On the 22nd of July, Admiral Mike Mullin became the Chief of Naval
America's military can win wars. We've done it in the past, and I have
absolute confidence that we'll continue to do it in the future. We've won
fights in which we possessed overwhelming technological superiority (Desert
Storm), as well as conflicts in which we were the technical underdogs (the
American Revolution). We've crossed swords with numerically superior foes,
and with militaries a fraction of the size of our own. We've battled on our
own soil, and on the soil of foreign lands -- on the sea, under the sea, and
in the skies. We've even engaged in a bit of cyber-combat, way out there on
the electronic frontier. At one time or another, we've done battle under
just about every circumstance imaginable, armed with everything from muskets
to cruise missiles. And, somehow, we've managed to do it all with the wrong
That's right, America has the wrong Army. I don't know how it happened, but
it did. We have the wrong Army. It's too small; it's not deployed
properly; it's inadequately trained, and it doesn't have the right sort of
logistical support. It's a shambles. I have no idea how those guys even
manage to fight. Now, before my brothers and sisters of the OD green
persuasion get their fur up, I have another revelation for you.
We also have the wrong Navy. And if you want to get down to brass tacks,
we've got the wrong Air Force, the wrong Marine Corps, and the wrong Coast
Guard. Don't believe me? Pick up a newspaper or turn on your television.
In the past week, I've watched or read at least a dozen commentaries on
the strength, size, and deployment of our military forces. All of our
uniform services get called on the carpet for different reasons, but our
critics unanimously agree that we're doing pretty much everything wrong.
I think it's sort of a game. The critics won't tell you what the game is
called, so I've taken the liberty of naming it myself. I call it the 'No
Right Answer' game. It's easy to play, and it must be a lot of fun because
politicos and journalists can't stop playing it.
I'll teach you the rules. Here's Rule #1: No matter how the U.S. military
is organized, it's the wrong force. Actually, that's the only rule in this
game. We don't really need any other rules, because that one applies in all
possible situations. Allow me to demonstrate... If the Air Force's fighter
jets are showing their age, critics will tell us that Air Force leaders are
mismanaging their assets, and endangering the safety of their personnel. If
the Air Force attempts to procure new fighter jets, they are shopping for
toys and that money could be spent better elsewhere. Are you getting the
hang of the game yet? It's easy; keeping old planes is the wrong answer,
but getting new planes is also the wrong answer. There is no right answer,
not ever. Isn't that fun?
It works everywhere. When the Army is small, it's TOO small. Then we start
to hear phrases like 'over-extended' or 'spread too thin,' and the integrity
of our national defense is called into question. When the Army is large,
it's TOO large, and it's an unnecessary drain on our economy.
Terms like 'dead weight,' and 'dead wood' get thrown around.
I know what you're thinking. We could build a medium-sized Army, and
everyone would be happy. Think again. A medium-sized Army is too small to
deal with large scale conflicts, and too large to keep military spending
properly muzzled. The naysayer will attack any middle of the road solution
anyway, on the grounds that it lacks a coherent strategy. So small is wrong,
large is wrong, and medium-sized is also wrong. Now you're starting to
understand the game. Is this fun, or what?
No branch of the military is exempt. When the Navy builds aircraft
carriers, we are told that we really need small, fast multipurpose ships.
When the Navy builds small, fast multi-mission ships (aka the Arleigh Burke
class), we're told that blue water ships are poorly suited for littoral
combat, and we really need brown water combat ships. The Navy's answer, the
Littoral Combat, isn't even off the drawing boards yet, and the critics are
already calling it pork barrel politics and questioning the need for such
technology. Now I've gone nose-to-nose with hostiles in the littoral waters
of the Persian Gulf, and I can't recall that pork or politics ever entered
into the conversation. In fact, I'd have to say that the people trying to
kill me and my shipmates were positively disinterested in the internal
wranglings of our military procurement process. But, had they been aware of
our organizational folly, they could have hurled a few well-timed criticisms
our way, to go along with the mines we were trying to dodge.
The fun never stops when we play the 'No Right Answer' game. If we
centralize our military infrastructure, the experts tell us that we are
vulnerable to attack. We're inviting another Pearl Harbor. If we
decentralize our infrastructure, we're sloppy and overbuilt, and the BRAC
experts break out the calculators and start dismantling what they call our
excess physical capacity.' If we leave our infrastructure unchanged, we are
accused of becoming stagnant in a dynamic world environment.
Even the lessons of history are not sacrosanct. When we learn from the
mistakes we made in past wars, we are accused of failing to adapt to
emerging realities. When we shift our eyes toward the future, the critics
quickly tell us that we've forgotten our history and we are therefore doomed
to repeat it. If we somehow manage to assimilate both past lessons and
emerging threats, we're informed that we lack focus.
Where does it come from: This default assumption that we are doing the
wrong thing, no matter what we happen to be doing? How did our military
wind up in a zero-sum game? We can prevail on the field of battle, but we
can't win a war of words where the overriding assumption is that we are
always in the wrong.
I can't think of a single point in history where our forces were of the
correct size, the correct composition, correctly deployed, and appropriately
trained all at the same time. Pick a war, any war.
(For that matter, pick any period of peace.) Then dig up as many official
and unofficial historical documents, reports, reconstructions, and
commentaries as you can. For every unbiased account you uncover, you'll
find three commentaries by revisionist historians who cannot wait to tell
you how badly the U.S. military bungled things. To hear the naysayers tell
it, we could take lessons in organization and leadership from the Keystone
We really only have one defense against this sort of mudslinging. Success.
When we fight, we win, and that's got to count for something. When asked to
comment on Operation Desert Storm, the U.S. Army's Lieutenant General Tom
Kelly reportedly said, "Iraq went from the fourth-largest army in the world,
to the second-largest army in Iraq in 100 hours." In my opinion, it's hard
to argue with that kind of success, but critics weren't phased by it.
Because no matter how well we fought, we did it with the wrong Army.
I'd like to close with an invitation to those journalists, analysts, experts
and politicians who sit up at night dreaming up new ways to criticize our
armed forces. The next time you see a man or woman in uniform, stop for ten
seconds and reflect upon how much you owe that person, and his or her fellow
Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, and Airmen.
Then say, "Thank you." I'm betting you won't even have to explain the
reason. Our Service members are not blind or stupid. They know what they're
risking. They know what they're sacrificing. They've weighed their wants,
their needs, and their personal safety against the needs of their nation,
and made the decision to serve. They know that they deserve our gratitude,
even if they rarely receive it.
Two words -- that's all I ask. "Thank you." If that's too hard, if you can't
bring yourself to acknowledge the dedication, sincerity and sacrifice of
your defenders, then I have a backup plan for you. Put on a uniform and
show us how to do it right.
That's Midnight Mike following SWO rule number four: leave hate in your wake. I'm glad he's my CNO.
The PC-brigade will eat him alive, IMO.
Well, there's common sense changes that need to be made.
That is, unless we intend to have multiple Armored Divisions rolling across the middle east.
As we transform from a forward BASED to a forward DEPLOYED force, questions and mistakes will be posed and made.
This is why being the Chief of Staff blows.
I like the way our force has been going over the last 8 years.
People laugh about "Medium" but there is simply a good, common sense rational
in putting lightfighters oin the ground with some armor to stiffen them in
forced entry scenerios.
Sounds like he's crying about being a high ranking mucky-muck.
Comes with the territory, pal.
Naval aviation FEARS him.
Adm Mullen is most definitly not a crier. He's simply tellling it like it is. Of course, if Teddy Roosevelt were to give his "It's not the critic who counts" speech today, some would say that he wasn't able to take criticism.
I can't figure out how we got SWOs back to back. If you go back to Iron Mike Boorda we've had SWO, Aviator, SWO, SWO. I would have thought it would be the bubbleheads' turn. IIRC they haven't had a CNO since the 80s.
Saw this EXACT same speech credited to a navy chief in an email about six months ago. While I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree with the words as written, I don't think the CNO said them.
He is defending the men and women of the armed forces from all the arm chair quarterbacks like you, and the liberal media assholes.
I want to thank him for his words, it makes me happy to know someone up top is thinking.
ETA: I usually have a dim view for higher ups, but I like this guy already.
Nope...He's just telling it like it is.....