GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY: Well, it’s great to be here. Sorry we’re a little late. Believe it or not, the chairman doesn’t control international airspaces, and so – I’ll just set it right there, thanks – but I apologize for being late, but I’m really excited about interacting with you. I hope – I hope I find that you have some really tough questions that I can pass either to the commander of AFRICOM, the sergeant major or my wife. But our primary purpose in being on this trip, actually, is to touch as many soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and their families to wish you a happy holiday, frankly.
In the process, of course, we also have the opportunity to see if you have any questions about, you know, who we are, what we are, where we’re going, why we’re going there and how much is it going to cost, because that’s kind of the framework in which we live currently. I’ll tell you, though, having just come from Bahrain, interacting with the sailors on the John C. Stennis, who – some of you probably know – we alerted to go back to CENTCOM AOR [U.S. Central Command area of responsibility] after only five months’ home. So they did a seven and one half-month deployment; they got home. Five months later we had to send them back. I mean, it’s that kind of world – bit of unpredictability in our lives. But they and their families really stepped it up.
Then we went to Kyrgyzstan – Manas. Lovely place; this time of year, I would avoid it almost at any cost. It was 13 degrees below zero, and, you know, I start to become uncomfortable at about 50, so I’m just right on the edge here today, but again, you’ve got airmen – mostly airmen up there, but also members of all the services who work that transit center. And in a given year – these are the things that I get to see that you don’t, but I’m trying to make you feel good about who you are and what you are and what you’re doing. About 600,000 passengers pass through Manas in a given year, either deploying, redeploying or, in some cases, on an R&R activity – incredible, really, and in some pretty harsh conditions, part of the year, anyway.
And then into Afghanistan. And I’ll – let me tell you this: no matter what you’re reading – whatever you read, make sure you read broadly and don’t – you know, don’t pick out one news outlet or one newspaper or one news magazine or one Internet website, because this – you know, sometimes I’m afraid we don’t recognize success when we see it because we’re so convinced by one particular viewpoint or another. Afghanistan just happens to be one of the most complex places on the face of the earth, and sometimes I really do think we can’t even recognize the good we’ve done. I’ll give you two data points, though. And I’m not predicting, by the way, that Afghanistan will be Switzerland someday. I mean, I’d like to be able to predict that, but I’m afraid I can’t make that prediction.
But let me give you two data points. Beside the security side of it, which will always be – how many of you have served in Afghanistan? You know exactly what I’m talking about, then. You know, Afghanistan is going to have security problems for the remainder of my lifetime, for sure, and if you’re – you know, if you’re a lot younger than me, probably for the remainder of your lifetime as well. It’s got a lot of complex issues to work through. But let me give you two data points that don’t get much airtime.
One is on the issue of education. In 2002 approximately 800,000 boys were going to school in Afghanistan – zero women. Today, the number is 8 million going to school, and 35 percent of them are women. Now, you know, that’s got to make a difference over time. It’s got to change the fabric of the society in ways that I think will be pretty difficult for anyone to reverse.
Secondly is access to health care. Fifteen percent in 2002 had access to health care, the definition of which, or at least the definition that the World Health Organization uses, is you have to be within two miles walking distance to health care. In 2002, 15 percent; today, 60 percent. Child mortality rates are – you know, are on par with most nations in the world, which is incredible given, you know, where they were some years ago. Internet technology has arrived. You know, they are – they are part of the connected world now, and again, over time – not overnight, but over time, that’s going to make a difference.
OK, so speaking of making a difference – you’re wondering, what is – what is this new defense strategy? How are we going to rebalance to the Pacific? Why are we going to rebalance to the Pacific? So here’s a – just a couple of thoughts, and then I’ll open it up to you. We’re actually trying to look out through 2020 and beyond, because you can be consumed – especially in Washington, D.C., you can be consumed by the issue of the day or the issue of the week or the issue of the month, but it’s our job to help everyone kind of see the opportunities, the liabilities that exist over the horizon. So we picked 2020 as our target in order to, you know, shape ourselves.
And when you look at 2020 and beyond, you start to notice that security challenges begin to migrate into the Pacific. The economic challenges of our nation migrate into the Indo-Pacific – Indian Ocean and Pacific. Demographics migrate into the Indo-Pacific. So it’s pretty clear that we have – we have to rebalance. And that doesn’t mean we take everybody here and say, get on this side of the auditorium, and so – and then 10 years later OK, everybody on this side of the auditorium, come to this side of the auditorium. This is about rebalancing our intellectual energy and where we apply it. It’s about changing the way we use the military instrument of power and integrate it better with the other instruments of power, economic and diplomatic.
We can actually figure this out. And we’re going to have to do all of that with less resources. Now, notice I didn’t say with too few resources. I’m actually of the belief that the resource we’ve had over the last 10 years have in some ways discouraged us from thinking. I know it’s discouraged me from thinking when I was commanding at the division level, commanding at CENTCOM and beyond, because we did – we were blessed, and rightly so, with incredible financial support over the last 10 years. But the fiscal condition of the country is changing, and so we have to change with it.
You know, we have to be part of the solution. We don’t have to be the solution, but we’ve got to be part of the solution. So we’re going to have to figure out how take this wonderful military instrument of power, and its most decisive instrument, which is human capital – and I mean that to be soldiers, families, civilians that work with us – we have to use that human capital to figure out how to influence events around the world, mostly through the lens of human capital.
I tell you all that because AFRICOM [U.S. Africa Command] is actually an example of how that is possible. I don’t think if I asked General Ham, do you have enough of – you know, fill in the blanks – do you have enough ISR? I know the answer to that. (Laughter.) Do you have enough maritime support? I know the answer to that. Do you have enough aviation support? I actually know the answer to that. And do you have enough ground support? I actually know the answer to that. Enough bandwidth? I know the answer to that. So – but you’re getting it done. You know, you’re – you, AFRICOM, are a part of an enterprise that, by – that is forced to network differently – conventional, special operations, other agencies of government – you are forced, because of the limited resources we can apply here, to be creative, and by God, you’re creative.
And so, if you wonder, you know, how does the chairman sleep at night, it’s some combination of the perfect martini – (laughter) – and the fact that I know that we can do what we need to do with the resources we’ll have, because I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve seen it happen right here at AFRICOM. So we’re awful proud of what you’ve done. It’s probably – I’m a little ashamed to say we – that we – coming here after about a year and four months in the job; I should have been here a lot sooner; but it gets back to what – you know, this tug of the urgent.
So – but I am glad that we finally got here to have a brief conversation with you. I – we are awful proud of what you do. For those family members in the audience, thanks for being part of this incredible effort. And what’d like to do at this point now is open it up for your questions. And I said, I really – I do have the Sergeant Major Battaglia, who is the senior noncommissioned officer in the Armed Forces and my senior enlisted adviser, and I have my – his wife, Lisa, is here, my wife, Deanie, is here, and we’ve got the Hams with us. If we can’t answer that question – whatever question you asked, if we can’t answer it or, at least, kind, of tap dance our way through it, I’ll be surprised.
So what are your questions? Everything is clear. (Scattered laughter.) Yeah, the first one’s always the hardest one. And by the way, we’ll answer a question about anything. It doesn’t have to be a question about Africa, AFRICOM, or for that matter – it doesn’t have to be – do I see one up top there – no? Oh please, how many times do you get the chairman on the hot seat? Oh, here we go.
You know, while he’s walking over there, I’ll tell you – I’ll tell you one story that I hope hasn’t made its way to you; I’m afraid maybe I’ve intimidated you. There was a guy in – I think it was in Bahrain, and we’re talking about budget reductions, and he stood up and he said, you know, I really want to get your insights into how you think this budget thing’s going to go, and on and on, and it was quite a lengthy question.
And at one point, he said – and you know, it’s already – I already feel the effect in my department, and he was the NCOIC [noncommissioned officer in charge] of a department of about 10 sailors. And I could see on the other side of the room all of his peers, all of the other petty officers going, oh my god – you know? So I said, well, the first thing I’ll say is you really need to quit whining, because the rest of your crowd is not very happy about this right now. So I – then it kind of quieted the audience down. I won’t do that to you. There is no question that is – that I will consider whining. Well, I can’t really promise you that, but I’ll try. (Scattered laughter.)
OK, where’d that microphone go? OK, here you are.
Q: Good afternoon, sir. I’m Special Agent Mary Jones, I’m the J-2 – ex-NCIS. My question –
GEN. DEMPSEY: I didn’t do it.
Q: Fine, thank you, how are you? (Laughs.) My question relates to civilians that are deployed with military forces; having formally worn the uniform, I have a great deal of respect for my military counterparts. But we now have civilians that deploy on aircraft carriers, with amphibious units, they’ve been in Afghanistan, they’ve been in Iraq and served side-by-side with military folks for months and months on end. One of the biggest benefits for the military when they’re in a combat zone is that they do – their income is not subject to federal taxes.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Yes, tax exclusion.
Q: The civilians do not enjoy that benefit. Has there been any discussion for civilians that are deployed in combat zones to have that same benefit in the future?
Gen. DEMPSEY: You know, I haven’t heard it, meaning it’s not something in which I’ve been involved. But I wouldn’t – frankly, I wouldn’t expect them to involve me in it.
I will tell you though – look, I have been in meetings where we’ve talked about the fact that our civilian – our DOD civilians and others who are supporting us – haven’t had a pay raise, I think, in three years. Is that right? And that – that conversation is being had in earnest. But I haven’t heard the conversation about the tax exclusion. Has anyone here? Yeah – well, I got a team of supporters here that will write that down, and see if I can find out if it’s – if it’s even under discussion back there. I do take your point, by the way, that you’re – you know, you’re out there serving right next to us, and there – we should be more alert to the issues of equity.
I recall serving in Saudi Arabia with a number of civilians, and I was getting tax exclusion. They were getting some other kind of pay differential, but I’m not – I’m not educated enough on the issue, but I’ll try to make it myself that way.
What else? You must be doing a good job – oh, there we go. Maybe you’re not doing a good job.
Q: Lieutenant colonel Lewis – Headquarters commandant. This is a question I’m sure a lot of folks want to know. Are we staying in Stuttgart? If that decision hasn’t been made, when can we expect to know? (Laughter, applause)
GEN. DEMPSEY: Thanks – yeah, the easy answer would be yes. (Laughter) But of course, there are questions. Look, you know, one of the things as far – the answer is yes, by the way – I – we owe a report to Congress on the analysis, the – sort of the business case compared to the cost that it would – you know, what it would cost just to operate out of the United States, versus what it would cost to operate out of here.
That report’s being formulated; at some point, it’ll be presented to Congress, and then we’ll enter into a discussion. But we think for operational reasons, which we’d like to believe should – unless there is a huge disparity, operational reasons should dominate. It’s pretty clear that operationally, it makes greater sense to have you here in closer proximity, you know, to the continent that you support.
But your question, you know, kind of hints at the issue of trying to keep our budget in balance, and the fact that we’ve got to – we’ve got to look at everything we do now, from pay-in compensation, which is the question – related to the question back there – operations, maintenance, and training and infrastructure.
And that’s why – you know, as you know, we’ve advocated that at some point, we will probably have to ask the Congress to look at another BRAC [base realignment and closure], which is when the conversation will really get energized. But we have to, because we have to keep the budget in balance, and the way you do that is by affecting it across the board, not in isolated pockets.
But so the answer I can give you today with confidence is yes, but I wouldn’t suggest to you that it won’t get – it won’t come up again.
What else? Yes, sir.
Q: Sir, Lieutenant Colonel Jim Henshon, AFRICOM J-9.
I’m going to throw two large topics out there, sir, and see what you can deal with them. First one on the impending fiscal cliff: I don’t think anyone’s worried about what happens on January 2nd or 3rd, but can you maybe talk to us about if Congress doesn’t come to a solution that’s acceptable, what is – what do the weeks and months ahead look like? And if you can give us some ideas of what we might see on the ground, not just here at AFRICOM, but across the military, and really across the government.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, sure.
Q: And the second one, sir – also, if you could throw a little more of – you know, your vision, any specifics would be great – the shift towards the Pacific, that strategic shift – what does that look like?
GEN. DEMPSEY: OK, those are good. We’re getting some momentum now. (Scattered laughter.)
OK, fiscal cliff: It’s called the fiscal cliff for a reason, you know? And so – you know, we’ve been – we’ve actually – we’ve actually been taking a look at this for some time. We – you know, at the – at the lower staff levels, but now it’s kind of migrating its way up to myself and the secretary of defense.
So you ask what it might look like – here’s the challenge with sequestration. It’s both the magnitude – it’s another $500 billion – but it’s the mechanism. And the mechanism means that you have to take – it was initially intended to be 8 percent across the board. Eight – so think about having a budget, your household budget, and having somebody take 8 percent of it precipitously. And you have no ability to influence where it comes out of, you know, whether it’s your heating bill, or your vacation plans, or your retirement, or whatever it is. It just comes out. And then, you know, you’re left to – you’re left to deal with it.
That’s kind of where we are, except that we’ve exempted – we went to the president and asked him to exempt him military manpower. He had the authority in the Budget Control Act to do that. And so he did, he exempted military manpower. Not civilian manpower, by the way, and – he didn’t have the authority to do that – so civilian manpower is not exempted from the fact.
So back to the question over here, because they are related – about infrastructure, you know, where do we have buildings and bases and air fields – there’s two things in the budget, therefore, that are fixed right now. They’re – I can’t – you can’t touch them: One is manpower, and the other is infrastructure. What does that leave to absorb sequestration? It leaves operations, maintenance training and modernization. That’s it.
Being the chief – I was the chief staff of the Army for a long time, and in that – in that time, I did submit one budget. And in that one budget submission, I actually realized how little it – there’s not much art, it’s mostly science, to tell you the truth. And the science is, you know, you got six bins in which you put money, and you try to keep it in balance – enough infrastructure, enough manpower, enough paying compensation, enough operations, enough training, and enough maintenance.
Well, in sequestration, which in the first year would be between 52 (billion dollars) and $62 billion, you fix manpower and you fix infrastructure – meaning fix like static, you can’t touch it – and that leaves operations, maintenance training and modernization. So those – where it counts, it’s not an 8 percent cut, it’s a 20 – it’s a 10 percent cut.
So some data points for that: programs of record, acquisitions, procurements, the – you know, the line – each individual line, as it’s currently being interpreted, would be affected. So any particular program you’re tracking, from F-35 to a new Carbine, will be affected at about the 10 percent level. That’s really significant. It may not sound like much, but it is.
Civilian manpower that – I’ve read the report that there would be unpaid furloughs; you know, the idea being, we would have to furlough – I don’t know, I don’t know the number, but it’s – it has to be significant, but there would be a – you know, there would be a number of civilian employees furloughed in an unpaid status until we can, you know, get some flexibility back into the system., which could take months.
And as I understand it, unlike a government shutdown when the issue is resolved – the continuing resolution, where you can actually recoup the money you lost – under sequestration, as I understand it, you can’t. So that’s a huge issue for our civilian workforce. So there’s kind of two data points.
In the middle, I would talk to you about operations and training. Well, we can’t underinvest in the current operations. I mean, you can’t take 10 percent out of Afghanistan – you know, 10 percent of the funding out of Afghanistan. You can’t really change much about the way we’re using our fleet to establish our presence in the Gulf and the Pacific. You can’t really do much about the aircraft that are stationed at – Al Udeid – and other places – Kadena – around the globe.
What that means is that the operations side of it will be kind of protected. And that which sits in the homeland will be most affected in terms of maintenance and training. And so we would be forced at some point, probably, into deploying troops with less flying hours, less tank miles, less workups, if you’re a Naval office, on the fleet. So you know, that gets to be pretty risky.
We’ve got – we pretty much have learned over the years what it takes to get ready to deploy. And that would be – that would be degraded. And we would have to either not deploy – extend forces in theater – or we would have to find some other way to move money – it’s a – it’s a really – I mean, like I said, that’s why they call it the fiscal cliff. I’m hopeful that our elected leaders, both the executive and the legislative branch, find a way here in the next week to detrigger it or to push it off. And my job is to – is to point out the impact. And the impact is severe.
To the other part of your question about the rebalance – I think that was the rebalance to the Pacific. First thing I want to say is it’s not a pivot. That word has been used sometimes, which implies, you know, we turn our back on one AOR, area of responsibility, and focus on another. It’ll never be that. Look ,we’re a global power. And I think we aspire to remain a global power.
And that means we got to have presence. We got to be engaging partners. We’ve got to be visible. We’ve got to be, you know, influencing. We’ve got protect the commons everywhere. You can’t just protect the maritime domain in the Pacific and spike the ball. You can’t protect the – you know, the aviation freedom of movement in one place but not another. So it’s – this is not a light switch or a pivot. It is a rebalancing.
It’s – you ask what it will likely look like. I – one of the things I want you to kind of remember from today is last year in our strategy – and General Ham remembers this well – we talked about rebalancing from one AOR to another. We’d been very dominate, resource intensive in CENTCOM. And we do need to, over time, rebalance that commitment of resources.
So that’s kind of a horizontal rebalancing, if you will. This year I’d like you think about it – and we just had a session two weeks ago with all the combatant commanders and service chiefs, some of those out of OSD policy who help us shape things. And we’re talking about vertical rebalancing.
And what I mean by vertical is, how much of the force – again, this is looking out to 2018-2020 – how much of the force should we have forward deployed? How much of it should we have rotating? And how much of it should we retain in the homeland, because it’s the homeland forces – you know, at our post camp stations and Naval bases – that generally provide that surge capability so when you get the future wrong and something happens that you didn’t expect, you can surge to it. And that’s both active, guard and reserve.
So last year we rebalanced horizontally – and we kind of know what that looks like over time. This year we’re talking among ourselves really seriously about figuring out this vertical rebalancing because what’s happened over time is we’ve started to keep more of the force forward, much less of it back. And when more of it’s forward, it’s consuming readiness and you have less surge capacity back. And I don’t think we’ve got it balanced right and we got to figure that out.
So last year rebalancing horizontally, this year figuring out how to rebalance vertically, and then I think we’ll be able to be a little more articulate with you and our partners about what we got to do. All in an environment of fiscal constraint because of a new fiscal environment – that is to say, less money is going to create a condition where we’re going to do less. I mean, there is some – there is some science to that.
But not so much less that we won’t continue to be a global power. We are not a declining power. We can figure this out. And I’ll tell you, the reason I know we can figure this out is leaders. Like I said, human capital is really our decisive edge. And we just got to tap into it.
What else? Yes, sir.
Q: Sir, Captain Dave Kemp. I’m our J-18 resources director here. Some estimates put our personnel costs in the department between 45 and 50 percent of the overall DOD budget. Can you give us an update on efforts to reform the military retirement system and health care costs and what that’s going to mean for people here in the room?
GEN. DEMPSEY: OK. Good question. First of all, let me separate the two. What we’ve done is we’ve taken a look already – well, I’m going to put it – let me put it this way. We are looking now at military compensation, which really can be defined as pay – base pay, special pay, BAH [base allowance for housing], health care, OK? Separately, we’ve made a commitment to look at retirement, but not as part of this initial look.
That retirement will probably be done by some commission. And one of the principles of that commission’s work – I’m talking retirement – will be that personnel currently serving, who’ve already raised their right hand and taken an oath, those will be grandfathered. So whatever we decide to do about retirement, the first thing you need to know is that the retirement plan that you signed up for will still be available to you.
Now, that’s unless, you know, we come off the fiscal cliff and we realize that we’re only halfway down and the nation goes into depression. I can’t promise you anything then. But as far as we can see, and our commitment right now – which I intend to live up to, again, unless the world economy collapses – is that those – that retirement plan you currently understand will be available to you. It will likely not be available to your – to the next generation, let’s call it.
What we got to do is figure out how to put in place a retirement program that is competitive enough and generous enough that it will still allow us to recruit the quality we need and retain it. And so that’s why this is going to take some time. And we didn’t – you know, we didn’t want to rush into the retirement issue because it has so many implication with recruiting and retention. OK. Military pay – let me say something about manpower costs in general, though. Our manpower costs and the whole budget – the whole Department of Defense budget are about 45 percent. It varies from service to service slightly, but when you find the mean among all services, it’s about 45 percent.
If we – and climbing, health care especially. If we breach 50 percent, we will throw the system out of balance. It will mean that manpower costs are drawing a disproportionate and infeasible amount of the budget and that something will have to give – end strength, modernization, most notably. So we’re fighting to keep those manpower costs at about where they are, but they can’t stay where they are because of inflation, because of increased health care costs – all the things that society is facing on health care we’re facing, internal to the military.
So we are looking at figuring out how we make modest changes. We’re not looking for hundreds of billions of dollars, but we are looking for tens of billions of dollars in compensation – not reductions, necessarily. It could be not increases. So I’m making these numbers up. But if – you know, if we were thinking about a pay raise of X percentage, maybe it would be half of that instead of the whole thing. If we were thinking about BAH at a certain level of compensation, we might have to slow its growth – not reduce it, but slow its growth.
The issue is really slowing growth, which will feel like a reduction – frankly. I’m not going to, you know, try to – you know, I’m not going to try to fool anybody here. It will feel like a reduction. But fundamentally, it will be a slowing of growth, not a reduction in what you have in your pocket today. But you know, I – you know, we’re not oblivious to the challenge that poses. In fact, the Sergeant Major sits on a panel.
What we did when we started down this path – and the path – we haven’t come to the end of the path yet. We haven’t figured it out. But when we looked at pay raises, special pays, BAH, Tricare enrollment fees, you know, pharmacy copays – we’re looking at all that. And as we do, I just want to assure you, we’re looking at how we can implement it based on earning potential.
So you know, I’m going to make a guess here that I make more money than you. And so, you know, I would – I would pay a different proportion than you would. We’re trying to figure out how to do that. And we’re also making sure that this isn’t some equation that’s calculated just by officers, which is why we’ve got the senior enlisted adviser sitting on this panel.
You know, I – in a – in a perfect world, I’d rather not have to do this, but, you know, the Budget Control Act handed us a $487 billion bill. And unless anybody who’s going to make a – I could take donations, probably, at the end of this session, and we might get about .1 or – .1 percent there. But yeah, so we got to figure it out. And we – and manpower costs have to be part of the equation. We just got to – we got to make sure we proceed cautiously.
You want to add anything to that, Sergeant Major?
SERGEANT MAJOR BRYAN BATTAGLIA: I would, sir. I think – I think what’s appropriate here is that – is the added vision – (inaudible) – you know, back to the retirement question. And it reminds me of a conversation we were having earlier on. And you know as well as I, when the defense bureau board came out with that recommendation with regards to a 401(k)-like retirement plan system –and, you know, General Dempsey was the first to jump up and, you know, just raised the flag and say, stop, let’s study this. Let’s do it the right way. Heck, we’re on our fourth retirement plan for some of you all out there like us, and maybe we don’t have it right yet. So let’s just take our time and study it and make sure that we’re making a – you know, a very, very good, informed decision, because while the retirement plan may be grandfathered for us and our current retirees, it’s the children and grandchildren of you all that we really, you know, need to – need to factor in here. So while no decisions were made yet, you know, a lot of credit needs to go to this guy right here, and that goes with all the other pay-and-compensation pieces as well. He really keeps us honest and on the straight and narrow when it comes to what’s the right thing to do and how do we shape this for the future of our military to meet Joint Force 2020.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Thanks, Sergeant Major.
What else? Yes, sir.
Q: Hello, sir. I’m Major (inaudible). I’m a civil affairs officer.
MR. : (Off mic.) There you go.
Q: I’m a civil affairs officer, sir, and I work at a fusion center. My question is about Africa, about the problem in Africa, about Mali. You know, according to the – according to the U.S. government policy, we cannot deal directly with the people of Mali or with the government of Mali. Now you can see that in the northern part of Mali, the terrorist organizations, they’ve dug in very well. I think – I think that policy, because the – I can tell you, sir, that the sub-Sahara Africans are not that sophisticated to that extent to have an election when there is a crisis like that. So I think, you know, the U.S. government should kind of a little bit, you know, relax that policy maybe to deal with the military directly. You can see that, you know, General Ham, General Carter Ham is traveling all over Africa. He’s making a very good connection with the African people, with the African government.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, first of all, let me assure you that the situation in Mali – and really North and West Africa – is very – it’s very evident to us. We’re very engaged in it, both bilaterally in some cases, meaning nation-to-nation, also with some of our European partners and, probably most importantly, with some of the regional organizations, so up in Somalia, for example, AMISOM [African Union Mission to Somalia] and then in West Africa with ECOWAS [Economic Community Of West African States]. So that’s the first I want you to know is that nothing you said there surprised me. I’m – you’re probably – you should take some solace from the fact that I didn’t say, Mali? Where’s Mali? (Laughter.) We know where Mali is, and we know how important it is, and we know what a tragedy it is, actually. And we’ve had – we’ve had a long history, actually, of engaging with the armed forces of Mali. OK, so that’s number one.
Secondly, though, to be candid with you, for all the reasons I mentioned earlier about redefining ourselves, maintaining our global status in a new financial situation, fiscal environment, globally fiscal environment, we have had to really – I’ll reuse a phrase – we’ve had to make a ruthless determination of our national interest, you know.
So what does that mean to you? What that means to you is that we’ve got to find ways – where we have such an important national interest that we’re willing to do things alone by ourselves, we’ve got to be pretty clear about where those are. Mali’s probably not one of them, to be honest with you. Mali’s probably a place where we will do everything we possibly can with partners.
And it – and when you go down that path, when you’re going to work with partners – this is going to surprise you – it just takes a little longer to sort it all out and put, you know, processes, policies and frameworks in place. And we’re doing that. And I think you’ll see that over time, with partners, we’ll figure out how we can help the people of Mali overcome the situation in which they find themselves.
But there is, you know – but that’s one of the things that’s going to come of this conversation in a new fiscal environment is we’ve got to be a lot clearer about which issues on the globe are so important to our national survival, to the survival of the global economy, you know, to all the things that are truly vital national interests, our way of life. And those – we’ll do something about it by ourselves, if necessary. Others will have to be done through partners. That’s just the reality of it. Thanks for that question, though.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah. (Chuckles.)
Q: (Name inaudible), sir, J-39. You talked about rebalancing and reshifting our – not – our shifting our focus horizontally from CENTCOM to PACOM [U.S. Pacific Command] and thinking about what’s going to happen in 2020. Have we put any thought behind what Africa looks like in 2020 in terms of its relative importance, particularly to the economic equation, given the resources that, because of its instability, currently are not being extracted? And how are we positioned? Because those resources are going to become more important to our security interests, I would think, 10, 15, 20 years down the road as –
GEN. DEMPSEY: Oh, absolutely, which is why we – by the way, that’s why we established AFRICOM. You know – I mean, we don’t get much credit for that, by the way, you know, the – meaning the – you know, the notion was, oh, there they go again, setting up another combatant commander – another combatant command. But frankly, it was, I think, the vision of our predecessors who noted exactly what you just said and realized that when you – when you grouped EUCOM [U.S. European Command] and AFRICOM together, AFRICOM, you know, was kind of neglected in the process. So AFRICOM was formed.
OK. We’re – yes. The short answer to your question is yes. Africa has importance to us in any number of ways, not least of which is the human tragedy that we see there almost every day. But secondly, you know, there is this – there is the world of 2020 where resources are a greater source of friction and competition than they are today. Africa certainly stands prominent in that – in that role as well. And third is this emerging kind of global – let’s call it a global terrorist network or a global, you know, violent extremism, whatever we call it, you know, the thread that today runs fundamentally – no pun intended – from Pakistan, you know, through the Arab Peninsula, across Northern Africa and down now into West Africa. And that network – in order to – in order to deal with networks like that, you have to keep pressure on all parts of the network.
And so what we’re grappling with now – General Ham’s grappling with me, with Bill McRaven at SOCOM [U.S. Special Operations Command] – all of the combatant commanders are trying to come to grips with that reality that this – let’s call it contest of wills and ideological struggle that is violent extremism – is a decades-long endeavor. And Africa figures prominently into it.
But what we don’t want to do is just kind of mindlessly take the same template we used in Pakistan, the same template we used in Afghanistan, the template we used in Iraq, the template we’re using in the – in the Arab Peninsula and say, OK, that’s the template that makes sense in Africa. It’s probably not, actually. I’m – I mean, I’ve found in my 38 years, templates are dangerous things. You know, there is no template you can just take from, you know, the Arab world and place it into Africa, either Northern Africa or sub-Saharan Africa.
And so we’re trying to be thoughtful about how to look a little deeper, use the resources we have, learn as we go to be a learning organization. And I think that it’s AFRICOM that will have to be the voice of making sure that that template fits. So I – we are engaged in it. I wouldn’t say we’ve got the answers yet, that’s for sure.
What else? Yes.
Q: Sir, my name is Vaughn Anderson. I’m in the resources directorate. And I’m curious on whether there’s anything since you’ve become chairman that has changed your understanding or application of leadership.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Let me make sure I understand the question. Since I’ve been chairman the what?
Q: Since you’ve become chairman, is there anything that changed your reflections or views on leadership, how you understand the concept, how you apply it, et cetera?
GEN. DEMPSEY: Wow. That’s a great question. Well, first of all, I said earlier – I want to reiterate – I – it’s pretty clear to me that when – as we try to embrace change – I mean, the world is really changing. And it’s changing – it’s changing at a more rapid pace than it ever has.
You know, I mean, there’s a lot of things in the world that are still the same as they were, you know, throughout history. I read a letter that – I’m not trying to avoid the question; I’m trying to think about it while I talk. (Laughter.) I read a letter that Marshall sent – George C. Marshall sent the day after Japan surrendered. He sent it to all of his commanders across the globe. And he said, we have ended the war in Europe and in the Pacific. We have to do three things. We have to discharge 5 million – mostly men; men and women, but mostly men – 5 million men from the armed forces in the next year. You talk about drawdown. He said, we have to retool the defense industrial base from a wartime footing to a peacetime footing.
We got exactly the same problem. Well, not exactly the same problem. We got a very similar problem. And he said, now that we are both an Atlantic and a Pacific power, we have to think about how we will posture ourselves in the Pacific. I’m not making that up. So that’s 1945. What I learned from that: If you want a new idea, read an old book. (Laughter.)
So what kind of leaders – you know, this is the question we ask ourselves often, and we – and fundamentally, we ask it at seminars that the combatant commanders and service chiefs and I hold. They end up being about every four months or so. And we took one staff right up to the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in American history, the Civil War, 23,000 casualties in one day. And we went up there to talk about these issues because we wanted something to come out of the ground, you know, to help us kind of think about what we want to leave behind us, because, you know, most of us are within – you know, we’re all within single-digit years, and some of us – you know, I’m one speech away from – you know, from retirement at any given time. (Laughter.) So I hope this isn’t the one. (Laughter.) But – that’s not bad, by the way, meaning – you know, knowing that it’s really about what you can get done today is not a bad way to live, actually.
So the leaders of the – the military leaders that we’re going to produce, develop, I think, have a lot of enduring qualities. You know, integrity will always be an enduring quality of our military. Courage has to be an enduring quality of our military. But there are some new ones, I think.
I think probably innovation, the willingness to embrace change, adaptability – I think those are new. I mean, when I came in the Army in 1974, nobody really said to me, you know, you really have to be adaptable. Now, you learn to be adaptable over time. But mostly, what I was expected to do as a lieutenant, a captain, probably even a major, was, you know, here it is; get it done; don’t do too much thinking about it, now, because we don’t want you to screw this up. That world is no longer – that – there is – that world doesn’t exist anymore. It’s a world that’s connected 24/7/365 wherever you happen to be.
You know, young soldiers go to basic training, and most of our basic training locations are wireless now. And you’ll find that – you know, you’ll find this young kid, intel analyst, Fort Huachuca, sitting in the middle of the football field, you know, cross-legged with a laptop, and he want to be alone but connected to the world. You know, that’s – I’m 60 years old. I can’t relate to that – you know, alone and connected. What – how does that – what does that mean? But that’s – I’m telling you, that’s your kids too, right?
So I think we need to leverage that curiosity, you know, passionate curiosity. I think we need to leverage their entrepreneurialism. Most kids today – I’ll use “kids” as even my own kids – you know that most young men and women that graduate from college today will have four jobs by the time they’re 35 years old? Once I joined the Army – (makes swishing sound) – I knew that was it. I was going to, you know, retire at some point and play really bad golf and drink really good beer, and that was just the way it was going to be. It just – once I reached about the eight-year point, it never occurred to me – we have – we have young men and women transitioning constantly.
One of the things I’ve been trying to figure out, is there a way to let them kind of, you know, embrace that entrepreneurial spirit, let them leave the service for a couple of years and come back if they want to come back, if we can figure out a way to do that over time. So, you know, that entrepreneurial spirit, passionate curiosity, embrace change; don’t fight it; good stewards because the resources are – you know, but a lot of the things are exactly the same: physically fit, disciplined, integrity, courage, you know, all the things that are on the back of our dog tag. That’ll always be the case. But there are some things that are new, and we’re trying to figure it out, leveraging technology.
And I think we’re going to figure it out, actually. And I actually think, you know, we’re going to be – we’ll – nobody in the world, and not even anybody in our country, invests so much time and so many resources into developing leaders. We really are the – and I’m talking about civilians and military. And I don’t think we do enough for civilians, by the way, on leader development. I don’t control that. But I’ll tell you, from the uniformed perspective, we are the pre-eminent military leadership – not military – we are the pre-eminent leadership experience in the world, period. And as long as we keep that, I think you’ll be fine – we’ll be fine.
What else? (Whistles.) Oh. Where? Oh, there you are. That was my “Jeopardy!” theme song, in case you can’t tell.
Hey, while he’s getting ready to ask a question, the last – you know, it is Christmas, so the last thing we’re going to do is sing a Christmas carol together. So be thinking about the words to “White Christmas.” I’ll be back. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
Q: Good afternoon, sir. Duke Wood, and I’m the deputy chief of the fusion center here at AFRICOM. My question – you’ve spoken quite lengthly (sic) today about the fiscal cliff, about our fiscal concerns as we approach this next year. And we’ve talked about several other things. If you’re familiar with what’s commonly referred to among the civilian parlance as the five-year rule regarding overseas tour extensions with civilians, in the coming two years, that will have a fairly significant impact specifically on this command. In light of the cost to PCS and (move ?) personnel, in light of this growing fiscal concern, has there been any conversation back within your circle laying that same kind of requirement on the U.S.-based COCOMs that would help facilitate a rotation? Because many of the individuals that sit in this room today are in positions that don’t lend themselves directly to going back to a station, a post, an airfield or a garrison type of role. Thank you.
GEN. DEMPSEY: That is a great question. (Applause.) I’m not sure I’ll honor it with a great answer, but it’s a great question. I actually have a view of this because, as you know, I’ve served in organizations overseas with – in some cases with more civilians than military. I’m actually an advocate of the five-year rule as long as there’s an adequate number of waivers that the commander, be he military or civilian, can exercise. But I’m an advocate of it because I find that sometimes a new set of eyes on old problems isn’t a bad thing, actually. But to be fair about it, it does need to be more broadly applied so that everybody’s on – you know, in the same competitive environment, if you will.
I hadn’t thought about expanding it, but I will – I can see, you know, Colonel Thomas over there taking notes. There is some irony here that we’ll have to work our way through. So on the one hand, I think it’s probably a good idea to look at applying the five-year rule kind of globally, really, so we get that new set of eyes on old problems in a competitive environment. But the budget pressures we’re feeling are pushing us in exactly the opposite direction. So even on the military side, you’ll hear the service chiefs talk about stabilizing – PCS costs are – PCS cost a lot, so you’re starting to hear the service chiefs talk about, you know, stabilizing, mostly so you can save the money for PCS rotations.
But back to my question about adaptable, I actually think that I became an adaptable leader and our generation became adaptable because we were placed in so many different environments pretty frequently. I mean certainly every three years, in some cases every two years. And, you know, right now we got young men and women at Fort Hood, Texas, don’t even have to use a map or a Blue Force Tracker. You know, they just navigate in their training exercises using the – you know, the Hollywood call signs for the different terrain features.
That’s not good, really. You know, I think that putting people in positions where they have to kind of re-establish their bona fides, where they have to learn, where they have to adapt, is really what’s best for the institution. But make no mistake, the budget pressure is pushing us in the opposite direction, so we got to find a way to balance that off.
Q: Excuse me, sir.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Yes. (Pause.)
MR. : Yeah, Susie (sp), thanks.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Is your button green? It’s green.
MR. : There you go. General Dempsey said I’m not allowed to ask him a question because that would be considered fratricide, but – (laughter) – so I won’t ask a question, but I’ll make a statement. Could I ask, for our civilian employees, for all of you who are not DOD employees, would you stand up, please? Helen. All right. Others. So Chairman, I wanted to show you this for two reasons.
One, AFRICOM – thanks – AFRICOM has a small number of non-DOD participants, but we have more than any other combatant command in our headquarters. And they provide disproportionate value to the command because they bring a set of skills and experience and background – frankly, it’s where we draw our African expertise of, you know, former ambassadors, like Chris Dell (ph) and Helen Moleem (ph) and many others. And I bring that to your attention solely that as you enter interagency discussions and all these budget reductions occur, we – we at AFRICOM and I think “we” more broadly across the department – have a vested interest in the other departments and agencies keeping a resilience in their force that we can further expand our interaction in military commands. So thank you for that.
Second thing is, talking to our two senior Marines, Brigadiers General Chiarotti and O’Meara, they said they can solve the financial crisis. The Marines are ready – stand ready to take whatever pay reduction is necessary for the good of the team. (Laughter.) Mrs. Chiarotti does not agree with that, but I think we’ll be OK.
Last, let me just say to you, to Deanie, Sergeant Major and Lisa, thank you for making the trip to come see us. It’s a big deal when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his senior enlisted adviser come. It’s an even bigger deal when Mrs. Dempsey and Mrs. Battaglia come to visit. So we’re very, very happy that you’ve chosen to come spend a little bit of time with us.
I would just tell you – as you know, I have to tell you a little bit of a war story. So I’d heard a lot about Major Dempsey, Colonel Dempsey, but I’d never met him. I met Brigadier General Dempsey. He was in Baghdad. He was a serving division commander as a brigadier general. Those of you who know, in the Army our division commanders are major generals, but the Congress that year decided to not confirm a promotion list, so you can’t make him a major general, so he served as a brigadier general, and did so magnificently, and served with courage and commitment and did all the kinds of things that you would expect.
And I remember thinking to myself two things. First, I’m glad I’m not in Baghdad. And secondly, this is a guy who’s got extraordinary talent. But that wasn’t as important as this is a guy who genuinely loves soldiers. And I think as our leader, as our senior uniformed representative to the civilian leadership of our country, all of us soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, civilian employees, are very, very proud to have you – the two of you as our voice – as our voices in Washington, D.C., and around the world representing all of us. So thank you for what you do, and thank you for the sacrifices that you make. And I would just pledge to you that we at AFRICOM will do all we can to support you. I’ll still pee on your leg over resources, but we recognize that we’re part of a larger enterprise and a big team, and I wouldn’t want to be on anybody other’s – anyone else’s team but yours. So thanks very much, chairman.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Very kind. Thanks. (Applause.) Thanks.
Yeah, thanks very much. You know, someone said to me, boy, it must really be awful to be the chairman right now. And my initial thought is, yeah, it really is – but it’s really not. You know, if you ever wanted to serve, in uniform or in a suit for your nation when it mattered, it matters, and so this is a great time to serve. It’s a complicated time to serve, but it’s a great time to serve, and I thank you all for doing it.
OK, here we go, because I want – we’re going to have a little Bing Crosby moment here. This is Germany. The song was about a little fight in Germany, and Bing Crosby – I’m not – by the way, I’m not trying to convince you I’m Bing Crosby, but I am saying I’d like to have a little Bing Crosby moment with you, so we’re going to sing “White Christmas.”
And I – notice I said “we.” That’s the plural pronoun, and at some point, I’m going to listen, actually, to see if you’re singing with me, and I will – I will call you out if you’re not. So here we go:
(Sings “White Christmas.”)
Somebody sounds good.
Very good. One more verse.
Merry Christmas. (Applause.)
Video: Gen. Dempsey's town hall in Stuttgart, Germany