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Chairman Calls for Military Self-Examination

As the military enjoys tremendous support from the American people, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said now is the time to step back, assess the impact of 10 years of war and ensure the institution remains on course.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, opening a leadership conference Jan. 10 at the National Defense University at Fort McNair here, called for a proactive self-examination -- institutionally and by individual leaders -- and appropriate course corrections, as needed.

The chairman called today's all-day conference -- titled "Military Professionalism: Introspection and Reflection on Basic Tenets and the Way Ahead" -- "an opportunity to begin a conversation and debate about who we are, what we have become, and how that matches up to who we should be."

"For something like this, which is at the heart of who we are, we can't do enough self-examination," he told the attendees, key leaders of the military education and training community.

"This is not self-flagellation," he added. "This is 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."

Echoing a message Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sent during a speech at Duke University in September, Admiral Mullen cited a growing chasm between the American people and the military that depends on their support for its very survival.

Secretary Gates noted during that speech that less than 1 percent of the U.S. population has shouldered the national security burden, and he expressed concern that Americans are losing contact with those who make up its military.

Today, Admiral Mullen said that although most Americans have tremendous goodwill toward their men and women in uniform, by and large they have little true connection to who they are or what they represent.

That's a dangerous situation for the military, which can't survive without public support, Admiral Mullen said.

"Our underpinning, our authorities, everything we are, 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."

The chairman cited changes in the American public's perception of the military during the span of his own career.

During the 1970s, he said, the public largely blamed the military for failures in Vietnam, resulting in deep organizational scars that remain today. Then, during the 1980s, personal accountability began to erode within the military, the chairman told the group.

"We were much more focused on the image of who we were, the communications of who we were, particularly when things got tough," Admiral Mullen said. "And I saw too many not stand up who should have stood up from an accountability standpoint. And it bothered me to no end. ... For me, accountability is at the heart of this."

In the 1990s, incidents such as the Navy's Tailhook scandal -- sexual misconduct by officers during a 1991 private organization convention -- exposed questions about institutional responsibility, Admiral Mullen said, and the importance of putting the good of the military institution over that of individuals.

While declining to speak about the recent firing of the commanding officer of the USS Enterprise while an inves

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