May 27, 2010 —
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. –Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen discussed homeland defense, Mexico and emerging challenges with servicemembers and media at a chairman’s call on Peterson AFB, May 26.
The Chairman took the opportunity to address the servicemembers after attending the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony that morning.
Mullen said that while there hasn’t been a significant terrorist attack for nearly a decade, the U.S. must remain vigilant.
“We’ve had some serious incidents very recently,” he said. “Those aren’t the first incidents, the first indications that they are trying to get into our country and kill Americans. So I think we have to pay a lot of attention to the vigilance level and continue to integrate our interagency partners. NORTHCOM and NORAD play a huge part of that.”
The Admiral said enemy strategies are constantly changing, and U.S. forces must change with them, improving information sharing and making sure that the right people have the right information at the right time.
“Over the next five years I think we need to learn from what we’ve done, recognizing also the strategies have changed in a sense where you see these more isolated individuals as was recently the case in Times Square,” he said. “And as the enemy’s strategies change, we must continue to address that and to make sure we have made available the intelligence, the information, to everybody that needs to know it as rapidly as possible.”
Citing the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s role in homeland defense, Mullen reminded people that the challenge of terrorism is not the province of the U.S. alone.
“NORAD is a reminder that this isn’t just one country,” he said. “This is two. This is a continental challenge.”
Mullen spoke about the U.S. partnership with Mexico and the need to strengthen the relationship between the two nations.
“We’re looking for ways to assist them and support them where they ask us to support them,” he said. “I also think there are wonderful opportunities to strengthen the relationship between our countries and between our militaries.”
Likening the challenges facing the Mexican government and the U.S. on the border with those facing the U.S. in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mullen said the biggest hurdle is establishing trust, not only with the Mexican government, but with the people.
“The coin of the realm, quite frankly, there and other places in the world whether it’s Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines or in other countries we have relationships with, it’s trust,” he said. “So where has it been, where is it, where do we need to take it and what do we need to do to build it, whatever the history is?”
Mullen noted that before those problems can be addressed, they must be viewed from the perspective of the people on the ground affected by those problems in ways that may be hard for Americans to understand.
“It is critical that you try to see it from their perspective,” he said. “What we need to do is see their problems through their eyes and then figure out how we might be able to support. This is a challenge that is not going away. They are a neighbor, they are a good friend, and we want to do as much as we can to support them.”
Mullen cautioned the attending servicemembers that they were in a time of change, and though the focus may currently be on the Middle East, new challenges emerge all the time.
“Just look at what happened recently on the Korean peninsula,” he told them. “Look at what’s going on right now in the Gulf. Not too many months ago, some of you, probably, and certainly 20,000 of us went to help down in Haiti, so the opportunities continue to abound.”
The Chairman challenged servicemembers to remain flexible and dynamic.
“Things will continue to change, and we will continue to adjust,” he said. “We cannot be a static organization. Not at my level and not at your level.”