Navy Adm. Mike Mullen made the comments to more than a hundred Foreign Service officers at the State Department's inaugural Global Chiefs of Mission Conference here.
By Lisa Daniel of American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2011 - The importance of strong civilian-military partnerships has never been greater, and the secretaries of state and defense are setting the example for how to build and sustain those partnerships, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.
"Thanks for what you do, thanks for what you do for our country and for people around the world," he said. "Your participation and feedback is absolutely critical in everything we're doing."
Mullen added that in his four decades in the Navy he was "trained very early on in ports around the world how important the country teams were. I can't say enough about the importance of the team right now."
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are setting an example for diplomats and service members at every level to follow in breaking with history to create a close working relationship, Mullen said.
"My capstone view is to be fortunate enough to literally watch two masters in Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates," he said. "Many of you have grown up in this business where the secretaries of state and defense did not have each other over for dinner very often. It's actually fun to listen to Secretary Gates regale me with stories of the past. But those stories are in the past.
"We cannot, in this world we are living in right now, live without the kind of relationship we have between these two secretaries," the chairman continued. "The difference that they make in terms of setting the example ... resonates in both organizations. You see it from the very top to the most junior people we have in the field. I think it is an example for the 21st century that we fundamentally need to adopt."
Mullen noted that he and Gates sometimes appear before the House and Senate foreign relations committees, and that Clinton has appeared before armed services committees – often at the same time.
And Clinton, in introducing Mullen, said they frequently meet to talk through complex international issues. The chairman, she said, "grasps in a very deep and profound way a vision of an integrated American power."
"Time and time again, he has brought sensitivity and insight into causes of dilemmas we are watching unfold, and the forces at work," Clinton said.
Mullen said he tries to stay focused on the next generation of leaders and has been impressed with both the military members and civilians serving around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he said the wars "changed us" into realizing the need for collaboration.
"I have great confidence in our future, because this young generation is wired to serve," he said, "and we just have to figure out how to give them the paths to serve, because we all will transcend this business to another part of our life.
Military relations in places such as Pakistan, Colombia and Haiti have been made easier due to the judgment and leadership of the State Department's ambassadors, Mullen said. "That's changing the world," he said, "and we do that in ways now that some of us couldn't imagine a few years ago."
To continue with such progress, Congress must fund the State Department at appropriate levels, Mullen said.
"We have got to get the State Department budget right," he said. "We took too much money away. And when you take money away from the State Department, you take people away, and people are your main effort. Having a robust enough budget to meet the needs of our time is absolutely mandatory.
"I'm not going to go so far as to say you can have some of mine," he continued, drawing laughter, "but I recognize that if these teams are going to work together, their budgets need to be about right."
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen