Dempsey to Retired Generals: Shut Up When it Comes to Politics

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discusses national security related topics at the Atlantic Council on May 14. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton)

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discusses national security related topics at the Atlantic Council on May 14. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton)

Like former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, does not like it when he sees retired generals making political statements.

Dempsey’s view: If you are a retired officer and want to run for political office, go for it. If not, keep your mouth closed.

“If you want to get out of the military and run for office, I’m all for it. But don’t get out of the military … and become a political figure by throwing your support behind a particular candidate. If somebody asks me when I retire to support them in a political campaign, do you think they’re asking Marty Dempsey or are they asking Gen. Dempsey? I am a general for life and I should remain true to our professional ethos, which is to be apolitical for life; unless I run.”

The general’s comments came during a Q&A session at a defense conference held at the Atlantic Council think tank on May 14. Dempsey was asked by an audience member his thoughts on retired generals running for president.

The questioner was likely alluding to retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, who has long been said to have presidential aspirations.

Gates notoriously called out retired generals for their work as paid DoD mentors.

A video of Dempsey’s speech and Q&A at the Atlantic Council is below. The part about the generals is at the 53:55 mark.

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Marcus Weisgerber

Senior Pentagon Correspondent at Defense News
I write about broad-ranging policy, acquisition and budget issues affecting the US military.
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