Chairman Supports All-Volunteer Force

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 2007 – The all-volunteer force has made the nation’s defense the strongest it’s ever been, the U.S. military’s top officer said this week, adding that he would not want to return to a Vietnam-era military by implementing a draft.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen made these comments in response to questions from Army officers about why the Defense Department will not support a draft to relieve forces stretched thin by repeated deployments in the war on terror. Mullen fielded the questions in “town hall” sessions with soldiers as he visited three Army installations this week.

Mullen, who was commissioned in 1968, said he saw first-hand the effects the draft had on the force as it wound down from the war in Vietnam. “I watched the military break apart. … To the best of my ability, I’m never going to let that happen,” he said. “You can read about it, but I was there, so I know; I understand the quality that we had back then.”

Mullen said his comments were not intended as criticism of anyone who served then, but that the overall quality of the military is much higher now. “The quality, the professional level of our armed services right now, every single branch … is so exceptionally high, and it’s that which I believe we have to preserve,” he said.

The admiral said the U.S. military now serves as a model that other nations look to as an example of how to train, fight, equip and develop a force. He said the fact that troops chose to serve is the foundation for that quality.

“The bedrock principle of this country is young people who raise their right hand and swear to support and defend the constitution of the United States,” Mullen said.

During the town hall meetings, the admiral acknowledged the stress frequent deployments have had on the force, particularly the Army. But, he said, that may be fixed by a combination of growing the force and retooling the role of the National Guard and reserves as part of the total force. At the same time, he conceded, recruiters are facing leaner years to come even though they met their goals this year.

“The propensity for service is going down. Decision makers, who are dominated by parents and family and coaches and teachers, … are not as supportive of the military service as they were a few years ago,” Mullen said.

Also, the pool of eligible candidates is getting smaller, and there is more competition for recruits, he said. This has led to the Army allowing more soldiers to join this year with waivers for minor criminal offenses on their records.

Mullen heard complaints from officers that the increase in waivers from the Army has turned into more discipline problems for commanders. However, in another meeting with two Army lawyers during the visit, the chairman said the Army has yet to see any actual data that the waivers are leading to more discipline problems.

“I don’t know if it’s too soon or not. This is not an issue that is constant,” he said. Mullen said it may just be too soon to actually quantify the problem with hard data, and that leaders need to monitor the issue.

When asked about the reserves’ increasing role and future, the chairman said officials will have to determine an optimal mix of operational forces, with shorter call-up times and regularly scheduled deployments, and true strategic reserves.

“On the Army side, there is a tremendous (future) commitment to top-of-the-line equipment going to the Guard,” Mullen said. “The dependency that we have on the Guard and Reserve in the fight that we have right now, we’re going to continue to have that.”

Managing all of these issues in a time of “great change” in the military and during a concurrent war is a challenge, the admiral said.

“Preserving this, making sure that we don’t break our military, is a huge priority for me, and I’ve said, ‘It’s not broken, but its breaking,’” Mullen said. “So that’s why this whole issue of reliving stress on the force is so important.”

“This is the best military I think this nation has ever had. I’m old enough to remember when we were a draft force, … and I am not anxious to return to that. The exceptional, professional military we have right now I wouldn’t trade for anything. The stress is an issue, and it is one of great concern for me,” he said.

Adm. Michael G. Mullen, USN

Related Articles:
Chairman Reaches Out to Ground-Force Troops
Chairman Asks Straight Questions, Gets Hard Answers
Chairman Starts Two-Day Trip to Visit Army Posts

Managers Encouraged to Support Volunteer Efforts

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July  2004 -- A top Pentagon administrator is trying to help employees vie for the President's Volunteer Service Award by encouraging managers to be flexible with schedules so workers can participate in volunteer activities.

Pointing out that President Bush has challenged all Americans to perform volunteer service in their communities, Howard G. Becker, deputy director of Washington Headquarters Services, sent out a memorandum recently requesting support for "the president's call to service by supporting your employees' participation in volunteer activities."

Washington Headquarters Services provides a wide range of administrative and operational services to DoD components and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The memorandum was distributed throughout the Office of the Secretary of Defense and to various defense agencies, activities, administrations, services and offices that WHS services.

"Flexible work schedules and various leave flexibilities are available which enable our employees to participate in volunteer activities," Becker said in the memorandum.

He attached guidance for recipients of the memorandum, including use of leave and compensatory time so employees can perform community work. The guidance applies only to memorandum recipients, but the requirements for the President's Volunteer Service Award are the same for all federal employees.

There are three levels of the award for adults, ages 25 and older. Employees receive the gold award for 500 or more hours in any 12-month period, silver for 250 to 499 hours, and bronze for 100 to 249 hours.

Employees who are 25 and younger can receive a gold award for 250 or more hours, silver for 175 to 249 hours, or a bronze for 100 to 174 hours.

The President's Call to Service Award can be awarded to any employee, regardless of age, who has performed 4,000 or more hours of volunteer service over a lifetime.

Each medal is accompanied by a personalized certificate of achievement, a note of congratulations from the president and a letter from the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation.

Employees must keep a record of their activities and hours of volunteer service. They can keep track of their hours in a journal at home or online through the USA Freedom Corps Record of Service. The record of service must accompany each nomination for the President's Volunteer Service Award.

"This isn't a push for more volunteers; this is a recognition program for recognizing volunteers," said Kimberly Brooks, assistant director of WHS' labor and management employee relations division. "It's to alert managers and employees to flexibilities that would allow them give more volunteer service.

"We're saying that we know this is a selfless sacrifice, and we want to be able to recognize our volunteers," Brooks noted.

"We're asking managers to exercise some of the flexibilities outlined in the policy, whether it be telework, leave approval, job sharing, or part-time work," Brooks said. "If an employee comes in and says, 'Hey, I'd like to volunteer,' there are some things we can do to allow them to volunteer during work hours. Or we can make it more convenient to volunteer."

For example, she said if an employee is teleworking, maybe he or she can quickly get to the volunteer site rather than having to travel a long distance to get there.

Brooks emphasized that DoD isn't approving the type of service employees volunteer to perform. She said they can do any type of volunteer service they choose. But, she said, to be eligible for the President's Volunteer Service Award, the type of service does matter. "Activities should be national community needs in the area of youth achievement, parks and open spaces, healthy communities, public safety and emergency response," Brooks noted.

Activities must be unpaid and may not include court-ordered community service. "This is strictly something that's done on their own time," she said. "It's not something we keep stats on. We just want managers and employees to know that there are some tools out there that will facilitate volunteering for our work force if they want to do that."

Managers and supervisors may encourage employees to become more involved in volunteer activities, but they must stop short of coercing them to do so, Brooks emphasized. "Then you would be dictating what they should do on their own time," Brooks noted. "We really shouldn't do that. If I want to leave work, go home and sit on my sofa vs. volunteering, that should be my choice."

Howard G. Becker, Deputy Director, Washington Headquarters Services





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