Laura Ingraham: A little squib in most of your newspapers today says the following: "The Army has plans to keep the current level of soldiers in Iraq through 2010," its top officer said yesterday. A later date than the Bush administration or Pentagon officials have mentioned thus far. Joining us now to tell us about this is the Secretary of the Army, the Honorable Francis J. Harvey. Mr. Secretary, good to have you with us.

Secretary Harvey: Hello, Laura. Good to be back on your show.

Question: It's been a while. What's going on with this 2010 year that we're seeing in all these articles today'

Secretary Harvey: Well, it's really misrepresented what the Chief said. Let me just give you a little background.

The Department of Army only plans. They don't determine what the actual troop level is in theater. That's the responsibility really -- There's one person responsible for that and that's the President of the United States with input and recommendations from the Secretary of Defense and the commanders on the ground. So we don't ever determine troop levels.

What we do is we have to plan for a number of scenarios in the future, because as you appreciate, when 120,000 troops are involved you need a lot of planning. In doing that for the future we look about three or four years out and say what's the worst case, what's the best case, and we just generate plans for all those scenarios. That's what the Chief was saying. We don't ever determine troop strength.

So we're a planning organization and we have to equip, train, and get all those units ready, so we need to look three or four years out in order to do that. So that's just planning.

Question: You know that's going to be used though, Mr. Secretary. I mean that's going to become a political football because the President --

Secretary Harvey: Unfortunately, you're right, Laura.

But the fact remains that we don't know what the troop strength's going to be in those years. These are just planning numbers. They could be much, much, much lower depending on conditions on the ground. That is determined really, as I said, by recommendations from General Casey and decisions by the Secretary of Defense and the President. So that really, I think in my opinion, was very misrepresented in the newspaper.

Question: I looked at that and I said what' What is going on here'

The numbers on recruitment looked great. Of course it was buried in most newspapers earlier this week that you met your recruiting goals in '06. If you hadn't met your recruiting goals in the US Army it would have been front page of LA Times, Boston Globe, and all the rest.

Secretary Harvey: I've been bragging a lot, Laura, I can tell you because --

Question: You should.

Secretary Harvey: -- I'm very proud of what our recruiting command did. And the other numbers which go with that which are very impressive also are the retention numbers. All three components of the Army -- the Regular Army, the active as we call it, the National Guard and Reserves -- significantly exceeded their retention numbers. So recruiting and retention, which then the combination, which gives us the so-called end strength of the Army. That combination, all of them are up significantly.

Just for the record, I'm bragging because for the active component of the Army the recruitment was the best year in nine years; for the National Guard it's the best year in 13 years; and for the Reserves of the Army, they were up 25 to 30 percent over last year. So it was an excellent year for the Army.

Question: Mr. Secretary, the news out of Iraq continues to be just so difficult and so heartbreaking for all of us who have spent even a little time there and had a chance to talk to some Iraqi people in villages and orphanages and hospitals. Do you lose sleep at night over this' Are you waking up in the middle of the night saying what can we do differently there' What's possible at this point'

Secretary Harvey: We give that a lot of thinking, I do a lot of thinking on that, and certainly you characterize it correctly.

General Casey at the news conference yesterday I think correctly characterized it. It's a very tough situation. But I think the fundamental strategy that they have developed and implemented is the right way to go.

We need for the Iraq security forces, the army and the police force to provide the basic security so that we can slowly but surely hand that responsibility over to them.

I think the fundamental strategy, I've thought a lot about it, I can't think of anything better. The numbers are impressive. Laura, when I went over there over a year and a half ago there were less than 130,000 Iraqi security forces. Now there are nearly 300,000. They're capable of --

Question: But isn't it -- I don't mean to interrupt you, Mr. Secretary, but we only have a little bit of time left.

Secretary Harvey: That's all right.

Question: The fact is we have not been able to get the Iraqi government to do what it needs to do to clean out the infiltration of the security forces enough for these sectarian fighters and people who are going to stoke violence and use security uniforms to go behead people. So what do we do when they aren't doing it' What do our soldiers do' They're getting killed over there.

Secretary Harvey: From a political point of view we've got to keep the pressure on the government to stand up. As we know, they're the freely elected government and they've got to take over the responsibility that they've been given, and just what you say. That's what needs to be done.

From a military point of view, we need to do what we continue to do because the fundamental thing here is security. We've got to get the country secure so they can start economic development and get on with the future.

Politically, I think you said it absolutely correctly, they've got to live up to the responsibility they've been given. Militarily I think we're doing the right thing in standing up a large and capable Iraqi security force. That job is not done, but I think we've made great progress.

Question: The men and women of the US armed forces, they're just inspiring to me.

Secretary Harvey: They are.

Question: I'm not trying to sugarcoat that everyone in the Army is a great -- no. But the overall impression I got when I was there is that these young people, they want to get the job done. They want to be supportive, they want to be successful there, and it's frustrating when you have a US soldier setting up a checkpoint to keep the Iraqis safe, get picked off by one sniper who's hiding on a roof, as we saw the other day.

Secretary Harvey: Laura, I'll tell you what. I have some tough quiet moments just for the reasons you talked about. But you know, our soldiers are just outstanding, they're great young men and women who have voluntarily stepped forward to defend our free way of life. We're fortunate to have that group of young men and women.

As you may have heard, yesterday we started, we're in the initial stages of a new advertising campaign for the Army and I think this characterizes our soldiers very well. We call it Army Strong. You can be strong, but when your Army's strong you've really got there. So that's our new campaign slogan. But I think it really succinctly characterizes what you're talking about.

Question: It's up to the Iraqis now. Our men and women have done a great job over there.

Secretary Harvey: They have. I'm very proud of them.

Question: Secretary Harvey, thanks again for joining us. I know we'll have you back soon, and we really appreciate everything you're doing.

Secretary Harvey: It's always good to talk to you, Laura.

Question: You take good care. Secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey on the Laura Ingraham Show.

Page last updated Wed October 18th, 2006 at 09:41