinking of missile defense. He did so much while he was there, and it actually is unfolding today, as we speak, in great part because of the fruits of his labor.
And I appreciate his continued leadership in this area. It is probably the most critical – as it is in so many things, the most critical ingredient of leadership. And so to you I appreciate you taking the time. However you got appointed to this commission, I have no idea how that occurs. And General Beckman, it’s also a great pleasure to be in the room with you. Actually, we haven’t met, but I know by virtue of your career, and also what you did after, that have a great feeling and dedication to our young people – whether they’re in the military or whether they’re school kids. And nothing is closer to my heart than that, so I appreciate your lengthy service and the difference that you have made.
This is a really tough subject. You know, I grew up coming out of the ’60s in the Navy. Again, I grew up in a nice white middle-class neighborhood in Southern California. And I remember going home after my second – my plebe year, actually. I was home August of ’65, and I was watching my black-and-white television, 15 miles from Watts. Watts was burning, and I didn’t have a clue where it was. Except somewhere down by the Coliseum, where I would go to watch, as a kid – you know, watch the Rams play, or go down and watch the Lakers play. But it was sort of to-and-from. And it – I mean, it was a searing experience for me, because I didn’t know, and yet I was so close.
And that stays with me today, in terms of what I know and what I don’t know – and what I can know, having grown up where I did. And I tell the story – and some of you have heard the story. You know, my dear friend and classmate Charlie Golden – you know, we both went into the Naval Academy at the same time. And we came from different places – believe me. And Charlie taught me that. And he taught me in such a graceful, dignified way. That, again, is something else that has stuck with me, as he was blazing trails I didn’t even understand. And many of you have done the same thing.
So key to this, as far as I’m concerned, is, what do leaders who are not minorities understand about what it takes to get here? And if we don’t understand that – or we don’t have some ideas about that – it’s pretty difficult to lead in an area that’s as challenging as this. And particularly for us in our culture. And we’ve come a long way – and, certainly, when I was young, I had no expectations to be in the Navy a long time, and certainly no expectations, despite what Les said, that I’d ever be the CNO.
But when I was CNO, I actually thought I was in charge – acted like I was in charge. And you can do something there, and I made it a top priority. And I went down and addressed the NNOA conference in New Orleans, I think a week or two before Katrina – mid-July. And I walked in there first: This is a priority. Mike Hagee and I did this, and Mike’s another classmate, and you get someone else very focused and dedicated to diversity. And we almost did a Mutt-and-Jeff kind of thing. And I walked in with an all-white male staff and tried to tell – and there were many young junior officers there, as well. And one of the pieces of feedback I got from that visit was: You know, nice try. You know, what about your staff? A big message.
And so, two years later, when I – and I think Les has heard this story. But two years later I was having a farewell party for my personal staff – for four or five of them. And we had this party at the quarters. And there were probably, I don’t know, 20 of us or so in the quarters. And I looked around. And as a – going back to that visit to New Orleans, that somebody called me on. And, literally, you know, from that moment forward, my staff diversified greatly, in terms of women and minorities – because of, obviously, just the message itself that that sent in terms of priority.
And I made it a priority, and I found I could do a lot. And then Gary has sustained that. I see Mark Ferguson here, and I know that. I just told Les Jeff Fowler at the Naval Academy has made it a priority, and 33 percent of the class that has just entered the Naval Academy is minority – 33 percent. And that is, actually, the only way we’re going to solve this long-term – and I’ll speak to that – because of who we are. I mean, you can’t lateral in at the 06 level, you know, and try to – so whatever decisions we make right now, that’s where we are for 30 years. Or you pick – that’s how you generate flag officers – general officers. And you do that when you’re recruiting them at 16.
But back to that party. When I sat – as I sat and looked at my staff, and what an unbelievable talent pool – because I didn’t – you know, as CNO – and, at this level, you don’t have a lot of time to suffer the individuals who cannot deliver. So, actually, the best staff I ever had – and I looked, and there – I can’t remember if there was a white male on that staff. And what was sad to me about that, as I looked at that picture in my own home, is: Look at what I had missed. It only took me until I got to be CNO.
So that’s what we’re missing, and that’s what – and we don’t know that. We don’t know what’s – you don’t know it until you figure out you’re missing it. So, as you do your work, how you penetrate leaders – and as I was thinking back to that New Orleans conference. And one of the things – while they gave me feedback later on, one of the things I challenge them is – because they were mostly minorities: You know, where are your Caucasian, you know, brothers and sisters here? How come they’re not in the room? And as I look around this panel, you know, I worry about – I mean, a lot of you I don’t know.
But how do we engage the leadership across the board on this? Not just lay it on minority organizations to generate requirements that we don’t understand and we can’t execute. Which has been a model for a long time, by the way. And I’m not saying it’s a bad model, but I think there’s a better way. So how do we pull leaders in to understand where we are, and what are the possible – and, to that story, what are we missing?
So I go to the Naval Academy – the 33 percent right now. The only reason that happened is because Jeff has made it a priority, and Admiral Fowler has made it one of his top two, I think. I think his top two – it may be number one. Do you know, Leo? It’s in the – so it’s one or two. And because the leader makes that decision, you end up with 33 – and people go out and work on it. And there’s nothing – those of us in the military, we think there’s nothing we can’t do if we put our mind to it. And that is so critical.
I’ll use the Naval Academy, just because I know that number. But unless we get it right at the service academies and at our accession points, across-the-board, we’re going to live with whatever we are – whatever our entrance requirements – however we’re meeting our entrance requirements. And I think we need to be aggressive, and I think we need to, from a leadership standpoint, continue to do that.
And it becomes a very difficult issue. I go back to the quality of my staff when I was CNO and I looked around the room that night. Absolutely the best I’d ever seen, and look what I’d missed.
And then the other thing that I learned as CNO, as I engaged on this, is – and it really goes to General Becton (sp.) and others, who engaged in the education side: We’re not going to get there without education. And, in fact, I can remember meeting with the – (inaudible) – college presidents and chancellors to discuss this. And one of them said: If you don’t get them by the time they’re six, they’re gone. Six years old! I mean, we’re focused on high-school juniors and seniors, across-the-board, to recruit to the Naval Academy; recruit into OCS. Six years old.
Now, fortunately or unfortunately, I’m old enough where, you know, a 10 – so that’s from six to 18, that’s 12 years. Well, 12 years isn’t that much anymore to me, even though it is way back then. But if we don’t get programs in effect that, in fact, start kids off on an education that will support those of us in the military, literally at six years old from that, then we’re going to fall short – we’re going to fall short. And we must do that.
And that doesn’t mean – I mean, that kind of investment is a great investment, no matter where that young boy or girl ends up. And it’s an investment, quite frankly, that I’m happy to make on the part of the Department of Defense in those kinds of programs. And there are those kinds of people – there are those kinds of programs out there. Look – how do we know where they are, and how are we connected to them? And when I say "we," I’m talking about leaders like me. And then how are we then producing – how are we connected to programs all over this country that are focused on diversity?
The other thing – and it goes back to sort of emphasis throughout my life. Because I went through this in the ’70s – when Zumwalt was the CNO and said, Boom, we’re changing – as a junior officer. And it was extraordinary. And I was open to this, and it was jammed. And it was at a time some of you would remember – Les and others – but many would not. And we had riots on ships. This was – and all of that cried for change.
We had – it was a very dangerous situation, and it was jammed and extremely painful. And I would argue we’re better than that in terms of making this a priority and execution of change. But it’s still got to be pretty aggressive – and it’s got to be, in my view, top-down leadership. And if we don’t understand it, we’re not – we can’t lead. Even if we make it a priority, if we really don’t understand it. And it’s got to be near-term.
So what do I do at the leadership level now, with the classes that have all been commissioned? And then what do I do to make sure that those numbers –? And it’s 6 percent for I think – as I look at all the services, 6 percent flag officers, for instance, for women. And that’s about what it was when these young women were commissioned in all our services. And it’s a little high – it’s about the same in terms of flag and general officers across-the-board, because that was the commissioning class.
And then there is a – and I think you just need to look at this, and ask the services to talk to you about this. And get the service leadership to come in and talk to you about it. It’ll get their attention. And I don’t mean the vice chiefs – I mean the chiefs. Have them come and see you, and talk about it. And then it’s: How do I put a position – who do I put in position to move along here? And when does that happen? And, actually, it starts happening about the 05 level. And that’s a pretty deep look.
I didn’t understand that one when I was an 05 – I didn’t have many people doing that. But, actually, as I got more senior, I started to understand that a lot better. And there are key jobs, and everybody knows that – and I’m a big believer of putting somebody that’s qualified in it and giving them an opportunity. And they either sink or swim, quite frankly. And it’s the opportunity issue. And how do we measure that in our services? How do we understand that we’re being – you know, we’re assigning people to the assignments that generally garner success? And that is through opportunities, and then it’s sink or swim – as it is for anybody.
And, speaking to that, and how services look at that – and how we measure it. You know, how do we know? And, obviously, very tightly wound inside the selection processes that are obviously legally binding. The screening processes that we have, which are, by and large, almost as rigid, legally, as the selection processes for promotion are, as well.
And those kinds of – I mean, so there’s a near-term issue; there’s a midterm issue; then there’s a long-term issue – that I think we, as a department, have got to do a whole lot better on. And we are better, but we still have – I believe we still have a long way to go.
And my fundamental belief is that we, as a military, must represent our country. We must represent the demographics of it. It is the greatest strength of our country. And if it’s going to take us – you know, the clock’s ticking here. If it’s a race between that commissioning group and 30 years, where is my country in 30 years? Because I know, at least a couple years ago – the statistic was, in 2050, you know, the majority becomes the minority in our country. And leadership has to be represented, and we’re not. And we’re not a track to do that. And that’s a really – given that we are hierarchical, that’s a really tough problem to solve.
But that’s fundamentally what I believe. And it is dangerous for the military to not be representative – because I think, in the long run, the criticality of the military to our national security – and if it doesn’t represent our country at the leader – we just drift away. We drift away over time. And that would be a really bad outcome for our country.
So I am – in fact, Ted Chiles, who some of you may know – who’s not a quiet, shy guy – came to see me recently – you know, to just remind me of what I wasn’t doing with respect to diversity. And, as I was telling Les, when you’re the head of a service, and you’re a Title 10 person, you actually do own a lot of things. And in my current position I either don’t own anything or I own everything. (Laughter.) But it was a good wake-up call from Ted, who I have great respect for, and is someone that can – is – he gives me great insight and is very free of that – you know, he is not shy about giving me that insight.
So I appreciate – I guess my counsel would be to encourage you to be as aggressive as you can be here. Don’t be shy, because we’re in much better shape than we used to be, but we still have a long way to go. And what I found in the Navy – again, sort of growing up – going back to that, when Zumwalt was the CNO. And he literally changed our – started to change our culture overnight. But what I also found was that because we had prioritized on African-Americans, we were nowhere with Hispanics – nowhere.
And look at the Hispanic population that we have in our country. And the underpinnings of lack of education – propensity to even go to high school, much less college – which the statistics are mind-boggling. And so we’re way behind there. And then extend that to the rest of our diverse population that we have as a country, and I just think we all ought to wake up.
So there’s a great opportunity here. And I’m delighted that the wisdom of the country saw fit to both sign this legislation and create this commission. And I just hope you can ring bells at the highest possible levels, because I think it’s a strategic imperative for the security of our country. So thanks.
MR. : The chairman is willing to take questions for the commissioner for a few minutes. Maybe about five minutes or so, if you have any questions or comments to discuss. This is not a shy group, in spite of the fact we have the chairman here. So –
ADM. MULLEN: Well, I mean, he’s – I’ve known him for a long time. And I don’t get to pick my relief – you know that – but I certainly had an input on it. And his dedication to this was very much known to me. And I – I mean, one of the things as the CNO – first of all, I never – I had a four-year plan, you know, not a two-year plan. And one of the things I regretted most about getting selected for this job was, I couldn’t finish on this issue. Because as fast as I could go – and I was going fast – two years doesn’t give you enough time. I needed – you know, you can really get some roots down in four years as a chief. And, in fact, it was Bruce Grooms, who’s a two star in – and I met with a lot of senior minority officers just before I left. And Bruce specifically expressed the concern: What happens after you go?
And so – but part of it was, it wasn’t – I mean, as the CNO, I make it as a priority. But it’s us at the four-star leadership – and I was aboard for that. So I knew that that transition in this area would be very, very smooth. And I was very encouraged by that. And I’d not just heard him – I’d seen him. I’d seen him do things about this, not just talk about it. So I was pretty comfortable. And that’s the only way, actually – you know, as you transition from one leader to another, that’s the only way you could possibly – that’s all I could do. So that was an important part of the input, you know, from my recommendation for my relief. I don’t get to pick – you know, the secretary and the president get to do that.
Q: Thanks for coming, and I appreciate your comments this morning. You defined the opportunity a number of different ways. And I was just curious – in terms of defining success for this commission, would it be, in your opinion, a reflection of the demographics of this country that would define success for leadership in the military?
ADM. MULLEN: I would use that – it would probably depend on the time line – (inaudible) – would succeed. We would achieve that. But I – actually, that’s not a bad criteria. I mean, that is really – I mean, my personal – and what I’ve known. I go back to that Watts story and the other thing. And I’m – I mean, I’m 19 at the time. And the other thing that that did was – and it became a part of my life in my Navy.
As the Navy became more and more diverse – and I always made it a priority – so I tried to understand, and understand that – you know, Charlie Bolden’s shoes, not my shoes. So it was that that then led me to this metric, if you will, that you just described. And I really do believe, if we have a military that is not led from a diversity standpoint in a representative way of our country, that we’re – it’s really going to hurt us. We’ll just drift away.
The question is: Can we get there? Or when can we get there, or what do we have to do to get there? And it must be, it must be embraced by leadership, civilian and military. And, obviously, within the legal constraints that we all – (inaudible). But I am very confident that it can be –
The other thing that – I mean, so that’s one. But the other thing – when you talk to major organizations who have made this a priority – CEO’s who’ve made this a priority – and you may be one, you know, for all – I mean, the strategic advantage that they get is a proven fact. It goes back to just that little small group in my house. That doesn’t surprise me – you know, we’re just not there.
And the other thing I didn’t – you know, there still is a challenge, you know, surfacing four-star military officers – you know, getting to that level. And this is my life, but I don’t know how to attract and sustain that kind of – you know, the kind of young people – women, militaries – you know, the full diversity – without someone look up to and say: Okay, I got a shot. There is actually somebody up there – there’s Pat – and we’re still not where we need to be with the effect of that. We have not had – to the best of my knowledge, we have not had a service chief.
Q: Thank you very much for those remarks. I have a question about something that you did a couple years ago with black engineers – (inaudible). You made it very clear as to your position. What is that we can do – or you, or anyone else – to get this across to all the chiefs, to have the same message?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, I think, from where you sit, the power of that example – or other examples. And really sort of two thoughts. One is, impose on them and their time, because you have leverage here, because you are under law, personally. Secondly, it goes back to what I know and what I don’t know. Help them with what they don’t know. Mandating requirements, and not understanding them well enough to understand how to do something about it, is – you know, we’ll get somewhere, but we won’t get where we need to go.
So it’s really two sides – help them. And in order to be helped, you got to want it. You know, so it has to be a priority for you and with each of them. And each of them actually – you know, I’ve spoken to them about. I, personally, have spoken to each one of them, because I do spend time on the flag and general officer slates – both in their services as well as – (inaudible). So it’s a priority for me, and it’s something that we spend time on.
But there are also – it’s 6 percent. I mean, it’s the colonel level. And they’re learning, as well, how hard it is to make big jumps at that point. And, yet, they’re the ones that make the assignments. They’re still the detailers, in Navy terminology, for every flag and general officer. So it’s back to opportunity – it’s back to opportunity.
So are there examples of leaders out there that they can connect with – who can help them, for instance? I mean, you – but, also, successful leaders in the – you know, in other parts of government in cities and states throughout the land, that they can – and you have to do that. I mean, I try to do that, just to model it, so I could understand it.
I mean, I sit down – and there’re great connections, actually, I mean, that we all have. I mean, the Naval Academy has got some wonderful graduates who are running big outfits that make this a priority. There’s a guy in the class of ’70 who’s running Pepsi, and this was at the top of his list. And he made a huge difference. But it’s business, and it was producing. He wasn’t going to spend a lot of time on it if it wasn’t, you know, going to the bottom line. And I understand that – but his point was, it did. And I’ve talked to too many where that’s been the case.
And then you got to stay with – I think you’ve got to stay with them over time. Don’t just mail this in and say: Take care of it – because, you know, the schedule’s pretty tough, and there’s still a lot going on. Yeah.
MR. : We’ll take two more questions. Okay.
Q: Thank you for joining us. I have a bit of a hard question about what there might be that this body could do that’s appropriate and effective, as we do our work, to reach out beyond this context? Because the subject of diversity – we all agree – (inaudible). You are a very strong – (inaudible). There are many for whom it’s not positive, and there could be political or legal changes around us that significantly and adversely affect efforts to reach the vision that we have – the leadership we represent.
There are a lot of people for whom it’s a hot-button issue. And they will be very angry about it, and not recognize that, actually, it’s in the U.S. military that we have the most effective examples of how to work to be associated with other contexts – higher education and so on. Also important, but it gets people riled up. Is there anything, in your view, that we can and should do to address that broader debate, so that circumstances don’t change to make our work less – (inaudible) –?
ADM. MULLEN: I think when – and it’s a great question. I think one of the thoughts I have on that is outreach. So I’m in the Senate a couple of days ago – and many of you may have known, I was just in a confirmation hearing. But one of the senators – actually, I was with the senator, this senator the day before in the first term. And who knew nothing before her term started about the military. And this particular senator was struck by how competent, focused, dedicated – a lot of descriptives – the leadership in the military was. And one of them was how diverse.
And so I said: So what – (inaudible) –? Because this senator was from the heartland. And so how do we – and, you know, not living a closed life. But I think the message – and this is – we’re pretty good – in the military, we’re pretty good talking to ourselves. We’ve gotten 40 percent smaller than we were in 1991. And so our ability to outreach on whatever the issue is, is reduced. We’ve BRACed our way out of – in great part, we’ve BRACed our way out of the Northeast, for instance. And I – (inaudible) – a great deal about how that impacts. Because no matter what your politics were, wherever I’ve been, people that live amongst – when our military is living in neighborhoods throughout the country, they are highly regarded – because they’re great people.
So how are we in –? So one of the questions is: How are we in touch with – we with the land? But I have no idea in your writ if you can think about that kind of outreach to – I mean, we are pretty diverse, when you compare – make some other comparisons. And we have changed, but we still have a long – I believe we still have a long way to go.
So if you know that’s coming, how do –? You know, spending time on how to get ahead of it – and I – more than anything else, it’s far and lack of education and understanding. So how do you get at that? I mean, I have some thoughts on that, but that’s at least – on the specifics of how to get it, but that’s at least what I think about the answer to that question.
MR. : (Inaudible) – make this the last question.
Q: Good morning, sir – Jay LaRoche Sir, thank you again for being a strategic leader on diversity. Going back to your days as CNO, could you explain to the commission the accountability reviews that you instituted and the effect it had on you?
ADM. MULLEN: The accountability reviews – it’s a long time ago now. (Laughter.) With respect to this issue – diversity, specifically?
Q: This issue and with regard to holding the warfare community accountable.
ADM. MULLEN: Oh, absolutely – yeah. So because it was a – now, in the military, accountability’s a big deal – and, certainly, it always has been for me. It’s actually one of the reasons – after people, it’s one of the reasons I stayed in – because I love being in accountable positions. But you’ve got to not just be in – you got to do it. And so, up to my level – now, I’ll use an example that some of you may know.
I mean, we just went through, I think, the most significant budget shift that I – and best budget work I’ve seen since the mid-’90s, which was what Secretary Gates did in this ‘10 budget amendment. Well, the reason it happened is because he spent all his time on it, personally. He knew every one of those programs personally. He understood what the decision was.
And so, as a priority for me as CNO, I reviewed this with the community leadership – the aviation leadership; submarine leadership; the surface-warfare leadership. And then communities that I didn’t know anything about, until I became CNO, like the Seabees; like docs. And the docs didn’t like this at all. (Laughter.) They did not like it. Across the full spectrum of what the Navy was – which was more than I knew it was – the reserves: What are we doing? Because, you know, it’s one Navy, and it’s one military. And that makes it a priority.
In addition to, obviously – and the measures were: So what are you doing about it? And how are the militaries in the aviation community – how are they doing? And are they getting promoted and screened? Are they getting command? You know, the pretty standard measures for anybody whether we’re succeeding or not.
And it took a while, but repeating that – and, of course, doing it once is one thing. But repeating that over time, it gets people’s attention – and it becomes a priority. And I was picking leaders, too. I mean, that’s the other thing. I’m picking people for these positions to go lead these communities, so they know it’s a priority. And I know where they are on this, or I wouldn’t pick them, quite frankly, in many cases.
But that was back to this two-year plan versus a four-year plan. And after a leader goes, the system goes: Okay – you know, heat’s off. Is the next guy or gal going to do the same thing? So, you know, that goes to John’s question – that’s really key.
What’s with the beard?
MR. : I can’t tell you how much I’m honored to be here – (inaudible) – I had. Thoughts and prayers are with you always and all the great things that you’re doing for our nation.