WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2011 — Collaboration is key to solving some of the Defense Department’s toughest issues, whether it’s building resilience in service members and their families or keeping the best and brightest in the department’s ranks, the Pentagon’s top personnel official said today.
“We try too often to do it ourselves. … There are a lot of smart people out here in this world, but we tend not to receive them or see them because of our own biases,” Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told attendees of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury’s 2011 Warrior Resilience Conference in Arlington, Va.
Whether it’s rank or religion, position or gender, moving beyond biases will help to foster an environment open to the new ideas and effective solutions service members and their families deserve, Stanley said.
“Our warriors, our men and women who serve in uniform, deserve our very best,” he added. “They deserve more than we can give them in this lifetime.”
Stanley encouraged the audience to keep cooperative efforts in mind as they moved forward with the conference, intended to increase leaders’ awareness of Total Force Fitness. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, created the initiative to foster a holistic approach to well-being that keeps the individual, family and organization in mind.
Resilience plays a key role in well-being, but the trick is deciphering what makes some people resilient and others less so, Stanley noted. Some people can weather extreme circumstances and come out unscathed, and others may crumble, he said.
Stanley cited his own life as an example. His wife was shot in a sniper attack in 1975, he said, and is paralyzed as a result. They’re celebrating their 40-year anniversary in June, their daughter is a Navy nurse practitioner, and they’ve had their “bumps” as well, he added.
“Each of us experiences similar kinds of things in life,” he said, “and those things help us become better, and some of us crumble. … Some of us have challenges as a result.”
Everyone is going to take some flak from others, Stanley noted. “Somebody is not going to like what you have to say,” he told the group. “They’re not going to love you back.”
The question, he said, is how to bounce back when bumps in the road occur. Working together, he added, people can find answers to that question and more.
A lack of trust can be a barrier to building resilience, and well-being, Stanley said, acknowledging that tough times and circumstances can make it hard for people to trust others. But this lack of trust, he told the group, can prevent people from the kinds of collaborations that will breed solutions.
Stanley cited the government as an example, noting that people within the government don’t always work or communicate together well. This hinders hiring reform, he said, posing an ongoing challenge.
“I can’t bring the people in fast enough,” he said, noting that government presents a barrier to bringing the best people in quickly. And then, he added, the challenge becomes keeping them once they’re on board.
“Picking the best people is tough business,” he said. “We’ve done very good at picking good people, but we can do better.”
If people accept things as they are, Stanley said, progress is impossible. “My orientation in life, in general, is … we should always be looking, looking, looking for the next edge,” he said. “Policies that we put in place, it’s not just about right now, but later on. Taking care of our people is so fundamentally basic — and it’s about love. I can’t make it any simpler than that.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)