Secretary of the Army Pete Geren to the Center for National Policy, November 18, 2008
November 24, 2008
Center for National Policy
1 Massachusetts Ave., Washington, D.C.
18 November 08
Tim, thank you for that kind introduction. You have served our nation in Congress - as a member of "The 9/11 Commission" and you continue to serve on the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. Martin Frost, it's good to see you here - among the three of us, we have a lot of shared memories. And thanks to all the Hill staffers who came today.
And to the Center for National Policy, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. For 25 years, CNP has been at the forefront of the issues facing our country, and has helped shaped the national debate on critical national security issues. Over the years, many of our nation's most respected leaders have been among your ranks - Madeleine Albright, Edmund Muskie and Cyrus Vance, the latter also a former Secretary of the Army. And with the team you have today, you continue to give wise counsel on our nation's greatest challenges. Thank you for all you do.
The subject of my talk today is: Challenges facing the U.S. Army today, but before I get to the challenges, I want to talk about the Army of 2008. I get a lot of questions about its condition. When you look at the press reports, they cause any reasonable person to ask questions. I can tell you without qualification - it is an extraordinary Army - filled with patriots, volunteers everyone, who have chosen to serve and sacrifice for our Nation in the middle of a war. It is a strong Army - the best-led, best-trained, best-equipped we have ever fielded.
On Oct. 7, we began our eighth year of combat operations in the Global War on Terror. This is the third longest war in American history after Vietnam and the Revolutionary War. The Revolutionary War was mostly volunteers, but the states even then used some sort of conscription. This is the longest we have ever fought with an All-Volunteer Force - we're in uncharted waters.
And over the seven years of war,1.1 million men and women have enlisted in the Army - Active, Guard and Reserves. And over 460,000 have re-enlisted - Active, Guard and Reserves. All volunteers - in time of war.
In FY 2008, 175,000 enlisted in the Active, Guard and Reserve, equal in size to the Marine Corps, and 120,000 re-enlisted.
Our Army is combat-hardened and it's battle-tested - 65% of the Active Component has combat experience, 39% of the National Guard, and 33% of the Reserves.
84% of the NCOs in the Active Component are combat veterans. 2,780 Soldiers have given their lives, over 23,000 have been wounded or injured. Our Soldiers know the cost of service.
he ranks of today's Army are filled with men and women who chose to become or chose to remain Soldiers in the middle of a war. There is no metric to measure the intangible quality of character in those who step forward in time of war and say, "Here am I, send me," but it's undeniable that that quality is force shaping and has shaped today's Army.
Our Soldiers chose to be Soldiers - they know why they are fighting, they understand and accept the sacrifice, they believe in what they are doing, they know it's important, and they're determined to succeed.
Sherman told us 150 years ago that war is hell -true then and true today - it's hell on Soldiers and it's hell on families. That is a fact. That will never change.
Our Nation is blessed with men and women who accept that fact and still volunteer to serve. And will continue to enlist, re-enlist, and serve if we - as a nation - do our part.
And as Army leaders, we must do our part.
Fifteen-month deployments are too long - it is our expectation that the troops we sent last summer will be the last ones with 15-month tours. One-to-one ratios for deployment to dwell time are not sustainable, either.
With projected demand, our goal is to be at 18 months dwell in late 2009 and 24 months by 2011. A one-to-one Army is out of balance. But I can tell you our Soldiers are hanging in there.
Our Army is stretched, stressed, and out of balance, and we must do whatever it takes to bring back into balance. We owe that to our Soldiers and their Families - and long-term, the health and even the viability of the All-Volunteer Force depends on it.
But, before I go further, I want to address the concerns of some who worry they see similarities between the Army today and the hollow force of the 1970s. In quality, education, training, and morale - there is no comparison between the two - it is literally night and day. To see today's
Army as on the verge of "hollow" or "broken" is not accurate.
For a first-hand perspective, I urge anyone who shares that concern to talk to Soldiers who served in the '70s and who serve today - Chief of Staff of the Army George Casey is an example - he would tell you he experienced "hollow" as a young officer, but that he has never seen a better Army than today's. Out of balance - yes - and he'll tell you that - but the best we have ever fielded.
In terms of education, in 1973, less than half the force had a high school diploma - today 80% have diplomas, with the remaining 20% holding GEDs. In 1973, 20% were Category IVs, the lowest category on the aptitude test, today less than 4%.
For morale - there is no better metric for morale of Soldiers and Families than the re-enlistment rate, and we have made or exceeded our annual goals for the Active Component every single year over the course of the war.
Crime rate, drug use, racial tension, morale and desertion rates - no comparison between the '70s and today.
Today, only 3 out of 10 young Americans meet the educational, moral and physical requirements to join our Army. That was not the case in the '70s.
Ours is a stretched but strong Army. The best-led, best-trained and best-equipped Army in the world - but that could change. How do we ensure it doesn't' What are the challenges in front of us'
I will address several in my prepared remarks and look forward to a discussion with you after I conclude. Of the challenges I will address, some are immediate, some very long-term.
At the top of the list is right-sizing the Army. Either grow the Army or shrink the demand for its services. To right-size the Army, you have to answer four questions:
1. What do you want our Army to do'
2. What is the role of the Guard and Reserves' What will our access be to the Guard and Reserves'
3. The role of contractors'
4. And what are willing to pay for it' - Recognizing that people are the Army and people - over
50% of the costs go to people - people are the most expensive part of our military.
Getting it right is easier said than done.
In the 1990s, Tim Roemer, Martin Frost and I were part of a bi-partisan Congressional majority that looked into the future - got it wrong - and shrunk the Army by 40% -- hope trumped experience and today we find ourselves with an Army too small. That manifests itself in many ways, including dwell times that don't meet the needs of Soldiers or families, nor the needs of the Army - an Army out of balance.
Right-sizing begins with a realistic QDR and National Security Strategy. What does our Nation, our Commander in Chief, expect our Army to do, at home and abroad' And then, what resources are necessary to accomplish that'
We are in the middle of growing the Army by 74,000, Active, Guard, and Reserve, with 65,000 for the Active Force. Is that enough' If the demand on the force stays as it is today, the answer is no.
In our public discussion about the demand on the Army, we tend to focus on the 16 brigade combat teams currently deployed to OIF and OEF. We usually ignore the 68,000 Soldiers in Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq serving in support roles in theater. And we overlook the 11 BCTs and 25,000 Soldiers committed elsewhere - at home and abroad.
When you add up all the Soldiers currently committed to a specific mission somewhere in the world today, the numbers are 27 BCTs and 93,500 Soldiers in support, and that's not including troops getting ready to go and others just came home.
As we sit here today, we have 693,500 Soldiers on active-duty status. Let me repeat that number, today we have 693,500 Soldiers on active duty - and an authorized end-strength of 547,000.
At these levels - if we stay at these levels - the current growth plan is not enough. It will not bring us back into balance.
And, as some have advocated, if we substitute Soldiers for the contractors in theater, of which we have 140,000, if we substitute Soldiers for the security guards in theater, of which we have over 10,000, if we grow SOF to 100,000 and move more Civil Affairs into the Active Component, if we get the Marines out of long-term stability operations, we dig the hole deeper. What is the right number'
AUSA is advocating for an Active Component of 700,000. No one can answer that question until we answer the four questions I listed earlier.
And we need a healthy dose of humility when we forecast the future. Remember that no Senator asked Don Rumsfeld about Afghanistan in his Secretary of Defense confirmation hearings. No one raised Iraq with Dick Cheney, nor Vietnam with Secretary McNamara when he went through his confirmation hearing.
And in the '90s, under two different administrations, Republican and Democratic, and 5 separate Congresses, under Republican and Democratic leadership, we looked into the future, called it wrong and slashed the size of the Army by 40%. Had it not been for 9/11, it could have happened again.
Right-sizing is at the top of the list -we must either grow capabilities or curb our appetite.
Second, full-spectrum readiness - and, Tim, I really commend your group for all the work you've done on full spectrum readiness. Today, time is the enemy of full-spectrum readiness. Twelve months at home is not sufficient for family re-integration and training for the full-spectrum readiness. As I noted earlier, we see some light ahead on dwell times. The planned Growth and Rebalancing move us in the right direction.
And we have to get there - full-spectrum readiness is not optional - whatever slice of the spectrum we choose to neglect over an extended period of time, our enemy will choose to exploit.
Dr. Gates has reminded us often: " ... One of the principal challenges the Army faces is to regain its traditional edge at fighting conventional wars while retaining what it has learned - and relearned - about unconventional wars - the ones most likely to be fought in the years ahead."
In a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly, Professor Andrew Bacevich - a great commentator on military affairs - described a debate for the future of the Army as a conflict between the "Crusaders" and "Conservatives" - between the asymmetric warriors and conventional warriors. I oversimplify, but he posed the conflict as a strategic choice for the Army - a fork in the road. We cannot choose one or the other. As Dr. Gates has challenged us - we must do both.
Our new doctrine in FM-3.0 requires us to do both.
Our Nation requires us to do both - our Presidents have and will ask us to do both. We often note that the enemy has a vote. But we must remember that the role of the Army can vary significantly from President to President. The President's vote is the driver of the op tempo of the Army.
For 233 years, the Army's charge has been to "dominate" land operations. To "dominate" is a dynamic mission, defined differently in the sands of North Africa in 1942 than in the deserts and cities of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008. There is no record of Human Terrain Teams in Patton's Army - they are indispensable today.
Dominance is defined differently at the same time but in different places, even different neighborhoods in the same city. And defined differently when we consider the threat of near-peer competitors who loom over the horizon, some armed with nuclear capability. Our Army of this century must and will be prepared to "dominate" across the full spectrum of threats - asymmetric and conventional, hard power and soft.
And respond to domestic emergencies - the next Katrina - forest fires - floods. The Army does not get to choose.
That is asking a lot of our Soldiers - although they may not be missions the Army seeks for itself, they are missions our nation - our President - asks of our Soldiers today and will in the future. They are missions critical to the safety and freedom of our citizens and our allies.
Our Soldiers must be trained and equipped for the full spectrum of skills that dynamic assignment requires - symmetric and asymmetric, kinetic and non-kinetic - foreign and domestic.
And the concept of "full spectrum" will forever be a moving target.
Third issue: Operationalizing the Guard and Reserves. We have made progress over the last 5 years in training, equipping and re-organizing the Reserve Component - but challenges remain and major resourcing issues remain unaddressed.
If we are to reach our goal for the Reserve Component of 1 year deployed and 5 years at home - and we're nowhere close to that now - what is the proper level of investment in equipping, training, and resourcing' At what point does a Guard or Reserve Soldier cost more than Active Duty'
The Reserve Component is a three-legged stool, Soldier, family and employer - built on a model that anticipated a weekend a month and two weeks in the summer - not mobilization for a year on a regular basis. Certainly not the op tempo our Reserve Component is experiencing today.
Soldiers have voted with their feet over 7 years of war, and today's Guard and Reserve Soldiers' expectations are aligned with their expanded responsibilities, but what about the other 2 legs of the stool'
What more needs to be done to properly support geographically dispersed families when their loved one is deployed or returns home with physical or mental wounds of war' What kind of help do employers need to afford the military service of their citizen-soldier employees' Where are the red lines' At what point does the existing model cease to function'
Four: Contracting/Acquisition - expeditionary contracting. Today we are an expeditionary Army, not a garrison-based Army. We've modularized our Army over the last five years, to go anywhere, a brigade at a time. Today with the duties we have shorn from our Army, our deployed Army is half Army green and half contractor khaki.
Today, we have roughly 140,000 Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and 140,000 contractors in support. We could not go and stay without a massive contractor component. The ratio is 1 to 1. On today's battlefield, we don't have any Soldiers pulling KP or peeling potatoes.
Our recent Gansler Commission report has helped us come to terms with the ramifications of this new reality. We have established a new two-star contracting command, and added additional personnel and training, but we have work to do in resourcing the requirements, in conducting realistic training in advance of hostilities with contractors, and in integrating the contractor work force and providing the oversight necessary to avoid waste, abuse and even criminal activity that we've experienced over the last several years.
And as regards our acquisition policy and practices. Our acquisition model works great for peacetime - or the Cold War, when our pachyderm only had to outrun the Soviet's pachyderm. But in today's war, with a nimble enemy, the Program of Record model is too slow.
Although there are provisions for rapid fielding in our current regulations, meeting immediate needs from theater often crosses dollar thresholds that trigger well-intentioned but slow and cumbersome bureaucratic processes, forcing the Soldier in the field to wait or forcing the acquisition executive to be more entrepreneurial than he should have to be. Our entrepreneurs have saved a lot of time and the lives of a lot of Soldiers over the last several years.
In time of war, we may have to accept more risk on the acquisition side, including sometimes an 80% solution, to buy down the life and death risk on the battlefield.
Family support - Today, over half our Soldiers are married, and there are over 700,000 kids in Army Families, living at home. Over the last three years, we have expanded family support, doubled the budget in fact, and have made progress in many areas critical to the health and well-being of our families.
But in this era of persistent conflict and repeat deployments, we cannot stand still when it comes to family support. With repeat deployments, the family needs grow exponentially.
The old system relied heavily on volunteer spouses. We are adding full-time support throughout the force. Volunteer spouses remain indispensable but can no longer shoulder the burden alone. And family expectations change with each generation.
For an all-volunteer force to succeed, it must work for Soldiers and it must work for Families - and that includes an increasing number of spouses with careers of their own.
We have come a long way from an Army that would have issued you a wife if it wanted you to have one, to an Army today that is committed to providing our families a quality of life equal to the quality of their service - but that commitment is chasing a moving target and must remain front of mind for Army and DOD leadership, this administration and the next, officer, NCO and civilian, if we are to sustain the All-Volunteer Force.
In closing - let me offer a big picture and long-term observation - with the associated challenges not yet fully formed. With BRAC moving military posts out of the North and Northeast to the Sunbelt, with regional recruiting patterns showing higher per capita yields in the South and Southwest, with the decline of some ROTC programs and the growth of others, with military retirees choosing warmer climates, we are seeing the presence and makeup of our Army slowly shift from a regional balance and further away from the North and Northeast and move to the South and Southwest. A shift that will go unchecked without the occasional injection of conscription that replenished regional diversity in the past.
The Army increasingly is becoming a "family business" - with Army brats and "grand" brats following in their parents' and grandparents' footsteps.
And relative to the general population, the Army is an elite force drawn from the top 30% of young people in our country who meet the Army's moral, educational, and physical requirements.
And even where we have posts, force protection concerns since 9/11 have further insulated our Soldiers and posts from their surrounding communities.
A recent survey found that only 27% of Americans had a family member or friend in the Army.
The Guard and Reserves help our Army to stay connected to all of America - but trends at work could loosen the personal ties that bind America's Army to much of America - and much of America to its Army.
Why does that matter' From the Army's standpoint, on a purely practical level, it shrinks the number of members of Congress who make funding the Army a top priority - no constituents and no installations - not my problem.
Further, it shrinks the pool of young Americans with exposure to the military and with that, the propensity to join the Army shrinks as well - it makes recruiting harder.
And to make our recruiting goals, it forces greater concentration of effort in fewer places - accelerating the regional tilt. We are seeing that today - moving recruiters from the Northeast to the high-producing states to meet our recruiting goals. Just to name a few challenges.
But long term, in my personal opinion, it is not only bad for the Army but it is bad for America. A healthy Army must be rooted in the soil of all of America - must reflect the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all Americans. When, as a nation, we choose war or peace, all of America must have flesh and blood in the decision.
When our Army looks at America, it should see itself. When America considers the Army, it should see the same.
And I am not advocating a draft - I oppose a return to a draft - our All-Volunteer Force is truly a national treasure - a volunteer Army is qualitatively better than a draft Army - and better suited for today's challenges. The All-Volunteer Force is the kind of thinking, adaptive and determined force we must have to succeed in the multi-dimensional and dynamic threat environment we face today.
But to sustain the All-Volunteer Force - to ensure that our Army and our Nation embrace each other 20 years from now, we may have to rethink some policies and practices.
When we make BRAC decisions, allocate ROTC and recruiting resources, weigh the risks of force protection vs. freedom of access, we must be mindful of the second and third order effects of decisions that shrink the current number of 27% of Americans who have a personal connection to the United States Army. Certain decisions that make dollars and cents on the balance sheet may not make common sense in the long term for a healthy Army and a health military/civilian relationship.
Thank you for having me today. I look forward to your questions and comments.