A CONVERSATION WITH JOHN DALTON
Margaret Warner converses with the outgoing Secretary of the Navy, John Dalton.
MARGARET WARNER: John Dalton became Secretary of the Navy in July 1993. The Navy's been part of his life for decades. He's a 1964 graduate of the Naval Academy and served aboard submarines for five years. After leaving for a civilian career as an investment banker, he retained his Navy ties through service in the Naval Reserve. His two sons are military officers. His resignation becomes effective at the end of the year. Welcome, Mr. Secretary.
JOHN DALTON, Secretary of the Navy: Thank you very much, Margaret. It's good to be with you.
MARGARET WARNER: It's good to have you.
JOHN DALTON: Thank you.
MARGARET WARNER: What is the most important way would you say that the Navy of today is different from the Navy of five years ago when you took this job?
JOHN DALTON: Margaret, the Department of the Navy has been transformed, and I'm very proud to have been a part of that. I had two major goals when I assumed this job. One was to enhance the reputation of our Navy and secondly was to deal with the changed international security environment that's taken place since the end of the Cold War. And it's been a great challenge, as you pointed out in your opening segment. For somebody who went to the Naval Academy and served on active duty in the reserves to come back to serve as Secretary of the Navy has been a tremendous honor and privilege for me. I'm grateful to the President for giving me this opportunity. I love this job and really have enjoyed this opportunity and look forward to serving through the end of the year.
MARGARET WARNER: And why are you leaving?
JOHN DALTON: Well, it's time to take care of my personal business. As you point out, I've been in and out of government. I served in the Carter administration. I served in the Navy, and have not worked in any one corporation for any length of time, and so it's time for me to take care of my own personal business.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, you talked about adapting to the change of security environment. I assume that what you mean by that is that the Navy has had to take on some new missions?
JOHN DALTON: Well, since the end of the Cold War we used to have one major threat, the Soviet Union. And when the Cold War ended, the risk of having a world war pretty much ended, but the risk of having a war with many minor wars has really increased. And so we had to adapt our service to deal with that, and we have. And I feel very good about the process, the vision that we have called Forward from the Sea, is what you have seen over the last five years in places like the Arabian Gulf, bring the parties to the peace table in Bosnia through what our Naval service did there, bring stability in the Taiwan Strait, when China and Taiwan were-that friction existed in Korea. Our Navy and Marine Corps team has been there, has gotten the job done in a very professional way, and I'm very proud of that record.
MARGARET WARNER: We should point out that as Navy Secretary you have oversight for both the Navy and the Marines.
JOHN DALTON: That's right. And I have a son that's in the Navy and one in the Marine Corps, and I'm very proud of both of them.
MARGARET WARNER: Would you say that all these new missions, though, that you have in a time of tighter defense budgets means that the Navy and Marines have to do more with less?
JOHN DALTON: Well, I think we have to be more efficient in what we do. As Secretary the last five years I focused on four things: our people, readiness, efficiency, and technology. And it's that efficiency part where we have had to be-ensure that we're more cost effective in how we do business, in our weapons procurement systems, and also we don't need as many ships to do what we're doing, because the ships that we're building, they are so much more capable than those that we are decommissioning.
MARGARET WARNER: But something must have to give.
JOHN DALTON: Well, it has been a challenge, there's no question about that. We've been careful to handle our operations and deployments, so that our people are not deployed for longer than six months. We learned back in the 70's when you go on deployments that are eight, nine, ten, eleven months at a time, people end up leaving the service, voting with their feet as we say. But by limiting the deployment to six months, having our sailors at home for at least a year before they deploy again and having them at home about 50 percent of the time seems to work very well. And so it's been a challenge, but our people have responded to that challenge, and we continue to get the job done, and I'm very proud of them.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, there were news reports, though-I'll give you one example-and getting ready for the showdown in Iraq-which did not come to pass-but you all had to be ready for that, but, for instance, Navy fighter jets that were called up for that had to be essentially prepared by cannibalizing other Navy fighter jets.
JOHN DALTON: Well, I'm glad you mentioned the Arabian Gulf, because I met with Secretary-General Kofi Annan just a couple of weeks ago, and he thanked me for our carriers, an amphibious group that were in the Gulf that he said made that agreement possible. So our Navy and Marine Corps team being there in the Gulf got the job done. Now with respect to readiness, our troops, our ships and Marines, sailors and Marines that are forward deployed are as ready as they could possibly need to be. When they come back from deployment, we do go through a tiered readiness period where we do relax somewhat and there is-the readiness there is not at the same level that it has to be otherwise-but our forward deployed forces that are there showing that forward presence that is so important to our national security are ready and have everything they need in order to get the job done for the American people.
MARGARET WARNER: But if all these other extra missions-if suddenly the U.S. had to fight a battle on the nature of a conflict of the nature of say Desert Storm, are the resources there to do it?
JOHN DALTON: Yes, they are, indeed they are.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, you also mentioned your other major task was enhancing the reputation. I assume you mean in the wake of the Tailhook situation. It does seem, however, that every year since then there's always-there's some controversy, some scandal that all sort of relates to women in the military. Do you think it's proving more difficult to integrate the military by gender than it was say racially?
JOHN DALTON: Margaret, we have transformed our Navy Department in terms of how we look at ourselves and how we treat each other. And I'm proud of that. If you look at where we were and you mentioned Tailhook-and we've all read about that terrible incident-but one of the things that doesn't get much exposure is the fact that during that period of time people were literally walking around with T-shirts saying women are property. And that was considered okay. But we realize that if that was considered okay, we had a real problem with our culture; we had to change that culture; and we've done that. We've instituted things like sexual harassment training required for everybody that comes into the Navy and Marine Corps, and that's on an annual basis that everybody goes through that same training. Similarly, we had things like the hotline, where you could call in. And we've had things like affording counseling for people. And today-and we went back to our core values: honor, courage, and commitment-and went back to things-the very root of where we started at our founding, where John Paul Jones wrote the qualifications of a Naval officer. And he said, of course, you have to be a capable mariner, but so much more involving liberal education, refined manners, and the nicest sense of personal honor, and treating our shipmates with dignity and respect. We have no room in the Naval Service for anyone who fails to treat their shipmate with dignity and respect. And that message has gotten out. Many women in the military are smart, and the will adapt the standard. If you raise the standard, they will meet that standard. And that's what we've done. And today we're a stronger Naval Service, because people understand accountability and responsibility. They know that they're going to be held accountable for their actions, and our-our standard has been raised, and our service, the Naval Service, and the men and women in the Marine Corps is stronger today and they are getting the job done for the American people. And we don't read as often-nearly as often as you once did-the kinds of problems that we had five and six years ago.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. As I'm sure you're aware, there are men in the service and maybe even women in the service-some of your own predecessors say that really it's almost political correctness gone too far. Do you think since Tailhook the pendulum has at all swung too far?
JOHN DALTON: I really don't, Margaret. You know, you mentioned earlier-you mentioned the discrimination aspect. If you look back at how the Naval Service has really led the country on things like, first of all, discrimination, we had race riots aboard ships in the 60's. Today we're a model for equal opportunity in the country. In the 70's and early 80's, we had major drug problems, where on many of our ships more than half of our sailors would test positive for drugs. Today we're essentially a drug-free Navy Department. We're going to do the same thing, I believe, in terms of leadership with respect to having men and women work together professionally in the workplace. And we are on course for getting that done. And I think our people have responded. I'm very proud of how they've done that and how we work together, and today we have 11 flag officers, admirals in the Navy, who are female. We have two in the Marine Corps. Five women will go to command Navy combat in ships this year. That shows that there's opportunity for women. It shows there's opportunity for minorities. And we've made real headway in that regard.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, good luck, Mr. Secretary.
JOHN DALTON: Well, thank you.
MARGARET WARNER: Thanks very much.
JOHN DALTON: Thank you very much, Margaret, for having me aboard.