While the military faces broad public support, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen called for reflection and self-examination, amid some fears the military is growing out of touch.
At a leadership conference at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., Mullen said the Defense Department must “begin a conversation and debate about who we are, what we have become and how that matches up to who we should be,” according to an American Forces Press Service report.
The issue isn’t support for the armed forces, which Mullen said remains high. The issue is the lack of a real connection between the broader American public and the military, he added, as fewer Americans volunteer for service.
“Everything we do comes from the American people,” he said. “And we cannot afford to be out of touch with them. . . . To the degree we are out of touch, I think is a very dangerous course.”
But don’t call Mullen’s call for self-examination a needless exercise in navel-gazing.
“This is not self-flagellation,” Mullen explained. “This is [an] examination to make sure we understand it and that we keep feeding it back to raise those who will lead — in the not-too-distant future — our military and, in fact, our country.”
As part of his contemplation of the military’s future, Mullen went down the list of black eyes the military has suffered, which has affected how the public views the military: Vietnam, the erosion of personal responsibility and accountability in the 1980s, the 1991 Tailhook incident.
A notable exception to Mullen’s list was the recent U.S.S. Enterprise incident, involving crude videos alleged to have been created by a Navy commanding officer. Mullen declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.
But, the remedy is having a “true compass” both ethically and morally, Mullen said.
“We have to have a true compass inside our profession,” he added.