Five questions for Maj. Gen. Bob Livingston, S.C. Adjutant General-elect
Veteran combat commander, Maj. Gen. Bob Livingston, will become South Carolina's next Adjutant General – overseeing the 11,000-member S.C. Military Department, composed of the S.C. Army National Guard, the S.C. Air National Guard, the S.C. State Guard, the Joint Services Detachment, and the Emergency Management Division - and is the only elected Adjutant General, nationwide.
Livingston – who commanded approximately 9,000 troops in Afghanistan (including S.C. National Guard forces and troops from 18 different coalition nations) and ultimately served on Gen. David Petraeus staff as Director of the Coalition Coordination Center – has actionable experience as a conventional warfighter as well as in global counterterrorism and disaster relief operations.
Recently, Livingston discussed with LowcountryBizSC.com his plans for the S.C. Military Dept.
How is your combat experience going to enhance the leadership of the S.C. Military Department?
Maj. Gen. Bob Livingston:
First, as a combat veteran, I have an understanding of what we are asking our soldiers and airmen to do when they enter a combat zone. So that will continue to enhance our preparation. I think we've done a very good job in the past in terms of preparing our soldiers and airmen to go to war, but having actually been there and experienced the demands of a combat zone, allows me to further refine troop preparation.
More importantly, my family – especially my wife, Barbara, who has so many times reached out to families as a commander's wife – understands the effect that deployments, especially combat deployments, have on the troops and their families. So it gives us an appreciation for the issues that we as the military create for our troops and families, and the need to address those issues.
So [the experience] will not only help us in the preparation to do the actual combat piece, but we also understand how to mitigate certain issues that are created through family separation and the experience of combat.
In what ways do you see the mission of the Army and the Air National Guard evolving? More specifically, how will overall training and operations change under your command?
Very good question, because I think we stand at a crossroads in our national defense. From a big picture standpoint, we cannot spend $800-$900 billion on Defense. So our Congress, which has the responsibility of raising our national defense, is going to have to look and see at how our forces are arrayed and structured. And I hope we take a business approach as well as a bureaucratic approach to the formulation of our government going forward. So a lot depends on how we look at ourselves.
Overall, given the critical role our National Guard has played in our national defense – sometimes representing over 50 percent of the combat forces in a theater, and given the capability and the rapid nature in which we can employ our forces – I can only see that we will continue to occupy a prominent role in our national defense, and I see that role expanding. That to me is an appropriate role given the unique nature of our military and the origins of our National Guard and our national defense.
I believe our federal role will continue to expand. We certainly have looked at new missions in the Homeland Defense arena. We will continue to prepare for those missions along with our state consequence-management missions. So I see us actually increasing the pace of our operations, and I envision a multi-role force out there that is very cost-effective and flexible in its response.
And nowadays our responses to overseas contingency operations are – in a great sense – similar to some of our homeland issues, especially when dealing with consequence management (a fancy term for disaster relief).
We're not just going out and defeating somebody else's military, because we have no peers militarily to defeat. We're working on consequence management that improves the lives of other people so that terrorist organizations cannot effectively recruit from other communities.
In the current economic environment, do you plan to expand the roles of the S.C. State Guard, to include the other volunteer service organization, the Joint Services Detachment? If so, how?
As we look at our budget shortfalls, we're going to have to look at reaching out to many different organizations for many different issues. Certainly the State Guard is a very flexible organization that really presents us with a lot of opportunities to expand their role in the state mission, whether it be a security role, whether it be working with engineers in an actual cleanup role, or working with the Highway Patrol in traffic management. [There are] so many different roles that they can play, and what we really need to do is troop-to-task analysis, and really plot out what the State Guard and other volunteer organizations can do; pair them up with the units they'll be operating with – whether it be National Guard units or other state entities – and to really rehearse those things.
But it goes way beyond that. We're going to have to look at partnerships and alliances [with other agencies, businesses, private and semi-private organizations] throughout our state. And we've done a good job on some of this. That's the way of the future.
What specifically might you change – if anything – about the S.C. Emergency Management Division?
Emergency Management in S.C. has done an excellent job in terms of preparation. One of the shining moments in S.C. history was when Hurricane Hugo came through in 1989, and we saw our rapid recovery from Hugo. We learned a lot of things from that period and we have constantly applied them and continued to perform exercises. I will be very involved personally with the Emergency Management Division, and I will work with the other agencies to make sure that we truly support their preparation for state emergencies. I will look carefully at the detail of our exercises and make sure we don't just stop at the governmental level, but that – again – we reach out to private industry, that we have written into our plan, but we never have really, thoroughly exercised that link.
The detail of the exercises is one thing I would change: The interface with the governor's office and really making that a seamless piece where the governor really sees EMD as his or her staff during an actual emergency, and that the agency heads then provide proper counsel to the governor. In my case, I will be the military advisor to the governor in the event of a state disaster or the employment of the Emergency Management Division.
The other thing I will emphasize with Emergency Management is continuing to expand the outreach to the community, the partnerships with the community, and putting our resources out to the communities and not to a centralized area. They've done that well so far. We just want to accelerate that effort.
What is the media missing in terms of the S.C. Military Department, more specifically about the importance of the S.C. Military Department in terms of both federal deployments and state homeland defense?
Because of the nature of media – very short news segments – it's difficult for people to understand the great contributions of the men, women, and families associated with the military department, whether it be the mission overseas, the state mission, or the homeland security mission, such as the Army Air and Missile Defense Command up in Anderson. So the media is missing the details of S.C.'s military involvement in the defense of our nation and the defense and support of our community. So many good things happen, but they are in the background. In fact, they are often so successful, nobody notices them.