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)