USA — Official Cites Need for Collaboration in Solving DOD Issues

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)

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