The radical Islamic group ISIS remains a huge international security threat, but other radical groups are poised to become bigger problems, the nation’s top military officer said Friday night in a speech at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Among the most immediate of those threats is the radical Islamic group Boko Haram, which has been terrorizing Nigeria, has a presence in at least three other countries and will spread if not stopped, said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Dempsey’s role includes acting as the main military adviser to the president and secretary of state. That means he’s not only thinking constantly about evolving security threats around the globe, but also about the ever-changing nature of the U.S. military, its place in American society and how to deal with recent mandates from the government to cut more than 20 percent from its budget, all topics he talked about Friday in response to questions from the audience.
One part of the military that has been changing rapidly is the role of female service members and how seriously their safety is taken, given concerns about sexual assault.
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A woman who described herself as a candidate to become a naval officer told Dempsey that responses she gets after mentioning her plans often sound like warnings.
Dempsey responded that his own two daughters had entered the military, and that the planning underway for opening up more jobs to women had forced the military to re-evaluate whether its standards for jobs were rational, regardless of a candidate’s gender.
“And no, we didn’t artificially lower them,” he said.
Dempsey said the process was on the right path and should be complete by 2016.
“What I don’t want is to find five women that can function as infantrymen and put them into infantry units where they’ve got no support structure, no mentors, no peers,” he said. “So there’s an issue of not only can you find women to do certain jobs, can you find a critical mass of women for their protection, and for their development and for their well-being. So we’re trying to find which (jobs) to open up where we can get not only women, but enough of them where they can produce a critical mass.”
Dempsey told the woman that she may not be allowed to choose certain jobs, but that by the time she was in the service, she would be barred from only a handful. He said that if she were asking him whether she should go into service, the answer was absolutely.