Gen. Odierno talks drawdown and furloughs in town halls
May 7, 2013
Wiesbaden, GERMANY -- Assisting the force's ability to understand transformation and spending time with commanders, Soldiers, Department of the Army Civilians and their families were the focal points for U.S. Army General Raymond Odierno, 38th Chief of Staff of the United States Army, in his three-day visit to three U.S. Army garrison's in Europe this week.
Themes echoed throughout the trip were best summarized in the opening comments Odierno offered to over 1,000 Soldiers, DA civilians and family members who assemble at the Clay Kaserne Fitness Center for one of two town halls he conducted.
"Our priorities continue to be … make sure our Soldiers deployed have the leaders, the training and the equipment necessary to be successful. To make sure we stay globally responsive and regionally engaged. That we develop the best leaders in the world and that we maintain the highest standards of our profession, and finally our ability to sustain the all-volunteer Army. To make sure we continue to have the right resources; that we continue to have the right compensation packages to support our great volunteers who raised their right hand in order to serve this country and in order to ensure that we sustain our security over time."
"Historically the Army is here to fight our nation's wars which we will continue to do," but according to Odierno, "it isn't enough. We have to have the ability to shape the future environment to prevent conflict."
Globally responsive and regionally engaged are the two things Odierno feels the nation wants in the Army of the future. He expanded on these terms in his second town hall held at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy.
"We have to go back to an expeditionary mindset which means we have to deploy in small packages, to places in immature theaters, for shorter periods of time."
He continued, "Regionally engaged means that we are going to have forces that are aligned to regions that will allow us to do everything from operational deployments, to building partner capacity, to training foreign nations, do doing joint exercises in order for us to build their capabilities and to shape that area of operations."
In his view this process will "reduce the instability that we see around the world in support of the combatant commanders."
Beginning his trip with a brief visit to U.S. Africa Command, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, Odierno had his first opportunity to engage with Gen. David M. Rodriguez on his own ground. Rodriguez recently took the reins of the U.S. Army's sixth combatant command from its former commander Gen. Carter Ham on April 5.
He then traveled to U.S. Army Europe's new headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany for his first engagement here since Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr. assumed command in January. USAREUR recently transitioned from historic Heidelberg's Campbell Barracks to its new location on Clay Kaserne, formerly known as Wiesbaden Army Airfield.
Vicenza was the third leg of the trip where Odierno visited with U.S. Army Africa's commander, Maj. Gen. Pat Donahue, and with Col. Andy Rohling and his Soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, who recently returned from Afghanistan.
Odierno had the opportunity to meet with leaders and Soldiers at all levels of command both in Wiesbaden and later in Vicenza. In small group sessions these individuals were able to share their issues and concerns, while Odierno had the chance to share issues close to his heart.
A recurrent theme in many engagements and in both the town halls was budget uncertainty and current and potential effects of sequestration.
During Wiesbaden's town hall Odierno summed up the issues of budget very succinctly.
"It will work itself out," he confirmed. "It might be frustrating, it might be a bit unpredictable but it will work itself out."
He expounded upon this thought highlighting that the Army is currently in "a position of strength," with the, "most capable, experienced combat force we have ever had."
"What I have to do is maintain a balance, and the balance is end strength and modernization… and our overall readiness," he assured audiences. "We are going to maintain that balance."
Certain advancements, such as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle replacing the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HUMMWV), the Ground Combat Vehicle replacing the Bradley fighting vehicle, will still occur.
Among other programs, the Army will continue to modernize its aviation fleet and invest in its information technologies where the Soldier of the future will have an "iPhone like capability that gives them intelligence, maps and everything else," said Odierno.
Many of these are still under development and may be brought about slower than originally anticipated.
There are concerns, however, when it comes to reductions in training due to budgetary uncertainty, said Odierno.
"Because we have had to reduce our training dollars, and we have actually decreased the amount of training, I worry that that could stretch into (20)14 and (20)15 and effect our capability to provide trained and ready forces for unknown contingencies."
Funding is available to train units deploying to Afghanistan.
There are also concerns regarding the potential furlough of the DA Civilian force for 14 days later this fiscal year. According to Odierno the furloughs equate to $780 million for the Army, so in order to eliminate them, the money must be "found" somewhere.
"I think it is the right thing to do so we are trying to find the dollars to keep (the furlough) from happening," he said.
There currently exists the potential for the 14 days to be reduced to seven; that decision would need to be made in the next 30 days and implemented before June.
Regardless of the meetings and engagements with the elements of the U.S. Government back in the states and regardless of the challenges posed by budget uncertainties, Odierno remained clear throughout his visit as to his feelings regarding the U.S. Army's forward presence across Europe.
"U.S. Army Europe continues to play an important role in our national security for our nation. Whether it be continuing support and building relationships with our native allies as well as other partners here in Europe, but also in support of the conflicts in Afghanistan and other areas of instability whether it be in Syria, Israel, Turkey, as we continue to deploy forces around the world in order to support our own security needs," Odierno said.
He further stated that our ability, "to stay connected and build relationships," is vital to what the force is doing abroad.
Odierno stated that he believes continued engagement with our European partners and NATO is critical, "so that the first time you are talking to someone isn't when you are deploying."