Aug. 14, 2007 - Remarks at the National Press Club
August 15, 2007
<i>Transcript of remarks made by Army Chief of Staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on August 14, 2007.</i>
GEN CASEY: Thank you. Thank you very much, Theresa. I want you to know that I feel a great affinity for this audience, as probably the only other people in Washington that couldn't get leave or vacation this time of the year.
GEN CASEY: And as I look out here at this bank of cameras, surely there must be some-thing else going on in Washington today. If only we'd have done this yesterday.
I would also like to recognize a group here that, much to my pleasant surprise, representatives of my father's West Point class, the class of 1945, that came with their spouses here from all over.
Wonderful to see you.
How about a big hand for those folks'
GEN CASEY: I would like to talk to you for a few minutes about the Army and about how we see the future's strategic environment and then I'll be happy to take your questions.
As Theresa said, next month, our country will have been at war for six years following the September 11 attacks on Washington and New York. And the Army has been a leader in this war and in the liberation of 50 million people from oppression and tyranny.
It's also been fully engaged in a difficult process of consolidating these successes and providing security while developing local government institutions and the capability of other countries to govern and secure themselves.
Over time, these operations have stretched and, as a result, stressed our all-volunteer force. But we remain a resilient and committed professional force.
Our immediate challenge is to balance the current demands on the all-volunteer force with the need to transform and build readiness for the future.
GEN CASEY: That's no easy task, and it will require the full support of Congress and the American people.
As I said, I'd like to spend a few minutes talking about how we intend to deal with this challenge and how we see the future strategic environment.
Let me do the environment first. As we look to the future, we view it or we try to envision it in a way that will help us shape our armed forces. And, as we do that, two things seem clear to me.
First, security experts are almost unanimous that the next decades will be ones of persistent conflict. And I put together a transition team shortly after coming back from Iraq and I sent them out.
And I said, "Go talk to people who think about the future. Ask them what they think the world is going to look like in 2020."
And they did. They went to universities. They went to think tanks. They went around to the intelligence agencies. They went around the government.
And they came back and they said, "You know, we're surprised at the almost unanimity that the next decades that we face here will be ones of what they call persistent conflict."
Now, what do I mean by persistent conflict' I believe that we're going to face globally here a period of protracted confrontation among state, non-state and individual actors who will increasingly use violence as a means of achieving their political and ideological objectives.
I also believe that this protracted confrontation will be fueled by six important trends that will act as accelerants to the existing frictions and tensions of the international community and make conflict more likely.
Let me just run through those. First one, the positive and negative impact of globalization. Now the benefits of increased global connectivity and technological advances will have dramatic positive effects on global prosperity. There's no question about that. But they will also be used to export terror around the world.
And if left unchecked, the unequal distribution of wealth will likely create have and have-not conditions that can attract willing foot Soldiers to extremist organizations. Some analysts project that by about 2025 around 2.8 billion people will be living below the poverty line.
Second, competition for energy. The competition for energy over the next decades will cause a variety of international frictions as we begin a fundamental transition in terms of both of the types and the sources of the fuels that we need.
Again, analysts are projecting that by around 2030, largely driven by the burgeoning and growing middle classes in China and India, the demand for oil will outpace the supply. And as they look at it, what they see now is that investments in infrastructure and alternatives is probably not on a pace to bridge that gap.
Third, the demographic trends will likely increase opportunities for instability as the populations of some less-developed countries almost double in the next 15 to 20 years.
This will create a "youth bulge" that will create a population that's vulnerable to any government and radical ideologies and make the task of governing in some of these less developed countries even more difficult.
Fourth, climate change and natural disasters are likely to compound the already difficult conditions in developing countries and may cause humanitarian crises and regionally destabilizing population movements.
You know, the desert is advancing at the rate of about 50,000 to 70,000 square miles over the course of a year.
Fifth, and probably most troublesome to me, is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and particularly when these weapons of mass destruction are linked to terrorist groups and can be used in catastrophic terrorist attacks.
I believe that would be globally destabilizing and undercut the confidence that spurs the economic growth and development of the entire global system.
As we look today, we see there is somewhere over 1,200 identified terrorist organizations. And some of them, most notably Al Qaeda, are actively out seeking weapons of mass destruction. And I have no doubt that, if they get them, they'll attempt to use them.
And then, lastly, is the trend of failed or failing states that can provide safe havens for global or regional terrorist groups to prepare and export terror.
And those states and those ungoverned spaces require vigilant attention from us all.
So when you take these trends and you combine them with hostile regional powers and extremist ideologies, it's fairly understandable why the futurists are predicting persistent conflict in the years ahead.
Now, the other thing I asked my transition team to do is I said, "OK, you go out 13 years, go back 13 years to 1994. Tell me what the country was doing then."
And they did. Then they came back and said, "Well, you know, we were basking in the glow of the great success in Desert Storm and the end of the Cold War. We were scanning the horizons for a peer competitor and not finding one. We were cashing in on the peace dividend. And, oh, by the way, we were reducing the size of the Army from 780,000 down to around 480,000, and the other services were affected as well."
And that, in a time where we projected peace, and a lot of the challenges that we had with the Army prior to September 11 -- or after September 11 -- were caused by decisions that were made in that period.
My second point is that, whatever forces we build for the future must be versatile and they must be led by agile, adaptive leaders.
Now, while I risk undermining my own predictions, one thing we know is that we won't get the future exactly right. And so our forces -- any forces that we build have to be optimized to deal with uncertainty and a with a wide range of operations and engagements.
The Army has a vision to build that force and we've been executing that vi-sion for the past several years.
And it seems clear to me after my initial assessment here as the chief of staff that we need to continue along these lines and transform our current force into a campaign-quality expeditionary force that are capable of supporting the needs of our combatant commanders across the spectrum of conflict, from peacetime engagement to conventional war.
Now, let me talk about how we deal with the immediate challenge of balancing the current demands on the force with the need to preserve that force and build for an uncertain future.
Today's Army is out of balance. We're consumed with meeting the current demands and we're unable to provide ready forces as rapidly as we would like for other contingencies; nor are we able to provide an acceptable tempo of deployments to sustain our Soldiers and Families for the long haul.
This is a temporary state and one we must pass through quickly if we're going to preserve and sustain our all-volunteer force and restore strategic depth.
Soldiers, Families, support systems and equipment are stretched and stressed by the demands of repeated deployments and insufficient recovery time. Army support systems -- for example health care, education systems and Family support systems -- were designed for the pre-9/11 peacetime army, and we need to expand those and adapt them to sustain an army at war.
So over the next several years, I think there's four things that we need to be able to do, and we will do, to put the Army back in balance. Those four things are -- first of all, we have to continue to prepare our Soldiers for success in the current conflict. We have a moral obligation to send our Soldiers into combat adequately prepared for what we're asking them to do.
Second, we need to reset these forces expeditiously as they return from combat to prepare them for future contingencies.
Third, we need to continue to transform to meet the demands of the 21st century.
And, lastly, we need to sustain our Soldiers, Families, and civilians.
Now, let me just say a few words about each one of those.
First of all, we will continue to prepare our forces to succeed in the current conflict. We've made great strides in equipping our Soldiers and have continually adapted our training and equipment to keep pace with an evolving enemy. We remain committed to providing our deploying Soldiers with the best available equipment to ensure that they maintain a technological advantage over any enemy.
I've visited all of our training centers in the last three months. And I'm pleased with the way that we are replicating the environments that our Soldiers and the leaders will face. We will continue to provide tough, demanding training to them to give them the confidence that they need to succeed in these complex environments.
Our military success in this difficult war is tied to the capabilities of our leaders and of our Soldiers, and we won't fail to prepare them for success.
Second, we will continue to reset our units to prepare them for future deployments and future contingencies. Over the last six years, as units have deployed and redeployed from combat, we've built and consumed readiness daily.
In my travels, I've seen the impact of sustained combat on our Soldiers, leaders, Families and our equipment. This reset process allows us to return deployed forces to a ready state as quickly as possible. And this resetting process is a constant process that will go on as long as we have forces deployed.
But it's the commitment to providing the resources necessary to reset our forces that's absolutely essential to ensuring we continue to commit ready forces to war and are prepared for future contingencies.
In addition to fixing and upgrading our equipment and retraining for future missions, we will also work to revitalize our Soldiers and Families. This is necessary to reverse the cumulative effects of sustained high operation tempo.
Third, we will continue to transform the army to meet the demands of the 21st century.
Transformation requires a holistic effort to adapt how we fight, how we train, how we modernize, develop leaders, station our forces, and support our Soldiers, Families and civilians.
Transformation is a journey. It's not a destination. There are several aspects to this transformation. One, we need to increase the size of the army. We need to grow.
Second, we need to continuously modernize the army.
Third and fourth, we need to change and adapt organizationally, to change from what are basically Cold War organizations to organizations that are agile and adaptive for the 21st century.
And we need to change our institutions. And as I mentioned, a lot of our institutions are optimized for how the Army was prior to September 11. That's changed. I don't see us going to where we were, in the near future. We need to adapt these institutions.
And as some of you who have been involved in institutional change know -- or the change of large organizations -- until you change the institutions, you don't really cement change in the organization.
We need to adapt our Reserve components. We've changed the paradigm. They're no longer the strategic Reserve that is mobilized for, quote, "the big one." We're using them on a recurring basis. We need to level with them and tell them that the paradigm has changed and adapt that.
And then we need to grow, change our education systems and our training systems to ensure we produce agile, adaptive leaders. Now, those are the six things that really underpin our whole transformation effort.
Let me just say a little bit more about two of them. And then please feel free to ask me about any of the others.
As I said, we need to increase the size of the Army to allow us to provide sufficient forces for the full range of future contingencies.
As you know, I think we have an authorization to increase the size of the Army by around 75,000 Soldiers over the next five years. We'll do that as fast as we can.
This gross growth will allow us to revitalize and balance our force, reduce deployment periods, broaden the capabilities of our units, and strengthen the systems that support our forces.
We will also need to continuously upgrade and modernize our forces, if we're truly to put our Cold War formations behind us and to provide our Soldiers a decisive advantage over every enemy.
Army modernization envisions both the rapid fielding of the best new equipment to our forces that are fighting every day and future combat systems. We are ultimately working toward an agile, globally responsive army empowered by modern networks, surveillance sensors and weapons that are lighter and less manpower-intensive, and employed in modular units that are able to operate effectively, again, across the spectrum of conflict with joint and coalition partners.
Finally, the fourth thing that we need to do -- and remember, prepare, reset, transform -- the last one is sustain. And that's to sustain the Army's Soldiers, Families and civilians.
Recruiting, training and retaining our Soldiers, the centerpiece of the Army, can only be done by transforming quality recruits into Soldiers who are physically tough, mentally adaptive and live by the warrior ethos -- and also by caring for their Families who are impacted by their commitment and by their service.
These warriors are our ultimate asymmetric advantage, the one thing that can-not be matched by our adversaries now or in the future.
These superb Soldiers and their Families deserve the best support, stability and compensation. Moreover, we recognize the strain on the Families and we are acutely aware that Families are playing increasingly an important role in maintaining morale and readiness. We will ensure that they are supported through solid, funded programs, and supportive communities.
We also have a moral obligation to our wounded warriors and to the spouses and over 5,000 Army children who've lost their Soldier since September 11th.
Recent decisions to expand the size and increase the readiness of the Army reflect clear recognition by the president, the Congress and the secretary of defense of the dangers America faces, the importance of our mission and the central role that ground forces will play in defending our nation and our interests.
Though these decisions have put us on a path to enhance the depth and breadth of Army capabilities, implementing them will require several years, considerable resources and sustained national commitment.
But it's what we need to do to ensure we have the Army to lead us through this era of persistent conflict.
Now, to wrap this up, on the 10th of April I was walking to the podium to assume responsibilities of chief of staff of the Army, and I had one of those knee-wobbling moments as I realized I was getting ready to assume responsibility for an organization that was already the best in the world at what it did. And I was also amazed at my temerity that I might try to make it even better.
Your Army is a resilient organization. And while it is unquestionably stressed and stretched, it remains the best in the world. And we are that way because of our values, because of our ethos and because of our people.
And I had the opportunity last Saturday in Baghdad to pin a medal on one of those people. It was Staff Sergeant Kenneth Thomas from the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment in the 1st Cavalry Division.
In late February this year, Sergeant Thomas and his squad were on a patrol, it was a river boat patrol down the Tigris River. They came under heavy fire from one of the banks. The Iraqi policeman that was with them abandoned his machine gun. Sergeant Thomas jumped on the machine gun and began to engage the enemy as enemy rounds ricocheted off the protective plates around the machine gun.
They tried to punch their way through. They couldn't. They went to the other bank, got everybody out of the boat, into a depression. They were safe from the rounds but they were pinned down and couldn't move. The squad leader turned around and looked and Sergeant Thomas and said, "Find us a way out of here."
Completely exposing himself, he ran up the bank only to find that their exit was blocked by a fence. He took out his wire cutters and began cutting the fence, not knowing that the fence was electric. He got a jolt, was thrown back. He got back up and continued to cut the fence while his gloves melted, and he cut the fence until it was open enough for the whole squad to escape.
As the squad was coming through, one of the Soldiers was -- got stuck in the fence. Sergeant Thomas went back, knowing he was going to get another jolt, freed the Soldier and moved the squad away.
He then collected his squad, assaulted a house, and cleared the house, and put a position on the roof to provide suppressive fires. After two hours of heavy fighting, Sergeant Thomas and his squad was finally evacuated.
For that, I was able to award him the Silver Star.
Those are the kind of people and the kind of commitment that are represented in the men and women of your Army and, in fact, of all your armed forces.
So thank you very much. It was a pleasure to be here today on a slow news day in Washington.
GEN CASEY: And I look forward to taking your questions.
MODERATOR: Thank you, General. With the Army currently under enormous stress, can it continue to meet the demands of it in Iraq and beyond, without re-instituting the military draft'
GEN CASEY: As I mentioned, we're out of balance. The demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply. Right now, we have in place deployment and mobilization policies that allow us to meet the current demands.
If the demands don't go down over time, it will become increasingly difficult for us to provide the trained and ready forces for those missions that I spoke about.
But right now, there is absolutely no consideration, at least within the Army, being given to re-instituting the draft. We're not to that point.
MODERATOR: Have you decided what to do with the planned increase in size of the Army' Will it mean simply more combat brigades or other new units with new skill sets'
GEN CASEY: It will be a balance. About 40 percent to 45 percent of the additional troops will be applied to increasing the number of combat brigades that we have. We need to do that again so that we increase the number of units that are available to rotate.
The rest will be put out across the force in a balanced way, to fill the additional skills that we need.
We talk a lot about the brigades. I mean, that's, kind of, our unit of measure for the Army. But for every one of those brigades, there are thousands of other forces that support them, to ensure that they can do the jobs they need to do. And we're applying the bulk of this increase to those other areas, to give us the balance we need.
MODERATOR: If Congress passes a law requiring long-term rest periods for Soldiers, equivalent to tours of duty, would the Army physically be able to continue logistically'
GEN CASEY: From my position, we prefer not to be limited or restricted by any kind of congressional action.
We need the flexibility -- I mean, this is hard enough filling these units to deploy so they deploy with the forces and troops that they need to get the job done.
Any restrictions, any external restrictions that are put on just compound the complexity of the task and make it even harder for us to do that. And so we'd very much prefer not to be hindered by additional restrictions. As I said, it's hard enough as it is.
QUESTION: General Cody, today, announced that the policy of deploying troops for 15-month tours will last until at least next summer. Can you talk about the reasons for this, and are you worried that this will demoralize or further stress the force'
GEN CASEY: We're looking very closely at this policy. Let me just go back to the history of this. As we looked at what we were facing here in 2007 and 2008, we recognized that we needed to increase the tour for Soldiers on the ground for three main reasons.
One, it gives the commander on the ground additional flexibility. And I had been in a position where I had to extend units before, and it takes a lot of command energy to make the case for why you need to do this.
And what was clear to us is that we were facing -- they were facing a period where they might have to extend a brigade a month for a period of time. And that doesn't work for the Soldiers.
Private Casey, his unit gets extended, OK. And then Private King's unit is next in line -- they know they're next in line. But they don't know if they're going to be extended or not, so it creates a level of uncertainty.
So, by doing this, we were able to get a level of predictability for our Soldiers and Families that we probably wouldn't have.
And lastly, probably most importantly, we were getting ready to send Soldiers back that would not have had the time to recover and fully prepare for the mission.
And 12 months at home became more important than 12 months on the ground. And that's why we went there.
Now, as to what happens when we come off of that, what I've told the Soldiers is that 15 months is temporary. When we come off of that, I don't know. We will come off as quickly as we can, but it will be driven primarily by the demand for our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
MODERATOR: Do you support the idea of actively recruiting foreign nationals abroad and illegal aliens in the U.S. and offering them citizenship for service'
GEN CASEY: There's a policy issue with that, and I certainly support the policy. But it is -- I have been in Iraq where we have had ceremonies where hundreds of Soldiers who enlisted in the American Army and achieved their citizenship while they were part of the American Army were actually sworn in as citizens. And I must tell you, it's a hugely moving ceremony and to see the commitment of these young men and women who were originally from other countries to the United States is heartening. So I certainly would like to continue that policy.
MODERATOR: Going back to the previous question of extending troops for 15-month deployment, how likely is it that you will have to extend Soldiers beyond the 15 months next spring'
GEN CASEY: What I've said repeatedly about the 15-month program, again, it's temporary. I don't know when we're going to come off. I don't see going beyond the 15 months.
I've been there in Iraq. I have watched the nature of the combat and the stresses and strains that it puts on these Soldiers. I've watched Soldiers go through a 90-day extension. It's hard but, frankly, 90 days in Iraq goes like that. Any more than that, it puts our Soldiers at a level of stress and a level of risk that right now I'm not comfortable with.
GEN CASEY: I would be very -- it would be hard for me to recommend going beyond that, 15 months there. And as I said, we want to get down from 15 months as quickly as we can.
MODERATOR: How long can the Pentagon sustain the surge in Iraq without breaking the Army'
GEN CASEY: As I said, the Army is a very resilient organization. The surge was and remains a temporary function. And right now, I think we're on record here as saying the surge can be sustained through the spring without changes to the existing mobilization and deployment policies. And that's where we are. And we're going to wait and see here what happens, what the commanders on the ground recommend here in the coming months.
MODERATOR: You said the Army is out of balance. What specific criteria must be met to make the Army in balance'
GEN CASEY: The things that we need to do is -- we need to continue our transition to these modular organizations. And we're undergoing the largest organizational change is since World War II as we're building -- we're changing from our (inaudible) Cold War organizations into organizations that are much more relevant to the environments that we'll be operating here in the 21st century.
We need to complete that transition and then we need to continue to fill those organizations with the appropriate numbers of people and with the appropriate skills, particularly for their noncommissioned officer and officer leaders.
Second, we need to fully equip all of our units. And there's a lot of equipment right now that is in Iraq or in the depots that's not available to our units. All of our units need to be fully equipped.
The third element of getting back in balance is training -- finding the opportunity to train our Soldiers for, as I said, operations across the spectrum of conflict.
Right now we are focused -- our training programs are focused primarily on counterinsurgency training, because that's what we're doing. And because of the short deployment times, that's all we have time to do. And we need to get back to full spectrum training, training for conventional war as well as counterinsurgency, as quickly as we can.
And, lastly, we need to adjust our deployment and our dwell policies so that we get back to the ratio that we feel is sustainable, which is one year deployed, three years back for the active forces, and one deployed, five years back for reserve component forces. And it's going to take us a while to do that.
But those are the main components that we needed to rectify to get back in balance.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. media telling the whole story about the Iraq war'
GEN CASEY: I had Bob Woodward out to speak a group -- the newly selected gener-als. And somebody asked him that question and he said, "What do you think, Gen-eral Casey'" So I don't have anybody to point to here.
Here's what I said then, and I think it's the way I feel about it. I believe the media does the best they can to cover what is a very broad and slowly unfolding operation. And it's very -- it's, you know, the old story about the elephant, the three blind men and the elephant. Somebody's holding the tail, somebody's holding the trunk and somebody's holding the leg and they all think it's different.
It's so big; it's hard to cover.
Now, we always get the complaint that they're not telling the positive side. Unfortunately, a lot of the positive things that happen there in Iraq and Afghanistan don't reach the level of international significance. I mean, it's the slow improvements in the villages and in the security forces -- these happen day after day. It's very difficult to get your arms around those.
But what I think is probably the most debilitating for me is the images.
GEN CASEY: And the images of violence and car bombs that get on the 24-hour news shows that play 10 or 12 times an hour. And you can't help it, when you're bom-barded by that, thinking, "This is all messed up. This is terrible."
And so it creates an impression that is not necessarily what's going on. Yeah, there is violence but there's also progress. And it's a very difficult story to tell.
And because I'm here in the Press Club, like any organization, there are a huge number of dedicated young and old journalists that are out there risking their lives every day to tell the story. And to tell it right. I think the media community ought to be proud of that.
But it's a tough story to tell.
QUESTION: What is the most under-reported story about the Iraq war'
GEN CASEY: The successes. As I said, there's progress, for the time I was there, there was progress in Iraq everyday.
And I was back there over the weekend and there continues to be progress. The surge is having the intended military affect. Our guys are seeing progress on the security front.
What remains to be seen, is whether the Iraqis can take advantage of the opportunity and create the political accommodation that it's going to take to succeed.
Now, people have said time and time again, "There's no military solution for this." Now, we're providing an opportunity for political accommodation and the Iraqis need to take advantage of that.
QUESTION: Do you think the politicians in the U.S. are moving the goal post for a success in Iraq'
GEN CASEY: No, I don't think so. That's kind of a broad question. "Politicians," you know, is pretty broad. We have had, as an objective, to build an Iraq that can secure and sustain and govern itself.
That's been the objective since right after I got there.
And we're continuing to work toward that objective. So I don't know that people are trying to move off of that right now. It's hard enough just to get there. It's probably not a good answer, but it's a pretty broad question.
MODERATOR: We are hearing somewhat optimistic reports on security in Iraq. Can you give us some specific numbers or trends that you saw or heard from commanders there last week'
GEN CASEY: Specific numbers, no. But I visited each of the three Army divisions, one south of Baghdad, one in Baghdad, and one in the northern area.
In the northern area, the commander told me that he believes that the Nineveh province -- where Mosul -- the second city of Iraq, is based, is about ready to move under Iraqi control. And that would be the first Sunni province that would take that step. There are seven of the 18 provinces that are already under Iraqi control.
That would be a significant step. And he says he's getting more and more comfortable that the security forces in that province are ready to move forward.
He is also having progress in the province of Diyala, which is just north of Baghdad. And they are reestablishing control over that area. So pretty good progress up in the northern area.
In Baghdad, the commander told me that they thought that they had cleared about 50 percent of the city, and they were continuing to work toward clearing the rest of it.
And I think you'll probably remember that this is a very -- the Baghdad operation is very much a joint Iraqi and coalition operation, with Iraqi security forces and coalition forces working together to secure these districts.
And so he's got work to do. He recognizes that. But he sees Baghdad moving in a positive direction.
And then, south of Baghdad, the third division, they felt they were having a very good effect by going into some areas where we had not been in for a while, and rooting out terrorist organizations.
So, by and large, they're all being very careful not to overstate what they're seeing.
I mean, there's still an awful lot of work to be done in Iraq. But clearly, the additional forces there are having a positive impact on the security situation.
MODERATOR: How do you stay prepared for both the guerrilla and anti-terrorist war and a possible war against a major industrialized power'
GEN CASEY: Yes, that's a great question. And I had talked about that a little bit in my remarks.
You know, as I said, right now, because of the time that our units spend at home, we're only able to focus on the counterinsurgency aspects of this.
In unit training, we're still educating for full spectrum operations. So, in other words, when our majors go to school or lieutenant colonels go to school, they're being educated on the full gamut.
The other thing I'll tell you is, the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are war. And our units are operating and fighting 24 hours a day. And so there are certainly transferable skills from counterinsurgency operations to the major conventional operations.
We think we needed to have units home for about 18 months before we can do both, both the conventional training and the counterinsurgency training.
So it's a combination of education, operations, and time spent at home station that will allow us to maintain our conventional skills.
MODERATOR: What do you think the most dramatic shift in terrorist tactics will be over the next 10 years'
GEN CASEY: As I said in my remarks, the thing that concerns me the most is a terrorist organization employing a weapon of mass destruction, destruction against a major city either in the United States or abroad. That probably is the thing I stay up nights and I worry about. So that's the major trend that I think I'd watch out for.
MODERATOR: There has been much talk in the presidential campaign about whether candidates would engage leaders in countries such as North Korea and Iran. What would you advise'
GEN CASEY: I'd call the State Department.
GEN CASEY: That's a political question. I'll pass on that.
MODERATOR: Is persistent conflict...
GEN CASEY: I used to tell the prime ministers of Iraq that I work with, "Don't take military advice from politicians or take political advise from generals," and so I'll stick to my own advice.
MODERATOR: Is persistent conflict inevitable or could political developments avoid it'
GEN CASEY: That's a great question. Certainly, the seeds of that persistent conflict are there. But there's a lot of positive things going on.
I mentioned the pros and cons of globalization. I mean, there's -- certainly there's progress. And I think the expansion of the Internet so that people all over the world can collaborate and share information -- I think, it's having a hugely broadening experience on educating societies.
So there are a lot of positive trends. But right now, given the presence of these international terrorist organizations that are bent on destroying our way of life, it's hard for me to believe that we're really not in for some decades of conflict and confrontation.
MODERATOR: If Congress were to impose the beginning of troop withdrawals from Iraq, do you have completed plans to carry out that withdrawal safely' And how long would it take'
GEN CASEY: That's a real hypothetical. I don't want to necessarily go down that road.
We have in the past already closed bases and redeployed Soldiers. The units over there know how to do that. We plan all the time. I mean, that's what we do. We are constantly figuring out how fast it would take to do X or how fast it would take to do Y. And so we'll be prepared to do what we need to do. And I'll leave it at that.
MODERATOR: What are your main concerns with the changes the House made to the administration's budget request for the Army for fiscal 2008' What will be the impact of those changes for the Army, if enacted'
GEN CASEY: The House changes to the -- frankly, we're in pretty good shape with respect to the '08 budget with what the House has done.
The major concerns for me are primarily to the cuts that they've made in our future combat systems. It is the first significant Army modernization program in 40 years. I talked about it in my remarks.
It is generating technological advances that we are putting into the forces that are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan every day. And it is driving our technological development. And it will give us, really, the 21st century force that we need.
You can only take these Cold War systems like the M-1 tank and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and put so much new technology on them. Ultimately it doesn't work out.
So they've put some cuts against that. The level of cuts that the Armed Services Committee has put on it would be debilitating to the program. The Appropriations Committee has put a lower mark on it, but we have great support on the Senate side. That's probably my major, major concern.
There are also some marks against our reconnaissance helicopter. There were some concerns about the contractor's ability to follow through on it. We believe those have been rectified and we think that will come out all right.
But by and large, we've been well supported by the House in the '08 budget and in the supplementals. I mean, there's great support on the Hill and in Congress for the Army.
MODERATOR: What are the roles of air and space capabilities in the Army' And do you plan to spend more or less on them'
GEN CASEY: First, space is becoming increasingly important to us as we network our formations together and put information capabilities down to the lowest level to empower our Soldiers.
You know, if you think of those Verizon commercials, where the guy goes out in the middle of nowhere and he's got his network behind him, that's what we're building for our Soldiers. And to do that, the platforms in space are a big part of that.
On aviation, aviation modernization is one of the elements of our modernization program. I think some of you will remember that we had a very modern, forward-looking helicopter called the Comanche that we canceled a few years ago because it basically was going to cost too much money and really wind up giving us less of an Army-wide aviation capability than we would have had with it.
And so we continue to upgrade and modernize our aviation. Our aviation as-sets are making a huge contribution in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, both places I went they said, "We need more helicopters." I said, "I don't know if we can do that."
So space and aviation are integral parts of the Army's future.
MODERATOR: A recent study found higher rates of child abuse in Families where a parent is deployed. Is this a problem that can and should be addressed at the top level of the Army'
GEN CASEY: It's a problem that needs to be addressed at every level of the Army. And as Sheila -- my wife Sheila and I have been traveling around the Army in these first 100 days or so, we have talked to Family members everyplace we've gone.
And there is, as I said in my remarks, there is no question that the repeated deployments are wearing on the Families and the children, and there's a cumulative effect to that. When a young spouse stood up at Fort Bragg and said, "You know, General, it's not the same running a Family readiness group for the third deployment as it is from the first." And that's what we're seeing.
Now we are redoubling our efforts within the Army to enhance what we're doing for Families.
We just funded Family readiness group assistance -- paid assistance -- to every battalion in the Army. And we've put another $100 million toward Family programs, just for the rest of this year. And there's about $5 billion in our five-year program for Family programs.
But there's an awful lot we can do. When you talk to the spouses, they tell you, "Look, General, we don't necessarily need a bunch of fancy new programs. Fund what you've got and standardize them across the installations." And that's what we're doing.
But it's something that we are taking very, very seriously, because, again as I said in my remarks, Families are so important to that Soldier's decision to remain with the all-volunteer force. And we are asking more of our Families and we need to elevate our game to get -- even more to meet those requirements.
MODERATOR: What can civilian citizens do to support the troops and feel more a part of the war effort'
GEN CASEY: Say thank you. And I must say, I see it every time I'm out in civilian clothes walking around an airport or something, and I see people walking up to Solders and just saying, "Thanks for what you do."
I tell you at story -- I was on vacation and I was in Arizona. And I was in civilian clothed. And these two Soldiers who were clearly recruits, you know, brand new, they came in and they sat down at the table next to me, and we kind of chatted. And people stopped -- I mean there must have been five or six people that stopped and said thank you.
And then they got up to pay their check, and they said, "The lady over there paid your check."
So I got up to leave, and the Soldier stood up and said, "Excuse me. Are you General Casey'"
And I said, "Well, yes, I am."
He said, "I thought you were taller."
GEN CASEY: So just say thank you.
MODERATOR: What are the prospects in Iraq' And how will this war end'
GEN CASEY: Look, I have always felt that success in Iraq was achievable. It will take patience and it will take will. And the terrorists are out to undermine our will, our national will to prosecute this.
But as complex and as difficult and as confusing as you may find Iraq, it is -- we can succeed there.
GEN CASEY: And we will succeed there if we demonstrate patience and will.
We forget sometimes that the Iraqis lived under Saddam Hussein for three and a half decades. They're not going back there. And I've watched them several times over the course of my tenure there. When they want something to happen, like in the first elections and the second elections, it happens.
And right now there's just so much residual mistrust left over from the time under Saddam Hussein that they're not quite ready to go forward. But they have an educated population. They have oil wealth. They have water. They have some of the most fertile land that I've ever seen. In a decade or so this will be a remarkable country -- if we stick with it. It's imminently doable.
MODERATOR: We are almost out of time. But before asking the last questions, we have a couple of important matters to take care of.
First, I want to remind our members of the future speakers: September 7, William Brody, president of Johns Hopkins University; September 19, Ken Burns, documentary filmmaker; September 21, Christian Semper, acting secretary of the Smithsonian; and on September 8 is the National Press Club's 10th annual 5K run, walk and auction.
So for more information and to register, check out the Web site at press.org.
Second, I'd like to present our guest with our typical gifts: the NPC certificate and coffee mug.
GEN CASEY: Thank you. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: And our last question: Why is the Army giving up that fine green uniform to wear, and for what'
GEN CASEY: For a beautiful blue uniform which has been the traditional color of the Army all the way back to the Revolutionary War. And we're still working on that.
Thank you very much.
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