Jan. 28, 2010 - Brookings Institution
February 8, 2010
Thank you Michael. Thanks very much. Very great to be back here and as Michael said, it is that time of year in Washington and I can start maybe not be the first one you've heard but one of the first to say this is going to be an interesting year, and we seem to say that every year here in Washington. Great to be back at Brookings. Everything seems to go so fast that if it wasn't last week, I seem to think it was last month, and when I realize it has been over 2 years since I have spoken here, it was striking to me. And, actually as I went back and I read what I said then, it was also very interesting because it allowed me to kind of juxtapose where I saw us as an Army and how we saw the future environment at that time compared to where we see it now two years later.
And, so I would like to talk about that a bit here, and I am going to start just by saying this was December 2007, and I had about eight months in the job. For about four of that, my wife and I had gone around all over the world visiting Army units and talking to soldiers and leaders and families to try to get a sense of where we were. And, I came back that summer, and I used the term that the Army was out of balance. And, I wrestled hard finding the right words to describe the Army because if you think back to that time you were hearing that the Army was broken, the Army was hollow, the Army wasn't ready, and that clearly was not the case. But, just as clearly, we were stretched. I mean we were on 15-month deployments. We were on Stop-Loss. We were involuntarily holding soldiers over to complete their tours with their organizations. I mean, there was a lot of stresses and strains on the force, and we had been at war for six years. So, I came up with the term that we are out of balance. We, at that time, so weighed down by our current commitments, that we couldn't do the things we knew we needed to do to sustain the force for the long haul and to prepare to do other things. And everybody was either in Iraq and Afghanistan, or recovering, or getting ready to go back, and there was no time to train for things other than the missions that they were going into.
We put ourselves on a plan back in 2007 to restore balance, and I said then it was gonna to take us three or four years to do that. And that plan was centered on four imperatives. The four things that I felt we had to do as an Army if we were going to hold this force together and bring us to a position of balance by 2011.
Sustain soldiers and families. Soldiers and families are the heart and soul of this force, and as I go around and I listen to the commitment of both the soldiers and the families after eight and a half years of war, it is striking. And we ought to all feel very, very good about that. But, we have to sustain those soldiers and families. And, we were particularly focused on our mid-level officers and non-commissioned officers because they are the ones that carry the brunt of this war. And, they are the ones that take a decade to train. And, when I consulted with one of my predecessors, "Shy" Myer, who was the Chief of Staff of the Army in 1980 who went to Congress and said the Army is hollow, about eight or nine years after the last combat battalion left Vietnam. I said, "Shy, what is it' What happened'" He says, "George, it's all about the people." And, when those mid-level officers and non-commissioned officers start leaving, they are the ones that take you a decade to grow; it takes you a decade to replace them. I lived through that decade in the '70s. The other element of this sustaining soldiers and families is it was clear to us, as we went around, that the families were the most brittle part of the force. And, that while we had come light years since I entered the Army, and I am an Army brat, right, so I have been a member of an Army family for sixty-one years, and my mother's motto was "make the best of it," and that's what we did, and it wasn't always pretty. But we need to do much better than that, and so we have had a big increase in that effort. So, sustain soldiers and families, number one imperative.
Second, we had to continue to prepare soldiers for success in the current conflicts. We couldn't flinch on getting our soldiers the equipment and the training that they needed to succeed. And, I will tell you after a slow start in early years here, we have made great progress. I mean, I watched how long it took us to get up-armored Humvees into Iraq, and we've, it took us about nine months to start getting M.R.A.P.s, mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles into Afghanistan once we decided that was what we was gonna do. So, we are getting better at that. And, as I go around and talk to the soldiers, I went right before Christmas to Iraq and Afghanistan, they are generally very comfortable with the equipment and things that we are giving them.
Third, we had to reset these soldiers and units effectively as they return from twelve months in combat. And, it is the people and the equipment that had to be reset. And, when you are only home for twelve months, you don't have time to recover fully, either the soldiers or the equipment. And, after six years at war, we just completed our sixth Mental Health Assessment Team study of Iraq and Afghanistan this past year and for the first time, we have scientific data that shows that after a twelve-month combat deployment, it takes twenty-four to thirty-six months to actually recover stress levels to what they called normal Garrison stress levels. Now, we have intuitively known that because we have been working to get to one year out, two years back for the active force for, since 2007. But, we've got the supporting scientific evidence now that says that's where we need to go. And, so I have come to realize that one of the most important things that we can do to restore balance is to increase the time the soldiers spend at home, and I will talk about that a little bit more in a second.
And lastly, we have to continue to transform, and if you think about it, the intellectual work that is driving the current transformation that we are undergoing was done in late 2002, early 2003. All good stuff. But, we have been at war since that time. And, you don't stay at war for as long as we've been at war without figuring out better and smarter ways to do things. And, so we are at a point right now where with the submission of the '11 budget, I can actually see the completion of the objectives we set for ourselves to get ourselves back in balance, and we are starting to shift our thinking now to this decade, the second decade of the twenty-first century and ask ourselves hard questions about, okay, how should we assess where we are in terms of our transformation, and what do we need to change, and I will talk a little bit about that at the end.
So, "Out of Balance," on a plan to "sustain, prepare, reset, and transform" to get ourselves back in balance. And, the last thing I'd say about the transformation is we recognized we had to do this while we are fighting two wars. And, that has added a dimension of complexity and stress to what we are doing, but it's absolutely essential. And, I will tell you in a second what we have done and why that was so essential.
Now, let me shift gears then to what, how we saw the environment back in 2007. And, I do not know how many of you are here, but I will just kind of go over it quickly. First of all, back then and now we're at war. We are at war with the global extremist terrorist network that attacked us on our soil. We believe that we are involved in a long-term ideological struggle, and it's not one that we can walk away from, and as we, against that background, as we look at the trends that we see in the international environment, it seems to us that those trends are more likely to exacerbate what's going on now rather than ameliorate it. What am I talking about' Globalization. Globalization has positive and negative impacts. I mean, the same globalization that is bringing prosperity to different countries is also creating have and have-not societies, and the have-not societies are the people in those societies are much more susceptible to recruiting by these terrorist organizations. Technology, another double-edge sword. The same technology that is being used to bring knowledge to anyone with a computer is being used by terrorists to export terror around the world. Demographics. Also going in the wrong direction. I have seen studies that say some, the populations of some developing countries will double in the next decade. Can you imagine the problems that that presents to governments that are already strapped and stretched' The population of the world is increasingly moving toward cities. I have seen studies that say by 2030, sixty percent of the populations of the world are gonna live in cities, and those of us who've been in the sprawling slums of Sadr city, two million people in about a three by five square kilometer area. Says an awful lot about what we have to prepare ourselves for the ground forces to do. And then, the impact of demographics on resources. The middle classes in China and India are both already larger than the population of the United States. That is a lot of two-car families, and that is a lot of demand for already scarce resources. And the two things that worry me the most as we look to the future, weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists, and safe havens, countries or parts of countries where the local government can't or won't deny their countries to terrorists. Much like happening in parts of Yemen, much like happened in Afghanistan prior to September 11.
So, as we look at those trends against the fact we are already at war and have been for eight and a half years, it seems to us that we are in for a decade or so of what I call "Persistent Conflict." Persistent Conflict is a period of protracted confrontation among state, non-state, and individual actors who are increasingly willing to use violence to accomplish their political and ideological objectives. That is what I said back in 2007, and that's what I still believe today, and that is what we are preparing and have been preparing the Army to do. One last element I talked about in 2007, and it still rings true today is we took a hard look and continue to take a hard look at what we think the character of conflict is going be like in the second decade of the twenty-first century. And clearly, what we are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan are harbingers. But, you also need to look outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, and we have studied hard the conflict in southern Lebanon in 2006. And, here you have a non-state actor, Hezbollah, which has the instruments of state power because they are supported by Iran and Syria; they are fighting Israel, and they are inside Lebanon. I mean, that is a much more complex struggle even than we're doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. And in that struggle, as I said, they had the instruments of state power. They started the war with over thirteen thousand rockets, and not just small rockets like they shoot at our bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, but large rockets that they shot at Israeli population centers. They had unmanned aerial vehicles. They had cruise missiles that they hit an Israeli ship in the Mediterranean Sea. They had state-of-the-art surface-to-air missiles that they shot down an Israeli helicopter. They had state-of-the-art anti-tank missiles; forty percent of the Israeli casualties came from those state-of-the-art anti-tank missiles. They had secure cell phones and used secure computers for command and control. And, they got their message out on local television. And about three thousand or so Hezbollah operatives basically held off thirty thousand well-armed, well-equipped Israeli soldiers. That's a different type of operation, and so we've been thinking hard about how we do that. And so, and we have spent the last work, last year continuing to refine our thoughts on that and continuing to work to bring ourselves back in balance.
Now, let me, let me just say a couple words about where we are in terms of getting ourselves back in balance. First, we have completed the growth that President Bush directed that we undertake in 2007, and we completed that in 2009. Originally, it was supposed to be done in 2012. With Secretary Gates' help in 2007, we moved it forward to 2010, this year, and we actually completed it last summer. Has huge impact on our ability to deal with increased demands. We are forty thousand soldiers larger today than we were in 2007, and that is a significant accomplishment. The other thing I think you know is that we have, even with that, we recognized that we still weren't large enough to deal with the increasing challenges, so Secretary Gates last year allowed us to grow another twenty-two thousand temporarily. So, almost a hundred thousand in growth since 2004 for the Army. That's significant.
Secondly, we continue to make progress improving the ratio between the time the soldiers are deployed and the time the soldiers are at home, even with the increase projected for Afghanistan. And, you say, you know, how can you do that' As I said, we are already forty thousand soldiers larger than we were in 2007. With the drawdown in Iraq, we have a hundred thousand soldiers there today. By the end of August, we will be at fifty thousand. So, there is fifty thousand soldiers that won't have to deploy. Our portion of the deployment into Afghanistan is a little over twenty thousand. And because of the length of time it takes to get the forces into Afghanistan, they'll close about the same time the forces are out of Iraq. So, what you see is, because of that, we've never really have appreciatively more forces deployed than we do today. And, that allows us to complete this plus-up in Afghanistan without going to fifteen-month deployments, without having to reduce the time the soldiers spend at home, and to continue it, to continue to build a dwell, the time they spend at home. And, now we set a goal for ourselves back in 2007 of getting to one year out, two years back for the active force, one year out, four years back for the Guard and Reserve. And, we get there for about seventy percent of the active force and eighty percent of the Guard and Reserve by '11, and the rest get there in '12. And those that don't quite get to one-to-two, one-to-four are in the eighteen to twenty-four month range, they are not still stuck back on one year out, one year back. That was not sustainable. And everyone recognizes we have to continue to get to one to two, one to four, and then we have to continue to make strides to get to what I believe is our long-term sustainable objective, one year out, three years back for the active, one year out, five years back for the Guard and Reserve.
Third element, you may recall that back in 2004, we started converting the Army to modular organizations, tailorable packages that could be mixed and matched to suit the requirements of the mission that they were given, not the design that they were designed for. My predecessor, Pete Schoomaker, used to talk about it in term of, he had "too many hundred-dollar bills and not enough twenties." And, as we looked to the future back then it was so uncertain that you could not just spend hundreds all the time; you had to break them up and spend some twenties. Well, we began in 2004 the conversion of three hundred, all three hundred brigades in the Army to modular organizations. We are just about ninety percent done with that, and that is a fundamental organizational change for our Army. When you add to that the rebalancing that we have been doing, and this is rebalancing away from Cold War skills to skills more relevant in the twenty-first century, it's the largest organizational change of the Army since World War II, and we have done it while we have been deploying a hundred and fifty thousand soldiers over and back every year.
Llet me just give you a bit of example about what I meant by rebalancing. We have stood down about two hundred armor, air defense, and artillery companies and batteries, and we have stood up a corresponding number of Special Forces, civil affairs, psychological operations, and military police companies that are much more relevant in the twenty-first century. That's the rebalancing aspect of this. So, when we finish this, we will be a fundamentally different Army by 2011 than we were, really, in 2004. If that wasn't enough, we're also completing the requirements of the base realignment and closure commission of 2005. That is a double-edged sword, lots of turbulence. About three hundred and eighty thousand soldiers and families and civilians affected by this all across the Army. Positive side, the improvement in the facilities on Army bases is substantial.
Three other quick things, we have also made huge strides in moving our Reserve component forces away from being a Strategic Reserve, where they were under-resourced because they were only expected to be called for national emergencies into an operational force. Where they have served as an operational augmentation of the active force. And, I will tell you almost half of the Guard and Reserve now are combat veterans. That is a fundamentally different Army than we had just a few years ago. And, they will tell you that they are quite comfortable being this operational augmentation and do not want to go back to being a Strategic Reserve, and they are more ready today than they ever have been in the forty years that I have been in the Army. We also have made great strides in improving what we are doing for our wounded soldiers, and we have come just light years from where we were in 2007 in the aftermath of Walter Reed. And we have ratcheted up significantly for what we are doing for our families, and we have also started a program about eighteen months ago where we are doing more for the surviving family members. And, as we looked at it after five years at war, frankly, we were still doing survivor assistance and not much more. And, these families more increasingly see themselves as part of an Army family, and they want to continue to remain part of that family, and we are creating the opportunities for them to do that.
Lots of good progress over the course of the last two years, but as you know, not without stresses and strains. And you can imagine, we watch daily the impacts of stress on the force, and we look at it from all different aspects. And I will tell you candidly, it's a mixed bag. Recruiting and retention are strong. In 2009, we met our recruiting and retention objectives and our quality marks for the first time in a while. The officer attrition, officer retention has been quite steady even for the Captains. I know there is a perception out there that all the Captains are leaving, just not true. We remain right at or just below historic retention levels. Disciplinary problems, A.W.O.L.s, desertions, court-martials, all trending downward. On the negative side, probably the thing that worries me the most is our inability to stem the tide, the rising tide, of suicides across the Army, and this year, 2009, we had a hundred and sixty suicides in the active duty Army, and that was after a very concerted effort over the course of 2009 to increase the awareness and to help people avoid that. And since 2004, we have increased by an average of about eighteen suicides a year, and this year maintained about that level. And, this is something that we are working on. I think we need to be careful not to attribute all of that to stress on the force because if you look at the suicides, about a third of them have never deployed. A third of them committed suicide while deployed, and the third after they came back. So, it is clearly part of it, but we need to be careful not to attribute everything to that. We are continuing to work very hard. We've got a study ongoing with the National Institute of Mental Health, about a ten million dollar study, that I think will give, not only us, but I think society some great insights into suicide that will be helpful down the road.
Drug and alcohol enrollments are up. Good news/bad news. Good news is they are getting help, bad news is the number is increasing. And, drug positives on urinalysis testing are up slightly, I mean we are in the two percent range, very, very small numbers, but still increasing, and we watch that very carefully. A little bit on mild traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. We have had about eighty-nine, ninety thousand soldiers identified with mild traumatic brain injury, ninety percent of that moderate-to-light since 2001. We have had about thirty thousand soldiers identified for post-traumatic stress since 2003, and they continue at a rate of about ten to fifteen thousand increasing soldiers a year. We are working very hard on that and have been since 2007. But I will tell you, there are some misperceptions out there. And, there are misperceptions that everybody that goes to combat gets post-traumatic stress, and that is just not true. And we have scientific studies that demonstrate that the vast majority of people that deploy to combat have a growth experience, have a positive experience. Everybody gets stress, yes, there is no doubt about that, but you should not think that everybody returning has post-traumatic stress disorder. They just don't. And to help our soldiers after eight and a half years at war and looking at what we see ahead of us, we instituted a program in August after about two years' worth of study with the University of Pennsylvania called Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, and it's a program that is designed to give every soldier the skills they need to be more resilient and to enhance their performance because as we look to the future, they are going to be doing more of this, and they need to have these strengthening skills.
It's got four key elements. The first element is an online survey. It's a personal assessment. Any soldier and now any family member can go online, take this assessment, and they will receive a strength rating in the five key areas of fitness, physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and family. And, they can then look at that, and they can connect themselves to the online modules in each of those areas that give them tips to help them get better and improve themselves. A third element of this is that at every level of school from Army school, from basic training to the Army War College, our soldiers will now get Resilience Training Modules of increasingly complexity. And the last thing, and I think the one that will have the most long-term impact for us, is we have instituted a program called Master Resilience Trainers, and I see some military folks in here, you will remember Master Fitness Trainers that we put in about twenty years ago that taught you how to do good pushups. These are soldiers to help soldiers understand what it takes to be more resilient. We have about almost five hundred of them that have been trained already at the University of Pennsylvania, and it is our goal to have one in every battalion-sized unit about eight hundred to a thousand people by the end of this year. I will tell you that already almost a hundred and forty thousand soldiers have taken that survey, and we have given them until the spring to have everybody in the Army do it. I believe, this is not something that's gonna impact quickly on our suicide rates, but it is something that I believe is going to strengthen the force over time.
Bottom line, good progress over the last two years, but we are not out of the woods yet. And, even if we are successful in expanding the time that the soldiers spend at home, we are conscious that the more time the soldiers are at home, the more time they have to deal with the problems that they have been putting off over the last years, but we're not being Pollyanish about this. But, having soldiers home for a longer time will bring with it additional challenges.
Now, I'm going too long here. Let me just wrap up here and then tell you how our thinking on the environment and how the environment has impacted our thinking of what type of Army we need for the second decade of the twenty-first century. Suffice it to say, that as, our view of the environment has not significantly changed in its persistent conflict and the character of conflict about as I described, but as we look at what the Army needs to do in that period, we have come up with four roles, and these roles I think you will see will be quite similar to what you see the defense roles are here when the Q.D.R. comes out. First of all, we have to prevail in protracted counter-insurgency campaigns. Win the wars you're in as Secretary Gates says. And, we have to organize, train, and equip ourselves to be able to do that and to do that for as long as it takes. Second, we have to be able to engage to help others build capacity. We cannot win these wars ourselves. We can only win them when the local security forces can maintain domestic order and deny their countries as safe haven for terrorists. Third, we need to continue our efforts to support civil authorities at home and abroad. At home, in support of disasters much like you are seeing going on in Haiti, even though that is not quite home, and abroad, much like we are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan in helping to organize and integrate all the application of all the other elements of national power to achieve our effects. [Fourth, the Army must be ready to deter and defeat hostile state actors and hybrid threats.] And so against those roles, we are working to build an Army that is a versatile mix of tailorable and networked organizations that is operating on a rotational cycle, and putting the Army on a rotational cycle like the Marines and the Navy have been on for years is a huge institutional change for us, but we have to do it because it is the only way that we can continue to provide trained and ready forces for the missions we have today and to hedge against contingencies and to do this in a way that is predictable and sustainable for the all-volunteer force. Protracted confrontation with an all-volunteer force brings with it a different set of challenges, and we are very cognizant of that, and we are organizing ourselves to deal with it.
And, I realize that is an abrupt stop, but I think I probably said enough to generate some questions here, so I am going to stop there, and I would be happy to take questions, Michael.