The efforts are underscored by the needs of military families and children, who have been strained by nearly 10 years of war, he said, at a National Press Club news conference, sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Families and Work Institute.
“People are our absolutely most important resource, and we’ve said that [during] the totality of my career,” Mullen said, according to an American Forces Press Service report. “All of us who have led, whether in peace or in war, we know that. But what’s happened over the course of the last 10 years is that we have moved to a much broader and deeper understanding of what that means.”
The effort to create more flexibility is a “strategic imperative for our country,” he added, because members of the armed forces “have choices” about where they want to work.
“If we keep the right ones in, we’re going to be fine for decades to come,” he said, according to a Federal News Radio report. “And the opposite is true as well.”
Mullen didn’t get into specifics on how the department would achieve that flexibility, but Federal News Radio reported Mullen said it would revolve around a philosophy of letting service members stay focused on their families.
Many military children have lived in the “shadow of war,” for as long as they can remember, he said.
“We’ve got [teenagers who] don’t know their parents that well because Mom or Dad — mostly Dad — has been away for at least 50 percent . . . of their teenage years.”
Earlier this month, Mullen called for a period of self-reflection for the military services, amid fears the military was growing out of touch.
“Everything we do comes from the American people,” he said at a leadership conference at the National Defense University. “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.”