Richard Armitage was the 13th United States Deputy Secretary of State, serving from 2001 to 2005. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and then after the fall of Saigon moved to Washington D.C. to work as a consultant for the United States Department of Defense, which sent him to Tehran and Bangkok.
Throughout the late 70s and early 80s, Armitage worked as an aide and foreign policy advisor to politicians including Senator Bob Dole and President-elect Ronald Reagan. When Reagan was elected, Armitage was appointed to the Department of Defense. In the 1990s, Armitage worked in the private sector before being confirmed as Deputy Secretary of State with the election of George W. Bush in 2001. He left the post in 2005.
Armitage was educated at the United States Naval Academy. He is an avid bodybuilder, and speaks many languages, including Vietnamese.
Question: How does an all-volunteer military affect America’s ability to protect its interests?
Armitage: Well having been part of a military during the time of a draft, and then having been part of the Defense establishment when the All Volunteer Force was coming in, there is no question in my mind that the AVF is head and shoulders above a draft. These young men and women are fantastic. I don’t know if I’d have been worthy of them as a young officer. They’re that good. But we’re on the second . . . just starting the second generation of the All Volunteer Force. This is going to be a very interesting experience, and I don’t know how it’s going to . . . going to come out. Clearly having an all volunteer force is one of the things that has kept public scrutiny of the war down somewhat. I do think, having said that, that there is a place in our society for sort of mandatory service, not necessarily military service. Because I think it’s a good thing to give the country, and I think it’s a good leveler. People of all religions, races and creeds can come together, and sacrifice together, and give back to this country for a year or two. I think that would be a great thing, but I don’t foresee a return to the draft as being desirable or possible unless we were faced with a major catastrophe.
Question: How do you explain the subcontracting of the American military?
Armitage: Well I think it’s an obvious fallout of having gone down to a much smaller military. Many of the logistics functions and some of the more mundane security functions fall to outside contractors. I don’t think we’ve had a real . . . We haven’t fully thought through the implications of this – either having logistics done by civilians, or having our contractors carry weapons in a war zone. There are the beginnings of some oversight on this and looking into it. I myself . . . When I was at the State Department, we hired certain contractors. They did a bang-up job of protecting our embassies and some other places, and it allows our servicemen to be freed up for other activities. So it’s a mixed bag, and I don’t think we’ve really gotten to the bottom of how good it is, or how much is good.