Dempsey Reflects on Challenges Facing Department, Services

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va., Sept. 8, 2011 — As a new chief of staff of the Army pre­pares to run the largest of the ser­vices, the out­go­ing Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey now pre­pares for his new role as chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Dempsey hand­ed the reins of the Army over to Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no dur­ing a cer­e­mo­ny here yes­ter­day. Dempsey will become the most senior offi­cer in the U.S. mil­i­tary when Navy Adm. Mike Mullen retires Sept. 30. Fol­low­ing the Army change of respon­si­bil­i­ty cer­e­mo­ny, Dempsey com­ment­ed on his time as the top Army offi­cer, and on chal­lenges for the ser­vice and the Defense Depart­ment.

“The chal­lenges we face are not new,” Dempsey said of poten­tial cuts to both bud­get and man­pow­er in the Army. “The Army, by its nature, over the course of his­to­ry has always expand­ed and con­tract­ed as con­flicts demand­ed and post-con­flicts came. So the chal­lenge is not new.”

He also said the Army has learned from pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence with post-con­flict sit­u­a­tions and con­tin­ues to learn to deal with changes.

“What makes this one a lit­tle bit unique is that the con­flict doesn’t have any clean end­ings, so it’s not that we are about to have sort of a post-con­flict reduc­tion, it’s that we’ve decid­ed that because of the nation’s eco­nom­ic state and because the secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment around the world is as sta­ble as it’s ever going to be, we’ve decid­ed that we can absorb some resource cuts,” he said.

To avoid becom­ing a “hol­low force,” Dempsey said, it is imper­a­tive that the Army dial back in bal­ance.

“Whether we hol­low it or not will large­ly depend on whether we have the abil­i­ty to do it by turn­ing all those levers — man­pow­er, force struc­ture, main­te­nance, equip­ment, train­ing, and infra­struc­ture,” he said. “As long as I can change and account for all those fac­tors, then we won’t hol­low out. But if I have to take a dis­pro­por­tion­ate change in any one of those accounts — more main­te­nance, or more equip­ment, or more man­pow­er — that’s how you become out of bal­ance. And that’s where ‘hol­low’ starts to res­onate. But we have some con­trol over that.”

The gen­er­al also said he didn’t expect the Army would take the biggest hits in terms of bud­get cuts.

“I don’t look at it that way,” he said. “I think we have got to decide what does the future secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment demand? And where will our pri­or­i­ty be? We can’t be every­thing to all peo­ple every­where. We have to, at some point, pri­or­i­tize our efforts. And that may mean that one ser­vice or anoth­er is the main effort as we describe it mil­i­tar­i­ly. And that ser­vice may have a greater share of the resources.”

As chair­man, Dempsey said he and the Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta will make those kinds of deci­sions and pro­vide mil­i­tary advice about the needs of the nation. “If you’re going to declare some­thing the main event, you have to resource it,” he said.

Dempsey said he’d like to be known as an Army chief who “got the peo­ple right.”

“If we get the peo­ple right, then we will fig­ure out how to equip them, how to train them, how to devel­op them,” he said. “That is when you have an Army, and a mil­i­tary, that actu­al­ly can do what the nation asks it to do.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)