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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Policy Planning Staff > Secretary's Open Forum > Proceedings > 2001 - 2002

Civil-Military Affairs and U.S. Diplomacy

General Richard Myers, USAF, Vice-Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
Remarks to the Open Forum
Washington, DC
June 25, 2001

Opening Remarks and Introduction by Alan Lang, Chairman of the Open Forum, and Dana Priest, The Washington Post, Institute for Peace

General Richard Myers, USAFYou know, I have been involved in the interagency process for some time now. The pundits out there, and even some of us, some of you who have been involved in it, as weíre in the middle of a crisis or trying to come to some conclusion on a policy or whatever, can be very critical of this process. Weíve all criticized the process and said, "Thereís got to be a better way to do this." Now let me tell you, Iím sure thereís a better way to do it, but Iím not sure of anybody who does it better. And as I go through this process, maybe Iíll highlight some of those features.

Because, like you, Iíve traveled extensively, Iíve been part of country teams, and Iíve seen country teams work in many nations. Iíve seen how we conduct diplomacy through the eyes of Secretary Christopher and then Secretary Albright, whom I traveled with. Iíve been involved in the interagency process at the White House for at least a couple of years. I think we do it as well as anybody. Can we do it better? Sure, thereís no question about that. 

Let me tell you one other thing before we start. So thatís my going-in position: we do it pretty well and we can improve it. Let me mention one other thing. In my military career, Iíve lost two people during my positions. One individual had a stroke and, just the other day, another one fainted. So, please, make yourself comfortable, make sure you have soft carpet around you; I do not know how this is going to turn out. 

Let me start with fundamentals. The fundamentals have to begin with what are the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffís responsibilities? This changed dramatically with the enactment of Goldwater-Nichols back in 1985-86, where the chairmanís responsibilities expanded to include being the principal advisor to the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council. He has other responsibilities, but we have to keep those in mind.
If you watched the movie "Thirteen Days," the Cuban Missile Crisis, you remember the scenes in the White House where you had the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). But the one that we remember probably from the movie was the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, General Lemay, making some impassioned pleas to nuke Cuba into the Stone Age. That is not the way that it happens today. The principal military advisor is the chairman. He is also obligated to take any views that the other (service) chiefs may have that are not consistent with his own views to the President and the Secretary of Defense. Nothing, by the way, in the law precludes a service chief going directly to the President, although I canít recall an instance where thatís happened recently.

Another thing that was good about the Goldwater-Nichols Act back in the mid-1980ís was that it created my position. Up until then, they had what they called the Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose job was to be essentially the chairmanís deputy, but certainly not the expanded responsibilities that Dana talked about. So, my role in the other agency is very similar to that of your own Deputy Secretary, Secretary Armitage. And we meet ourselves coming and going over there at the National Security Council (NSC) when weíre working the Deputy Committeeís business. And then, underneath all of that, we have the joint staff organization. Primarily most of you know this because most of you work with him, our Director for Strategic Plans and Policy, we call him J-5, and our Director of Operations, or J-3, are where the action officers are that work through the policy coordinating committees as we work through the issues. 

So that kind of sets the stage on the fundamentals. And you have to understand where the chairman fits in that because, after all, my job is to fill in for the chairman when heís gone but certainly to support him in his statutory responsibilities. 

Some more fundamentals: the unified commanders -- the Pacific commanders, the European commander, the nine unified commanders whose influence Dana has written about and talked about. They work directly for the Secretary of Defense and do not work through the JCS. This is a very important point. Their link to the Commander-in-Chief is through the Secretary of Defense.
The chairman, by convention and by direction of the President at this particular point, directs that all communications to and from the unified commanders goes through the chairman, but the chairman is not in the chain of command. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is not a commander. This is not a general staff like the Germans in World War II, for all the reasons that you understand better than I do. That would be, we think, a terrible idea for the United States of America. But this communication going through the chairman is important because it keeps the chairman in the loop and enhances his ability to provide his best military advice when needed. 

Let me also, when Iím talking about fundamentals and unified commands, talk about just for a second the role of political advisers that we have from the State Department. I would say that their work is absolutely vital and Iíve worked with several political advisers, one when I was a commander-in-chief (CINC), of course, when I was with U.S. Space Command. We had been entitled for a political adviser (POLAD) for a long time, and my predecessors had, I guess, deemed it wasnít that important. I made it an imperative when I was out there. We finally went through several folks and finally got the person we wanted. What an addition to our staff!  

You say, "Well, what in the world is U.S. Space Command? What diplomacy are we worried about there?" Let me take you back to just a little over a year ago when Y2K was the thing, when we had invited the Russians to Peterson Field to be part of an early warning cell to share data to make sure there was no misperception or miscommunication between the United States and the Russians on the missiles. I can tell you that our particular political adviser at the time, working through the State Department, worked through a lot of sticky issues on that.

And the list goes on and on, whether it was the early warning provided to Japan that went bad during the Taepo Dong launch in August of '98, just all sorts of international issues you get into. Usually our military background does not prepare our staff or us in the professional way that these situations require. The POLAD has the connections back here to the State Department and connections, perhaps, to a country team that can flush that out in a way that nobody else can. So, itís a little bit of an advertisement I guess, but itís also the facts as I see them.

Dana talked about this, but one of the ways that the chairman discharges the responsibilities that he has under statute is through the Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. You covered all my stuff there, but the Assistant to the Chairman is the direct liaison to the Department of State. Currently, itís Vice-Admiral Walt Dorhn. Heís had the job now since Don Kerrick left, so itís been about a year. You went through the previous folks -- the point there when Dana went through that General Shalikashvili used to do this for Powell and so forth is just to say that this is not a backwater position. This is something that the chairman takes very seriously. Iíve been on many trips -- you know how much the secretaries travel over here -- and we traveled a great deal. After a year, I was worn out. Secretary Albright, of course, hadnít even hit her stride yet. But I was done.

Sometimes in meetings, the secretaries -- and I know Secretary Powell does the same thing with Admiral Dorhn -- makes them a real part of the team and of the -- I hate to use this term -- of the inner circle. The individual is embraced, can bring all sorts of information to the meetings and is a good conduit when we get into the throes of it. I would go back to Helsinki, I think in 1996, when we were working the final pieces of enlargement of the NATO/Russian Charter and the ABM/TMD demarcation agreement-stuff that I was intimately involved with. In the middle of the night, weíre working talking points-the State Department of course is responsible for the talking points. But in order to make sure the military equities are covered, we were on the phone back and forth with the Pentagon all night, trying to make all of this come out right, which at the time we thought we did a good job of that.

Thatís what itís like. Sometimes in these rooms when youíre meeting with other countries thereíll be only one military person and thatíll be on the U.S. side. Sometimes I was told to wear this uniform, sometimes I was told to wear a suit so I was not quite so obvious. Sometimes, weíd be in meetings in Latin American where the other side was almost all military -- and it was always good to have the military advisor in the room at the same time. So, this relationship, I think, has been one thatís been very good for both the Department of State and the Department of Defense, but more importantly for our country.

I go back to my original point -- nobody does this better than we do. Weíre one of the few countries that has the kind of relationship that we do. This is pretty unique from what Iíve seen. I think about the European trips we took. I just cannot remember when there was ever someone from the military sitting on the other countryís team. It was just very rare. I think itís a realization of a lot of things, but one is that as we try to exert influence in the world that is more than just diplomatic, itís the whole spectrum of diplomatic, political, economic and military instruments of national power that we have to bring to bear.

Iím sure youíve all read the National Security Presidential Directive No. 1 which talks about how the National Security Councilís going to work and how the interagency process is going to work to support it. There, it states pretty clearly that the chairman and the vice-chairman are on these two committees, the principalsí and the deputiesí committees. The agenda is usually set by the chair of the committee, either Dr. Condoleezza Rice or Steve Hadley, but that anybody can recommend a subject to come up before the body to be talked about and that these policy coordinating committees, these PCCs, thatís where all the work goes on. Iím sure lots of you are members of those and we have lots of action officers working on those as well.

I will tell you that before we go into the interagency process, when we get to the deputiesí level or the principalsí level, where youíve got Secretary Powell and my boss, the chairman, and Dr. Rice, Secretary Rumsfeld, and so on, that we work really hard to establish an Office of the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff position. We go in there as coordinated and focused as we can be. Sometimes we are more or less successful at this. This is tough work. But thatís our going-in thought. At least from the Department of Defense view, we ought to go in fairly well coordinated.

That never precludes the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from offering his best military advice. Thatís what he has to do. The President or Vice President can attend any of these meetings. Iíve been in those meetings where you donít expect the President or Vice President to show up, and they walk in. Itís not usual of course. But, next thing you know, thereís the President because heís interested in this subject and he has time on his hands. But this never precludes the chairman from offering his best military advice, which may conflict at times with everybody elseís advice. The President, in cases that Iíve seen, will take him aside and say "Why donít you stay behind and weíll talk about it?" And the chairman gives his advice; itís very private. Youíll never get it out of General Shelton what advice he ever gives, itís up to the President to disclose it if he so chooses. He takes that relationship very seriously as I think he should because this is serious business.

Now let me get a little closer to what Dana was talking about in terms of how we ought to approach the use of the military. We like to come at it from the viewpoint that it is a coordinated process between the instruments of national power -- the diplomatic, political, military, and economic. That, as you confront a problem, force should usually not be the first thing you default to. That should not be the default position. Of course, if theyíre invading Reston, VA, force may be the right thing to think about. But, generally, we have a harder part, and that is a multi-dimensional approach to how we confront the problem.

I would offer the fact that because of globalization, because weíre so tightly linked with the rest of the world in almost every dimension of our lives these days, our problems are very, very complex. So to solve issues and to exert the kind of influence and to meet our U.S. interests, I would also submit that the solutions are complex and not simple ones, which usually means that the solution is not just one instrument of national power, it is a blending of the instruments of national power.

I would offer up Plan Colombia as one example where in the end we had a very good interagency approach to the problem, one that brought the Department of Justice on board, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Department of Defense, the Department of State, Commerce, etc. There are lots of entities that are playing today in that plan. It goes to the complexities that Iím talking about and not only that, but to the complexities that Iím talking about in Colombia alone.
Thatís kind of how we come at it. To be quite frank, we feel that too many folks want to default to a military solution when we think that there are other ways perhaps to address an issue. Some of the things that go through our minds as we think about the commitment of force, to give you an understanding of where we come from, weíve got to understand up front that this could mean that lives will be lost. Itís not the fact that anyone is averse to casualties. Thatís not the issue. The issue is that if weíre going to use United States force, we have to realize that lives may be lost. This is a very serious consideration.

You may have heard today that one of our soldiers in Kosovo, for instance, working along the Macedonian border, lost a foot to a land mine just today. Some of you may be aware of other reports of shootings in Macedonia. I wonít go into it, because I donít know enough to go into it other than to say that if youíre going to use force, even in a peacekeeping role, you always have to be prepared for the loss of life. So thatís always in our psyche as we come into the problem. If weíre going to use military force, you have to be prepared for that. So, you have got to have a good reason for going in. The reason has to be well spelled-out. You have to have clear goals when youíre going in. And I guess it goes back to Vietnam -- and Secretary Powell could explain this better than anybody -- but if you donít have clear goals you could be mired down in situations far longer than you ever intended. The Macedonian problem today is one of those issues where you can struggle with what your goals should be. But to the extent possible, they need to be as clear as possible so we know what metrics we can use to say we completed the mission.
Weíre always thinking about the resource implications, given the way that the military is used today around the world. In the Cold War, we were a garrison force, ready to beat back the Soviet Union. Today, we have been used at an ops (operations) tempo at 300% greater than during the Cold War. So, today weíre very busy around the world. And it does have a resource impact. From our view, itís nothing we want to do on the cheap. I know we have some debates these times with people at other agencies - "Well, why does it take so many folks to do this?" We never want a fair fight. We never want to put our folks at risk if we donít have to. Weíre going to go in fairly robust, would be our predilection. We always think about the impact on other regions as we think about the use of force.

In terms of command structure, I think itís well understood that weíre probably not going to be going in anywhere alone. Itís always going to be a part of a coalition. Even though weíre a superpower, I canít imagine of a situation where itís going to be the U.S. alone operating. How we work our command and control and how we get the coalitions on board are very important things that weíll come to.

We, as a military, would like to be not encumbered by a lot of political direction on how to conduct an operation. Having said that, no oneís more aware that this is going to be a political decision in the end and there will be political restrictions on what we do. Our hope would be to work that out to make it as few as possible so we can conduct the operation as we think we ought to. One of the things that we continue to talk about is garnering public support for it and thatís pretty obvious. I wouldnít call those guidelines, but thatís not too far off from the so-called Powell Doctrine.

Those kinds of thoughts will be going through our minds, but the primary thought will be that this is an interagency problem, not just a military problem. There may be information, influence campaigns that need to be run, the diplomatic pieces need to be set before you use military force, etc. Itís certainly not from a casually adverse point of view as some pundits like to claim. That is not the issue at all.

Let me talk just a minute about the interaction between the Joint Staff and the CINCs and this gets a little closer to what Dana was hoping Iíd talk about, I suppose. A couple of rules: first of all, rules of engagement that we see for our CINCs. One is that they execute policy, they donít create policy. Now that doesnít mean that they donít have influence on the policymaking process, because they do that through their interaction with the chairman or myself or their action also with our Joint Staff.

I will use Macedonia as todayís example. Thereís an operational plan that is making its way to the NSC on Wednesday that will discuss the potential, if we have a permissive environment and a political agreement, to go in and accept arms from the National Liberation Army (NLA) in Macedonia. Those discussions are going on between the European Command Staff in Stuttgart, our staff and the State staff, as a matter of fact. You can just believe that thereís a lot of dialogue. As policy will be affected by the military input under the chairmanís statutory responsibilities, it wonít come directly from the Commander-in-Chief European Command. It will be through the Joint Staff or through the office of the Secretary of Defense because of conversations that, in this case, General Joseph Ralston, the CINC over there, has had with the Secretary of Defense or with me or with the Chairman. We donít expect the CINCs to make policy; we expect them to execute policy. Along with that, it would be rare that Unified Commanders (e.g. the CINCs) would talk directly to other players in interagency. Generally their entree is through the Joint Staff or through the office of the SECDEF staff. There are times, though, when it is appropriate and weíve done that from time to time. But that is not the rule.

I have three final thoughts for you. One is the absolute importance of a strong Department of State, a well-funded Department of State. Some of the best leverage the United States has on how other militaries behave is through our FMF and our IMET programs. Those are not large dollar amounts but they have influence far beyond the dollars that we put to them.

The second thought is the absolute importance of a well-led and well-staffed country team. My example would be back in the mid-1990ís when I was Commander, U.S. Forces Japan. And it was in 1995 on Labor Day when we had that terrible tragedy over there -- the rape of the young Okinawan schoolgirl. Following that rape, in April of 1996, we had the summit between President Clinton and Prime Minister Hashimoto. And it was at that summit that we came to agreement on some of the things weíd try to do on Okinawa to try and reduce our footprint and the impact weíre having on the people there.

We worked through some new defense guidelines to enable Japan to do more under the mutual Security Treaty than they were able to do. And the only reason that happened is that we had a very strong country team, of which I was part. The Deputy Chief of Mission at the time was Russ Demming - I guess he is now U.S. Ambassador in Tunisia. His expertise in things Japanese, along with people like (Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs) Joe Nye in DOD and folks over here at State -- we had a very tight group that worked through that from September to April and produced a result that was quite remarkable given what started it all, which was a horrible tragedy. When I go into a country - I try to go on the road once a month for about four or five days, usually three or four countries - I always go to the country teams to get the brief. Strong country teams are very obvious and very important.

Finally, this is a clichť of all cliches, but itís really what I believe - as we work our issues here in town or in country X, one of the models we use in the military is one team, one fight. What it says is that we really are on the same team. We have slightly different cultures, but Iíve made a list as the cultures as Iíve understood them. And, Iíll tell you, weíre much more alike than we are different. The State Department and the Department of Defense have a lot more in common and a lot more influence in this business than anybody else does. We better be one team as we approach these very, very complex problems that weíre dealing with.

Released on May 30, 2002

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