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Mullen: Washington ‘Doing Handstands’ as if Grave Problem of National Debt ‘Has Gone Away’

Fomer chairman of the Joint Chiefs says you can "pour the entire Pentagon budget" into the debt -- but it would have "minimal impact" without entitlement reform.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

January 21, 2014 - 4:16 pm

WASHINGTON — The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at a breakfast Tuesday in Washington that the national security implications of the national debt are keeping him up at night, even as budget negotiators are “doing handstands … as if the problem has gone away.”

Adm. Mike Mullen, who retired in 2011 after serving in parts of George W. Bush’s last term and President Obama’s first term, stressed at the Concerned Veterans for America event that “the military is part of the solution to better outcomes around the world, but on a higher level it’s really about economies.”

“If you can create some stability in a peaceful environment, people’s standard of living will improve and economies will start to thrive,” he said.

Mullen said he was “delighted” with the progress made through bipartisan budget and appropriations agreements in Congress, but “I worry that it sends the signal that it’s over.”

“We just can’t be the country that we are capable of… if we just keep spending ourselves into oblivion,” the four-star retired admiral warned. “It’s going to take sacrifice, quite frankly, on the part of everybody.”

Even for all of the complaints about defense eating up the budget, Mullen said pouring the entire Pentagon budget into the debt still would have “minimal impact” without entitlement reform.

That includes means testing for entitlements, which he said he’s happy to personally do. “Those who can afford a little more need to pay a little more, as far as I’m concerned,” he said, instead of a mentality of “they feel entitled to this whether they need it or not” or “‘you owe me this,’ whether or not you need it.”

The recent bipartisan cooperation is hopefully “a harbinger of steps to be taken in the future” on broader reform. “I would hope it’s the beginning of being able to turn it around.”

Within the Pentagon, he notes that the overhead has “grown enormously” over the past couple of decades. “The force is going to get a little smaller,” Mullen said, stressing that a budget-strapped department needs “to customize our force for the world we’re living in.”

“We have a bad history in this country of ignoring the lessons, then just moving forward and starting all over again,” he said.

In addition to the debt, four other issues weigh heavy on Mullen’s mind when worrying about the future of America.

One is K-12 education, where he believes one of the problems is teachers are “not valued in the country,” while another is the political paralysis in Washington. “I hope leadership in the country at large can figure out a way to get us moving in a positive direction before we have some catastrophic event,” he said.

Mullen also worries about cyber attacks and the ability of policy makers without technical backgrounds to understand the gravity of the threat. “I understand how lethal it is,” he said, noting that the hacking of Target customers’ credit card data “speaks to the scale of the capability in the cyber world.”

The fifth big challenge is caring for this nation’s veterans who are facing “very tough employment numbers” as well as health and education challenges — though he thinks the answer is found on a local scale instead of within Washington.

“I find this ‘sea of goodwill’ out there on the part of the American people; you need local leaders to galvanize that,” Mullen said, stressing that service members are “leaving at 1,000 a day, which is normal, and we’re hiring them at about 100 a day.”

But the admiral said it’s also important that the military retain the best of the best. “After every war we lose a lot of our best people… particularly as the economy improves, they’re going to leave,” he said. “We need to keep the best we have in the military.”

While it’s early to gauge the full impact of sequestration — “one of the areas I stay out of is Obamacare,” Mullen quipped — the recent fiscal uncertainty in the military may reverberate notably in retention numbers.

On the foreign policy front, Mullen said he’s concerned Obama’s pivot to Asia is giving a sense of U.S. retreat and withdrawal from other hot zones in the world.

“I’m very supportive of rebalance,” he said, noting “that’s an economic zone that feeds the world — it needs to be stable.”

“That said, the Middle East is not going away… I don’t think we can do it and not continue to focus on the Middle East.”

“We don’t need to get into a fight with China,” Mullen added. “That doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen.”

Watching Iraq become infested with al-Qaeda again in Anbar province has left the former chairman “extremely disappointed” but “not shocked.”

On the National Security Agency, he said from what he saw the NSA was “complying with the law; they have the interest of the United States of America at the top of their list.”

“I hate what Snowden did. I think Snowden is a traitor,” Mullen said, adding that nevertheless he’s glad there’s a debate about security vs. privacy that ensued in the wake of Snowden’s revelations. “The threat’s not going away, the danger is out there, so how do we balance that?”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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Top Rated Comments   
One of Petraeus's mentors was Stephen Walt, an open admirer of Hitler. He and much of the top brass perceive the IDF as "baby killers, and cite The Goldstone Report to 'prove' it. Admiral Mullen, who was raised by a Hollywood talent agent who hated many of his Jewish clients for their supposed cheapness, also holds deeply negative views of Israel, blaming Israel for murder of the U.S. Sailors serving on the U.S.S. Liberty, rather than an accident of war.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (19)
All Comments   (19)
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Perspective on National Debt

Why S&P downgraded the U.S. - this puts it in perspective...

• U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
• Fed budget: $3,820,000,000,000
• New debt: $1,650,000,000,000
• National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
• Recent budget cut: $38,500,000,000

Let's remove 8 zeros and pretend it's a household budget:

• Annual family income: $21,700
• Money the family spent: $38,200
• New debt on the credit card: $16,500
• Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
• Total budget cuts: $385

47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Read the S&P report while your at it. Find out why they downgraded US debt IN THEIR OWN WORDS. Than get back to me. Hint: near the bottom of P.2
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
You had me until the problem with K-12 is that teachers aren't appreciated.

Ahhh, buy a clue Mike, the problem with K-12 ARE THE UNIONS-they've managed to turn the last 3 generations into(for the most part) morons who think government is the solution IOW communism.

Lord.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
K-12 education problems are not because of political paralysis of Wash DC but because of the feds getting involved in K-12 education in the 1st place. The same goes for the feds getting involved in college education, which has outpaced even healthcare inflation because of federal funding and loans.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
he had all the talking points down .. sounded just like a politician Revenues, Spending, Deficit Debt http://bit.ly/ezHJfg
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Admiral "America's Navy, A Global Force for Good" Mullen. A clown of the first order.

Full Disclosure: 23 year Navy vet here.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
one of the problems is teachers are “not valued in the country,”

Pardon me, but when they appear to do nothing but pander for endlessly larger amounts of money, without affecting any change in how well our children are educated, we tend to think they're a pack of opportunistic liars who guilt trip us endlessly for more of our hard-earned money.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Adm. Mullens has about as much credibility as the new Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff has, somewhere between zero and a negative number. If the Navy ever decides to name a ship after him, lets hope it's no larger than a row boat.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
As long as the Obama administration is in charge of the budget and entitlements we shouldn't lie awake at night worrying. They can always go back to The National Bank of Utopia for yet another loan.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
One of Petraeus's mentors was Stephen Walt, an open admirer of Hitler. He and much of the top brass perceive the IDF as "baby killers, and cite The Goldstone Report to 'prove' it. Admiral Mullen, who was raised by a Hollywood talent agent who hated many of his Jewish clients for their supposed cheapness, also holds deeply negative views of Israel, blaming Israel for murder of the U.S. Sailors serving on the U.S.S. Liberty, rather than an accident of war.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I hate what Snowden did. I think Snowden is a traitor,” Mullen said, adding that nevertheless he’s glad there’s a debate about security vs. privacy that ensued in the wake of Snowden’s revelations.

Must be rather painful trying to straddle a fence like that. Or like having a foot on each side of the Grand Canyon.

"It’s not about how many enemy [of America] we kill; it’s about how many civilians [Muslims] we protect.” (Admiral Mullen)


Who Briefs This Man? [http://www.dianawest.net/Home/tabid/36/EntryId/1580/Who-Briefs-This-Man.aspx]

Diana West: "Let's assume Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, knows his way around a battleship. However, he clearly doesn't know his way through the Koran. Otherwise, he wouldn't have made such a fool of himself this past weekend at the Hoover Institution where he pressed literacy as a "new" deterrent to jihad because the potential "extremist" will then "understand the Koran for what it is and not merely what his mullah tells him it is."

No record of anyone present crying out, "For God's sake, man, have you a brain?"


Go away Admiral, just go away.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
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