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Gen. Dempsey's Remarks and Q&A at at the Military Reporters and Editors Conference

By As Delivered by General Martin E. Dempsey, Arlington, Va.
GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY: Yeah, I’m happy to be here today, guys. I’m – as the staff (inaudible), I go from one event to the next. I say, where are we going? (Laughter.) He said, MRE. I said, good god, has the budget come to that – (laughter) – that we’ve got to have MREs for lunch?

So they said to me as I walked in – can everybody hear me OK, by the way? Thanks.

They said to me on the way in, you know, thanks for being the keynote speaker. I actually didn’t realize I was the keynote speaker, but you know what they say about keynote speakers – it’s kind of like the corpse at an Irish wake: It’s important you have one, but we shouldn’t expect too much out of him – (laughter).

What I’ll do is, for just a few minutes, talk to you a little bit about kind of my – I guess I would – I would describe them as initial impressions or observations or insights into being the chairman. And then, you know, frankly, I’ll open it up to you all for questions to see what’s on your mind.

By the way, though, it’s not a few months ­– I had been the chairman for all of about 48 days – but who’s counting?

So I am the 18th chairman, and I like to remind myself of that. And there is a – and that’s an issue of continuity because as you all know, because you cover them, the issues confronting us today can really feel somewhat overwhelming, actually. And so I’d like to remind myself that I’m not the first person that’s ever had to deal with issues like this.

And incidentally, there are cycles of history, and there’s a lot we can learn, I think, from looking back on our history and seeing how other leaders at other times have addressed the challenges they faced. So I like to remind myself there were 17 others that tried to figure this out before me, and then kind of resolve myself to take on the task, and as Will Rogers put it, leave the woodpile a little higher than I found it after I finish the job, really. So I guess in some ways, it’s thinking about how you want to finish the job as you start it so that you can have an idea of how to move things ahead.

Put up the next slide – the other thing I’ll tell you – this is it, by the way: no PowerPoint, no wiring diagrams – (laughter) – you know, none of that, especially while you’re eating. You know, (inaudible) probably watch – I used to teach English at West Point right after lunch, and it was a hideous experience, actually – (laughter) – watching what I thought was just a brilliant interpretation of Hamlet put everyone to sleep as they staggered back from the mess hall.

So this – I carry some images in my head to remind me why what I do is important and why what we do is important, and to some extent, why what you do is important – because you are, in many ways, our linkage – the linkage between that young man who happens to be in Afghanistan back home to their families. You’re part of it; you’re not exclusively the linkage, but you’re a big part of that linkage.

And incidentally, by show of hands here, who has – who – I know there are some award-winners of this association today. Who won awards today? Anybody? Congratulations. One – is that it? Is it just one award? You guys are stingy. (Laughter.) Two awards. And the rest of you, you – (inaudible) – I suppose.

But anyway, the reason I carry that image around in my head is that it speaks to me on a lot of levels. You can’t see – the graphic isn’t that clear to you there, but if you could see the eyes on that squad leader in Afghanistan, you can tell that there’s a lot going on. And it’s that kind of unbelievable combination of emotions, you know, and values for that matter – courage and fear all working at the same time; confidence and uncertainty working at the same time.

And I – you know, I often ask myself, why do these young men and women do what we ask them to do and, you know, put themselves in harm’s way? And I think it comes down to trust. You know, I’ve often, over the course of 37 years, tried to take this huge list of attributes that we use to define ourselves. And there – you know, there’s – if you’re in the Army, you got seven values on a dog tag. If you’re in the Marine Corps, you have five; if you’re in the Air Force, it’s some other number. And there’s a lot of overlap, but there are a lot of these values, abstractions that we use to define ourselves.

So over the course of time, I’ve kind of whittled those away, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the – that the value that is sort of primus inter pares, first among equals, is trust. And that young man right there would only be able to do what he does as a squad leader if he had this trust relationship on a lot of levels: So he has a rifleman to his right flank, to his back, actually, protecting him; and the rifleman has the squad leader, in turn, protect him. So you can see trust – that’s trust in action right there – you know, trusting the man or woman on your flank.

He’s on the radio, and he’s asking for something; I don’t know what he’s asking for, actually. It could be close air support, it could be a medevac; it could be indirect fire. It could be for policy guidance. Who knows? But what sets us apart as a profession and a military in the world is that what’s – whatever he’s asking for, I know he got it. I don’t know when he asked for it, but I know he got it – because that’s who we are.

And so, you know, as I – as I move around talking to audiences young and old – and I’ll let you decide which part of that spectrum you belong in – military, civilian, family members – what I tell them is that as we – as we start to re-shape ourselves for the future – and we will, you know, either because we’ve learned and we want to adapt or because we have some budget requirements that will cause us to adapt. And it’s both, by the way.

As we do that, the one thing we have to maintain is that relationship with trust that is the only thing that allows us to define ourselves as a profession.

The other thing about that picture that’s hard to see, although you can see it if you strain your eyes a bit, is the wedding band. And that kind of reminds me that the Army – that, well, the military, really, that we have today is very different than the one I joined. When I joined the Army back in 19 – when I came to West Point in ’70, I graduated in ’74. And we were probably 30 percent married and 70 percent single. And now, it’s almost flipped on its head. And so we’ve got this large group of family members who also count on us to take care of them. And you know, that young man in the picture there on the radio, the squad leader – let’s face it, if he was worried about his family back home excessively – of course he’s worried about them, but he also trusts that there’s also a network that runs back to them. And that’s another reason he’s able to do what he has to do on behalf of the nation.

So that’s kind of the reason I carry – I carry other images around, though. You know, some of you saw that wonderful image of the tomb guard at Arlington during Hurricane Irene, you know, just rock steady. You know, neither the forces of nature nor the forces of human nature would knock him off his post. And that’s – I think that’s another one I carry around.

I met a kid and – a kid – I met a master sergeant in Alaska – a National Guardsman, actually – Air National Guard – who is a parajumper. And you know, these are the guys that crawl out of a helicopter on a – on a wire cable to rescue people off the side of the terrain that’s otherwise inaccessible. And this young guy had just gotten back from Afghanistan, where he had pulled 12 soldiers off the side of a – fundamentally, off the side of a cliff in the Hindu Kush under machine gun fire. You know, in fact as – the narrative goes that twice the cable he was suspended on was struck by machine gun fire. And he pulled 12 off; four of them died in his arms. It’s a phenomenal – it’s a phenomenal act of heroism.

And you know, again, I wonder to myself, why would anyone in their right mind lower themselves on a cable in a – in a hail of machine gun fire on the side of a cliff and – you know, we’ll never know for sure why they do it, but what we can for sure is they don’t do it for themselves. And that gets to this relationship of trust. And we’ve got to preserve that. And we will preserve that.

Now, under that trust image there, I’ve got four of what I call focus areas to help – I use them to help remind myself, to help remind others, to kind of define my chairmanship in its early days – I’m sure I’ll change it over time – and also, it helps my staff organize my engagements around that.

So as you see there – and the first one is, we’ve got two fights to finish, two missions to accomplish in Iraq and Afghanistan. And if you’d like, we can talk about that. But that’s – you know, that’s the first priority – is we got soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and Coast Guardsmen, civilians who we have asked to go to Iraq and Afghanistan, and we got to make sure that we get them what they need and that they can achieve the objectives that we’ve given them.

The second one there, of course, is how do I – what’s my – I’ve been challenging myself to think about, but those around me – what’s my role in helping develop a joint force? And I’d chosen 2020. And I’ve chosen 2020 because that allows me to kind of leap beyond the kind of current budget discussions, which are important – believe me, they’re important – but I got to get beyond it to understand what the nation needs in 2020 so that I can understand how to be articulate in the discussions about the implications of changing budgets.

And by the way, 2020 is, I think, the right date to select because if I’m the chairman for four years, I’ll submit with the service chiefs, with the joint chiefs, four budget submissions – ’13-’17, ’14-’18, ’15-’19, ’16-’20. So we will build together – me and the other joint chiefs – we’re going to build the force in 2020. Whether we do it deliberately – which is my preferred course of action – or whether we kind of back into it because we’re struggling every year over the new budgets – my preference, of course, is to jump ahead, figure out what you want, look backwards, walk toward it. And I – and by the way, we’re making some progress in that regard. Hard work.

Incidentally, one sort of funny little cocktail-party sort of thing, if you’re ever interested – (inaudible) – 2020 is a hard – it’s hard to talk about 2020. Here’s why: If you want to talk about current events, people will line up, you know. They’ll line up to give you their opinion about current events, and you know, they’ll have formed their opinions in a variety of ways. But nobody – or I should say almost nobody – has – you’ll always find an opinion about current events. I’m going to figure that out here – and when you – question-and-answer period, I’m sure.

You can always get people to talk about 2030, 2040, 2050 – assuming we get past, you know, the Mayan prophecy of 2012 in the first place. (Laughter.) But you can always get people to talk about 2050, you know, whether it’s demographic shifts, climate change. You know, people are willing to talk about that.

Try to get somebody to talk to you about 2020, and it goes silent pretty quick. And I finally figured out the reason for that. It’s because the near future – let’s call it the mid-future. So there’s now, near future, mid-future, distant future. The mid-future is the – is the most challenging one to talk about, for two reasons: one is, you have to make some judgments about how current things will change slightly, not dramatic; and secondly, people realize if they’re talking about the mid-future, they’re actually responsible to deliver it, to shape it, to influence it and therefore deliver it.

And so you’ll – you know, people get a little bit less comfortable when you’re talking about the mid-future. And I found that to be both fascinating and an opportunity because if we can – I’m talking about internal to the military, now. If we can generate a conversation with ourselves about who we need to be in 2020, it forces us to come to grips with things. And our actions will shape that future. So that’s the 2020 business.

I say there, renew our commitment to the profession of arms – about every 20 years, historically, we have taken a very introspective look at ourselves and what it means to be a profession. That is to say, we’re not an occupation; we are a profession built on certain principles, special knowledge and expertise, a set – and a particular ethos or behavior, commitment to lifelong learning, certifying – you know, all the things – I mean, you can look in the book about what it means to be a profession.

But as we take a look at this every 20 years, you know, we want to see, do we have the attributes right? Are the attributes that defined us as professionals 20 years ago the same attributes that we should be developing today?

We haven’t made any – we haven’t come to any conclusions yet, but it’s been a very, very healthy exercise, if you will. And it’ll – it’ll help inform us as we – as the demands on the force go down, and we go back to an army that has a certain amount of time to train, and is – I say army, but all services – and is deployed less, you know, how do we define ourselves? How do we inspire ourselves? What’s our raison d’être? Why would a young man or woman want to be in it?

Because if you think about it, if you’re a major or below in our service right now – an O-4 or below – lieutenant commander in the Navy or below – or you are a staff sergeant, E-6, or below – you know nothing in your professional career other than counterinsurgency, Iraq and Afghanistan. And so the question becomes, when those are no longer dominating our time, dominating our thinking – and that’s not to suggest we won’t be doing any of that, but we’ll be doing less of it, I predict – then what is it that binds us as a profession to each other, to the nation? And what are those attributes we have to make sure we’re delivering in our personnel policies and our professional military education?

And what does it mean to be Joint today? You know, 12 years ago, 14, 15 years ago, we kind of saw jointness start at about the O-6 level, maybe the – maybe BGs [Brigadier General], you know, flag officer level is where jointness really was a huge factor. Now, you know, you’ve got captains sitting on a combat outpost on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border who have access to jointness. Jointness is in their operations centers. They probably have joint military personnel intermingled with them, working for each other. I mean, jointness is really a much different thing today than it was even 12 years ago.

And then the last one is the military family writ large, and I mean that so that it’s not exclusive to just those spouses and children of our family members. Our military family includes veterans. Our military family includes, you know, Gold Star families. It’s a much broader definition, I think, than we would have probably suggested even 10 or 12 years ago.

So this is all about, what have we learned over the last 10 years? How has it changed us? How do we see this 2020 target, if you will? And how do we get from here to there in an environment where we’re in constant transition in Iraq and Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the globe, we’re reconsidering our QDR [Quadrennial Defense Review] strategy to see if we should make some adjustments to that? And, of course, we should.

And someone told me, even if we had all the money in the world, you’d want to be a learning organization and continue to adapt, so we’re taking that view of it. And then, you know, like I said, who are we in this second decade of the 21st century? So – turn the slide off. So with that, I’ll open it up for questions. I’m not promising you any answers, but I will open it up. I will open it up for questions, and I do want to leave you with one final thought.

In that military – that force, Joint Force 2020 that I just described to you, I’d like you to think about how you intend to stay connected with us. And here’s why I say that. Over the last – again, over the last 10 years, you’ve been embedded with us. You know, we’ve been a constant source of interest to you because we’ve been doing some pretty interesting things. You’ve helped us connect, as I said, to America. Hopefully, we’ve helped you understand who we are, so we can tell our story.

So what happens when – you know, when the trumpets fade, as they say? We are mostly doing theater security cooperation – you know, training and readiness kinds of activities at post camps and stations – and those are not really headline-grabbing things. Some of them can be. Most of them are not.

And the question I would ask you to think about, as we will, is, how do we build on the relationship that military reporters and editors – that we’ve forged over the last 10 years because we’ve been closely aligned embedded, and in contact with each other? How do we keep that alive, you know? We ought to think about that before it’s upon us. OK, what are your questions?

MS. McCULLOUGH: Before we do questions, if everybody could state their name and organization before you ask your question, we would appreciate it.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, no non-attributions. (Laughter.)

MS. McCULLOUGH: And try and keep it to one the first time around, so everybody can get their questions, then we can go back around.

GEN. DEMPSEY: She’s the boss.

Q: My name is Kristina Wong. I’m with ABC News. Thank you so much for coming to speak with us today. If I could ask you to answer your own question, how do we keep that alive? So what are your – (cross talk) –

GEN. DEMPSEY: No, you can’t answer that – I asked you. (Laughter.) You can’t answer a question with a question. Only English teachers can do that. That’s the Socratic method, right?

No, I have thought about it. I think there are opportunities in our professional military education. I just think you have to be interested in things that don’t go bang in the night. You know, you’ve got the – you’re going to have to – whoa. You’re going to have to get interested in other ways, you know, to discuss that which the military provides the nation.

And part of what we have to provide the nation is this developmental training, preparing model, not just prevailing. You know, we’ve been prevailing for the last 10 years. That’s the word we use. And we’re going to go back to doing a lot of effort to prevent and deter – prepare, prevent, deter. And I hope you’re interested in it, because if we’re good at it, maybe we won’t have to do as much of the other stuff. So that’s – I mean, that doesn’t help you very much, but that’s the best I can do.

MS. McCULLOUGH: In the back.

Q: I’m Sydney Freedberg, Learning from Veterans. You talked about this generation that’s known nothing but Iraq and Afghanistan. And I’ve talked to a lot of those people myself. Some of those are going back to civilian life regardless, but for a lot of them, they’re coming up to crucial decision points – whether they put those golden handcuffs on or not, and stay career or get out.

Now, they’ve been used to a huge amount of responsibility, a huge amount of urgency. And as we draw down, they’re going to be – you know, it might be possible they’ll be trapped in the garrison BS, and bureaucracy and micromanagement that the military is sometimes known for. How do you keep those people, and all their experience, on board when you – you know, how do you keep them with a sense of mission and urgency when, you know, the wars are eventually over?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Where in the hell did you get the golden handcuff metaphor? (Laughter.) What is the golden handcuffs?

Q: Retirement benefits at 20, sir.

GEN. DEMPSEY: (Chuckles.) OK, well, we might fix that, won’t we? (Laughter.) Now, we’re looking at all of that. We can talk about that if you want. But back to your point. You point is, look, when people – when people ask me, what are you most worried about, I think they’re expecting me to say, you know, Iran, North Korea, you know, the Pacific. I don’t know why this fades in and out. But anyway, that’s not what I tell them.

I tell them what worries me is taking that generation we just talked about, who have had the kind of capabilities, authorities and responsibilities, autonomy, decentralized and distributed – and then we bring them back, just as you suggest, into a garrison environment. But I would reject out of hand one thing you called – that was garrison BS.

You know, I mean, truthfully, I grew up in an Army that spent the – I spent the first, oh, 17 years or so of my career in an environment where we weren’t deploying. And I suppose there were moments when I thought of the garrison activities as BS. But frankly, you know, sometimes you grow when you accept small disciplines, not huge disciplines. OK, so what’s the point? The point is – wow, the point is I’ve got to quit yelling, apparently. (Laughter.)

The point is, that’s exactly why we’re taking on this issue of understanding our profession. It’s also why we have challenged – each of the services have challenged those responsible for training and doctrine to take a look at, how do we – let’s call it replicate, although the word is – I’m not satisfied yet with the word – not duplicate, but replicate the challenges and the experiences and the learning that’s gone on over the last 10 years. So let me bring it into a more – more practical example.

You know, we’ve learned what it means to conduct military operations in and among a population, and it adds enormous complexity. It’s tribal engagements, it’s understanding religion. It’s understanding tribes. It’s understanding, you know, the effects of different kinds of terrain. It’s understanding the integration of joint capabilities, everything from ISR platforms to agricultural development teams. I can’t replicate that in the physical world at Fort Hood, Texas. I can’t do it. I’m just using Fort Hood.

But I might be able to replicate it in the virtual world. And so I think technology can, if we’re clever about it, can provide us some opportunities – and we’ll have to make some investments – but it can provide us the opportunity to continue to link the joint force and to continue to provide that degree of complexity in training and education at home station, in the classroom, at the combat training centers, through – in the virtual environment that we can’t possibly replicate in the physical environment.

The good news in all that is that this generation, and even more so the next generation, is actually quite comfortable in that virtual environment. And so I think that if we recognize, you know, the young men and women who are deciding to join the military – if we recognize what’s different about them, and understand that part of what’s different about them is the degree of digital literacy and expectation for collaboration, in a way that, probably, my generation, certainly – we were not capable.

We were not even – well, it didn’t exist, so I can’t be too critical about it. But the point is, this generation coming in is entirely comfortable in that environment. And I think that’s the place where we can find ways to challenge leaders to continue to develop in the complex environments that I couldn’t possibly replicate elsewhere. So it’s some combination of – we call it live, virtual, constructive, and gaming – to make training and education a better experience, a more relevant, credible experience.

Q: Hi, General, Lolita Baldor with the Associated Press. You talked a little bit about 2020. I was wondering if you could share with us a little bit about your thoughts about the future of the military more in the near term, as you look at having to reduce – or find savings in a number of places around the globe.

What do you think the threats are? And how do you think the military’s going to have to reshape itself, geographically and military, over the next 10 years or so, in order to both come up with the savings but face threats?

GEN. DEMPSEY: That was the – that was the doctoral-level question, wasn’t it? So let me peel it back. Let me just peel it back a little bit. I’m not going to completely answer your question. It’s not answerable yet. I will assure you that we’re working on various lines of effort to answer it. But you asked about what are the threats in 2020.

Well, for one thing, I think it’s pretty clear to all of us that there will be a persistent threat of violent extremist organizations, and that’s because they tend to be ideological. Different threat than political, economic – you know, nation-state threats. These are non-state actors, generally. They’re networked, they’re decentralized. They sometimes syndicate with each other.

And I just think it’s near certainty that there will continue to be some kind of threat of that nature around the globe that could impact the homeland, and therefore, we need to make sure that we retain the capability, and continue to enhance the capability, to deal with that threat. Now, that’s sort of on the – let’s call it the irregular end of the spectrum.

On the more traditional – on the more traditional threats, you know, there are – we think that the two nation-state threats will continue. And, of course, one is Iran; the other is North Korea. And then there’s some emerging powers that we do not consider to be threats, but we want to make sure that our actions over the next, you know, 10 years or so doesn’t create a self-fulfilling prophecy that causes any of them to become threats, at the same time continuing to build our capabilities in case we get it wrong.

And so, the way I think about building the future force is kind of a pyramid. If you can – yeah, a triangle, so think of the triangle. On the top of the triangle, if you wrote the word threat – some of those are known, and we can build against those. Then, on the lower-left corner, you could write the word capability, and on the lower-right corner, capacity.

So to build – to build the future force, some of it will be very clearly organized, trained and equipped against a known threat. Some of it will just be capability, because you’re not sure, and that part of the capability has to be, kind of, flexible, versatile, agile, because we’re not sure how we might have to use it. The capacity issue is the fact that we’ve got an all-volunteer force, and it – we’ve learned a lot over the last 10 years about the limits of human endurance.

And so the capacity question is, you have this much capability. How often do you want to use it? And when you make some assumptions about how often you might want to use it, you can size the force and understand what it’s capable of within the limits of human endurance. So that’s, you know, that’s kind of the Cliff Notes to your doctoral question.


Q: Yes, thank you, sir. Dan Lamothe with Military Times. I wanted to ask in light, I guess, of your last answer how Australia, and the announcement this week of Marines deploying there on a rotational basis fits in both on the irregular aspect and, sort of, the conventional threats that are potentially in the Pacific over the next couple years.

GEN. DEMPSEY: First of all, let me answer it by telling you, one of the things that, as we look at what our strategy needs to be out in the 2020 time frame, is we have to find this balance between forward-deployed and power projection. You know, that’s one of those choices that we make as a nation and we make as a military. How much of the force do you want forward-deployed? How much do you want CONUS-based, moving around in a rotational basis?

And as we’ve started to look at the equation – and, as you know, the companion piece is, what geographic regions of the world – how will we emphasize or de-emphasize different – not to the exclusion of any of them. I mean, look, we still intend to be a global power in 2020, so this is not – we’re not going to set ourselves up for the false dichotomy of, you can either be a Pacific or an Atlantic power.

The going-in premise is we will remain a global power. The question is, how do you prioritize resources, fundamentally? Resources including intellectual energy – it’s not just, you know, manpower. So the – what the president announced in Australia is part of that equation. You know, we’ve said this is part of our forward-presence equation. It’s rotational, so that we get training benefit. There is training in rotating.

It’s also a way you build adaptable leaders, so that you put them in situations that are unfamiliar to them. All of that is part of the grand scheme of developing ourselves as a force. Australia made the offer. But the president announced that we were prepared to accept it. Now we’re working out exactly what it’ll mean, but it’s part of that equation – forward presence-vice-power projection.

And it is also illustrative of the fact that we believe that we need to emphasize, more than we have in the past, our presence in the Pacific. And, by the way, don’t – you know, there’s – so you’re going to write down, without me telling you, aha, it’s countering China. It’s not countering China. It’s the facts of demographic shifts. It’s the facts of economic shifts, and it’s the fact of military power shifts.

And so as a global power, with our national interests which include, of course, access to resources, freedom of navigation, and influence with like-minded nations – and clearly, Australia is a like-minded nation with us – it makes perfect sense.

Q: Christina Lamb from the Sunday Times in London. You mentioned, as one of the nation-state threats, Iran, particularly in light of the recent IAEA report. The Israelis are talking about the need for a military strike. I wondered what you think about that, and what the alternative is if you don’t – (inaudible) – military force.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, the IAEA report really confirmed what we’ve believed for some time about Iranian intentions in becoming – seeking to become a nuclear power. I don’t choose to talk about our discussions with our Israeli partners. But I will tell you that, you know, we are on a dual – we are on a dual-track approach, economic and diplomatic, with never taking any military option off the table. And I think that’s the right place to be.


Q: Bryan Bender with the Boston Globe. More of a strategic-level question: Obviously, one of your roles, or one of your primary roles, is to be adviser to the president of the United States. To what extent do you see your role as not just preparing the forces for these future threats, but analyzing or questioning some of the assumptions?

You talked about the persistent threat of radical Islamic organizations, primarily a non-state threat. To what extent does what seems to be gospel require analysis? In other words, should we be deploying our forces around the world to confront small non-state groups from now until whenever we think we’ve succeeded? So that, sort of – again, can you – (inaudible) – how much of your job is questioning, you know, what is in the national interest, and what should the military be doing and not be doing?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah. I think that is very much the responsibility of the chairman. And I was a service chief, as you know – albeit for a brief period of time, but I was a service chief. And the service chief – his role is very – he isn’t a member of the JCS, but the service chief, with his service secretary – actually, for his service secretary – is responsible for organizing, training and equipping.

So you’re right that, you know, at that level, the effort to grow the force, generally speaking, doesn’t include – it doesn’t really incentivize, even, the kind of challenging the assumptions, because, you know, the service chief has a job to do to deliver the force so that the combatant commander can employ it.

Now, since you brought up strategy, I’ll tell you there are – you know, some people disparage Clausewitz. You know, old, Napoleonic-era thinking. But the fact is, the one – not the one thing, but among the things Clausewitz had right and that is the same today is that there are ends, ways and means. The ends we can certainly challenge, and have been challenging. And you’re talking – what you said to me – should we be the kind of power that is responsive around the globe to – I think, as you described it, small – let’s call them small wars

Well, the answer is, I don’t know that. That’s a political decision. Truly, but of course, you know, we will provide advice to the president. What we don’t want to do, though, is create a force that – where the president doesn’t have that option. I’ll give you an example. So in the face of same budget discussions, you know, someone might say, well, maybe we ought to not – maybe we can’t do everything we’ve always done. So, you know, disaster relief is not as important as defending the homeland.

So, you know, as I was sitting there listening to the conversation, I said, let me get this straight. I’m going to be the chairman who gets the phone call from the president that says, hey, you know, there was an earthquake in Japan, or an earthquake in Haiti. We’d really like you to organize an air bridge, a sea bridge to, you know, help, facilitate the delivery of the humanitarian relief.

And I say, you know, Mr. President, I’d really love to help you out here. (Laughter.) But, you know, that’s like number-six priority, and I can really only get at number five. That’s not going to happen.

So the issue for us is that ends – we’re a global power. And we can talk ourselves into believing that we’re just not going to do some things, but that’s not who you want us to be. It’s not who the American people want us to be. We’ve got to be versatile enough to, you know, to focus the force on one kind of activity or one kind of challenge, but it better be flexible enough to do whatever the heck the nation needs us to do. That’s back to this trust thing.

OK, so if the ends are going to be, kind of – they’re not going to be exactly the same, but they’re not going to change a heck of a lot either – that leaves the other two pieces of the Clausewitzian triad: means – that’s the resources – and ways. Well, we know what’s happening to the means. The means are being reduced.

Why? Because the country’s got an economic crisis, and the military’s going to be part of helping solve it – not the only supplicant at the altar, as you’ve heard me say. But clearly, we have a role to play in that. So we know that the means are going down. So if the ends stay the same – you brought on this little diatribe about strategy, by the way. So if the ends are going to stay about the same and the means are going to change, we’ve got to be clever – innovative – about the ways.

So to your point, are we challenging assumptions? Absolutely. We’re challenging, especially, the assumptions about the way we are organized, the way we’re deployed, the way we interact with each other. Back to this idea of, what have we learned over the last 10 years of war – 10 years ago, we didn’t have, you know – this special operating forces model was about a fourth as big as it is today. It’s about four times bigger, and it’s exponentially more capable. So we have – that’s one of those ways that we can integrate into our planning to give the national command authorities options.

Cyber didn’t exist 10 years ago. I mean, it didn’t. I mean, it did. There was an Internet, I suppose. I forget when it was invented and by whom, but – so 10 or 12 years ago, though, that wasn’t a capability that you would describe in military terms. It is today. We’re still trying to sort it out, actually, as you know, but it is a reality today. You can’t deny it. It’s out there.

And so how does that – how do we integrate that into our joint force so that we are able to accomplish the same tasks, roughly, but change the way in which we apply this force and integrate it? So there’s enormous opportunity. There are transformational opportunities here that we probably would have seized even absent the budget challenge, but I think the budget challenge is forcing us, at a little different pace, to confront them.

Q: Sig Christenson, San Antonio Express-News and Hearst Newspapers. I follow soldier and family stress and suicides a lot, particularly at Fort Hood. The numbers there this year are down a little, but overall, it looks like you’re tracking to perhaps repeat last year’s mark. Can you explain what’s going on here?

Do you have any clue about what’s happening, why it’s happening? And do you have concerns that this reflects, say, some kind of larger problem within the military that, perhaps, hasn’t been addressed, or needs to be?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, yes. I mean, do I have any concerns? I know the easy answer is yes, let’s go to the next question. But I won’t do that to you. You know, one of the things I mentioned is we’re trying to figure out, what have the last 10 years of war done to this all-volunteer force? And I think that what we’ve discovered is some incredible, incredible resilience

If you had told me 10 years ago – I’m going to admit this now – if you had told me 10 years ago that we would – we would take this volunteer force and rotate it on a 1-to-1 cycle – a year gone, a year home, a year gone, a year home – and that you’d have young men and women with families that, you know, would be on their fourth or fifth deployment, and if you had told me that our retention rates would be through the ceiling and that morale in general – I’m going to come back to your question in a second, but in general, would be as high as it is, and family members, as solid as they are, I’d just say, you’re out of your mind. There’s not – we can’t do this. We’re going to have to mobilize.

So – and we have mobilized, as you know, a great deal of the Guard and Reserve, but the point is, we (inaudible) to full mobilization, and this war has been fought on the back, generally speaking, of the – not generally speaking; it has been fought on the shoulders of the all-volunteer force.

So what we learned over the last 10 years is that we are more resilient, but that what we have to do to preserve it, to improve it, is, we got to take our young and women from the day they raise their right hand and join the service – is we got to consciously start building this thing called resilience into them, so that little – not little crises, but so that crises that come upon them in their lives – whether it’s bouncing a check, at one end of it, to divorce or to the loss of a child, it’s – you know, these life-changing events in their lives – so that they are able to – and here’s the goal, not only deal with it, but become stronger as a result.

And we have found, by the way, that when we look at soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marine and Coast Guardsmen who have deployed, it is generally, at the 80th percentile, a strengthening influence in their lives. So the question is, why, for 80 percent, is it a – is it something that makes them stronger, and for the other 20 percent, it beats them down? And that’s where the issue you address comes in.

So part of it is building in these skills of resilience right from the start and making it a – really, a lifelong endeavor or a career-long endeavor to do that.

The other thing is – but we have to admit that the pace – it’s kind of like glass. You know how glass accumulates stress? (Inaudible) – you can’t see it, but glass accumulates stress. Bang a basketball off a glass; you know, eventually, it breaks, and you wonder, why was that the pass that broke the glass? It’s because it accumulates stress, and you’re not exactly sure when it’s going to break.

So the other thing we’ve got to do is acknowledge, you know, that – I said it when I mentioned capacity. We got to acknowledge the limits of human endurance, and that gets us to, how big does the force need to be to do what it needs to do on a rotational basis?

So – but I mean, we’ve been looking at this, twisting this Rubik’s Cube to try to figure out exactly what needs to be done, and I guess, maybe most importantly, I’ll commit to telling you that this is still very much a work in progress.

MS. McCULLOUGH: Here on this side.

Q: Dave Tarrant with the Dallas Morning News.

The country is dealing with war fatigue. It’s also dealing with economic pressures, recessions. And both of those can be isolationist tendencies. How do you – I know your job isn’t necessarily political, although you have to testify before Congress – how do you try to get –

GEN. DEMPSEY: If I had known that, I wouldn’t have taken the job. (Laughter.)

Q: But how do you – how do you convince the country or convince the president or convince Congress that it’s – that it is in their best interest to stay overseas and maintain commitments and not pull back?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, I mean, that’s the – that’s – that is a strategic choice. We got a working group that’s – as I mentioned, we’re looking at how our strategy needs to change as Iraq and Afghanistan – as the commitment, the demands in Iraq and Afghanistan change. So we’ve got a strategic choices working group. And that is a choice. That’s a choice that the nation makes, is, to what degree does it remain engaged?

Now, I will tell you that my personal view of this is that the world in which we live demands greater engagement, not less engagement. And unless we remain engaged – because there is a huge appetite for partnering with the United States of America. We are the international partner of choice. Now, you know, we can – we can probably parse that language, if you’d like, but the point is, for the most part, the nations with whom we deal trust us. You know, there is this trust factor in the relationship. And though we don’t use the word “admire,” they admire what we stand for, they admire our values, they admire our integrity.

You know, it’s why – it’s why our foreign military sales program is the largest in the world. It’s both because we have a wonderful industrial base, but it’s because we apply the rule of law to our foreign military sales program, which means that our partners are going to get a dollar’s worth of value for a dollar as opposed to 70 cents on a dollar in other parts of the world.

So in that environment, though, complexity, uncertainty, global threats – you know, I think the thought that we could ever become fortress or sanctuary America again and not be deeply engaged would mean the wrong – it would be the wrong course, and it would be the wrong message to the rest of the world. And then others would probably fill that void.

So there’s a practical reason. There’s kind of a philosophic reason, you know, about promoting our values.

But this doesn’t mean we have to have in every case, you know, 2,500 soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines or a carrier battle group. I mean, we can manage this engagement effort with much smaller groups so that – you know, this isn’t – to me, this isn’t a resource decision; this is a – although it’s sometimes painted as that – we’re going to become isolationists because we can’t afford economically to be forward. I don’t buy that. I’m a – I’m of the mind, first, that we should decide we will remain engaged, and then just find a way to do it in a new fiscal environment. We can figure it out.

Q: General, Jim Wolf, Reuters. You were talking about Australia and demographic changes and military dynamics as having dictated the arrangement that was announced this week. You said that’s the kind of thing that the United States would like to do with like-minded nations, if I understood correctly –


Q: – in the plural – and so I wonder if you would like to see similar arrangements worked out with any other countries in the Pacific in order to enable the United States to project force – contribute to stability as you see it?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, you know, to elaborate on what I said just a moment ago, I mean, I think we should be – always be alert for the opportunities to increase our presence. Again, it doesn’t have to be 2,500 Marines. I don’t – I wouldn’t – I wouldn’t intend to name names here today, but, you know, I think that there are opportunities. And they’re not just in the – not just in the Pacific, but notably in the Pacific, because we’ve been somewhat fixated on the Mideast for the last 10 years. And so some of what you’re seeing is not – we – and by the way, we’ve been in the Pacific. This is not, you know, we’re – you know, this is not, we’re back, we’ve ignored you for 10 years and now we’re back. This is about deciding what more do we want to do given the opportunity to do so as the demand in Iraq and Afghanistan have – are beginning to dissipate.

Q: So what does it mean when you say there are opportunities? There are discussions that you’re aware of with other countries to project a U.S. presence?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, yeah, “project U.S. presence” might be a little – maybe a theater security cooperation – see, every combatant commander – I used to command CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command] – every year, every combatant commander, the five global combatant commanders, submits a theater security cooperation plan, some of which is very small engagements – 10 to 12 men – some of which are battalion-level field training exercises, some of which are medical exchanges. So I – all I’m suggesting is that we now have the – and we’ve always had – we’ve never, for the last 10 years, been able to meet the demand that the Pacific commander has articulated. So we’ve had some suppressed demand because we just didn’t have the capacity to do it. What I’m suggesting now is, as the capacity kind of re-emerges, we need to decide how we want to use it.

And by the way, again, back to, how do you keep young men and women sort of inspired to serve is, you – you know, you give them things to do that – again, I’m not signing up for the garrison – you know, garrison BS thing, because I really do believe leadership is leadership, whether it’s applied in the field or in a garrison.

There’s – I guess I would just say that we’re trying now to, as we have the capacity to do so, to determine where are the opportunities to employ it.

MS. McCULLOUGH: (Inaudible.) We have time for a few more questions.

Q: General – Otto Kreisher with Sea Power magazine. I noticed – one of your early Hill testimonies, you said you didn’t think the nation could afford all three variants of the F-35.

GEN. DEMPSEY: I must have been misquoted. (Laughter.)

Q: Well – (inaudible) – and then the response was, you know, that’s easy for you to say; you’re the Army. They don’t have – (inaudible) – (laughter). But the other three services – (inaudible) – Marine Corps, you know, is pretty (inaudible) – and needed, I hear, for – (inaudible) – tanks too. So what is your view on whether we can be all – (inaudible) –

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, I was trying to make the point, this – the context matters. The question before was about the sequester. And somebody said, you know, what’s the effect of the sequester? And I said a sequester would be more than challenging. It would be more than challenging not only because of the magnitude but because of the mechanism, because, as you know, it takes and it applies another $600 billion of cuts across the board. You can’t fence or protect any particular account – so military construction, modernization, training, maintenance, manpower.

In that context, somebody said, what do you think about the F-35, especially the vertical takeoff and landing capability? And I said, hey, look. You know, I don’t – if we go to sequester, I frankly don’t know whether we can afford all three variants. That was the context. And I would have said that whether the question was about ground combat vehicle, JLTV [Joint Light Tactical Vehicle], SSBN [Ballistic Missile Submarine] – you know, fill in blanks.

So I wasn’t – I didn’t have a crosshair on the F-35. But I do want everybody to know that – you know, this is a case where they say, you have to shrink your budget, and everybody goes, yeah, we got it, you’re going to shrink the budget. And you say, here’s one of the things we’re going to do, and they say, no, not that, you can’t touch that. This will affect, you know, everything we do. So I didn’t have a crosshair on the F-35, for the record.

MS. McCULLOUGH: OK, we have time for one more question, and General, if you want to make some closing remarks. Tony, go ahead.

Q: Tony Cappacio with Bloomberg.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, good seeing you.

Q: Hi. To capitalize real quick on Bill (inaudible) question, a lot of the industrial base is not looking to 2020; they’re looking over the next five years.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, I know.

Q: To what extent are weapons – is weapons modernization going to be a bill payer for the first $450 billion you need to wring from the budget?

GEN. DEMPSEY: I don’t have the percentage committed to memory. But let me harken back to my days as a service chief, because the service chiefs have – you know, they’re really – (inaudible) – will figure this out.

Q: In 48 days, yeah.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah. No, 149. Come on. (Laughter.) Look, being a service chief is actually – you know, there’s parts of it that’s, you know, kind of intellectually demanding, stimulating. Then there’s the – then there’s kind of the shop foreman part of it. The shop foreman part of being of service chief, is, you get – you know, when budget comes, you got three rheostats. That’s it. There’s no magic. There’s no silver bullet. You have three rheostats to turn up or down – manpower and all of the things that are, you know, embedded in that manpower, modernization and equipment, and operations, maintenance and training. And – (inaudible) – as you know – (inaudible).

So that’s the three rheostats. So to answer your question, will each of those rheostats be affected? Yes, with absolute certainty, because if you don’t, there’s been some speculation – and maybe we ought to fence off manpower; if you fence manpower, I’m telling you, the service chief has two – only two knobs left. Operations, maintenance and training, modernization – if you turn those too far, you’re into what we used to describe as a hollow force. But to me – I’m not a huge fan of the phrase because I think it’s gotten kind of – you can actually determine it, and you can influence it.

So as long as the service chiefs retain – and we retain the ability to affect each of those v, if one of them is not taken away from us, as long as we can affect all three and have time – you – (inaudible) – in two years, you know, I got to spin the dial, and then, you know, we’re off to the races. If you tell me I have five years, I can manage it.

But to your point: Modernization will be affected. If we’re able to do it over 10 years, it will be affected in a manageable way. If we have to do it in five, it’ll be much, much more difficult.

Q: Thank you.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, look. Again, thanks for the opportunity to chat with you today. If I sound like I know what I’m doing, don’t let me fool you. (Laughter.) No, this is great. I enjoy the chance to chat with you, and maybe, I hope, give you some insights into what we’re thinking. But maybe – the important thing is, we are thinking. We’re not just – (laughter) – you know, out there slogging around in the dark.

And I appreciate, you know, the teamwork, and I appreciate the way you engage with and express what’s on especially young soldiers’ and families’ minds the way you help us stay connected to America. And I would just ask you to take that question I asked you on board, which is, how do we make sure we don’t lose that? Thanks very much. (Applause.)