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General Dempsey's Remarks at a Town Hall Meeting in Yokota Air Base, April 2013

Published April 26, 2013

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey held this town hall meeting at the Yokota Air Base in Japan on April 25, 2013. He discussed the U.S. strategy to "rebalance" with the Asia Pacific, effects of sequestration, officer character reviews, and U.S. global power. He also spoke at the Japanese National Institute for Defense Studies.

Excerpt from Dempsey's remarks:

"You make the almost impossible seem pretty easy....I do that all the time – and also what you do out here as part of our strategy and in our effort to rebalance our focus, let's call it, to the Asia-Pacific region.

Let me just say something about that and then something about the budget. Got to talk about – I got to say something about the budget. If I don't, you'll think I'm asleep at the switch. I don't want that to happen.

But this rebalancing has gained a lot of interest in not only the places I just mentioned, the Republic of Korea, China and here, but it has also generated interest among our other allies – for example, our European allies. And what I've told anybody who will listen – which is really just my own personal family; everybody else – no, I'm kidding. Most everybody listens. But what I've told everybody is that this rebalancing is – it's not a light switch or an on or an off. It's not that we've been gone and we're coming back. I mean, I just mentioned the 5th Air Force has been here for over a hundred years. It's actually about recognizing where the future trends are moving. And they're moving demographically to the Pacific, they're moving economically to the Pacific, and they're moving in terms of security issues to the Pacific.

And so like the great hockey player, Wayne Gretzky, who, when asked, how come you're so good? You're not very big or fast. And he said, well, I skate to where the puck is going, not to where it's been – we're skating to where the puck is going, and we're trying to position ourselves for a world where the priority on those issues – demographic, economic and security – will be the Asia-Pacific. And it doesn't mean we're going to pull – you know, we're not going to take everybody that's one place in the world and bring them over here. I would describe it more at this – first of all, we've said it's going to take years for us to rebalance. We've got other requirements. We've got other responsibilities. We've got other alliances that matter. But over time, we will, in fact, rebalance to the Pacific.

And by the way, it's not all about the military. This is a whole-of-government effort. So, you know, the first thing we're doing is kind of rebalancing our – think about it as intellectual bandwidth. You know, we're starting to pay more attention. We're starting to do more engagements at every level. And we're trying to send some of our best quality, not only human capital, but also some of our best equipment, our newest and most modern equipment. And we're starting – we're starting that journey. But it's going to take years. And it'll take years of engagement to help people understand what we're doing and that whatever we do, we'll stay true to our important alliances in the region while trying to build relationships with others, notably with China. And that was my message in China, by the way. We really do want a new relationship with you, but that new relationship has to account for and understand the context in which the United States has served in the Pacific for a very long time.

So that's our rebalancing. And if you can help when you're out on the town – behaving yourself – and you get into a conversation about what does this really mean, maybe you can – maybe you can help me out with that.

OK, the budget. It's a mess. (Chuckles.) It's just a real mess. I mean, if you ran your house like this, you'd get an Article 15. (Laughter.) Honest. Really. If you ran your budget like we're running ours, you'd be a – it would be a – initially, it would be nonjudicial punishment, then we'd probably end up giving you a court-martial.

But we'll get through it. This year in particular is difficult because we're trying to absorb all of these changes in the last six months of the fiscal year. And we are generally about 80 percent spent with 50 percent of the year left, so we got 20 percent of what we thought we'd have to stretch ourselves out to the end of the year. It'll – that's going to have an effect on '14."

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