Thanks for Being a Part of My Facebook Town Hall

Photo: Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sits at his desk in the Pentagon while participating in his first Facebook Town Hall, Dec. 5, 2013. (U.S. Defense Department photo by Army Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp/Released)

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sits at his desk in the Pentagon while participating in his first Facebook Town Hall, Dec. 5, 2013. (U.S. Defense Department photo by Army Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp/Released)

Post by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Last week, I hosted my first Facebook Town Hall. I asked you to submit your best questions and you did.  I was impressed and it was important to me to take the time to address as many topics as the time would allow. If you weren’t able to participate, here are my responses. Clicking on the names will take you to the posts on my page. Thanks again for the great questions and keep sharing your thoughts!

Cost-Saving Measures and Plans for Commissaries

General Martin E. Dempsey: Many of you have asked about the budget and its impacts on our families. It’s been a tumultuous year and I want to thank our service members and families for their perseverance and strength during this time. Really, I can’t thank you enough.

First, we have no plans to close our commissaries. However, we did task the Defense Commissary Agency for a range of options including how they would operate with less or no taxpayer subsidies. You may know that military exchanges operate without being subsidized by your taxes. The same potential exists with commissaries, but we haven’t made any decisions. We’ve got to drive toward greater efficiencies and this is just one of the potential areas.

On the greater budget, all cost-cutting efforts need to be on the table in order to ensure that our forces are ready to fight. We’re well aware of the need for acquisition reform as well as the need to reduce unnecessary infrastructure and retire unneeded weapons systems. All of the institutional reforms are intended to produce a single outcome: the best trained and best equipped service men and women on the planet.

You have my commitment that the Secretary, the Comptroller, my budget directorate, and I are considering how cost-saving efforts will impact our families and communities to include veterans and retirees.

General Martin E. Dempsey: Travis Kelley and Will Valentin, thanks for asking your questions about priorities over the next ten years. Without a doubt, my biggest challenge is ensuring that our nation has the best led, trained, and equipped force to defend it against evolving threats. And amidst today’s budget uncertainty the complexity of that task cannot be overstated. And we need help from Congress and the administration in some areas such as acquisition reform, reducing access infrastructure and basing, retiring less critical and older weapons systems, and pay and compensation reform. My other key priorities include meeting our current national objectives in Afghanistan, the pacific and other areas; keeping faith with our tremendous military family; and diligently caring for the professionalism of our force, what we call “the profession of arms.”

My Thoughts on What to Expect in January

General Martin E. Dempsey: Brent, thank you for sharing your concerns. To provide a quick summary on the FY14 budget status…on 16 Oct 13 Congress passed the Continuing Resolution [CR] which the President signed into law. This CR funds the federal government, at last year’s levels, until 15 Jan 2014. As part of the CR agreement, Congress assigned a House-Senate budget conference to negotiate a budget agreement for the remainder of FY14. The budget conference is looking at offsetting some of the sequester cuts that have far-reaching impacts across the DoD, but the outcome of the committee’s efforts is uncertain. The conference is scheduled to issue its report next week (Dec 13th). We certainly don’t want to see a repeat of last October, and we’re doing our part to articulate the challenges we’re facing.

Innovation within the Ranks and the Tech Divide

General Martin E. Dempsey: Benjamin Kohlmann and Jason Knudson, I think you’re on the right track with what you’re doing with Defense Entrepreneurs Forum and the Chief of Naval Operation’s Rapid Innovation Cell.

We’re constantly taking the lessons from the past 12+ years to improve our force. Innovation is critical to the Joint Force as we move forward to 2020. The challenges we can expect to face in the future will be dynamic and unpredictable. The good news: We’re very dynamic ourselves, probably the most dynamic force in the world today. How we fought in 2001 is very different from how we’re fighting now, built on change that occurred from the bottom up and leaders on the ground making adjustments to the situations they faced (and are facing). Through the lessons learned process we have institutionalized many of these innovations and will continue to do so. We’re also reevaluating how we develop current and future leaders in an era characterized by uncertainty and rapid change, and how we reward talented, bold innovators. Finally, Jason, your idea about a CJCS Rapid Innovation Cell is intriguing, but I think that initiating might be better within the Services; our role on the Joint Staff is to help integrate their innovations into the joint force. That said, I’ll discuss your idea with the Joint Chiefs.

General Martin E. Dempsey: Jeff, thanks for your questions. I think I’ve already talked about innovation within an organization, but for your tech-divide question, striking the balance between commercial products and keeping our data secure is always a challenge. I address this in the Joint Information Environment White Paper, which outlines how we’ll assemble, configure, secure, and use new and legacy information technologies. I agree with you that commercial information technology is outpacing us. I’m hoping that one of the positive outcomes of the resource constraints will be to drive us in that direction.

Relationships in Asia to Include China and the ADIZ

General Martin E. Dempsey: Lisa, thanks for your question. We do not recognize the Chinese ADIZ and we continue to fly in the area because it’s international air space, not sovereign territory. In short, our military operations will not change. From a realist perspective, nations will act in their interests all the time. China is no different. So as the dynamics in the region continue to change (and they are always changing), we must build stronger military-to-military relationships with the PLA. We must seek avenues and mechanisms to avoid miscalculation. We must also maintain our strength in the Pacific and support our partners in the region to include Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan. We’ve been clear with the Chinese that territorial disputes should not be resolved unilaterally and through coercion. We all benefit from stability in the Pacific, and I assess that the Chinese are clever enough to realize that.

General Martin E. Dempsey: Kimie, these are difficult issues that we wrestle with every day, and quick answers probably don’t do them justice.

I also saw the media report on the North Korean regime that you cite.  As you may know, our knowledge of the inner workings of North Korea are limited, and we do not know if events have occurred as reported in the media.  We do think that Kim Jung Un asserting himself and if the stories are true, it is another example of how brutal the Kim regime remains.

As for six party talks, this is primarily an issue for our diplomats, but I’ll tell you that China has always been a key player in the six party talks, and as such, the Chinese leadership is eager to see movement towards starting the talks again.  The obstacle is North Korea.  North Korea knows exactly what it needs to do to restart talks, which is to show concrete steps to denuclearize. The United States just isn’t interested in conducting talks for the sake of talking.  You can say the ball is in North Korea’s court.  My old boss Secretary Gates, said of North Korea, “We’re not going to buy the same horse twice!”  He was directly referring to not resume talks until North Korea demonstrates they are serious about denuclearization.

As for South Korea and Japan, we have strong alliances with both.  However, these are two powerful and proud countries who have a long and complicated shared history. But the relationship between South Korea and Japan continues to grow; for the sake of regional stability, it is important to continue growing the trilateral relationship between US-South Korea-Japan, as well as the bilateral South Korea-Japan relationship.  So we do our part to encourage cooperation through our military engagements.

While history can create obstacles, we share common values of democracy, freedom, human rights, and free markets as well as some common threats such as North Korea–these are powerful factors that will encourage continued cooperation.  Obviously if we get to six party talks again, we’ll need them working closely together, and I am confident they will.

Social Media and Cyberspace in Our Organization

General Martin E. Dempsey: Tyson, thanks for asking. Cyber is a huge concern for that reason – cyber is one of the few areas where we’ve added funding even in a fiscally constrained environment. Since cyber requires the fusion of intelligence and operations at the speed of light, I don’t think it should be a separate service. At least not at this point. As for man, train, and equip, the Services are diligently working to produce operational cyberspace capability for our Nation. We have a resourced model for the organizing, training, equipping of Joint Cyberspace mission forces that support our Combatant Commanders and the Nation. I routinely meet with industry and academia experts as well as the experts within our own force to ensure that our whole-of-defense, enterprise approach is properly executed with regard to cyber.

General Martin E. Dempsey: Crispin, social media has affected the military in the same way it’s affected any organization–we’ve benefited greatly from the speed, mobility and the interaction, but it comes with risks. We’ve been working to emphasize the opportunity for leaders to positively influence military culture and discipline by getting involved in the space and being role models online as they are in units. I’ve also watched social media’s role in exposing the military experience to the citizens we defend, ranging from humor to debate. I’m impressed with how our nation’s understanding of the military has changed especially since 2001. As service members or veterans, we have a role in broadening and deepening that relationship with our nation, and social media can certainly help.

And to be clear, I did not say that we would necessarily overlook potential recruits’ social media behavior, but more broadly cautioned that our younger generation needs to be thoughtful regarding their on-line presence.

The Health of Our Force

General Martin E. Dempsey: Michael, thanks for asking about this. First, I want to mention that suicide rates are trending down, and this year, it’s been the lowest in three years. We’re heavily invested in understanding PTS and suicide, from research to treatment. Our services have also taken innovative measures, for example, the Army and NFL have partnered to study traumatic brain injury, and we have organizations like the Defense Centers of Excellence which also offers programs for families. These are only two examples of many. You can find more updates here: We are committed to continuing to improve in this difficult area.

General Martin E. Dempsey: Jane, the answer is absolutely. We have to fight this crime that so erodes the trust upon which our profession is built. We’ve welcomed the help of Congress and others to create a “constellation” of policies around unit commanders to both assist them and to hold them accountable. The Joint Chiefs and I meet regularly on this subject as do subordinate commanders at every level. We’re tracking trends, making changes, reinforcing best practices, and applying resources. We want to be the best institution in the land at combating this crime as we are at combating other threats.

The Future of the National Guard & Reserve

General Martin E. Dempsey: Great name, Martin. Regarding National Guard and Reserve forces, we have made great strides in creating a Total Force: active, Guard and Reserve. Since September 2001, the Reserve components have served with distinction and have met every challenge that we have asked them to perform. Our country owes each member of our National Guard and Reserve a debt of gratitude for their superb performance.

The role of the National Guard and Reserves will be just as important to our force in the future as they have been during the past two wars. I fully expect continued operational employment of the reserves, though at a reduced frequency, as the Nation reduces our requirements in Afghanistan. Moving forward, we will reduce the size of the Total Force, and that will mean reductions in the size of our active, guard and reserve forces driven both by current fiscal realities and a changing strategic landscape.

One thing’s for sure. America’s citizen soldiers in the Guard and reserve will always be there whenever the Joint Force is sent into action. It can be no other way. We’re working hard in the current uncertain budget environment to get the balance right.

My Thoughts on Career and Leadership

General Martin E. Dempsey: Alison, great questions. 1. DOD has a number of services for families, many available on and through my Office of Warrior and Family Support. My wife Deanie Dempsey often shares resources and specials for families on her page, hope you’ll follow. 2. I discussed the topic of service members participating in our democracy in Joint Force Quarterly. Hope you’ll read it: 3. And congratulations on approaching the 20-year mark. If you’re getting ready to retire, I’d recommend linking up with veterans groups or consider using your years of experience for a leadership role whether teaching or leading within a community. Best wishes to you and your family!

General Martin E. Dempsey: Thanks Myles. I believe this starts with going beyond just being skilled in your Service specialty — you should work to gain an understanding on how your service component fits in the joint force and in joint operations and then move on to understand how all the pieces fit together. Serving joint is about continuing to learn and build relationships.

I’d also recommend learning about the budget cycle. Much of what we do here is driven by the cycle. And read broadly and deeply which will help in leadership and communication. Joint Publication JP-1 is a great base document to begin with. I recommend visiting the Joint Electronic Library + online for access to joint publications specific to the position you are going to. Best of luck in your assignment!

General Martin E. Dempsey: Ricki, thanks for your question. I consider any member of our coalition a friend to the American military. I can’t say enough about the “Diggers” and your fighting spirit! Leadership is the interaction between leader and led. It has to be based on a relationship of trust, otherwise there’s no real leadership. Inspiring others requires you to be true to yourself and the values you represent. If a leader isn’t true to him or herself, that’ll be quickly identifiable, and they won’t be effective. As to whether leadership is nature or nurture, it’s both. Be yourself – there is nothing more powerful than being genuine and authentic. And as Sam Damon reminds us in the novel Once an Eagle, “If you ever have to choose between a good officer or a good person, be a good person.” The rest generally takes care of itself. I’m glad I could meet with you in Jordan – best of luck to you and thanks.

Keeping Faith with the Military Family

General Martin E. Dempsey: Larry Neuburger and Sandy Strans – thanks for your support to our service members. We’re blessed to have so many organizations that care for our military and families. A great place to begin is the Combined Federal Campaign. Your local campaign will have a list of registered charities to include many organizations for veterans, service members, and families:

General Martin E. Dempsey:  Paul, my guess is that you’re not as old and far wiser than you let on. To your question. We’ve got to better integrate the efforts of DOD and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. We’re making some progress. We also have to continue to establish as many public-private partnerships as possible. Finally, we have to improve the programs which prepare service men and women to transition into civilian life. All the best!

The Air-Sea Battle

General Martin E. Dempsey: Bill, we disagree with this criticism because it is based on a false understanding of the Air-Sea Battle concept and it makes broad assumptions that don’t hold up to scrutiny.

First, anti-access is escalatory if it seeks to limit our legal access to the global commons and in fact, ASB seeks to keep an “all or nothing solution” from being our only option to regain that access. Escalation is a decision or reaction by political leaders and military commanders based on the situation. ASB seeks to give these leaders the options they might need. The mere existence of capabilities that counter anti-access/area denial threats is not escalatory, but, rather, is essential to effective deterrence. In contrast, if we lacked the ability to overcome anti-access strategies, it could actually lead to miscalculation and escalation by the adversary who perceives U.S. vulnerability. Without an initial, effective response to adversary aggression, the U.S and allies could find themselves in a situation where they must either choose to escalate, or cede objectives to an adversary.

Second, Air-Sea Battle is an enabling concept, not a plan or campaign. Air-Sea Battle is a set of ideas about what is necessary to counter anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) threats and strategies. ASB has never been an all-or-nothing concept. Adding alternatives as tensions increase mitigates rather than exacerbates escalation.

Special Operations Forces, Cyber and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance

General Martin E. Dempsey: [John], My job is to present our elected leaders with as many options as possible, to articulate risks and opportunities and to advise how the military instrument of power can fit into a whole-of-government strategy. It all has to fit together!


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Thanks for Being a Part of My Facebook Town Hall