The military’s Special Operations Forces are the first boots on the ground in a combat zone and usually, the last ones out.
So said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium.
And, even as he had high words of praise for the special operations forces, saying they were the “best we’ve ever had,” the time is now to being preparing for a future “transition,” the U.S. military’s highest-ranking officer said.
It’s also a time for questions as the nation heads into its 10th year of combat.
“How long can we do it?,” Mullen said. “Somehow, we’ve got to figure out how to create a little more balance as we look to the future.”
Budget pressures that continue to squeeze the department have also proven how important finding the right balance is.
“Every dollar counts and we have to figure out how to spend our money wisely,” he said. “At some point in time -– and I certainly don’t speak to the wars that we’re in, because we can’t back off there -– but at some point in time, we have to ask ourselves, ‘What are we going to stop doing?’”
It will be difficult, though, as putting the brakes on is not something the military typically trains for, the chairman suggested.
“We are built to run through walls, or as we say in the Navy, bulkheads,” he explained. “We are not built to stop, ever. We are built to succeed in these missions, which we must continue to do.”
But, the Pentagon’s leaders will have to find ways to prioritize missions to “sustain the force,” the American Forces Press Service characterized his remarks.