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Aug. 22 - Transition in Military Uncomfortable, But Necessary, Per Gen. Dempsey

Category: National News

By Lou Phelps
SBJ Staff Report


Aug. 22, 2012 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says the military must undergo three transitions in the coming years, with each dependent on “finding the best way forward in lean economic times.”

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conducted a town hall meeting with members of the Minnesota National Guard in Rosemount, Minn., last week.  He told the guardsmen that determining the best way to transform the military isn’t just about what’s best for the armed forces, but “really about figuring out what’s best for the country” in the years ahead.

“What does the nation need in 2020?” Dempsey asked. “How do we build that capability? How do we deliver in a way that's affordable for the nation?

“We're all citizens first,” he said. “Therefore, I think we've got to figure out how to help the country through that economic challenge while preserving the military that it needs.”

Dempsey highlighted three transitions planned by the Department of Defense. First is to move from a military that is generally focused on deploying for combat into one that can perform missions besides counterinsurgency. Liberty County ’s Ft. Stewart troops are primarily combat troops, and troops to support operations in the field. 

Georgia U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke with troops at Ft. Stewart on Monday about the planned cuts, stating he had concerned about the planned cuts would weaken the military. Up to $1 trillion in cuts are planned.  

But Dempsey told the servicemen last week that soldiers of his generation were criticized as being “stuck in Cold War mentality,” Dempsey said. “It was a challenge, I will admit to you,” he said, “for us to change the way we looked at problems from that Cold War paradigm into the counterinsurgency paradigm.”

“I would submit to you that those of you that have done nothing but [counterinsurgency] are going to have exactly the same challenge going back to looking at other kinds of warfare,” he said.

But that’s exactly what service members must do, Dempsey said. “Not because we think it's on ... the horizon, but it could be someday and you can't wait until it's there to get ready for it.”

The second transition is economic, Dempsey said. That involves managing a shift from the “largely unconstrained budgets of the last 10 years – ‘if you needed it you got it’ – to something that is going to be more constrained.”

That might make service members uncomfortable, the chairman said, but the military has an obligation to become more affordable to the country. “Why? Because national power ... is actually the aggregate of three things, not just the military,” Dempsey said. “It is the military but it's also economic well-being and it's also diplomatic influence.”

The last transition is the drawdown of military members. Over the next five to six years, the Army and Marines will reduce in size by about 120,000 people in total, he continued.

“We owe it to those young men and women who have served so honorably and so well to make sure we take care of them,” Dempsey said.

“In all of that we've got to keep faith with our military family,” he said, adding that family includes veterans, wounded warriors and the parents and spouses of service members killed in action.

One way to keep faith as the Defense Department draws down is to guarantee that resources continue to be dedicated to family support programs, Dempsey said.

“The challenge, of course, is we've got 1,000 flowers blooming out there,” he said. “We've got to make sure that we can identify the ones that are most important and ensure we continue to resource those.

“The second way we keep faith is by pay, compensation, healthcare and retirement,” the chairman added.

Finally, he said, keeping faith with the military family means providing the toughest training possible. “I'm not keeping faith with you if I resource all that other stuff and I don't train you,” he explained, “because then I send you off to war and you're not ready for it.

“Change is always uncomfortable,” Dempsey said, “but often if we're agile enough, the change can actually make things better for us and improve relationships, not disrupt them.”

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