Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the nation’s highest ranking military officer, appealed to reporters Friday at the Military Reporters and Editors conference to stay engaged with the military after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.
“Over the last 10 years, you’ve been embedded with us, we’ve been a constant source of interest to you because we’ve been doing some interesting things, you’ve helped us connect to America,” he said.
“So what happens when the trumpets fade, as they say, and we are mostly doing theater security cooperation, you know, training, and readiness kinds of activities at posts, camps and stations, and those are not headline-grabbing things?” he asked.
The United States is in the process of drawing down its troops from Iraq by the end of this year, and from Afghanistan by 2014. Dempsey said the military would remain ready to deploy anywhere in the world, but as the wars end and the military’s role changes, he hoped the press corps would remain engaged.
“I just think you have to be interested in things that don’t go bang in the night,” he said. “You’re going to have to get interested in other ways to discuss that which the military provides the nation.”
He said the military would do a lot more of preparing, not just prevailing.
“We’ve been prevailing for the last 10 years, and we’re going to go back to putting a lot of effort into prevent and deter. Prepare, prevent, deter — and I hope you’re interested in it. Because if we’re good at it, maybe we won’t have to do as much of the other stuff,” he said.
The Pentagon faces around $450 billion in cuts over the next 10 years. If Congress cannot agree on how to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit by Nov. 23, however, the DOD could face automatic cuts of twice that amount. Dempsey said regardless of what budget cuts are made, the one thing the military had to maintain was trust on all levels, between every member of the military.
“As we start to reshape ourselves for the future … the one thing we have to maintain is that relationship of trust that is the only thing that allows us to define ourselves as a profession,” he said.
Dempsey said the issues facing the military were overwhelming, but he that he takes comfort in knowing 17 other chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have come before him.
He said he hoped, “As Will Rogers put it, to leave the wood pile a little higher than I found it.”