JCS Chairman Hosts 3rd Facebook Town Hall


The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed many issues during his third Facebook Town Hall today.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey logged onto his account from his E-Ring office in the Pentagon and answered questions from a wide spectrum of Americans and discussed several topics, including Russia, Iraq, Syria, the Asia-Pacific region, and why Americans should serve in the military.

Dempsey said he enjoys the opportunity to speak directly to people via Facebook.

Helpful interaction on Facebook

“It’s always helpful to me to gauge what Americans are concerned about and to get a sense of what they feel is important,” the general said during a pause in the action.

Afghanistan led off the Town Hall. The chairman returned from one of his periodic visits to the country last month and said there is progress in Afghanistan, especially with the Afghan national security forces.

“During each visit, I see growing confidence among the ANSF, our coalition, and an incredible willingness to sustain gains and mature institutions,” he said.

Resilient and capable Afghan forces

Afghan forces have proven to be resilient and capable, the chairman said.

Yet, “while Afghanistan is headed in the right direction toward a fully-functioning inclusive government, the path is neither a straight line nor is it short,” Dempsey said.

U.S. objectives in Afghanistan, he said, include disrupting al-Qaida, supporting Afghan forces, and giving the Afghan people the opportunity to succeed on their own.


Radical, brutal ISIL terrorists

Many people asked the chairman about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The terror group’s avowed goal is to recreate the ancient kingdom of Sham, which once ruled the land that now makes up Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait.

“ISIL is radical in its ideology, brutal in its tactics, and closed to all but those who adhere to their narrow and exclusive world view,” Dempsey said. “Freedom is antithetical to ISIL and that’s what makes them dangerous. The U.S. military considers ISIL an immediate threat initially to the region, our partners, and to the United States of America in the longer term.”

The U.S. military has developed a strategy with a series of options on how to initially contain, continue to disrupt, and ultimately defeat ISIL, the chairman said.

“While the military will certainly be part of this fight, there is no military-only solution, and it cannot be accomplished unilaterally,” he said. “ISIL will be defeated when the populations on which they have imposed themselves reject them. Our actions are intended to move in that direction.”

Russian actions in Ukraine

There was much interest about Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and many questioners wanted to know if Dempsey regards Russia as a partner or an adversary.

“Russia is competing with the NATO alliance for influence in Europe, and they have chosen to compete with force,” Dempsey said. “They are on a dangerous and provocative path. We have many areas where we should partner with Russia -- for the good of our two countries and the good of the world. The months ahead will reveal the answer to your question.”

Dempsey also fielded questions on concerns about an erroneous report on service members on food stamps.

“I very much understand that some American families, both civilian and military, continue to face financial hardships,” he said. “That said, our service members are not the new face of poverty, and the recently reported estimates of military households served by food assistance programs are inaccurate.”

Troops are most-valued asset

Service members are the department’s most-valued asset, the chairman said.

“I remain committed to caring for them and ensuring they are adequately compensated for their jobs and sacrifices,” Dempsey said. “In addition to our broad pay and compensation package, quality of life programs and services and non-pay benefits, we have numerous programs in place to assist those whose family situation places them in extraordinary need.”

Dempsey placed a website for one of these programs -- the Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance Program -- into his answer. Military families can find additional information at https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/fssa/home.do .

Recommends military service

A questioner asked Dempsey if he believes military service is a good career option for young Americans.

“I’ve actually commissioned all three of my children into the Army, so your question resonates with me,” Dempsey said.

Military service means “a sense of belonging, meaning, and variety,” the chairman said.

Dempsey added, “Military friendships are lifetime friendships, and the experiences are lifetime experiences.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)