|PENTAGON'S TOP GENERAL|
August 24, 2001
With the Bush administration in the midst of a major reform of the nation's military, the president announced his new nominee to chair the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General Richard Myers.
TOM BEARDEN: President Bush ended the speculation today when he formally presented his choice for the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Today I name a new chairman of the Joint Chiefs, one of the most important appointments a president can make. This appointment is especially so because it comes at a time when we need great leadership. Secretary Rumsfeld and I thought long and hard about this important choice, and we enthusiastically agree that the right man to preserve the best traditions of our armed forces while challenging them to innovate to meet the threats of the future is General Richard B. Myers.
General Myers is a man of steady resolve and determined leadership. His is a skilled and steady hand. He is someone who understands that the strengths of America's armed forces are our people and our technological superiority, and we must invest in both.
TOM BEARDEN: Myers, a 59-year- old Air Force general, would be the first airman to head the military since 1982. He has been the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs since March of last year. Previously, he ran the high-tech U.S. Space Command in Colorado. Myers is a veteran fighter pilot who flew combat missions in Vietnam. A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Myers was commissioned in the air force in 1965 through the ROTC Program at Kansas State University.
He also commanded U.S. Air forces in the Pacific, an area that the administration says it will be focusing more attention on. Today Myers said he was looking forward to his new position on the defense team.
GEN. RICHARD MYERS: Like the hard-working Americans here in the heartland of Texas, I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and eager to get back to work building the kind of military that President Bush envisions: One that is poised to meet current obligations and emerging threats. As the president has said, we face tough challenges ahead and a lot of work remains. But with the help of God, my wife, Mary Jo, our family and our friends, along with our extended family of the hundreds of thousands of superb soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines and coast guardsmen, active and reserve, the task is less daunting. It's with that larger family, our uniformed men and women, along with our DOD civilian counterparts, that we'll conquer those challenges and I look forward to doing just that. This is going to be great. Thank you very much.
TOM BEARDEN: As vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs Myers already has been active in preparing the major defense review now under way at the Pentagon. He had been an ardent supporter of the military use of space, a key element of the Bush defense plan. In an article published in Aviation Week last year, Myers said: "We must acknowledge that our way of war requires superiority in all mediums of conflict, including space." President Bush said Myers' space background was a major reason he chose the general to be his top military adviser.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: One of the reasons Dick Myers is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs nominee is because he's had a lot of experience in space, for example. That's an area that we need to explore and know more about. He's had a lot of experience when it comes to the leading edge of technology that is becoming more and more prevalent in our military, and our budget reflects the need to fully explore, and at the same time, make sure that today's military can up... can fulfill the missions.
TOM BEARDEN: Today the president also tapped Marine General Peter Pace to replace Myers as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He's the first Marine to hold that job. If confirmed by the Senate, Myers will replace Army General Hugh Shelton, who retires at the end of September.
|A capable candidate|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: For their perspectives on President Bush's selection of General Myers, we turn now to General Richard Hawley, who retired in 1999 after 34 years in the Air Force. He preceded General Myers as commander of U.S. forces in Japan; Michael Vickers, a former Army and CIA officer who is director of strategic studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a research institute; and to George Wilson, a columnist for the National Journal who covered the Defense Department for the Washington Post from 1966 to 1991, and is the author of six books on the military.
General Hawley, you know General Myers. You've worked with him. Give us an example of something that you've seen him do that indicates what kind of a leader he is.
GEN. RICHARD HAWLEY (RET.): Well, Dick Myers has wonderful credentials at the tactical, operational, the strategic level. He has had diplomatic assignments. I think perhaps as an example when he was at U.S. Space Command, he really helped our combatant commanders understand how to fully integrate our space capabilities into their operations. And he also helped particularly those of us in the Air Force, but also I think others who work in defense issues understand what the potential is of our space forces to contribute in the future to our operational success.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: General Hawley, do you think that's the main reason he was chosen?
GEN. RICHARD HAWLEY (RET.): No, I think he was chosen because he has got the right credentials, he's got strength of character, wonderful integrity, a great sense of humor, he's smart. And I can't think of anybody who is more well prepared for the challenges he's going to face.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: George Wilson, why do you think he was tapped for the job and what is the significance of his being an Air Force General?
GEORGE WILSON: Well, I think he was tapped because Secretary Rumsfeld is comfortable working with him. He is going to have to work closely with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. One of the big challenges of General Myers is to deliver the fellow chiefs on such issues as the ABM Treaty, and on the budget. I think Rumsfeld is the kind of secretary who wants a comfort level, and my quick survey the last couple of days was typified by an Army General who said General Myers is pretty purple -- meaning even though he's Air Force, he will not favor the Air Force as chairman but will be methodical and fair. So I got all, as I say in the Air Force, all ups when I talk to Generals and colonels about the new selection.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mike Vickers, what do you think? Should the Army be worried?
MICHAEL VICKERS: No, I think the Army's fate will be determined more by the Secretary of Defense than it will be by the JCS Chairman. Our civilians generally have responsibility for long-term institutions and weapons procurement and things like that.
|A nomination picked for reform|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Would you put the choice of General Myers into this particular moment in the whole reform process that's under way. Put it in that context and tell me what you think the significance of the choice is in that setting.
MICHAEL VICKERS: Well, it's been alluded to, General Myers brings great credentials in the sense of space, high command in Asia and experience in Washington. The Bush administration has talked about radical reform of the military; for example in General Myers' parent service, the Air Force, emphasizing more long-range air power over short range or unmanned aircraft over manned over the long-term, or space capabilities greater emphasis. And typically the JCS Chairman and the Vice Chairman have allowed the services to pretty much manage their own business through the 1990s and have focused on operational crises. Given the Bush administration's agenda, one would expect a bigger role in this regard from the new JCS chairman and vice chairman.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: George Wilson, do you agree with that?
GEORGE WILSON: Well, I think that the misunderstanding in the general public is that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs has something to do with running a war. That's really not true. He is an advisor to the President. But the chain of command goes from the president to the Secretary of Defense to the theater commanders who are really the big gorillas out there when it comes to running the war. I mean, General Schwarzkopf ran the Persian Gulf War pretty much as he saw fit and chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Shelton, would convey messages for the Secretary of Defense, but he did not run the war. So that's a little bit of a misperception, what the chairman does. The chairman is the chief military advisor to the President, which is important. He also, as I said, is kind of the interlocutor of the fellow Chiefs and has to deliver them to back a treaty, to back budget cuts, to back a new initiative in space, so he's got a very important consensus-building role as opposed to a combat role.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So, Mr. Wilson, do you think he will be able to convince the chiefs to make some of the cuts that may be necessary to make these reforms possible?
GEORGE WILSON: I think it will be easier to convince the chiefs by saying it is going to be an evolutionary change not a revolutionary change. But I think again the big issue is going to be convincing Congress. You know, the Air Force asked to cut just ten B-1s from the force and the House Armed Services Committee rebelled. That's the kind of resistance that Rumsfeld and the reformers are going to run into.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: General Hawley, let me put the more general question back to you again. Place this appointment in the context of the big reform effort that's under way.
GEN. RICHARD HAWLEY (RET.): Well, I think General Myers is going to be responsible for kind of being the communicator between the civilian structure in the Department of Defense and the military services, trying to make sure that that is a good two-way flow, that those that are trying to shape the transformation of our military are well informed as to the concerns of the military services who have a different perspective sometimes. You know, when we fail in combat, it's the military leader who generally takes the blame and the politicians who helped build the force structure that they took to the fight are long since gone. So generally our military forces -- our military leaders have a little more priority on the near term problem than the far term problem while our civilian leaders sometimes have the reverse. General Myers is going to have to try to bring those two schools of thought together.
|Working with Congress|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you agree with George Wilson that he's going to have a tougher job with Congress than with the chiefs?
GEN. RICHARD HAWLEY (RET.): Well, I think Secretary Rumsfeld has said it often and well that change in Washington comes hard. But if anybody can help bridge that gap and help people in the Congress understand how important it is to affect some changes in the Department of Defense, General Myers is the guy. He is a very good communicator. He comes across well. He has a wonderful reputation for integrity and honesty. What he says you can take it to the bank. I think that will carry a lot of weight with the legislators who are ultimately charged with funding and paying for and structuring our armed forces.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: George (Michael) Vickers, I want to go back to his role as he was chief of the Space Command. He has made it really clear that he thinks the United States should have control of space. He has been quite explicit about it. What is that bode for the future?
MICHAEL VICKERS: Well, space is generally seen as an area of emerging conflict, and also increasing economic value or economic center of gravity to use the Pentagon's language. Myers is really, in a number of recent commanders of space command who have been saying essentially the same thing since about 1995 or so is that it's not immediately urgent, but over the long-term, over say over the next ten to twenty years, we need to take some actions to assure our access to space and should the need arise, to prevent some hostile powers from potentially using space in ways that could hurt us because space is essentially a global medium.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sorry, I called you the wrong name, Michael Vickers.
GEORGE WILSON: I think it's a real danger. Space indeed is militarized. The armed forces cannot communicate or navigate or in many cases target without use of satellites. But we would be shooting ourselves in the foot if we started blowing bad guys satellites out of space. It would be like throwing nails across an international highway. We have to be very careful when we talk about protecting our satellites of how we do it. If we can negotiate a way out of blowing up the other guy's satellites and therefore endangering our relations with allies and shooting ourselves in the foot, because we have most of the satellites up there, it seems to me that's militarily as well as diplomatically sensible. So I think there is a real danger when you talk about militarizing space of talking about shooting satellites down. I think there are better ways to do it and I think he has to educate the people about that as well as the president and the Secretary of Defense, such as knocking out ground stations, blinding the communications link. There are a lot of things short of filling space with shrapnel.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, General Hawley, I want to get specific about national missile defense for a minute. You have all alluded to things related to this but how will his appointment affect efforts to get more funding for national missile defense?
GEN. RICHARD HAWLEY (RET.): Well, clearly I think General Myers supports the need for missile defense. Whether or not he can persuade the Congress to fully fund the President's program is going to be one of his first tests. But I think the need is to very carefully articulate why it is so important for the country to have missile defense. I think the Secretary and General Myers made a start on that, they've alluded to the kind of threats that are emerging around the world. The president today when he made the announcement of General Myers, mentioned one of the concerns that people have that someone can blackmail our future leadership with a nuclear armed missile capability. If we have no capability to defend against it, we essentially have lost our ability to take initiatives in the foreign policy arena.
|Ensuring stability, furthering the Bush agenda|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Michael Vickers, do you agree that he will be important in this effort?
MICHAEL VICKERS: Yes, I think so. Although again I see national missile defense fundamentally as the Secretary of Defense' responsibility; that General Myers and the Secretary will need to be of one mind. But the Secretary will take primary responsibility.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: George Wilson.
GEORGE WILSON: Well, I think if you filled the fellow chiefs of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps with truth serum and said would you like to spend $100 billion dollars on missile defense or something else, they would all vote for something else. There are more immediate worries in their view than some primitive missile coming from China or North Korea, so in that case I think the chairman is going to have a selling job right within his own community to say, hey fellahs, you have to give up some of your other toys to pursue the missile defense. I think that's going to be somewhat of a tough sales job inside the building.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: General Hawley, do you think that's true?
GEN. RICHARD HAWLEY (RET.): Well, I think Mr. Wilson put his finger on the problem; it's going to be hard to transform with the kind of constrained budgets that they appear to be facing. I think there is going to have to be a balancing between near-term needs and far-term needs. That's going to require some very difficult tradeoffs in the constrained budget environment that we appear to be facing. And so we aren't going to be able to transform as fast as many people would like. And we probably won't be able to have as robust capabilities for the near term as many people would like. I think that's going to be one of the roles that General Myers will play very well, is helping people assess the balance in those risks between the near term threats and the far-term threats.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Finally, George Wilson, very briefly, the president also named Marine General Peter Pace as the new vice chairman. Do you see any significance, or what is the significance you see there?
GEORGE WILSON: I think it's a good idea because it provides balance. Here you have a chairman who is associated with the wild blue yonder, Space Command, Air Force, then you have a down and dirty Marine General who comes from a tradition of getting ready to fight in the cities, which is the most dangerous warfare there is, and also the 911 service. So I think that was a good balance.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, thank you all three very much.