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Joint Chiefs chair highlights keys to defense

  • Published
  • By Scott Knuteson
  • Air University Public Affairs
The nation's top military advisor, who completed a whirlwind tour of several Baltic States earlier in the month, addressed an array of topics to Air Force leaders here Oct. 28. 

From cooperation with allied countries to the care of fallen military members' families, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed gatherings of students from across Air University. 

Among other things, he emphasized the need for open, ongoing dialogue among countries. 

"We've got some 60 countries represented here at Air University," the admiral said afterward. "These countries send their best people, many of whom may end up leading their military. We send our best talent here as well." 

The benefit in such a setting, he said, lies in the personal relationships built between American and international officers. As an example, the admiral talked about a senior U.S. Navy officer who attended India's War College and became friends with his classmate, the head of the Indian navy. When the tsunami hit Indonesia in 2004, the friends were immediately in contact. 

"That cut through enormous bureaucracy," Admiral Mullen said. "It facilitated working together in ways no one ever imagined." 

Throughout the day, the admiral addressed Air Force officers and their joint and international counterparts, the latter of whom are enrolled at Air University under cooperative programs with their respective countries. 

Cooperation across the board is increasingly important, especially during times of radical change, he said. 

"We live in a time of enormous change. You are at the heart of that change," he told officers at Air University's Air Command and Staff College. 

Referencing the implications the ongoing financial crisis has for the military and the change it may require in the near future, Admiral Mullen reminded officers of their duty to be fiscally responsible while maintaining the best possible defense. 

"Our bottom line isn't profit or cost, it is the defense we provide this country," he said. 

And it isn't just about implementing programs, the admiral said. 

"Spend time on output, not just input," he said. "That's how we make a difference. Particularly, if the budget comes down, we need to know what best to output." 

The admiral went on to detail how integration among the services and other branches within the government is essential for the best possible output. 

"We need to be thinking about making the joint force better, but not just where I am," he said, calling Maxwell one of the best places for officers from all branches to obtain joint experience. 

Specifically, the admiral encouraged students to implement ideas developed at the academic level. 

"What do we do with the great thought that happens here?" he asked. 

The admiral encouraged the student officers to take what they learn at Air University and apply it for the betterment of such initiatives as care of military members' families. 

"Family support has always been critical [to the Armed Forces]," he said, adding that it is better now more than ever before. 

The chairman held up the Air Force as an example for how to best address the issue of family support. 

When it comes to supporting military families, "the Air Force does it better than anybody else," he said. 

"That doesn't mean the Air Force does it all exactly right," he added. "But, as I benchmark the service and support for families, the Air Force does it best." 

"You couldn't do what you do without your families," the admiral told officers in attendance. 

And, he added, family should top the list of leaders' concerns because it is inextricably linked to the health of the force as a whole. 

"If we don't take care of our people and their families, they are going to walk away," he warned. 

Concluding his visit, the chairman referred to the difficulties the Air Force has seen in the recent past. 

"The Air Force has been through a lot in the last year or two," he said in an interview. "But I was really impressed with the leadership here and the spirit of the students. I am very encouraged by that. I talked to each group today about leading. These are our current and future leaders in the Air Force and I am very encouraged by what I saw."
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