June 8, 2010 - Remarks at the CEO2GOV Conference
June 16, 2010
Thank you JP. I appreciate it. Good afternoon. I see that I'm the last speaker of the day-all that is standing between you and happy hour.
I thought I would describe where we are as an Army, and then take some time to talk about strategic leadership. One of the things that I did as I came into this job was to put together a team that spent about 60 days going around the Army to get insights to help me shape what I wanted to get done in my 4-year tenure. One of the things the team said is that we do a good job of growing leaders for the tactical level-the battalion and brigade level. The team said that we do a fairly good job of training leaders for the operational level, but that we didn't really do a good job of training leaders to operate at the strategic level-the national level. So, I want to share with you some insights that I share with my Generals about leadership at the national level. I think you'll see that there is some relevance.
But first, I'd like to share a little bit about the Army. When I came into the job three years ago, I was hearing that the Army was broken-that the Army was hollow and that the Army wasn't ready. So, in addition to having this team that we put together, my wife and I went around the Army talking to Soldiers, Families, [Army] Civilians to get a sense of what really was going on. It was clear to me that we weren't broken. This was a hugely resilient, professional, combat-seasoned force, but there was no doubt that the Soldiers and Families were stretched with continued deployments. We have been deploying Soldiers to combat one year out, one year back for five years. If you had asked me five years ago if we could have done that, I would have said no. There's no way you can do that. It's just not possible. So I had to figure out how to describe the condition of the Army both to external audiences and internal audiences, and I came up with the term that the Army was "out of balance"-that we were so weighed down by our current demands that we couldn't do the things that we knew we needed to do to sustain this All-Volunteer Force for the long haul and to prepare ourselves to do other things. The country hasn't had the capability in its ground forces for about the last five years to do something else on short notice. We've taken care of a small thing like Haiti, but if we had a big thing like North Korea, it would take us much longer than any of us would want in order to shift gears. We put ourselves on a plan back then to get back in balance. We have been making great progress over the last three years. With the drawdown in Iraq and the closure of next year's budget on the Hill, I can actually see where we can get to the points that we set out for ourselves in 2007. Let me a couple of examples.
First of all, since 2004, we have been undergoing the largest organizational transformation of the Army since World War II and we have been doing it while we have been sending 150,000 Soldiers over and back to Iraq and Afghanistan every year. We have converted all 300+ brigades in the Army to new designs-designs that are more relevant today. We've rebalanced about 160,000 Soldiers away from Cold War skills to skills more relevant today. For example, we've stood down about 200 tank companies, artillery batteries, air defense batteries, and we've stood up a corresponding number of civil affairs, psychological operations, military police, and engineers. That's a huge internal change, and it was something we had to do.
The other thing is, we're also wrestling with the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005. All of that has to get done by the end of 2011. We have four of our Four Star Headquarters and seven of our Two and Three Star Headquarters moving in the next 18 months. We've got the whole Army on cell phones. I just had a guy in my office today and I looked at him and had to ask, "Are you in Kentucky or are you here'" He responded, "No, we're moving next week." There is lots of churn, but it is positive churn because it is moving us in a better direction. The bottom line is that-by the end of 2011-we will have increased the size of the Army by about 74,000 [Soldiers]. We will have converted all of our organizations to ones that are much more relevant to today. We will have basically rebased a 1.1 million person force, and we will be much more ready for the challenges of the latter decades of the 21st Century than we were seven years ago. We have done that while prosecuting a war...
Now I've been in the Army 40 years on Sunday [commissioned on June 6, 1970]. I just had my 40th reunion at Georgetown [University]. You had to really look hard in the eyes [of my classmates] to figure out who was who [at the Georgetown reunion]! I spent the first 30 years of my time [in the Army] training to fight a war I never fought. And, I've spent the last 10 years [of my time in the Army] learning to fight a war while I was fighting it.
Since September 11, 2001, we have been in a period of continuous and fundamental change. I will tell you that it took September 11th to get us "off the mark." My predecessor twice removed, General Ric Shinseki-who is now the Secretary of the Veterans Administration-was trying really hard to get us off of a Cold War mindset. He couldn't budge us, and it really took September 11th to do that.
The bottom line is this: we're in a much better position than we were three years ago, and I can see that if the drawdown [of forces] in Iraq continues-and I fully expect that it will go as planned-we will meet the goals that we set for ourselves, and we will be in a much better position of balance by the end of next year. That's a good thing.
Now, I'd like to talk a bit about the future. One of the things I know that all of you [Chief Executives] deal with is "the future." That's the really hard part because-as Yogi Berra says-"Predictions are hard especially when you're talking about the future." If we could predict the future, we wouldn't be doing what we're doing. That's one of the things that strategic leaders get paid to do-setting the conditions for the organization to succeed in a future environment. It will always be an uncertain environment. So what we've done is we have looked out at the environment. We start from a position that we're at war. We're at war with a global extremist network that attacked us on our soil. They're not going to quit. They're not going to give up. They tried on Christmas [2009 on an airline]. They tried in Times Square [with a failed car bomb] not long ago. This is a long-term ideological struggle and we're going to be at this-maybe not at the scope we were in Iraq-but we're going to be at this as a country for awhile. Then as we look at the trends that are out there around the world, it strikes us that the trends that we see are more likely to exacerbate the situation then ameliorate it. I'm talking about trends like globalization. There is no doubt that globalization is having positive impacts around the world on prosperity, but it's unevenly distributed. It creates "have" and "have-not" cultures. The populations of some of these "have-not" cultures are much more susceptible to recruiting by terrorist organizations. Technology is another trend; it's another double-edged sword. The same technology that is bringing knowledge to anyone with a computer is being used by terrorists to export terror. Demographics-a third trend-are really going in the wrong direction. We've got studies that say that the population of some of these developing countries will double in the next decade. Can you imagine the population of Pakistan doubling in the next decade and the intended problems that that would present to an already strapped government' The population of the world is increasingly moving to cities. We've seen studies that say by 2030, 60% of the world's population is going to live in cities. Some of us have seen the sprawling slums of Sadr city, in Baghdad, where you have an area that's 3 miles x 5 miles, and two million people live there. Those are tough places for ground forces to operate. The other aspect of demographics is the diverging middle classes. The middle classes in both China and Japan are already larger than the population of the United States. That's a lot of two-car families, and a lot of demand for already-scarce resources.
The two things that worry me most, though, are: First, Weapons of Mass Destruction in the hands of terrorists. I've been saying this long before I watched Jack Bauer in the last season of 24, but we know that terrorist organizations are out there, seeking weapons of mass destruction. I believe that when they get one, they will attempt to use it against a developed country.
Second: safe havens-countries or parts of countries where the local government can't or won't deny their country to terrorists, much like you had in Afghanistan before September 11th, and you have in Yemen right now, which is where the Christmas bomber came from. So you put all those things together, and it strikes us that we're in an era of what I call "persistent conflict"-protracted confrontation among states, non states and individual actors who are increasingly willing to use violence to accomplish their political and ideological objectives. That's what I think we're dealing with as a country and as a world for awhile. So that is one of the key data points for us. We are organizing the Army to deal with that.
The second thing we [as Army leaders] have had to do is look at what the character of war is like in the 21st Century because it's going to be different than the large tank battles that I grew up planning to fight on the plains of Europe or in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. It's going to be much more complex. You can look at Iraq and you can look at Afghanistan and, sure, those are harbingers of things to come. We also like to look at what happened in southern Lebanon in the summer of 2006 where you had Hezbollah-a terrorist organization-operating inside a state-Lebanon-supported by two other states-Syria and Iran-and fighting yet another state, Israel. The non-state actor [terrorist organization] starts the war with over 13,000 rockets and missiles. This non-state actor has the instruments of state power-not just small rockets like the ones they shoot at our bases in Iraq and Afghanistan-but missiles they shot at Israeli cities. They had unmanned aerial vehicles. They inflicted 40% of the Israeli casualties with state of the art antitank guided missiles, and they used improvised explosive devices to channelize the attacking Israeli forces so they could kill them. They shot down an Israeli helicopter with a state of the art surface-to-air missile. They hit an Israeli ship in the Mediterranean Sea with a cruise missile. They had secure cell phones for communications and secure computers, and they got their message out on local television. That's a different ball game. That's what we call a "hybrid threat," and we think those hybrid threats are much more likely to confront us here in the years ahead. Even state-on-state conflict, which we cannot say will never happen again and we don't believe that, but even state-on-state conflict is going to be different. No enemy is going to come at our strength. That's not what they do. They assess you. They look at your weaknesses and they attack your weaknesses. So it's a different kind of ball game.
So, in the environment of persistent conflict, we think war is going to be different and so we are adapting ourselves. For 60 years, the central organizing principle of the Department of Defense has been conventional war. Believe me the Department of Defense is set up to crank out planes, ships, tanks, and trucks to do conventional war. You've heard Secretary Gates railing about this. I think we have to change that. I think we'd have to move to an operating paradigm where "versatility" is the central organizing principle because the one thing we know about the future is we're never going to get it quite right. What I just told you about the future, I say with my eyes wide open. It is at best an 85% solution and so we have to be versatile enough to adapt to the realities that actually present themselves to us. So we've built versatile organizations. Our leader development training is designed to build officers who can change, and noncommissioned officers who can change directions quickly. We are trying to get our procurement programs to be more agile so we can adapt the equipment to the realities that our folks see on the ground.
We want an Army that's a versatile mix of tailorable and networked organizations operating on a rotational cycle. That's the other big bit of institutional change for us. We're putting the entire Army on a rotational model much like the Navy and the Marine Corps have been on for years. It is a huge institutional change because all of our systems are institutional; they are designed to support a Garrison-based Army that lived to train, where everybody was ready for everything all the time. Now, we're focusing our resources on getting about 60% of the force ready to do anything that the country needs and presenting versatile options for the country, while the rest of the forces are recovering and building back-up. That's the only way that we're going to meet our commitments and sustain the All-Volunteer Force. That's the wrinkle. We have to get our Soldiers and Families to a point where the Soldiers have at least two years home between deployments. We would like to get three, but two years is where we have to go because the human mind and body were not made to deal with repeated combat deployments without at least two to three years recovery. We just finished a study that shows that it takes 24 to 36 months to recover from a one year combat deployment. When you don't take time to recover, the cumulative effects pile up faster, which is why you're reading about suicides and increased drug and alcohol challenges. Those are things that we're dealing with-the outcome of almost nine years at war.
So, we have as good a view of the future as we think is realistic. We are continually adapting and evolving. The Army is in pretty decent shape. I can actually see us getting where we set out to go in 2007.
I'm going to shift gears to talk about strategic leadership. Would you put up that one slide please'
This is a slide that I share with all of my Generals because it's my attempt to get them to focus on the things that strategic leaders are responsible for. It all starts with vision. The question that I asked most in Iraq, and the question that I continue to ask today as Chief of Staff of the Army is: "What are we trying to accomplish'" No kidding folks, what are we really trying to accomplish' And what I find is that the higher up you go, the harder it is to answer that question clearly and succinctly, and yet it is more important that you do. Developing a clear vision statement is really hard. I tell my folks that it's like sharpening a #2 pencil. You start with the flat end. You put it in, sharpen it, take it out, and then put it down. You go do something else. You come back and sharpen it a little more, putting a finer point on it. It's iterative, but it all starts with the leader. We have a process in one of our doctrinal manuals about the commander's role in shaping and establishing a vision. It is: Understand, Visualize, Describe, [and] Direct. Basically, the leader has to have a far broader and more complete understanding of the challenges and issues facing the organization so that he or she can help shape the preparation of the vision. In combat, we convinced ourselves that it was the staffs that supported the commander's development of the vision...that it all takes place in the mind of the leader, and it's the leader that pulls the staff because the staff is not as agile as the leader. So what we tell our folks is: you have to go out and build your understanding. Get outside your organization, read, and talk to subject matter experts. Build your own understanding of the situation because you have to see it clearly enough to visualize it, and that's a higher level of understanding. You have to be able to visualize it because you then have to describe it to your subordinates in a way that they can understand, because they are the ones who will then help you direct the rest of the organization to do it. That's not a bad process for formulating your vision but it's got to answer the question: What are we trying to accomplish' I've been out to "Google" a couple of times and I use their vision statement as a model: "Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." In 1997/1998, I was a colonel at Fort Hood. I had a Wang computer on my desk that was the size of a microwave oven. I sent two email messages to my boss in two years in command. That's kind of where the internet was [back then], but it's grown, and it all started with a vision.
Once you have the vision, then that's really "the what" that you're trying to accomplish. Then, I tell my leaders that they need to involve themselves in the strategy and the policy to accomplish the vision. The strategy and policy are hard. Some of you may of been to the Pentagon, and know that one of the main laments around the Pentagon is that there is no policy or strategy. Why' It's hard. If it were easy, Colonels would do what I tell them. Strategy and policy take the senior leaders' involvement to get it right-particularly to support your vision. The strategy is "the how." We're pretty good at strategizing but what I get masquerading as strategy is a laundry list of objectives. The strategy is...the knowledge management strategy is - 10 objectives. It's not "the how." It's not a simple statement of how you're going to accomplish your vision.
I'll tell you a story from my Iraq background. I went in there in 2004 and we built a counterinsurgency strategy. We briefed it to everybody-all the way up to the President. We told them that this is what we're doing, and they all go, "Yep, good idea." About a year later, got a call from [then-Defense] Secretary Rumsfeld. He told me that [then-National Security Advisor Stephen] Hadley doesn't know what you're doing, which means the President doesn't know what we are doing. So we drag out the counterinsurgency strategy again, and we brief them. They say, "OK, we got it." About a week later, I get the call from the Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff], and he says, "I want to send over the Secretary of State's Counselor [Phil Zelikow], and I want to give him full access." So we did. We sent him all over the place. He went down to company level and he comes back through me and he gives the Deputy Chief of Mission and me a short out-brief and he leaves. About a week later, I'm watching Secretary Rice testify before the Senate and she says, "Our strategy is clear, hold, build." And I go, "what the heck is that'" I called my boss-General [John] Abizaid-and I said, "hey, what's that'" He said, "I don't know." What it was was a bumper sticker. It wasn't quite right, but it was a bumper sticker to explain to the American people what our strategy was, and if I was clever enough I would've figured that out. So it's not only important to have clarity of vision, but you've got to be able to articulate the strategy with the same level of precision that you do the vision because is going to permeate your whole organization. And then, there is the consensus, and this was the fun part. We have an old adage in the military: before you can impose your will on the enemy, you have to impose it on your staff. Building consensus, I find, starts with the staff. I'll wax eloquent to them and tell them this is what I want to do, and they'll all nod. They all rush out and come back two days later and brief me, and they tend to have about 75% of what I wanted. So I would wax eloquent, again, and I would send them back out. It's part of the process. It's part of getting them in to understand what's really in your head and then they go out and they help you sell it. But what I tell my leaders is that building consensus is the senior leader's responsibility and it's not just inside the organization. It's also outside the organization. I'll give you an example from Iraq again. It took General Abizaid and me from about the beginning of December of 2004 until the end of March of 2005 to build consensus for the transition team strategy-to put Soldiers in to train the Iraqi military. It was he and me on video teleconferences with the President, National Security Council, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defense, explaining to them what we were doing. You've all seen the good ideas come screaming through the lower headquarters and then it gets up to the next level of headquarters and it slams into a wall because no one has accepted the consensus for a good idea. So I've told them that's part of their responsibility because you have to have consensus to accomplish your vision, as it's going to take resources. For us, resources are always a fight. But that's their job to go out and get the resources that they need to execute their vision. At this level, I tell them that we need to take organizational culture into consideration because at the strategic level, organizational culture can keep you from accomplishing your objectives. All organizations have cultures. We have an Army culture. And, inside the Army, we have all these little micro cultures and that's just the way it is. Whenever I'm rubbing up against something that seems like an easy thing to do and I'm not getting any traction, it's usually because I'm rubbing up against an element of organizational culture that I don't appreciate.
Again, another example from Iraq: I went into Iraq with two bits of Army culture in my head that I knew I was going to have to address to develop a counterinsurgency strategy that would be effective in Iraq. One is that-at that time in 2004-we were very kinetic. We were very good at employing lethal force and that was our option of first choice. I knew that that was not going to help us succeed in the long haul in a counterinsurgency operation. Second-and I did this myself in Bosnia-was when you put American men and women on the ground in a foreign country, they will do, do, do and they won't let anyone else do. You know, we were in Bosnia for nine years largely because in the beginning we did everything for the Bosnians, and didn't force them to do things for themselves. So as I worked on the strategy, I worked it so those two things were addressed in a strategy to give us a better chance of success.
Shaping the external environment: What I have found is the higher up I go, the more time I have to spend outside the organization, setting the conditions for the organization's success. I tell my leaders that if you're spending more time directing things inside your organization than setting the conditions outside (for the success of your organization), you're putting your energy in the wrong place and you're probably making your subordinates mad. I had lunch with a McKinsey consultant before I took this job to kind of get a sense of how businesses train CEOs to take over. The consultant asked me this one question: "Who is most responsible for your organization's success'" That's one of those questions that the more you think about it, the more different ways you can answer it. I thought about it a lot. My answer to the question was: "It's the people that provide us the resources" because if I can get the resources, then I know what to do with them. If I can't, I manage in shortages. So I've tried to set the conditions for the Secretary of Defense and with Congress to make sure that the Army gets the resources that it needs. Everybody else has different ones, but the real big payoff stuff is outside your organization, not inside.
Lastly, I tell them that they're the communicator for their organization: You're the face of the organization. I'd tell them to not wait for guidance from me. Get out there, tell the folks about your organization and if you've got a problem, you know, deal with it, but be the face of your organization. This has not been easy for us. The relations between the Army and the media-going back to Vietnam-have not been a wonderful, loving relationship, but we're getting a lot better at it now because of our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So, the top part [of the slide] is the conceptual part and I'd tell them that hat's the level of leadership I want you operating at. That's where I want you spending your time. The bottom [of the slide] is kind-of the personal side of it. Lead by example. One of the things that I tell them is that everything you need to know about leadership you learned in the basic course when you were a Lieutenant. I tell them that the higher up we go, the more we manage to convince ourselves that none of those rules apply to us anymore. But, there's an old adage that says the higher up the flagpole you go, the more your rear end hangs out. It's pretty transparent. But work to build effective organizations. Effective organizations are focused on outputs. Big organizations like the Army can be very process-oriented, and we reward ourselves for completing the process but not getting the output we wanted. I have another great example. You all read about Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] in 2007. We had a huge effort to pile on to fix the whole process. Then, about a year later, we took a hard look at it. We had not improved the processing time for getting a Soldier through the system one iota. So we went back and asked ourselves: What are we measuring' We were measuring the process-how many rooms did we have for the Soldiers' How many TVs were in each room' How many computers were in each room' How many nurse case managers were there' How many squad leaders were there' We were measuring the process because we hadn't forced ourselves at the beginning to answer the first question: What are we really trying to accomplish' If we had forced ourselves to say-at the beginning-what we're trying to do is ensure a Soldier gets processed through the system quickly and fairly, we would have measured things differently and we would have gotten where we were going sooner. But if you ask yourself the first question-what are we really trying to accomplish-it will lead you to outputs. It will lead you to be able to measure the things that make a difference. But, again, I'm sure it's not true in your organizations, but in big organizations like the Army, there's a lot of process. People get very enamored with the process, but the process doesn't always give you the output and effective organizations focus on the outputs. I tell them that they are where they are because someone invested in them. Every senior leader has a responsibility to help me grow the next generation of leaders. I will tell you I have found no better way to instill loyalty up than to invest down, and when people understand that you are focused and interested in their long-term success, you get a lot of strength out of that.
We're pretty good at energizing subordinates. That's one of Jack Welch's 4 E's that he always measured folks against. Folks want to be part of something. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be part of a winning team and the more that we tell them how what they're doing impacts on the larger whole, the more buy-in we get and the more energy we get out of the subordinates. I tell them I want to operate with an offensive mindset. This is kind-of another Iraq term-in Iraq, we said you had to have an offensive mindset because the environment was so uncertain that if you weren't focused on the enemy and if you weren't opportunistic, then you were always back on your heels. So you had to always be leaning forward. I tell them I want to be out there scratching and clawing for an advantage and to look for opportunities. A lot of effort in the military goes into accomplishing a mission. I'm saying that's OK, but I want you to go out and if-in the course of accomplishing your mission-you see the opportunity to go beyond that and to realize something that you didn't think you could, then that's the kind of leader that I want. I want someone who has the intellect to see the opportunity and the courage to take it. They have got to be opportunistic.
And then lastly, they've got to balance their personal and professional demands. I've spent a lot of time talking to leaders coming into Iraq. I've talked to every Company Commander and above who came into Iraq when they first got there. I said, "Look troops - if you're going to sustain yourself in this environment, you have to find time every day to read, sleep, exercise and think." And that's not a bad way to think because if you do those things, you will be physically, mentally and emotionally in a state to lead. We're all type-A personalities in the Army, so we tend to run ourselves too hard. If we don't get ourselves on a program or a system, then we just run ourselves down. And believe me, when you're on these sustained deployments, you feel yourself getting stale. I know if I'm not creative, if I'm just going from meeting to meeting, I know I'm stale and I have to shake myself out of it. But when you get to this level, you have to understand yourself. So, I say read, sleep, exercise and think. I tell them read. You have to read something besides your e-mail, your inbox and the intelligence [reports], because if you do that, you get tunnel vision. When you go on these deployments, the hardest thing to get after 30 days is a fresh idea. Where do you get fresh ideas' You get them in books. It's just the way it is, so you've got to find something to read.
The other thing I found in Iraq: your mind is going so fast all the time that the only way I could get to sleep was to read myself to sleep and so I'd knock out about 6 pages a night before I fell asleep. Sleep - rest is personal. Different people need different levels of rest, but you've got to get it. The biggest reason for ineffective senior leader decisions is lack of rest. They push too hard, and try to do too much. And I'll tell you, the problem that looks insolvable at 11 o'clock at night is imminently easier at 7 o'clock in the morning after you've had some rest.
Exercise - that's part of the physical piece of it. You've got to do something to get exercise every day. Senior leaders are generating a lot of stress, but unlike a company commander, you're not kicking down doors or climbing over fences. You're in your headquarters and you have to find a way to burn off that extra adrenaline that you've generated. I will tell you, I got four or five days a week of exercise in Iraq and I was a much nicer person when I did.
Lastly and probably most importantly is - think. I tell them they need to try to carve out time daily and periodically to think about what it is they're trying to do. And 20 minutes of the day at a time when you are at your best-whatever that time is for you-figure out what it is you want to do. What you will find in these deployed environments is you're getting so many feeds from so many different directions...all this stuff is rattling around inside your head and you have to take some time to sort it out, so that when you talk to your subordinates, you're semi-coherent. Otherwise, you just pass on the confusion. And then periodically, you've got to get off by yourself and think about what you're trying to accomplish. Get your own sense of whether you're accomplishing it and what you need to do in the future. I took a day off every month in Iraq where I would stay in my room, read things, write things, and think about the next six months. Then, I'd go in on Monday and I'd have this list of 20 tasks for the staff, and they'd all jump out the window. But I had to do that. So if you think about it - read, sleep, exercise and think. It's just a way of ensuring that you are balancing your personal and professional demands.
And then my wife always says this to the spouses: Find something besides work that you really love to do and do it because work is not always going to be there. It's coming at me [retirement] like a freight train here. I have about 10 months left. After 40 years, this is an old dog that's got to learn a few new tricks.
So anyway, that's the personal side of it and that's what I tell my folks. Every General in the Army has been through this and I say that's the level of leadership that I want you operating at. There's a commonality in that for yourselves. And with that I'll stop and I would be happy to take questions.