America can ill
afford to lose its military superiority, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said
today, his last day as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reviews troops
during his retirement ceremony and Armed Forces Farewell on Summerall
Field, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Sept. 30, 2011. Mullen is
retiring after 43 years of service as Army Gen. Martin Dempsey takes
over as chairman.
Speaking to the audience gathered at Virginia’s Joint Base
Myer-Henderson Hall to watch him transfer the chairmanship to Army Gen.
Martin E. Dempsey, Mullen said decisions made in the coming months will
determine what kind of military the nation will have during the next 20
to 30 years.
The admiral noted the U.S. military forces have fought for a decade in
Iraq and Afghanistan, and now face “looming threats” posed by Iran and
North Korea, challenges in cyberspace and China’s growing military
“We have become the best counterinsurgency force in the world, but we
have done so at the expense of critical conventional capabilities we
necessarily let lapse,” Mullen said. “We have become the most
expeditionary force in our history, but in the process sacrificed some
of the basics of garrison leadership and continuity that preserve the
health of our all-volunteer force.”
Difficult budget decisions are ahead, the admiral acknowledged.
“Cuts in defense spending are fair game. We should do our part,” Mullen
said. “But cut too deeply, and we will burn the very blanket of
protection we have been charged to provide our fellow citizens. Cut too
deeply now, and we will harm, perhaps irreparably, the industrial base
from which we procure the materials of war.”
Mullen said as the senior military advisor to the president and the
secretary of defense, he has been fortunate in those he has served.
Addressing Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, he said, “Our time
together has been short in days, but long on substance. I consider
myself fortunate to have had this opportunity to … learn from you, as I
did under Secretary [Robert M.] Gates – another extraordinary man I
consider a good friend and a mentor.”
Mullen added, “Thank you for your leadership, sir, and for the trust you
placed in me.”
The chairman then addressed the American public, as he has in scores of
visits to colleges, town halls and other venues across the nation during
his “Conversation With the Country” travels.
“The men and women of your armed forces are the best we have ever
known,” Mullen said. “They believe in what they are doing. All I ask is
that you continue to believe in them.”
He urged Americans to reach out to service members, veterans and their
families -- “to wash over them in what I call this ‘sea of goodwill’
that I know exists in the country.”
War has changed America’s service members forever, but it has not
changed their dreams, and their fellow citizens can help make those
dreams come true, Mullen said.
“Hire them. Help them buy a home. Get them started on the path to an
education,” he said. “Give them a chance. That’s all they want.”
America and its citizens are struggling amid a global economic downturn,
he acknowledged, and the wars young men and women in uniform are
fighting aren’t “exactly foremost on everyone’s minds.”
But they are foremost in the minds of service members in the fight, the
“We talk about the resilience of our troops and their families as if it
is something apart from the rest of society,” he said. “It isn’t, or at
least it shouldn’t be.”
troops learned to be brave and steadfast in their homes, schools and
communities, the chairman said.
“Welcome them back to those places, not only with bands and bunting or
yellow ribbons, but with the solemn recognition that they have done your
bidding, they have represented you well, they have carried the best of
you and of this country into battle,” he urged.
Those troops have done things and seen things and bear things in their
souls that civilians cannot know, the chairman said.
“Help them through their trials, be tolerant of them and each other,”
Mullen said. “Give them a chance, and together we will prove the
greatness that is America.”