Gen. Peter Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rejects criticism that he wasn't candid enough with President Bush about what was needed to tackle the insurgency in Iraq.
In a recent interview with United Press International, soon after assuming his new job as president and chief executive officer of SM&A Strategic Advisors Inc., Pace also defended the sometimes-slow process of change in the military.
In the interview, Pace defended himself against criticism that he wasn't forthright enough about the situation in Iraq.
"I had multiple opportunities every week, every day with the secretary of defense, multiple times a week with the president, to advise them and the National Security Council and Congress on the things that I was hearing in the field and that my senior advisers would talk to me about," Pace said. "I never felt that I was receiving anything other than the opportunity to speak, I never felt anything but positive about my ability to be heard."
Pace joined the private sector after retiring from the Marine Corps in October 2007. He served as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the run-up to the U.S.-led war in Iraq and later as chairman when Iraq was at the height of the insurgency.
It is widely acknowledged that he was a casualty of politics as President Bush sought to avert a political fight with leading Democrats by not renominating him to a second term as chairman. His Senate hearing would have fallen in September at a time when a hotly contested confirmation process could have derailed Gen. David Petraeus' report on the troop surge.
Pace joins SM&A with years of experience working on the dramatic overhaul of the U.S. military. Despite Defense Department failures, including the much maligned $4 billion Future Intelligence Architecture program, Pace said that among the military branches, the transformation is starting to take seed. He also said that from his new strategic advisory post, he is in a good position to help companies understand what needs to be done for the transformation.
"I think transformation is going well from an intellectual standpoint," Pace said. "First, you have to get a giant organization like the Department of Defense to understand what you mean by transformation.
"I think we've done a pretty good job over the last four or five years of getting folks to understand, that transformation is a process. … So it's a matter now of applying the lessons that we learned about how to transform which is ongoing among each of the services."
Pace said he was joining the private sector determined not to focus on the past but on the potential to help the country, and companies, succeed against an evolving terrorist threat and other security concerns.
"I would not want to pretend that I am still chairman and talk about policy because it would be inappropriate," Pace said. " … It's not about problems in the past, it's about opportunities in the future and how we can help the leaders of companies understand the process and how to properly pay attention to the specifics of what the government asks for, and then help them (defense contractors) craft programs that are focused on answering the issue or requests for proposals that's before them."
Officials say Pace was selected to head the subsidiary of California-based management consulting firm SM&A as a way to bring connections and insights.
"I know that General Pace has seen successful programs and unsuccessful programs," Cathy McCarthy, SM&A president and chief executive officer, said in an interview with UPI. "Having someone at the top of SM&A Strategic Advisors of General Pace's experiences and access to our clients was an absolutely perfect fit for us."
Pace noted, however, he has no intention of using his sway to make money or break any ethical boundaries.
"There are no ethical problems for me because I understand completely my responsibilities and what I can and cannot do and what I would allow myself to do," he said. "I am not going to walk back into the Pentagon and sell things. That's not who I am and it's not what I'm going to do.
"What I'm doing is using the knowledge that I have to help companies in this country that produce the world's best equipment for the world's best troops to continue to be able to do that. I'm not ever going to cross any ethical lines in pursuit of that."