By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Sept. 07, 2011) -- As a new chief of staff of the Army prepares to run the largest of the services, the outgoing Gen. Martin E. Dempsey now prepares for his new role as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
It was during a ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va., Sept. 7, where Dempsey handed the reins of the Army over to Gen. Ray Odierno. Dempsey will become the senior-most officer in the U.S. military when Adm. Mullen retires Sept. 30.
Following the Army change of responsibility ceremony, Dempsey commented on his time as the lead officer in the Army, on challenges the service faces, and on challenges faced by the Department of Defense.
"The challenges we face are not new," Dempsey said of potential cuts to both budget and manpower in the Army. "The Army by its nature, over the course of history, has always expanded and contracted as conflicts demanded and post-conflicts came. So the challenge is not new."
He also said the Army has learned from previous experience with post-conflict situations and continues to learn to deal with changes.
"What makes this one a little bit unique is that the conflict doesn't have any clean endings, so it's not that we are about to have sort of a post-conflict reduction, it's that we've decided that because of the nation's economic state and because the security environment around the world is as stable as it's ever going to be, we've decided that we can absorb some resource cuts," he said.
To avoid becoming a "hollow force," Dempsey said, it is imperative the Army dial back in balance -- pulling all the right "levers" equally.
"Whether we hollow it or not will largely depend on whether we have the ability to do it by turning all those levers -- manpower, force structure, maintenance, equipment, training, and infrastructure. As long as I can change and account for all those factors, then we won't hollow out. But if I have to take a disproportionate change in any one of those accounts: more maintenance, or more equipment, or more manpower -- that's how you become out of balance. And that's where 'hollow' starts to resonate. But we have some control over that."
The general also said he didn't expect the Army would take the biggest hits in terms of budget cuts.
"I don't look at it that way," he said. "I think we have got to decide what does the future security environment demand? And where will our priority be? We can't be everything to all people everywhere. We have to at some point prioritize our efforts. And that may mean that one service or another is the main effort as we describe it militarily. And that service may have a greater share of the resources."
Dempsey said as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he and the Secretary of Defense will make those kinds of decisions and provide military advice about the needs of the nation, and then added "if you're going to declare something the main event, you have to resource it."
On his job as the Army's chief of staff, Dempsey said he'd like to be known as a chief that "got the people right."
"If we get the people right, then we will figure out how to equip them, how to train them, how to develop them," he said. "Then that is when you have an Army, and a military, that actually can do what the nation asks it to do."