Joint chiefs chairman visits fort
The senior ranking member of the Armed Forces and principal military adviser to the president says one of his major missions is to relieve stress of multiple, lengthy deployments by members of the armed services.
Adm. Mike Mullen spoke Tuesday at Fort Leavenworth to several hundred U.S. Army officers in the fort's Command and General Staff College.
Mullen, who was sworn in as the 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Oct. 1, briefly emphasized his military strategy of "Reset, Reconstitute and Revitalize" for the current war in the Middle East.
Mullen focused on the need to improve the morale of the 340,000 active duty soldiers, as well as members of the National Guard and Army reservists that he said he feels directly responsible for.
"We need to figure out how to relieve stress on the fort," Mullen said. "You will see that to the highest degree that is possible given the deployment actualities we're experiencing."
Mullen, who served in the war in Vietnam, said he saw then firsthand that long detachments and overexerting troops can lead to a breakdown in the military system.
"We've got to get out of the 15-month deployment and 12-month rotation as quickly as we can," Mullen said.
During a question-and-answer session with officers, one Army major asked, in general, what steps could be taken to maintain a positive relationship between military personnel and nonmilitary citizens.
"I believe a civic-military relationship, whereas the elected leaders of our country essentially make policy decisions, and it is our (the military's) responsibility to carry out their orders ... is bedrock stuff," Mullen said.
He added that he gives citizens more credit than some for their awareness of what's going on abroad and "the support of the American people for men and women in uniform."
A major also asked how receptive officials in Washington have been to the growing financial demands of the war in Iraq.
Mullen said, as a senior leader, he certainly is concerned about the availability of the nation's resources.
"There's a widely held view that we'll be engaged in constant (conflict) for the foreseeable future," he said. "At the same time ... I'm very mindful of responsible use of the taxpayer dollar. ... We've got to be smart about where the resources go and what they do."
Another question revolved around the challenges that a newly elected administration would bring after the 2008 presidential election.
"Where there are challenges, there are opportunities," Mullen responded, adding, "It will be challenging at that senior level of government no matter which party takes over."
Mullen also stressed the need for nonmilitaristic options in Iraq, Afghanistan and other international areas of concern.
"The military cannot do everything," Mullen said. "Security is a necessary but not sufficient solution to the problems we're involved in right now."
He emphasized the need to improve overseas programs like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a government agency providing economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide, which Mullen said has lagged over the past 10 or 15 years.
Mullen's final talking point was to recognize that the war was much more complicated than issues abounding in just Iraq and Afghanistan.
He pointed to "strong, sometimes extreme rhetoric" in countries such as Lebanon and Iran that are suspected of harboring terrorists, but acknowledged, "I'm not a proponent of military action in Iran."
He said his top priority as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is "developing a military strategy for the entire Middle East -- not just Iraq and Afghanistan."
Mullen was confident that, with the efforts of those like the officers at Fort Leavenworth, winning the war in Iraq is still an attainable goal.
"As members of the military, we are responsible for accomplishing the mission," he said, adding, "There are lots of things we need to get right, but I'm most dependent ... (on) the need to advance and execute matchless leadership.
"This is the best military I think this country has ever had."