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General Charles Wald - “The Business of Defense: Balancing National Security with Fiscal Responsibility”
Former Deputy Commander of United States European Command and Leader of Deloitte’s DOD Practice, Federal Government Services
General Wald presented on the integration of military and business, with a secondary focus on the international relations events he’s had the opportunity to take part in and current events facing the U.S. military today. The introductory piece of General Wald’s speech touched on the complexity of the foreign policy currently undertaken by the government.
The General began with a few rather startling statistics relating to natural gas and the exorbitant amount of gasoline used by the United States as compared to the rest of the world; in the average day, the U.S. burns through a quarter of the total fuel consumed throughout the world. Clearly, a new gas source is needed and hopefully around the corner. International cooperation is going to be key in this area as countries such as China become increasingly industrialized.
The General spoke briefly about the Cold War, touching on the relative instability of Russia and especially Putin. He then transitioned to the interconnectedness of the world (especially with the rapid expansion of social media), and how statistics like these cannot be seen as mere numbers, but rather as factors that genuinely affect the rest of the globe. Wald tied this to the fact that it is imperative we understand the value of events in other nations and the effects our budget reforms can have on the livelihoods of other countries. The example he used was the flooding of Mozambique; while this devastating event tore apart an entire nation and left thousands homeless, many in the United States had no idea that anything of importance had happened. Had the U.S. military not essentially airlifted an enormous amount of the population to safety, countless lives would have been lost, and yet every year there is an outcry to cut defense funding that would make this kind of aid impossible.
Wald next spoke about the power of the university system in America being second to none, and the responsibility we have as the metaphorical City on a Hill in not becoming disassociated with the rest of the world. He then applied this concept to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the importance of having a military so strong that it’s never necessary to put it to use.
After a few questions, General Wald unpacked his central theory of incorporating business leadership into the Armed Forces. In his service, the General has come to believe that it is imperative the government incorporate into the military officers with advanced business degrees. Unlike some other processes, business practice isn’t intuitive; the Department of Defense needs to recognize its structure as a complex firm in need of MBA-trained officials to be properly managed. In answering another question, General Wald expressed his desire to have university-educated officers utilized more fully in the upper echelons of the military.
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