By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
FORT LESLEY J. McNAIR, Washington, D.C., Nov. 18, 2014 – Developing leaders that champion innovation is the core mission of the National Defense University, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at the assumption of the presidency of the institution today.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey placed the flag of the university in the hands of Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Frederick M. Padilla, who took over as president of “the Chairman’s university” from Ambassador Wanda L. Nesbitt during a ceremony at Lincoln Hall here.
The National Defense University is the premier joint professional military education institution in America. In addition to military officers, students include DoD civilians, civilians from other government agencies and international students.
“Of all the things that we have to preserve in the National Defense University it is that interagency, whole-of-government, multinational relationship building that will get us through what the future holds for us,” Dempsey said during remarks at the ceremony.
Preparing Senior Leaders
The university prepares students to be leaders in the national security world. Graduates are general or flag officers, ambassadors, and other senior leaders in other national security fields. They must be prepared to confront the world they find.
“I deal as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs with two sets of problems,” Dempsey said. “One set of problems is related to state-on-state interactions.”
These state-on-state interactions are generally “knowable,” the chairman said. Nation states have a body of knowledge among them. They have a history and that accumulated experience helps all understand how to interact as nations and what part the military instrument of power plays in these interactions, Dempsey said.
Militaries in state-on-state interactions tend to differentiate themselves by size and technology, the chairman said.
The other set of problems is unknowable, he said. “They are complex in the sense that every time you touch them, you change them, and when you change them you have to readjust your thinking about them,” Dempsey said. This includes terrorism, transnational criminal cartels, even international and national disasters and humanitarian crises.
“The use of the military instrument of power against nonstate actors -- or even against infectious disease as we’ve found -- are actually uses that are unknowable,” Dempsey said.
“In that world the way we differentiate ourselves is not by size and technology, but rather by the rate of innovation,” the chairman said.
Success Depends Upon Innovation
The fruits of success “will go to he or she that innovates more rapidly, more thoughtfully and more effectively,” the general said.
NDU gives students the opportunity to think about and prepare for these issues, “because very quickly after graduation your time to think will shrink rather rapidly,” the general said.
“What you learn and absorb here, and the person you are when you leave here, and the relationships you’ve built, that can’t be copied, can’t be sold, can’t be replicated,” the chairman said. “That’s what provides us with the decisive edge for the world that we face.”
The chairman said university leaders will make changes as needed so that NDU continues as “the preeminent leadership development institution in the world.”