USA — Mullen: Military Will Continue to Support Spill Effort

WASHINGTON, May 31, 2010 — The mil­i­tary will con­tin­ue to sup­port the effort to cap and mit­i­gate the oil spill in the Gulf of Mex­i­co, but it does not have the tech­ni­cal exper­tise to take over the oper­a­tion, the nation’s top mil­i­tary offi­cer said on the morn­ing news shows today.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also used the oppor­tu­ni­ty to ask Amer­i­cans to remem­ber the sac­ri­fices of ser­vice­mem­bers through­out his­to­ry and today in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to note the progress made in the two wars.

Mullen spoke the day after BP announced the lat­est effort to stop the leak – “Top Kill” – had failed. The Pen­ta­gon has looked at the capa­bil­i­ties the mil­i­tary can pro­vide to the oil com­pa­nies as they bat­tle the spill, he said.

“There are some lim­its to the skills that we have to do this,” Mullen said on CNN. “We’ve looked at the tech­ni­cal side of this enor­mous­ly dif­fi­cult chal­lenge. The oil indus­try real­ly has the tech­ni­cal exper­tise to go after this.”

More than 1,000 Nation­al Guards­men already have been called up to help with the spill. The mil­i­tary has pro­vid­ed booms to con­tain the oil, as well as some air­craft to spray dis­per­sants and some com­mu­ni­ca­tions capa­bil­i­ties. The Defense Depart­ment is clear­ly in sup­port of the lead agency, the chair­man said.

“This is a very dif­fi­cult prob­lem, and from all I’ve been able to dis­cern hav­ing indus­try be the tech­ni­cal lead is impor­tant,” he said on “Good Morn­ing Amer­i­ca.” “The mil­i­tary doesn’t have the capa­bil­i­ty that could imme­di­ate­ly get to elim­i­nat­ing or stop­ping this leak.”

The oil com­pa­nies have the kind of tech­nol­o­gy that poten­tial­ly could get at this leak. The fail­ures speak to the dif­fi­cul­ties of the process, Mullen not­ed.

The Defense Depart­ment may pro­vide more per­son­nel for the effort, if called upon, the chair­man said. Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates has autho­rized sev­er­al thou­sand more Nation­al Guard troops who would be called up by state gov­er­nors.

“From my under­stand­ing there is a great deal of civil­ian man­pow­er avail­able,” Mullen said. “If we are called on we will con­tin­ue to con­tribute [per­son­nel].”

Turn­ing to Iraq and Afghanistan, Mullen said Amer­i­can ser­vice­mem­bers have made sig­nif­i­cant progress in the two wars.

In Iraq, the num­ber of troops is due to fall to about 50,000 by the end of August.

“There are cer­tain­ly chal­lenges polit­i­cal­ly in Iraq to stand up this new gov­ern­ment, but from all I can see we’re on track to do that,” he said. Even with the spikes in vio­lence in the coun­try the polit­i­cal process con­tin­ues to move for­ward, he added.

Mullen said the last of the 30,000 more U.S. troops Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma autho­rized in Decem­ber will be in Afghanistan this fall. The oper­a­tions there are cen­ter­ing in Region­al Com­mand South with actions in and around Mar­ja in Hel­mand province and Kan­da­har.

“The oper­a­tion start­ed in Feb­ru­ary and it will take a few more months before the progress in Mar­ja is irre­versible,” he said. “We are now focused on Kan­da­har.”

Those ser­vice­mem­bers are always on his mind, he said.

“This is a day of remem­brance. We’ve lost in these two wars over 5,400,” Mullen said on NBC’s “Today Show.” “We’ve had tens of thou­sands vis­i­bly wound­ed and hun­dreds of thou­sands invis­i­bly wound­ed in these wars. This is the best mil­i­tary I’ve been asso­ci­at­ed in more than 40 years. They con­tin­ue to make the sac­ri­fices.

“I’d like the Amer­i­can peo­ple to reach out to them, to remem­ber them on this spe­cial day of remem­brance,” he con­tin­ued. “But also they need to reach out to them every day of the year.”

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