It does look a little different from down here than it does from up there. I should say, I've never missed being in Congress so much as I do right now.

(LAUGHTER)

But with your permission, Mr. Chairman, I certainly want to thank you, sir, and as well, Ranking Member McCain, for your very kind and very gracious comments, not just in support of me, but in support of this absolutely incredible Army. And it is a privilege, although somewhat intimidating, to be before you here today. But I do it with great pride, because we are here, along with the chief, in support of America's Army.

And as was noted, it was just a few short months ago that I sat before you as President Obama's nominee for our nation's 21st secretary of the Army. And at that time, I recall very clearly, I promised you and assured you of my dedication and commitment to support our men and women in uniform, Army Civilians and the great Families, who I know all of you understand so very well, stand with them. And I pledged to work with you, as well, in support of that great institution.

It's some five months later, and I want to tell you, I come before you again, reaffirming that commitment, but doing so having been in the Pentagon. Having worked with these great men and women for that time, it brings an even greater appreciation of those wonderful Americans who serve within the Army ranks and the vital role they play in defense of our great nation -- 1.1 million Soldiers, some 279,000 Civilians, and as I noted, their Families, proudly serving, as you know, in some 80 countries around the world.

And they continue to be at the forefront in ongoing counterinsurgency operations against our enemies, assisting other nations to build their own security capacity, supporting homeland defense, deterring and defeating hybrid threats and hostile state actors, and as we've witnessed, I think so proudly in recent days in Haiti, providing life-saving humanitarian assistance in response to natural disasters.

At the risk of stating the obvious, each of you -- every member of this committee, every member of the House and the Senate at large -- are critical to the success of these vital missions in your capacity as our congressional overseers. And as was mentioned, I know full well from my nearly 17 years of service on the House Armed Services Committee, that a strategic partnership between Congress and the Army is critical to the Army's success.

And I think I can speak from experience as well, without exception, each and every one of you has partnered with us to ensure that our Soldiers, Civilians and Family members receive the very best in training, equipment, health care and vital Family programs. And I want to say, on behalf of a grateful Army, thank you for your leadership and for your unwavering support.

This morning, if I may, Mr. Chairman, Senator McCain, other distinguished members, I'd like to share just briefly a few of my priorities and some of the perspectives I have gained over the past several months on where the Army is now, where it's heading in fiscal year 2011.

Admittedly, over the last several months, I've been on kind of a crash course. I learned I was not quite as smart as I routinely said every two years in my campaign for re-election. But through the process of studying our programs, visiting installations in the United States and overseas, examining units in all stages of what we call ARFORGEN, and talking -- most importantly -- talking to our Soldiers, Civilians and their Family members throughout the force, how well (ph), and yet the challenges that lie before us.

I have been in this time both impressed and challenged personally by what I've observed and what I've discovered. And frankly, I found an Army that is clearly, clearly fatigued by nearly nine years of combat -- through it all is today resilient, determined and extraordinarily effective. Our Soldiers today, through nearly eight years of war, have more expertise, more education, more training and more lethal capabilities than ever before. And due to the advancement in equipment, training and doctrine, are more likely than ever before to return safely to their loved ones and to a grateful nation.

But in spite of those significant gains, the stress on our personnel and their Families remains all too real. For all our efforts, as has been referenced, and as the chief of staff has said repeatedly, we remain out of balance. And as I know all of you clearly understand, the all-volunteer force is a national treasure, as Senator McCain mentioned.

If we wish to sustain it, supporting our critical Family and quality-of-life programs for our Soldiers and their Families must be a top priority. And if I say nothing else here today, I want to assure you, for those of us in the Army Family, it is the top priority.

The 2011 proposed budget rightly focuses on those initiatives that support our Soldiers, Families, Civilians. The submission requests $1.7 billion in 2011 to standardize and fund those vital Family programs and all those that they serve.

We're attempting to aggressively address the cause of stress on individuals resulting from the effects of multiple deployments, including the essential effort to increase dwell time. As all of you know, and as has been referenced here already this morning, with continuing deployments in multiple theaters, this has been no easy task.

But I want to assure you in the strongest terms, the Army is committed to our wounded warriors and those critical programs that support them and to building dwell and BOG ratios, bringing back a sense of stability in terms of their redeployments.

We fully believe it is our solemn obligation to provide world- class care in transition services to our wounded, ill and injured through properly led and properly resourced warrior transition units. Your Army is committed to ensuring that the quality of life for those serve or who have served is commensurate with the quality of their service.

On the subject of Family programs, I've heard from many of the good representatives, the senators on this panel, about reductions in base operations support, so-called BOS budgets in installations across the country. Earlier this month General Casey and I announced the Army's plan to increase BOS funding by $500 million in this fiscal year 2010.

The Army's Installation Management Command continues to work with -- and the lights went out' (NOTE: THE LIGHTS IN THE ROOM WENT OUT AND THEN CAME BACK ON A FEW SECONDS LATER.)

SENATOR LEVIN: The Army's new energy savings program.

(LAUGHTER)

MCHUGH: I didn't see that one on the list.

But again, General Casey and I announced that we had a plan to increase BOS funding by $500 million, and the Army Installation Management Command continues to work with each installation to guarantee that essential base operating support needs are met.

We also will conduct a comprehensive midyear review of all BOS accounts to ensure that adequate funding is maintained to meet Army priorities through the remainder of the fiscal year. I want to make it clear; that as our installations look for ways to operate more efficiently, as they should, Family programs will be sacrosanct. They will not be touched.

That isn't to say we won't ask, "Is this program working' Is it money well spent' Are there better ways to provide the necessary care'" Where change is required, we'll change things, but where money is best directed, we'll so direct it. But through all of that, Army Families must not -- in our judgment Army Families will not be left behind.

Second, I found an Army with equipment systems and networks in need of reset while simultaneously requiring significant modernization to ensure our Soldiers maintain a decisive edge on the battlefield of today as well as superiority over threats of tomorrow.

Nowhere is this challenge more evident than in the need to repair, replace and recapitalize equipment affected by the harsh realities in an environment of war. And as the responsible drawdown in Iraq continues and the flow of forces and equipment to Afghanistan grows, we will confront this reality anew.

Additionally, we have to strive to modernize efficiently in an era of growing fiscal challenges. As such, with this year's budget, the Army is embracing what I believe is an affordable, yet effective modernization strategy designed to revamp our vehicles, network, aviation and logistical systems.

We've requested $31.7 billion for research, development and acquisition, which includes $3.2 billion for the brigade combat team modernization, $1.29 billion to fund tactical wheeled vehicle modernization, $2.74 billion to fund Army network systems, and $6.41 billion to fund the aviation modernization. Fully funding these programs is vital to our Soldiers' welfare this year and beyond.

Thirdly, we found an Army acquisition system that, while improving, still lacks the workforce and flexibility needed to efficiently and affordably purchase the right weapons, services and equipment to our Soldiers.

Here, too, the proposed budget will help us better meet our continued commitment to growing the Army's acquisition workforce by thousands of positions over the next few years, thereby ensuring that we have the best available equipment for our Soldiers while being responsible stewards of the taxpayers' dollars.

But I would tell you workforce improvements are not enough to fix the procurement system. And I know you on this committee, particularly the chairman and the ranking member, who worked so hard on the Reform Act of last year, know that full well.

The entire process must be retooled and in that way more fully adopt an agile system that rapidly develops, purchases and fields innovative solutions. This approach will require more streamlined procedures and flexible rules, and for that we need your help.

As I mentioned, in 2009 Congress significantly reformed how the Department of Defense purchases major weapons systems -- and again, thank you to this committee and its leadership in that regard. But as the chairman and ranking member so correctly noted both at that time and since, it's only a start. Now it's time to address how we purchase services, and on that front we look forward to partnering with you to develop better ways and better systems that achieve that critical objective.

In the end I would tell you we have an Army that is strong in spirit, strong in ability, and strong in results. We need to recognize, too, this is an Army that, after eight years of uninterrupted war, is tired, stressed, and too often burdened by the inefficiencies of bureaucracy. This must change, and with your help, we'll make those changes.

Let me close by highlighting again my deep appreciation for the men and women in uniform, the Civilians and the Families who support them, and by so doing support this nation. Every day I'm humbled by their dedication. I'm so blessed to have the chance to walk into a building every morning to go to work where the word "hero" really means something. All of you on this great committee are part of that magnificent formula for freedom.

Thank you again for all you do in support of our men and women in uniform, Army Civilians, their Families. I deeply appreciate the opportunity to appear here before you, and I look forward to your questions. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Page last updated Wed February 24th, 2010 at 15:55