Sustaining American Leadership in an Uncertain World

May 23, 2017

Today’s global security challenges demand American leadership. However, our country’s safety, strength, and international influence are built on our nation’s fiscal and economic health. Our elected officials face tough choices in maintaining the economic growth that underlies our security, while at the same time meeting the challenges of the moment and seizing the technological possibilities of the future. Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, drew from his considerable experience to explore how our nation can maintain global economic and diplomatic leadership that is both sustainable and sufficient to the challenges we face.

This interview with Michael G. Mullen, USN (Ret.) was conducted by CNBC's John Harwood as part of the 2017 Fiscal Summit.

Michael G. Mullen, USN (Ret.)

17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; President, MGM Consulting LLC; Chairman, Coalition for Fiscal and National Security

Considered perhaps one of the most influential chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in history, Admiral Mike Mullen takes a fresh approach to the most important geopolitical issues of the 21st century including America’s position in the world and how economic health directly impacts our national security. Admiral Mullen believes our “national debt” is our greatest security threat.

Mullen is the kind of broad-minded, intellectually curious leader, widely recognized as an “honest broker” as the top military advisor to Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He brought bold and original thinking to the work of strengthening the U.S. military and advocating for those who serve.

Admiral Mullen oversaw the end of the combat mission in Iraq and the development of a new military strategy for Afghanistan, while promoting international partnerships, new technologies and new counter-terrorism tactics culminating in the killing of Osama bin Laden.

A 1968 graduate from Annapolis, Mullen sought high-risk positions to develop his leadership skills. He was the chief of Naval Operations prior to assuming duties as chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. In an unprecedented in-depth feature article, Fast Company called Mullen “not just a new model for military officers — and a new kind of business titan — but also a case study in 21st-century leadership.”

Since retiring from the Navy, Mullen serves on the boards of General Motors, Sprint, and the Bloomberg Family Foundation, and teaches at the Wilson School at Princeton. He is known for his honesty and candor, and for his efforts on behalf of service members, veterans, and their families. He is renowned for his role in dismantling “don’t ask, don’t tell” and allowing gay service members to serve openly.

Today he shares with audiences his deep experience in leading change in complex organizations, his assessment of geopolitical relationships and service, diversity implementation, crisis management, economic policy, risk management, and the growing and existential threat of cyber security.

John Harwood, Editor at Large, CNBC

John Harwood is editor at large for CNBC covering Washington and hosts the CNBC Digital original video series “Speakeasy with John Harwood.”

Harwood was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and grew up in the Maryland suburbs outside of the nation’s capital. He has been around journalism and politics all his life; his first trip on a presidential campaign press plane came when he was 11 years old and accompanied his father, then a political reporter for The Washington Post.

While still in high school, he began his journalism career as a copy boy at The Washington Star. He studied history and economics at Duke University and graduated magna cum laude in 1978. Harwood subsequently joined The St. Petersburg Times, reporting on police, investigative projects, local government and politics. Later he became state capital correspondent in Tallahassee, Washington correspondent and political editor. While covering national politics, he also traveled extensively to South Africa, where he covered deepening unrest against the apartheid regime.

In 1989, Harwood was named a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, where he spent the 1989–90 academic year. In 1991, he joined The Wall Street Journal as White House correspondent, covering the administration of George H. W. Bush. Later Harwood reported on Congress. In 1997, he became The Wall Street Journal’s political editor and chief political correspondent.

While at The Wall Street Journal, Harwood wrote the newspaper’s political column, “Washington Wire,” and oversaw the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. In March 2006, he joined CNBC as chief Washington correspondent.

In addition to CNBC, Harwood offers political analysis on NBC and NPR, among others. Harwood has covered each of the last nine presidential elections.

Follow John Harwood on Twitter: @johnjharwood.


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