March 25, 2011 - Comments at the SHARP Conference
April 4, 2011
Thanks. As [LTG] Tom [Bostick] said, this is my last conference. As he mentioned, I do have two Congressional hearings coming up. One here on Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Army Budget, and one coming up a week from Thursday on the implementation of "Don't ask. Don't tell" with the other Service Chiefs. When I was testifying before the House Armed Services Committee with the "Don't' ask. Don't tell" hearings before for the last time, they all said goodbye, thanked me for my service, and that it's a shame this is your last hearing...well one of the things I learned in Washington is never, ever say never. (Laughter) You don't always get your wish.
Tom, thank you for setting this up. Karen Cox, thank you for being the driving force behind this important program. (Applause)
Now I am going to talk about a range of things here and give you a little context about the environment you are operating in, then I am going to leave you with some questions to think about as you go into your huddles for discussion. But what I really want to do here is leave you with a few things to think about as you ponder what it's going to take to generate the cultural change that is going to eliminate sexual assault and sexual harassment from our ranks. That's our goal. That is the goal of this program that we are now going into our fourth year. You guys stay focused on that objective. That is what I want to leave you here with today.
You all are the ones that are out there, [who] are the leaders, [who] are going to have to prioritize between those things so that we are able to accomplish and do all those things. So as I look ahead and I say okay how does Sexual Assault Prevention fit into that [strategic] context that I just talked to you about. You say to yourself: "Why General, we are going to be awful busy tomorrow." And we always are. But we can't be too busy to attack this problem. We just can't be too busy. This eats away -- sexual assault -- eats away at the fabric of this Force. And we just cannot tolerate it. So we have to find a way.
As I think about this problem -- especially now in the [broad strategic] context I just described to you -- I can' t believe that a Force as good as we are; that's fought together; that's cried together; that's won together; that's bled together; that's liberated 15 million people from tyranny in the last decade -- I can't believe that this combat-seasoned band of brothers and sisters can't stop this scourge. It's just not comprehensible to me. We can do it.
Let me talk to you about how we got where we are because I was present at the creation of the efforts here -- it was back in 2004 when I was the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. We got a call from the Hill to testify about what we were doing about Sexual Assault Prevention. So I get the call, and I call in the troops -- that was my first introduction to Army silos. What I saw sitting around the table were good, hard-working folks, but all working in their own silos. So we had the doctors that had all their data; we had the lawyers that had all their data; we had personnel folks that had all their data and all their records; and I'm sure we had a few others around the table that had their own stuff. We said this isn't going to work. So, we launched on what we thought was a Prevention program. We got it going, then, I took off for Iraq [for three years as the Commander of Multi-National Force there].
When I came back from Iraq, three years later as the Chief, I looked into where we were. The folks came in reading the 2007 stats. They came in and sat down with me and said, "Okay Chief here's the deal: our numbers have continued to go up. We are more than half of all sexual assaults in the Department of Defense, but that is because we report better than everybody else." To which I said, "baloney." Then I started chewing on that. Then I went in a couple of days later and sat down with [Secretary of the Army] Pete Geren. I said, "We have a problem." I think our problem is that our program that we put in place when I was the Vice Chief, was focused on dealing with the problem after the fact -- it was focused on helping the victims -- it wasn't focused on preventing sexual assaults to begin with. [Secretary Geren] said, "You know, I've been thinking about the same thing. When I was Undersecretary of the Air Force, we had a program we put in place that actually set out to change the culture, because that is the only way that you are going to succeed." So we set about putting in place the program that you see here. This program has been in place now for three years. We're going into our fourth year, but it set out to change the culture. That's what we're talking about here today. I will give you some questions to think about as we go forward here, but I want to do a poll here by show of hands. I want to see how you think that we did in the other phases. So work with me.
The first phase is committed leadership. How do you think we're doing on committed leadership' Thumbs up. Thumbs down. What do we think about committed leadership across the Army' I see some thumbs down. I see some thumbs down. I see some thumbs up. I see some evens. What do you think' Are we too busy' Okay we will come back to that.
What do we think about phase two -- Army-wide conviction' Do we have conviction across the Army that it is time to stop this scourge' Put them up where I can see them. Okay, here are the results of my thumb poll: (gesturing) (Laughter) Committed leadership -- more positive than negative. Army wide conviction -- more negative than positive. That is what I thought too just before I came here.
So the question is: what is stopping us' What's keeping us from moving forward' And I must ask the question: are we too busy' Are we too busy' Can we be too busy'
I will share something with you. I was out at Fort Riley. I went out there to see how the "Don't ask, Don't tell" training was going. I was talking with a group of Company level Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers, and one of the Company Commanders said something that really struck me: He said you know General we're going through this training. The training is straightforward; it's simple; the troops get it; but the reality is until you have to deal with it, it's not your problem. Right' It's somebody else's problem. I asked myself this morning as I was thinking about it - is that the same thing we have going on here' Okay -- [if] I asked everybody here, is there anybody here who is not against sexual assault' No, everybody is against that. But until it happens, I don't know that it's your problem. It's not an Army-wide problem. And I agree I think with the folks that we haven't gotten Army wide permission to come out and stop this scourge. So the question then is: okay, how do we change the culture to get us there. What is it that we need to do' What's it going to take' So I am going to give you a couple of things that I think it's going to take, and then I'm going to give you a couple of questions to think about.
First of all I think it's going to take sunshine. And by that I mean shining a light on it, talking about it, not sweeping it under the rug, and one of the things I've tried to do as Chief of Staff is to create a culture in the Army that accepted the fact that the only way something is going to get better is if you put some sunshine on it. You must keep the light focused on it, which means leaders have to talk about it, have to think about it and talk to their subordinates about it. It's got to be up in front of everybody.
Second, I do think that training is going to help here. I do think that the revised program that we put in place will be helpful in getting to our trainers and our leaders the skills they need to get this into people's heads down at the Platoon-level. Something else that I found myself doing as I was preparing for this morning, is I kept going back and looking at how we had implemented other programs in the Army. Because -- if I've learned nothing else in the last four years in the Army -- it's that getting something started here takes a long time. It just does. First you have to have a concept; then you have to get buy-in on the concept; then you have to go out and hire the people to execute the concept; then those people have to take hold of it. But until it takes hold there, that's when you start cracking to a new level. We got a long way to go -- I think -- to get there. The other thing I've found is, until you can do this training in Platoon-sized groups, it's not going to stick. It's just not going to stick. When you put 500 people in a Post Theater, and you show them power-point slides and check the boxes, it isn't going to take. Right' You've all been there. So we have to have training. Training is going to be a key to our success. But we've got to think differently about how we train. Again, I think Platoon-level is where you have the conversations.
Third, I know we've talked about committed leadership. But I do believe this is something that has to be a simultaneous top down, bottom up approach. No question. Leaders have to be leading the effort, no question, but Junior has to be pushing from the bottom. As we look at another huge cultural change for us -- the stigma of getting assistance for behavioral health problems -- what I find is that the leaders get it, and we're pushing down from the top but, again, we haven't cracked Platoon-level yet. Until you do that, it's not going to make a difference and it won't take. So a top down, bottom up approach is required. Then, lastly, it's going to take involvement from leaders at every level. So those are the four things I think we've got to focus on: keep sunshine on the problem, define our training techniques, develop a top down bottom up approach and continuing the committed leadership at every level.
Now here are your three questions to think about. Last year I gave you three questions. I asked: how do we build initiative between the leaders' How do we build and sustain momentum' And, how do we change the culture' Those are the easy questions -- by the way I didn't get much feedback on the questions.
So as you go forward this year, here [are] the three questions -- [first,] I am going to keep "how do we change the culture" because I don't think we've cracked that yet. I think we need to give that some more thought. What is it that we can do that will cause people to change and accept this'
Second, and this is topical, I want you to talk about this question: Does "Don't ask, Don't tell" implementation make any sexual assault harder or easier' Is there something there' I don't know, but it strikes me that we talk about developing products for fiscal year 2012 that are sexual-orientation neutral. Is that the right thing to do' Maybe. But it is something that I'd like you to talk about and kick around. Intuitively, I think there's an opportunity for us there. I can't grasp it, but intuitively I think there's an opportunity there. So the second question is: does "don't ask, don't' tell" [repeal] implementation make any sexual assault easier or harder'
The third and last question I want you to talk about is: Should we set a goal for ourselves of zero sexual assaults' Sometimes when you are setting out to change culture, it helps to have a really stretched goal. Some folks have had huge success in suicide prevention by saying zero is their goal. The down side on that -- that I worry about -- is that we're not quite at the point where we've got the reporting where we want it to be. So if you go to a goal of zero too soon, you drive it underground and that gets it out of the sunshine. So I don't know. But I'd like you to think about it, and I'd like you to talk about it. The answers to those questions will help us answer the first question, which is how to change culture. So there you go, those are the things to think about.
Thank you very much for your commitment to helping us -- as an Army -- stop Sexual Assault across all formations. It is a scourge that must end. I'd like to think, as I walk out the door after forty years of service, that I'm leaving an Army that is absolutely committed to making sure that no one in our Army can be victimized by Sexual Assault. So, thank you all very much and have a good weekend.