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Debt is biggest threat to National Security, Chairman Mullen
Looming budget reductions
are the biggest threat to the United States’ national
security, said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs
during remarks to business executives today.
“I’ve said many times that I believe the single,
biggest threat to our national security is our debt, so I also
believe we have every responsibility to help eliminate that threat,” he
said. “We must, and will, do our part.”
Speaking to the Business Executives for National Security, the
chairman discussed budget concerns and sought the executives’ experiences
to help formulate strategic fiscal planning.
“All of you have dealt with downturns in the business
cycle,” Mullen said. “Many of you have turned around
troubled corporations, or restructured firms. Our challenges
will not precisely be yours, but I’ll bet we can take a
lesson or two from what you’ve seen.”
Founded in 1982, BENS is a nationwide, non-partisan organization
which supports the U.S. government by applying, free of charge,
best business practice solutions for national security challenges,
according to a media release.
Mullen talked to the group about concerns caused by the “sequestration” mechanism
included in the nation’s new debt-reduction law.
“As you know, the resident has made a decision to reduce
the defense budget by more than $450 billion over the next 10
years,” he said.
“That’s a lot of money from any perspective,” Mullen
continued. “But, in fact, it only represents a little over
nine percent a year from our baseline.
“Many of you have faced worse,” he continued. “And
yet, as achievable as I believe these cuts to be, they will also
be difficult to identify and to execute – more difficult,
I think, than they would be for you.”
Mullen said most difficulties stem from large capital expenses,
huge fixed and aging infrastructure such as bases, ships and
“Our replacement turnover rate is extremely low, because
it takes so long to design, build, test and field new equipment,” he
“Cuts in this arena have significant military impacts,
because to make any sort of difference you have to remove from
your inventory a platform that will take a long time to replace,” he
Mullen also attributed these difficulties to fighting in two
wars for a decade which has resulted in a “must-pay” liability.
“Much of that equipment has been worn out more quickly
than expected because of the wars we are fighting,” he
said. “It needs to be repaired or replaced when it comes
The chairman said the next logical step of reduction would be
people and their compensation, but he cautioned against “draconian” changes.
“They drive our costs in the Pentagon just like they have
in the corporate world – increases in pay, and especially
increases in the cost of health care,” Mullen said.
“We are a well-compensated force today and rightfully
so,” he said. “And because I simply can’t – and
[Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta] has made clear that he won’t – break
faith with our troops, we need to be very careful here.”
Mullen praised service members for their sacrifices and reiterated
his commitment to protecting them.
“They are not my employees,” he said. “They
aren’t anyone’s employees.
“They are soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines and coast
guardsmen -- volunteers all -- who made a life decision to join
our ranks,” Mullen said. “And many of them risk those
lives every, single day.”
The chairman said the nation faces an “imperative,” and
agreed with Panetta’s assessment of the challenge as being “hard
“We must consider the world as it is, the threats as we
see them, not wishing away the danger nor blowing it out of proportion,” Mullen
“Pragmatism and practicality must be our watchwords moving
forward,” he added, “[and] strategy must become our
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