ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN: Thanks for that warm introduction, (Henry). Thanks to Marquette for hosting us today. I must admit, walking into a – as a former basketball player walking into a gym this morning, Al McGuire, he used to coach. And I remember those teams. And I grew up, as was indicated, in Los Angeles. So I’m kind of a UCLA (Bruin-guy) in my youth.
But that’s a very special place. It’s a very special building. But most importantly this morning, it was special to me because I could spend a few minutes with our future leaders in the military and beyond. Great, great program, great young people, great questions. And no matter the challenges – and we have a bunch right now, and I’d be happy to talk about those.
I’m always inspired, and I come away optimistic when I’m around young people like the group in the ROTC program this morning because I think they will make a difference in the future. And I do think they’ll lead. And I think they’ll – and we need that with the challenges that we have as a country, and quite frankly, the challenges that are out there across the globe.
As I came back here, this morning someone asked me if I had been to Wisconsin before. Actually, in my youth, one of my best friends in my company of midshipmen was a Green Bay Packer fan. So I learned a lot about – and this was a while ago. In those years gone by – and they aren’t back. I understand all that. (Laughter.) But I learned a lot about Wisconsin without ever being here.
But I will say a few years ago, I think you all know that the Navy’s boot camp isn’t very far away from here. And the job I had before this one was the head of the Navy. And I came up – I came up here and spent all day at boot camp and went to graduation, and had actually the great, good fortune of going to a ball game that night out up at Miller Park. And it was a Cubs game. I couldn’t really tell who the home team was – (laughter) – at that particular time.
But I will say, they asked me to spend a little time with Bob Uecker in the booth, and I got to get on the radio for a few innings and reminisce about Koufax and Drysdale and the Dodgers out in L.A. when I grew up.
Subsequent to that, the Brewers actually came to Washington. And Uecker led a group including manager Yost at the time out at Walter Reed to see our wounded. And we have sustained that relationship. And each time that the Brewers come to Washington, they go out of their way to visit young men and women who have been severely wounded in many cases, lost limbs, paid great, great sacrifice – and their families.
And so while the connection is not one that has been sustained over time by repeated visits, I assure you that my connection and the military’s connection to Wisconsin is incredibly important, and one that is exemplified by what your baseball team has done here, for which Deborah and I are very, very grateful.
What I’d like to do is just talk for a few minutes, and then open it up to questions. I mentioned visiting with the ROTC this morning. And they are – they will soon join the best military I have ever been associated with. As Jim – I hate to say this – as Jim indicated, I was commissioned in 1968. Different times. And that backdrop was very important for me because my first war was Vietnam. And I did grow up at a time where the American military was not supported by the American people.
When these wars started, I was immediately concerned and asked the question – and I was in the Navy at the time, in a Navy budget job – whether the American people would support our men and women in uniform. And that question has been answered categorically yes. Politics notwithstanding, I’ve traveled an awful lot of places throughout the country. And without any question, the American people support our men and women in uniform.
And these young cadets and midshipmen will join the best American military I have ever been associated with and, I believe, the best military in the history of the world – extraordinary young men and women. And as I frequently point out, the average age in any unit, in any service, is still about 21 or 22 years old. And they go out and make a huge difference, as the military has and so many have in our country since we literally became a country.
And it isn’t just the men and women in uniform anymore. Over the last decade, we have asked unprecedented sacrifice not just from them – we have asked for that sacrifice not just from them, but also their families. So if you’re in – and I met a couple of individuals from the ROTC this morning had come up from the 3rd Infantry Division. If you were a member of the 3rd Infantry Division over the last decade, you would have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan three, four or five times, and those deployments are eight months, 12 months, 15 months, 16 months, 12 months.
And the children in your family, who may be 15 years old, have seen nothing but war from the time they became aware of something other than themselves at the age of five or six. And if you were a ten-year-old boy or girl at 9/11, you just went off to college, and you have seen very little of your father or your mother – mostly father – over the course of that time because we have deployed forces at this rate which is unprecedented.
And for the year that you’re gone, you get one year back. And so the year that you’re back, half of that time, you’re actually gone. You’re not sleeping in your own home because of training, getting ready for the next (call ?).
So we have asked just an exceptional amount of those who serve. And they have delivered in spades, from my perspective. Many of them, too many of them, have paid the ultimate sacrifice – almost 6,000 now between the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We just came from Idaho the other night and spent an hour with 13 families of the fallen, families who lost a mom or a dad or a son or a daughter, or a brother or a sister. And they asked only for one thing from our country. They only ask that we never forget them, we never forget that sacrifice. And part of what Deborah and I try to do is constantly remind America of that sacrifice and put a face on it, whether it’s visiting with families of the fallen, or going to Arlington, or going to Dover. And this is also – this is a backdrop, from my perspective, of Vietnam, which we want to make sure doesn’t get repeated.
We will – we certainly do what the American public tells us to do through our elected officials. We just want to be – I want to be – both of us want to be very, very visible in terms of the sacrifices that that takes.
All of that said, we come from fewer and fewer places in the country. We’re less than 1 percent of the population. And I worry in the long run about being further and further disconnected from the American people. The American people are wonderfully supportive of our men and women and their families right now. And at the same time, there’s an awful lot of challenges internal to our country.
And I certainly don’t mean to understate in any way, shape or form those challenges. But I think a military that at some point in time – well, we’re not there; we’re not really close right now, but I worry about it – that it’s such a small percentage of the American people. It is an all-volunteer force. And I get asked about, why won’t you bring the draft back? I came in during the draft. And my answer to that is, no, I wouldn’t. This is the best we’ve ever – the best our military has ever been. And there are positives and minuses to both, but right now, there just isn’t any question that to sustain the force that we have right now is what I believe we have to do.
But we need to – and Jim mentioned the veterans piece. I’ve got over a million who served in Iraq and Afghanistan right now. The vast majority of them will return home to communities throughout the country, and their lives – many of them – their lives have changed. They’ve changed forever. But their dreams haven’t changed a bit. They still would like to go to school; they’d like to have a family. They’d like to raise kids, put them in good schools. And they’d like to own a piece of the rock.
And to do that, they need – they actually – they obviously need employment. And I think as they come home – as these veterans who are so special, part of the best we’ve ever been – as they return home, I think there is a wonderful opportunity to be able to engage them through local leaders; customize, if you will, the transition; focus, really, on three things: health, education and employment.
And part of why I’m out here – and I was in Idaho yesterday, and I’ve done this several times over the course of the last year – I know there’s a sea of goodwill out there. I know that there are – the American people – there are literally hundreds of thousands who want to support and help our men and women who sacrificed so much, those who are wounded with visible wounds and invisible wounds, those who have served, those whose lives have changed forever.
And right now, we are in three big stovepipes: the Department of Defense, the VA and communities throughout the country. And so part of this is to try to connect those three in a system that historically has been disconnected. When you serve for four years, those of you that served some time ago and remember – essentially, you served for four years, you make a decision to leave. You look forward to leaving. We give you a duffel bag, and we say, have a nice life. I don’t think that model is going to work anymore. We have to stay connected in ways that we haven’t in the past.
And I think for that investment of these people who are so special, that our communities and our country, and indeed, the globe will benefit greatly in their future service because they are a generation absolutely wired to serve. They want to make a difference. And they are going to live longer; they’re going to be with us five to six decades.
So for what I consider to be a relatively small investment now in their future, in the future of their spouses – and remember, they typically are two-income families these days as well – and then, this investment on the part of communities in them, it will make a huge, huge difference in the future for our country.
Lastly, and I spoke briefly to this, is it really takes leaders to do this. When I was with the cadets and midshipmen this morning, I was asked about what I expected of them. And I – really, as an officer, I only really expect one thing: I expect you to lead. I do expect you to make a difference. I actually expect you to listen, to learn and to lead.
We need leaders from all walks of life. We need relationships in terms of community support, with public officials, with NGOs, with private organizations who want to make a difference for those who have served. And we need that leadership to step up here in a place like Milwaukee because it’s different – it can’t be done in Washington. It’s different in every part of the country, whether it’s a big city or a small town.
And the idea – and I have seen leaders who want to do this everywhere I’ve been. I believe it’s out there. I have a young Army colonel that works this for me full time. His name is David Sullivan. And so if there are any leaders here who want to do that, you need just – I’ll give you my card, or my staff will give you my card, to make that connection.
So thanks for all of you, one, for being here, two, for supporting our men and women who serve. We live in an extraordinary time of change; I don’t have to tell you that. Mention the two wars; obviously, the recent action – the initiation of this campaign now led by NATO in Libya. What is sometimes missed because I’ve got 19 ships and 18,000 sailors and Marines and soldiers and airmen that are working in a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief effort for a great ally of ours in Japan.
So we’re pushed pretty hard. We have huge challenges that are global. Some of them are very specific in focus, but there’s a lot more going on than oftentimes that which we see in the media.
So thanks for all that. And if I could leave you with one thought, as those veterans return home to this community, that we reach out to them. And that’s not necessarily easy. Some don’t want to be found; connecting with us can be difficult because we have, as I call it, for those of you that remember, a very thick Yellow Pages – for those of you that remember Yellow Pages – a very thick Yellow Pages that sometimes can be very difficult to decode. And we have to work on that connection to connect with each other, to make sure that these young people who have given so much have an opportunity to continue to give and make a difference. And I believe they will.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
So now, I can take your questions. I see microphones up here. If you have a question, please come forward.
Q: Thank you for coming. I’d like to ask –
ADM. MULLEN: I can’t hear you.
Q: Can you hear me now?
ADM. MULLEN: I can.
Q: OK. (Laughter.) I’d like to ask about the Afghan war a little bit. The media tends to portray a lot of deadly activities going on, especially in the mountainous regions near Pakistan.
ADM. MULLEN: I can’t – I’m sorry.
Q: Can you hear me now?
ADM. MULLEN: Yeah, if you get a little closer to the mic. Sorry.
Q: Here we go. I was going to ask about the Afghan war. Currently, the media portrays it to be very deadly, especially in the mountainous regions near Pakistan. I’m wondering, currently with our strategy, are we able to continue to pursue terrorists in that area? And are we getting cooperation from the Afghan people in that area?
ADM. MULLEN: Where we are in the Afghan war right now – and I – when I talk about Afghanistan, I also always talk about Pakistan because it’s not just about one country. And as is the case, actually, globally, it seems there are always significant regional issues, whether it’s focused on a specific country or not, that we’ve got to pay attention to.
So it’s Afghanistan and Pakistan, and on that border between the two countries – but oftentimes not recognized as a border, by the way, in terms of the tribes who live there. That is the epicenter of terrorism in the world. And there are – the principal – the main goal with respect to what we’re doing in that part of the world is make sure al-Qaida cannot repeat what they did before, and essentially to get them to a point where they’re incapable of doing that.
And actually, they had some pretty significant – they’ve been impacted very significantly over the course of the last couple years. But it’s not just al-Qaida; there are multiple terrorist organizations who live on that border, and who now – while not previously liking each other a lot – they work together in a much more synergistic way than they used to. And many of those organizations led by al-Qaida wake up every morning looking to kill as many Americans as they possibly could, and other Westerners.
A friend of mine said that 9/11 – if al-Qaida could have – they killed 3,000 Americans. If they could have killed 30,000 or 300,000, they would have. They still seek to do that even though they have been impacted. So making sure that doesn’t happen is what the president is very, very focused on.
With respect to Afghanistan – and we’ve certainly had a history of ups and downs there, both recent and historically – the first question I still get when I go out there is, are you going to leave us this time? Because we left them in 1989 – both countries. We sanctioned Pakistan, and we’re still digging ourselves out of a 12-year hole that we dug when we sanctioned them before.
And Pakistan is a country who is economically in trouble, who from a development standpoint is clearly struggling right now and has a significant internal terrorism problem that they’re trying to deal with.
So the overall strategy is to engage in the region. And there are 49 countries with military forces in Afghanistan. So this isn’t like the United States alone; this is a commitment of NATO – 28 countries – and another 21 countries beyond that, which is pretty significant, and I think sends a strong message about the level of concern.
That said, we’re on a path to start to draw down our troops this summer in July back in Afghanistan. We’ve made a lot of progress over the course of the last year, of training and developing the Afghan security forces. They will take the lead throughout their country no later than 2014 under the current policy. And my expectation is we’ll meet that.
So from the security standpoint, I think we’re actually turning the tide, if you will. The Taliban had a very, very bad year in 2010. And they’re going to have another bad one this year. And this is going to be a tough year because we are also going to lose a lot of people, which is what – which we did last year as well. And I want to be very straightforward about that. This isn’t done without considerable sacrifice.
So from a security standpoint, I actually think we’re headed in the right direction. We’ve got to move, I think, more quickly on the governance piece so that the Afghan people have respect for those who are governing them. We see in places like Marja, in Helmand – if you go to the bazaar right now in Helmand, it’s a place the people – or in Marja – it’s a place you couldn’t imagine a year ago February because we’ve dug the Taliban out of their own safe havens.
We see local leaders, local civilian leaders starting to step forward to provide for their people. And then specifically on the border, there are two, big, tough fights. One is down south in Kandahar, and the other is in what we call the Eastern Sector on that border. We’ve made a lot of changes, and actually, we’ve made a lot of progress there.
So from a security standpoint, I see us heading in the right direction. And I think we’ll be in a better place at the end of this year, after this fighting season which is just starting, although we certainly fought throughout the winter as well. And so in the November timeframe, I think we’ll have a very clear view not just on where we are but on the right way ahead.
But by and large, I think we’ve got the strategy right, the resources right, the leaders just right, and the commitment not just from the United States, but from the international community.
Q: Good morning. Where do you see China fitting into this as far as enemy or ally in regards to the war on terrorism and their military buildup?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, I – with respect to China, I don’t categorize them as either enemy or friendly, per se. China is a part of how I’ve grown up, partially because I’ve been around the world so many times; and to some degree, with a focus on – it’s the same focus I have on Pakistan and Afghanistan.
China is one of the major economic engines in the world. They just became the second-largest economy after ours. And I think we have to pay a lot of attention to those engines: India, China, Brazil, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, et cetera, and obviously ourselves. Because it is really through those (I think ?) economic engines that – and if you have – if you openly act with a peaceful, stable environment, people will thrive in ways that they couldn’t before.
A universal constant that I have seen since I first went overseas in 1969: There’s parents who want to raise their young kids to a higher standard of living, and their kids would have it better than they are. That can only be done by and large in some kind of peaceful and stable environment.
And so the Pacific is a hugely important part of the economics of the world, not just now but in the future. Stability there is absolutely vital, and I think it’s a charge for all of us – the United States, other countries that live there, including China as they evolve and continue to grow economically and grow, quite frankly, as a global power.
And a responsible, growing, peaceful China is just fine with me. What I am concerned about is the increasing percent of their GDP that they put into defense, the very focused aspect of that with respect to focusing on America and American forces, and the opaqueness with which they do that. And we have very – we have very limited, on-and-off relationships military to military between our two countries.
I think having a sustained military relationship is absolutely critical. I would point to a very strong, 30-year relationship with the Egyptian military that we have, which I think served both countries exceptionally well in this crisis that was generated a few months ago in Egypt, and that we still have. I’m frequently in touch with my counterpart in Egypt as we speak.
I don’t have that with China. The two that I am most concerned about with respect to that: One is China because it’s on, it’s off. And right now, it’s on. I actually hope to host my counterpart in the United States next month, and to visit there later on this year. But we don’t know each other very well. And when you don’t have a – (inaudible) – level of knowledge, it’s pretty easy to miscalculate; it’s pretty easy to misunderstand; it’s pretty easy to misjudge and make the wrong decision which could cause things to spiral out of control. So that’s a huge concern.
The other one that I have no relationship with not just on the mil-to-mil side, but we don’t have a relationship with, is Iran. So we don’t – we have not had a relationship with Iran since 1979. I think that’s very dangerous for the same reasons. I think there will be – whatever happens, there will be mis-steps, miscalculations because we don’t know each other at all. And relaying that through a third party, sometimes it’s helpful and interesting, but from my perspective, it isn’t anywhere close to as effective as if we had a relationship, even if we disagree.
This is – we’re all products of where we came from. Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had several channels to the Soviet Union. We were talking. We knew each other much better than I know, or we know, Iran specifically. We’ve got growing relationships with China on the political side, the diplomatic side and the economic side, clearly. But where we’re falling significantly short is on the military side. So I worry about it, and I hope we can continue to have the opaqueness that is clearly there open up from where it’s been.
Q: Good morning, Admiral Mullen. I’m a 2008 graduate of the ROTC program here, and recently returned from my first deployment. In addition to the deployment cycle, what – (inaudible) – and enduring challenges do you see today’s junior officers facing over the next 10 to 15 years that may be different than those you faced in service in 1968?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, when we – when I look at the next 10 or 15 years, I oftentimes get asked about the future of our military. My view of that is, if we – even in budget times that become very, very stark – my view of that, this is the most combat-experienced, combat-hardened military we’ve had in the history of our country. And if we are able to, over the course of the next decade, retain the best young officers and the best young noncommissioned officers, we’ll be just fine as a military. If we don’t, we will have a very difficult – much more difficult time than if we do.
So I’m very focused on that. I think if we get it right for our people and their families, and as we look to the future, we’ll be just fine. In the budget environment in which we find ourselves, and which I think will actually get worse before it gets better, the priorities that Secretary Gates and I have set are make sure we get it right for our people, make sure we fund the wars that we’re in, our operations – both he and I refuse to send someone into combat that isn’t properly trained or properly equipped.
That’s two of the pots of money, people and operations. And the third pot is the stuff that we buy. And I think we’re going to have to slow that down; we’re going to have to be very, very specific about what we buy and how much we’re willing to pay for it, as we look at times where it’s taking too long or too much money to develop systems that had been on the books for too long. Probably in that part of the budget, we will slow things down based on what the overall resources are.
That said, we’re reaching a point, given the size of our military and the resources that we have. And the continuing emergence of crises to respond to – if I were standing here three months ago, and someone would have made the assumption, hey, in three months from now, Chairman, it’ll be Egypt and Japan, I would have said that I don’t think I agree with that assumption. But it does speak to the uncertainty that’s out there – the call that we have, and the requirements that we constantly are called on to fulfill.
I think your challenges as a young officer over the next 10 years will involve transitioning from a force that’s out of the war environment, the combat environment that we’ve been in, to a time where it isn’t – it won’t be that the Army won’t deploy because I think the Army will continue to deploy – we live in a time that those of us in the senior leadership believe that it’s a time of persistent conflict. Hard to know where that’s going to be. But by and large, I think you’re going to be home a lot longer.
You are now tasked to figure out what garrison leadership is. Don’t take this personally, but you don’t have a clue what garrison leadership is because you and your contemporaries back in the class of 2002 have been doing nothing but getting ready to go to fight. So what is garrison leadership?
And I think those who have been in combat – and this is what they’ve done for such a significant period of time – I think the NCOs and young leaders like you will be challenged to train to a level that keeps the initiative and the adrenaline and the focus that occurs after every war. And I think these wars – over the course of the next 10 years, these wars will. There’s no question about that.
So I think your challenge is going to have to – is to lead at a time where the pace is vastly reduced in terms of time both on deployment and between deployments. And the challenges, quite frankly – and I talked about the 3rd I.D.; four or five deployments for a major brigade to deploy since 2003 – if you’re a special operator – I have talked to dozens of them who have deployed somewhere between 15 and 25 times.
And all of that – back to the families, we have asked our families to sacrifice and absorb a lot of that. And a lot of that is just blocked out. I think – you know, we put things in closets and compartments that we’re now going to have to unpack.
So for you, I think in garrison, you’re going to be dealing with a lot of those challenges that we just sort of put away, figured out how we were going to gut our way through them. We’ve done that, but our families and our lives have changed in ways that I don’t think we understand. So dealing with that, whether it’s the mental health, the physical health, just getting some downtime is going to be a huge challenge for you and your generation. Sir.
Q: Admiral, first, I think we should thank you for the USS Freedom, for tens of thousands of Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin and regional people go to see a fantastic ship. And thank you for the future USS Milwaukee. Now for my question.
ADM. MULLEN: I was actually here for the commissioning of the Freedom.
Q: Nice 34-degree day – (inaudible, laughter). The question is, we’ve been watching administrations get beat up over committing forces. And I know you watch it firsthand. There was a doctrine called the Weinberger Doctrine. And Caspar did a pretty good job of laying that out. Could you touch on that a little bit and let us know how that works in today’s world?
ADM. MULLEN: What Weinberger did was – and I think very, very well and clearly – is to look at not just getting in, but how you’re going to get out. And you know, what is the end state? You know, I talk about – earlier, I talked about this age of uncertainty. And I – there is certainly – there wisdom in that, and I want – I guess I want to assure that there in the most recent decision, in the discussions that preceded the president’s decision – I would want you to take comfort in that there was a fulsome debate with respect to this decision.
And in the end, on the military side, which is what we do, the president makes a decision – and I talked to the ROTC members this morning – the president makes the decision and we in the military carry that out. We don’t make policy; we carry it out. It’s always been that way and it should always be that way.
And so I would just – I would want to again assure you that there was a fulsome discussion. And I personally believe that the timing of the intervention in Libya ensured that there wasn’t a humanitarian disaster, because they were on their way to Benghazi. I don’t have to talk much about the depravity of the leader in that country. He has killed an awful lot of his own citizens. He’s killed a lot of our citizens, and he will continue to do that.
And he’s doing that today, as I stand here. There’s no question that that was preventative – sorry. The president has been very clear about a limited objective here from the military standpoint. We are now, literally as I speak, as I stand here, in support of the NATO operation. It is being led by NATO, and we are providing the unique capabilities to sustain that operation. And they include logistics and fuel and electronic warfare, electronic attack, et cetera.
But the preponderance, and particularly the focus on the civilian-protection mission, is being carried out – in terms of execution and strikes – is now being carried out solely by NATO forces. And I have student audiences like this and I testified on the Hill and I’ve been asked by the media over the course of the last several years, what about NATO?
I think NATO, given where we are in Afghanistan – and I’ve commanded in NATO twice – I give NATO a lot of credit. You’ve got NATO standing up in Afghanistan, NATO stood up to this mission. And the mission took us – and there are differences, but a mission that took us 18 months to both debate and stand up in the Balkans in the ’90s took almost that many days, or that few days, if you will, recently.
So – and I want to – again, I guess I would reassure you that we’re all mindful, and certainly the president has been very clear about that, about getting into, you know, an extended operation here. He’s also been very clear, and I want to reassure you, no boots on the ground. And the answer is, zero. And that’s what it is. And certainly, my explanation is, that’s what it will remain. That’s what will remain there.
The focus on Libya – and when you ask about Weinberger’s Doctrine, one of the things – and I’m not questioning it, but I think all of us have to work to do the integration from when he said it to where we are right now. And I don’t just mean on that doctrine. I think on everything that we’re looking at.
So Libya, they’re certainly – there’s been a discussion about the vital – our vital national interest there, our national interests there. But I don’t just focus on Libya. It’s a country in between Egypt and Tunisia, who are undergoing extraordinary change. And I think we have to be very humble as a country in terms of how we can affect all that. I don’t think we can control it. These revolutions that you see in country after country are really about the people in their country, the people and the relationship they have with their leader. And they’re seeking change. I mean, there’s no better example than Egypt.
We also – that is a vital national interest to Europe for lots of reasons. They are allies of ours. They clearly asked us to participate in this. And so I’m – we live in a time, I think, that we have to be careful about how narrow we shape our views, if you will, across the board.
So from my perspective, this is not just about Libya, it’s about that region and it’s about doing something that could very possibly, relatively speaking, stabilize an area that’s pretty unstable right now, given Gadhafi’s bent and who he is and where we need to go in the future. So from that perspective, there are an awful lot of things that we take into consideration – certainly, I know the president did before he made this decision.
Q: Good morning, sir.
ADM. MULLEN: Good morning.
Q: You sort of just answered part of my question, but I can elaborate on it a bit. Primarily, the contingency operations have been supported by the reserve forces, around 70 percent. And I know we’re trying to decrease that and make it more equal. But in light of all the increased activity in the AFRICOM AOR, how do you see that changing, especially to the world intel?
ADM. MULLEN: If you picked an area that is changing, and it’s most of the things that we’re doing, I would argue that it’s not going to stop changing. It may be a larger commitment or it may be a smaller commitment. We’re a fundamentally different military since 9/11, and in great part, we’re fundamentally different because of our Guard and Reserves. And they will be – they have to and they will be a vital part of our future. And I couldn’t tell you what the exact percentage is, but we would be – we would not – we would be virtually nowhere in terms of the ability for us to successfully execute our missions without that exceptional commitment on the part of the Guard and Reserve.
That also includes employers throughout the country who employ people who are in the Guard and Reserve and then have to let them go for 12, 15 or 18 months, sometimes less, but an awful – a very high percentage of them gone for that period of time – and then re-employ them, with their jobs being guaranteed by law. And the employers have just been fantastic with respect to that.
I don’t see – again, I think the pace will slow. It has actually been slowing. We’re at 47,000 troops in Iraq right now. We’ll continue to draw those down over the course of the rest of this year. We’ll start to withdraw troops, as I indicated, this summer from Afghanistan. So we’ll get to a point over the next few years where instead of just being home for a year after being gone for a year, as the case of the Army, I’ll be home for two years as opposed to the one year that I’m home right now.
So the pace is slowing, but it is slowing a snail’s pace, if you will. And then it’s back to the commitments, which continue to seem to pop up on the radar. And I use Japan, as I indicated earlier. And I don’t think those are going away. We’re just not living at a time where those are going to go away. So we will depend – we will continue to depend on the Guard and Reserve, all the services, with great focus on the Army and the Marine Corps. They have borne the brunt of these wars. There’s no question about that.
But our Navy and our Air Force has deployed at a record rate as well. And they were deployed a fairly rate in 9/11. That has actually increased. And it takes all of us to make this work. And I think it will continue to be that pace for the future. Yes, sir.
Q: Admiral Mullen, I salute you. I am very impressed with what I hear coming from the stage. We need our military leaders to be understanding, well-informed and to help our politicians, who I think sometimes don’t understand, don’t dig into that ground before committing our military to parts of the world that are quite frankly, in a quagmire maybe you can’t scrape them up – tribalism, as you’ve mentioned, is enormous.
I just had a daughter come back from Africa, spent three years in the Peace Corps, and had a son at the same time in Afghanistan. They were linking up three continents every weekend – amazing for them.
I’d like to share with you a quick story and then reinforce what Admiral – or, Admiral Mullen, right? I want to say – I’m used to saying General, with my son who’s – he’s in the Army. But you’re Admiral Mullen.
ADM. MULLEN: These days, I consider that a compliment. (Laughter.)
Q: And then close with a question that I think you’ve already answered. Many of you in the crowd may not think the military has a conscience. I wanted to let you know that the military is a very caring, sharing organization. Four years ago, our son, who is now a lieutenant colonel, left for an assignment in Iraq. His wife was pregnant with twins and not due to deliver until October. Rick (sp) left June 1st; July 1st, she went into labor, which is about two days after the doctor said, all the organs are there, life can be supported, but it’s not going to be easy.
Rick is in an administrative meeting with his communications crew when there’s a knock on the door and an enlisted man says, sir, I have a Red Cross letter that you need to read. And of course, it was, your wife is in labor, see if you can get home.
His boss sent him home immediately, immediately. He went on emergency leave. About two weeks later, when Rick was at the hospital, Colonel Flynn (sp) called – he is the brigade commander – Colonel Flynn is a saint. Colonel Flynn called to ask how Rick was getting alone. Rick answered the phone on his cell phone, and it’s about two weeks, and I think the leave is generally about two weeks for an emergency leave.
And Rick said, sir, I’m getting ready to come back to Iraq. And he said, no, you’re not. I’ve already set the wheels in motion to have you reassigned to the general staff at Fort Brite (ph). And then he said, your battle is more important than our battle. Today, I have a grandson. His name is Thomas (sp). We lost his brother. Thomas (sp) is doing reasonably well, but I am forever grateful to Colonel Flynn, who has an amazing heart. By the way, his wife had been a critical-care nurse.
Now, tribalism. We learned so much about it through our daughter, just reading the news and looking back in history. And I fear – and you’ve already hit upon this – that our politicians don’t do their homework all of the time when they commit us to go in and clean things up and take care of it.
Many of these nations – you know, the two tribes, the three tribes in – (inaudible) – they hate each other. And while we’re there keeping peace, if you read, they’re just going to go on and start killing each other again. Is it appropriate to view our job as the world’s police or do we need to help our politicians educate them? And I think maybe that’s something that the military can do, and it sounds like you’re doing it, and I commend you.
ADM. MULLEN: Well, there’s nothing to get me more in trouble than to stand up here and start talking about politics – (laughter) – so I won’t do that. But I think you do raise a great point, and you talked about – was it your daughter that was in Africa? And it’s very clear – and I’ll just use Libya. I mean, there are multiple tribes in Libya. There are three major tribes that we have to pay a lot of – we – I think the world has got to pay a lot of attention to as this situation resolves itself over time.
And it’s certainly something we’ve learned a great deal about in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t share the view that they’re just going to start killing each other. I mean, Iraq – and I’m not going to visit how we got there and all of that in any way, shape or form, but where Iraq is right now, after two democratic elections, is it’s basically all about politics. It doesn’t mean they don’t have violence; they still do. But it’s not – there has been effort after effort to reignite the sectarian violence in Iraq, and it just hasn’t happened.
So there are very tough political decisions that have to be made there, and they’re going through some pretty hard times doing that. But it’s 26 million people at this point in time that have a future that’s much different – and I would argue much better, potentially, than the one they had a few years ago.
I also – and then clearly, there are those who are killing each other in Afghanistan. But the vast majority of the feedback I get when I’m there in Afghanistan form others who are there – they’ve been fighting each other for 30 years. They are tired of war. They want to see this end. They want swift justice, which is when you hear them talk about sharia. It is really that swift justice aspect of that that’s so important to them. And they want to be able to provide for their families. And that’s where the – that’s where the development piece is so important.
And Afghanistan is a huge – is a very, very poor country. Someone said to me two or three years ago, if you put Afghanistan in Africa, they rank at the bottom of Africa. I understand that, on the one hand. On the other hand, it’s not going to take that much development there to provide for opportunities that they’ve never seen before.
So the – my overall perspective there is, I don’t see them – certainly, I’m not going to say that all the killings are going to go away, but I don’t see them – once the Taliban are out of power, I don’t see them just taking on each other constantly.
To your point, I mean, when I travel out there, you can go valley to valley, and there are tribes in those two valleys that have never spoken with each other. And that is something that has been important for us to learn as a country. And my own experience is that we – you know, oftentimes as Americans, we don’t focus on history as well as we should. We’re moving ahead. We’re very focused in that regard. That doesn’t mean we don’t have people that do this.
All of that said, I think we have, as we should, learned a lot here in the last 10 years, and to focus specifically on what you bring up, certainly, the aspects of tribalism that we have to pay attention to. They aren’t necessarily dominant, but they certainly are a critical part of the makeup of many of these countries.
Q: Admiral Mullen, does last year’s attack on Iranian centrifuges by the Stuxnet worm highlight the potential for cyber warfare? What applications is the U.S. looking into for that, both to defend against cyber warfare and use it possibly in the future of our military operations?
ADM. MULLEN: Well, I wouldn’t say anything about the Iran case in particular, but I will tell you, in the areas that I’m most concerned about with respect to the future, cyber is at the top because I think it’s an area that doesn’t have any boundaries. It doesn’t have any rules. It’s both state-sponsored as well as non-state-sponsored entities that were easily, easily described or categorized as hackers.
And the potential is huge. And so President Bush made a huge investment in cyber. President Obama has continued that investment. We’ve actually come a long way on the military side. We’ve stood up a command in the last year that I think is a critical command for this, not just inside the military – although certainly that’s the main focus – but in terms of the engine that understands this and has more potential, from my perspective, than any other entity in our country.
I think for us as a country, though, it becomes – it’s going to be a challenging issue to resolve, because it will butt up right against our own civil liberties and freedoms. And as we saw post-9/11 with what steps needed to be taken in terms of being able to protect ourselves, I think there will be more of that in the cyber world because of the threat that’s there. And I see it routinely.
So an area of great growth, I think, not just for the military, but I think for our country. And there are three domains: There’s the domain of what I call the “dot-mil” domain, which is the military; there’s the “dot-gov” domain, which is our government; but there’s the “dot-com” domain, and quite frankly, I think we’re more vulnerable there than anywhere else.
And there are a lot of people that get this, not just in the government. There are a lot of private companies, private entities that understand this, and we’re going to have to – and there are a lot of legislators that understand it and are working hard to understand it better. But we’ve got to centerline this. We’ve got to put it right in front of us, because it’s not going away.
Q: I have another question about future areas of concern. Your biography indicates that you have set three main priorities, two of which are resetting and revitalizing the armed forces, and properly balancing global risks. My question – (inaudible) – today is, there have been a number of DOD and media reports that point to climate change and the lack of development of low-carbon sources of global energy as the largest threat to U.S. and global security. I was hoping you could spend a few minutes and tell us what the Navy and military is doing to address these issues, and what type of planning is happening to address these new challenges we are likely to see in this environment.
ADM. MULLEN: I have a good friend of mine, who will remain nameless, that thinks I should also become the “green” chairman. (Laughter.) The reason I say that is because I think it speaks to the growing concern we all have with respect to that. And all of our military services have taken significant initiatives over the course of the last decade to both conserve and to go green.
Now, there a couple of characteristics of us. Sometimes, it takes us a long time to figure it out. And there would be those that argue in this case, that, maybe, has been the case. But we also – once we figure something out, we’re pretty good at doing it. So we have (thrown the rudder over ?) if you will. The ship is starting to turn. It’s a big ship. It always takes time to turn. But I don’t think there’s any question that we are headed in the right direction with respect to that.
And I’ll use two examples. The Air Force not too long ago started flying some of its major aircraft on synthetic fuels. We have – as early as 2004, if you look at the supply lines when we put a combat force in Iraq, whether it’s Marine or Army, the trucks, the fuel, the water, all of that, the support infrastructure, is huge. That actually endangers lives when we have that.
And the Marine Corps – 2004, 2005 – started looking at, motivated – and life and death would do this – motivated by the knowledge that they knew if they got this right, there would be fewer lives exposed, and therefore fewer lives lost. They started to look at different organics, ways to air condition themselves, for example, and to reduce those supply lines.
And all of those are headed in the green direction. I see it in the Navy, and I see it in the Army as well. So I think, as I said, (the rudder is over ?). We know we still have a lot to do. But all of us believe in that, first of all.
Secondly, the world is changing. I don’t have to tell you that the polar ice cap is melting. That opens up space. And it’s back to things you – (inaudible) – when you look at what’s happening somewhere in the world, follow the money. There’s a lot of money being invested up north; it’s the shortest transit lane from east to west, or west to east. It’s going to up; that will bring tension: Who owns the mineral rights? Who owns the area, if anybody does at all, in an area that we haven’t paid much attention to in the past?
There are fish migrating from the northwest of our country permanently into that part of the world. And our Coast Guard commandant, Thad Allen, brought that to my attention four or five years ago. So it’s an area we’re paying a lot more attention to. And that’s not just – (inaudible) – it’s a very serious effort.
Q: Thank you, Admiral, for taking the time to speak with us today. I recently read a report discussing the results of a survey that was done in Afghanistan. And one of the things that the survey found was that 80 to 90 percent of the Afghan population has no knowledge whatsoever of September 11th, or what took place on that date. And my question is, what is the Afghans’ view of our mission in their country, if this is true?
ADM. MULLEN: I think where it’s going – and I certainly wouldn’t doubt that. I don’t know if the number is exactly right. But it’s not a country flush with communications. And they live in local entities that are not connected around the country, necessarily, and certainly across the globe.
I think in areas where security has evolved in a positive way – let’s take Helmand province. You know, our main effort in Afghanistan over the last two years – 18 months – has been in the south. It’s been in Helmand and Kandahar. Helmand is the poppy-growing capital of the world. And yet, with the exception of one area in Sangin up in the northeast of Helmand, the whole province used to be run by the Taliban. The Taliban are just about out.
I’ll use the example: If you go to Marja right now, which is in the south, which was the first place we really added troops in the summer of ’09 and went in. And the campaign there started mid-February ’10 – sorry, we added troops in the vicinity of Marja late in the summer of ’09. That really turned security around; the bazaar has come in, in ways that many people couldn’t imagine. Their views are pretty good.
If you go to a place where security doesn’t exist, their views are pretty bad right now in terms of our mission. And certainly, President Karzai, rightfully so, has emphasized consistently the whole issue of civilian casualties. I mean, our strategy is to protect the people. It’s hard to convince an individual or a family they’re being protected when they’re dying, you know, at our hands, even if it’s by accident. So that’s why we’ve taken so much care to prevent civilian casualties.
We’re at a time in Afghanistan of great change. And there are – I think there are varied views in terms of where we are just because it’s chaotic and it’s changing. And I think it’s changing for the good with respect to the overall strategy. So I think you’re going to continue to get reports on both sides of how we’re doing over the course of the next year or so.
Q: Thank you, Admiral. I know you talked a little bit about the major challenges that the U.S. is facing right now. But my question is, how concerned are you about the possible spread of nuclear capabilities to nonstate actors like terrorist groups? And what might that do for the mission of the U.S. military?
ADM. MULLEN: I’m extremely concerned about that. When I talked earlier about the region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, Pakistan is a nuclear-capable country. They have been, as part of the nuclear arms race between them and India, for about an extended period of time. I worry a great deal because the terrorists are very focused on trying to get their hands on a nuclear weapon. That is something that is aspirational to them; we’re very focused on the whole proliferation piece. It is of great concern.
I spoke earlier on Iran. I think Iran with a nuclear capability generates a nuclear arms race in that region. And just looking at events through the course of the last two or three months in that region, much less historically, what does that mean for other countries then as they seek to protect themselves by matching that capability?
And in addition to the major weapons capability is the proliferation of the technology, which Iran supports, North Korea supports, and others. And that weapon in the hands of terrorists is something they seek. And I don’t have to tell you where that could go. I certainly – I don’t see that as an existential a threat to our country, meaning, certainly, we wouldn’t and couldn’t be annihilated, but certainly there is the capability and the developing capacity to kill thousands and thousands of us, which is one of the reasons that we’re so focused on that.
And it’s not just about us if Iran gets that capability. Iran is – very specifically, the leadership, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is focused on the elimination of Israel, which is a great ally of ours for example. And that’s just one example of the dangers that are out there. So we spend a lot of time focused on that as well.
Q: Admiral, as someone who is –
ADM. MULLEN: Hang on a second.
MS. : We actually have time – we have time for two more questions. Sorry.
Q: As someone who is planning on starting ROTC next fall, what advice would you give me to get through the program? (Laughter.)
ADM. MULLEN: Here at Marquette?
Q: I’ll be going to St. Thomas.
ADM. MULLEN: I was going to say, at Marquette, pay attention to the Jesuits. (Laughter.) I mean, I would – and you know the questions that came up this morning. And this is the advice I’d give you, actually, for as long as you live, which is, do as well as you can wherever you are. Make a difference where you are. Clearly, you’re going into school: You know, study hard, and also – and seeking to grow, being curious about those things that aren’t just coming your way. You’ve heard a lot of those kinds of things discussed this morning.
And I, as I said to the cadets and midshipmen this morning, I mean, we need you out there. This world is going to get more complicated, not less. It’s going to get smaller, not bigger. And we’re going to be more interconnected, we’re going to be more dominated by the information and the media and the news cycle than ever. So how do you filter that? And how do you stay connected with that – and how that drives you, and how it drives us as an organization?
And some of the best ideas in any outfit – not just the military – come from our young people, whether you’re enlisted or officer. So look for forums to generate those ideas so that leaders who actually have an opportunity to do something about something will listen to you; they’ll take those ideas and make it different.
Q: Yes, sir. You touched upon the concern you have about Iran and nuclear weapons. There seems to be an inconsistency there. We pay no attention to Israel and her weapons. In fact, as I understand it, we are supporting them with financial aid so that they continue to develop and finance their weapons. And we are so nervous in opposition to Iran doing the same thing. Why the inconsistency? We let one country there do as they please, and we are trying very hard to keep the other one from the same privilege.
ADM. MULLEN: Well, I think our relationship with Israel is a whole lot different than our relationship with Iran. Iran also, as I said, has very clearly laid out a strategic policy of the elimination of Israel, and we’re not going to stand for that. And we’ve been pretty clear about that.
And Iran is a state that sponsors terrorism, whether it’s Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran is responsible for civilian deaths, certainly, around the region, and would kill as many – this is not the Iranian people. This is really the regime; it’s an extreme region. And I believe they want to essentially run that part of the world back to where they came from as the Persian Empire, per se.
And they have – there are neighbors of theirs in that region who are great friends of the United States. And I think we have an obligation to them, and certainly we have every intent of fulfilling that obligation, even as things continue to change in a country like Bahrain where we have essentially had a Navy presence there since the late ’40s. There’s a long standing friendship.
It’s a critical part of the world. For lots of reasons, it will continue to be. And the motivations that exist with the leadership, or in the leadership of Iran, are significantly different, dramatically different from the motivations of the leadership of Israel.
OK, I’ll take one more, just because you’re standing there and waiting. (Laughter.)
Q: Thank you, sir. My name is Bob Earl (ph). I’m a Vietnam veteran. My question is about the media. I watched, firsthand for most of Vietnam, the hatchet job that the media did on us. I was in the infantry. What are you doing to focus on them doing a better job? I’m not really impressed by what I hear because I think a lot of the things that went on for us are being overtly and subtly presented.
ADM. MULLEN: I think – I mean, the challenge that we all have these days is the pace, and what I call the 24-7 pace. Obviously, that’s a whole lot different than it was. I mean, I personally – and this is just my background – I’m a big believer in the fourth estate. There’s no question it has challenges; I think every institution has challenges.
I will tell you, I deal an awful lot with the Pentagon press corps, and have for years, but in particular over the last two-and-a-half years. And I have a very high regard for those who are in that press corps. They’re traveling a lot; they do a lot of reporting. They are very professional. That doesn’t mean they’re not very tough because they are, and they probe a lot.
And so from my perspective, you’re asking me what I do. I engage them frequently, recognizing they’re going to go to press with a story. And what I try to do is tell that story from my perspective within the bounds of what I’m allowed to do, certainly from a classification standpoint because I think it’s important that the story be out there. One of the reasons that I am here today is to tell the story about so many who sacrificed so much, and the needs that they got as they transition, and the opportunities for our veterans in the future.
It’s to focus on the area – and I’ll be very specific. I didn’t mention this but, you know, part of our generation, what happened back then, because I’m a Vietnam vet as well, is we generated a group of our peers who remain homeless today, shamelessly so from my perspective from a country. If we’re not careful, we’re going to do the same thing again because there are those in the homeless world who believe that the number is up compared to what it was in Vietnam in terms of rate and also quantity, even though over this relatively short period of time because we took 10 years to generate a significant homeless population after Vietnam.
And shame – this is Mullen’s perspective – shame on us if we do that again. So there are – I try to give voice to – because I can, not because it’s me, but because of the office – to the challenges that we’re facing, and do that as accurately as I possibly can to tell the story, which goes back to the belief I have in these young people who are so spectacular and who sacrifice so much. So I engage them a lot to try to make sure they get it right.
Q: Thank you, sir.
ADM. MULLEN: OK. Is that it?
MS. : Yes. This concludes our discussion for today. And on behalf of Marquette University, thank you, Admiral Mullen, for your insightful words, and thank you, Admiral and Mrs. Mullen, for your visit to Milwaukee.
ADM. MULLEN: Thank you very much. (Applause.)