Sept. 10, 2010 - Defense Forum Washington
September 13, 2010
Well thank you. It's really great to be here and I'd like to talk with you about the New Normal, [the theme of the Conference]. I was intrigued to see that this was the topic of the conference. It's a topic that we in the Army have been thinking about for a while. Sheila mentioned that we all know that tomorrow is September 11th. Nine years at war for the United States military. And we believe nine years of war has changed us. It's changed us in ways we know, and it has changed us in ways we don't know or have yet to fully appreciate. And I think it's important for all of us to do what you're doing here-to start thinking our way through that. Now, whether it's new-for sure it will be new-but whether it's normal I'm not so sure. And one of the things I see across the Army as we try to change and go forward is that people want to go back to the "good old days." Before September 11th, we were a largely garrison-based Army. And we lived to train. We certainly were not the combat seasoned force we are now. And I have to tell folks, "We're never going back there." The New Normal, such as it is, is going to be fundamentally different than what we all knew before September 11th. As I've said, it's changed us.
But, let me just start off here by saying some things we think we know about how nine years of war have changed us. And then I'll follow up with things we don't know about yet or fully appreciate the impacts. First of all, we know we're at war. And even though we've had some success in Iraq and have drawn down to about 50,000 men and women there, the war is not over. We are at war with a global extremist terrorist network that attacked us on our soil not far from here. And these folks are not going to quit. The military people I see around the room have fought there and they know the brutality these folks are capable of and that they are not going to quit, they are not going to give up, and they will not go away peacefully. They are going to have to be defeated. And we believe this is a long-term ideological struggle. If you think about this in terms of duration, it's more like the Cold War than like Desert Shield or Desert Storm. We're preparing ourselves for a period of protracted confrontation-we call persistent conflict.
As we look at the fact that we are at war and then we look at the trends at the trends we are seeing in the global environment. Those trends we are seeing are more likely to us exacerbate the situation we're in than to ameliorate it. What are the things I'm talking about' Globalization has had positive and negative effects around the world. It is creating have and have-not cultures. And some of these have-not populations are increasingly susceptible to recruitment from terrorist organizations. Technology is another double-edged sword. The same technology that is bringing knowledge to anyone with a computer is being used by terrorists to export terror. Demographics [are also] going in the wrong direction. We have studies that say that the populations of developing countries will double in the next decade. Can you imagine a population of Pakistan doubling in the next decade and the huge problems that would be presented to an already strapped government' The other thing about demographics is the increased population and its increasing demand for resources. The middle classes in India and China are already larger than the population of the United States-that is a lot two car Families.
[But what worries me the most] are -weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists organizations and-I can say I've been saying that much longer than the last episode of Jack Bauer-and safe havens. [Safe havens] are countries or parts of countries where the local governments can't or won't deny safe havens to terrorists. And those terrorist organizations [inside safe havens] have planned attacks on the United States from countries like Yemen since Christmas. And they tried to attack us on our soil twice since Christmas. So, as we look at those trends-against the fact that we are already at war, it seems to us that we're going to be in for an era of persistent conflict. [We may not deploy on the] scope that we have been through, but we are planning for having a large number of Soldiers deployed in harm's way for a while.
The second thing we know-the cumulative effects of the last nine years of war are going to be with us for a while. We have lost, just Soldiers, 3,200 Soldiers and they have left over 20,000 surviving Family members. We have had over 27,000 Soldiers wounded-7,500 of those wounded Soldiers are severely wounded and will require long-term care. Today, we have about 9500 Soldiers in our warrior transition units, not all of them-in fact a good portion of them have not been wounded in combat-but they are recovering from long-term ailments. Since 2000, we have diagnosed almost 100,000 Soldiers with some form of traumatic brain injury. And since 2003, we have diagnosed about 45,000 Soldiers with post-traumatic stress. I honestly think those numbers are low because we wrestle hard with reducing the stigma of getting care for behavioral health problems. So, as we think about the future, those types of challenges are going to be with us for a while. Sheila mentioned the cumulative effects. We have recently completed a study that told us what we intuitively already knew. It told us that it takes 24 to 36 months to recover from a one year combat deployment. It just does-we are all human and we are all subject to the stresses and strains of combat. And the reality has been for the last five-years, we have been deploying closer to one year out and one year at home. And frankly, we won't get the Army to where everyone has close to two years at home until 2012. And so we are still a ways from meeting that objective. The fact that we have been doing this faster-and haven't been able to have Soldiers have sufficient time at home to fully recover-has accelerated the cumulative effects. The second point I would leave you is that the cumulative effects are going to be with us for a while.
The third point we know is that the Army is "Out of Balance." With that said, we are moving to a much more positive position. And let me explain to you what I mean by "Out of Balance." When I first came here from Iraq in 2007, I wrestled hard with finding the right way to describe the condition of the Army. Because I was hearing that it was broken and I was hearing that it was hollow, and I was hearing that it wasn't ready. But as Sheila and I went around the Army and talked to groups of Soldiers and it was clear to us that this was a hugely resilient, combat seasoned and professional force. But it was also quite clear to us that the force and the Families were stressed significantly by the demands of then seven years at war. And so I came up with the term "Out of Balance." We were so weighed down by our current demands that we couldn't do the things we knew we had to do to sustain this all-volunteer force over the long haul. And to prepare ourselves to do other things we needed to do to restore strategic flexibility. We put ourselves back on a plan in 2007 to get to a better position to get back into balance by the end of next year. And I can tell you that we have made good progress toward that. And our plan was centered on four imperatives. We had to sustain our Soldiers and Families-they are the heart and soul of all of our armed forces. Secondly, we had a continued to prepare Soldiers for continued success in the current conflict. Third, we had to reset them effectively when they returned home. And fourth, we had to continue to transform. Because on September 11th we were very good Army. But, we were in Army designed to fight and win a large armored battles on the plains of Western Europe and the deserts of [the Middle East].
So let me just talk about the elements of sustain, prepare, reset and transform-but I'm going to save sustain for last because it is the focus of what we're talking about here. First of all, prepare. We have made huge strides in our ability to put the equipment the Soldiers need in their hands very rapidly. By way of an example, it took us-and I was there-it took us 3 A,A1/2 years to get a full complement of up-armored vehicles into Iraq. It took us about 18 months to get the next version of protective vehicle there and it took us 12 months to get the most modern version into Afghanistan and Iraq. So, we're turning it around very [well]. When I go around talking to the Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I ask, "How is the kit' How was the gear'" and "What do you need'" Except for running into the occasional Soldier who wants another gun, they're all pretty satisfied with what they have.
Reset. Reset sounds like something you do to your computer, but what it means is restoring Soldiers, units, and equipment to an appropriate state so they can turn around and go back. And I can tell you, when you're only home for 12 months, you basically have a chance to take about 4 to 6 weeks off before you get back on the treadmill. Meanwhile we are trying to send your equipment through depots trying to get it fixed and get it back into your hands. And we have a lot of moving parts in this. Congress has been very supportive in ensuring we have the money needed to fix equipment and the Soldiers are going back in with well repaired equipment.
Transform. And I think this is important, because as I said, we were a very good Army - - but we were a Cold War Army on September 11th. So, while we have been fighting these wars of the last nine years, we have been completely transforming ourselves into an Army that is more relevant to the challenges of the 21st century. First of all, we have increased the size of the Army by 75,000 [Soldiers]. President George W. Bush told us to do that in 2007, originally to be finished in 2012. But with Secretary Gates' is support, we moved that to 2010, and we finished that last year. And that was hugely important because it enabled us to meet the plus-up in Afghanistan before we're out of Iraq. All without having to increase time in Iraq and time in Afghanistan to 15 months like we had to do before. Second, we have converted every brigade in the Army to new designs that are more relevant to the challenges they are facing today. All 300 plus brigades in the Army, have been adapted for 21st century operations. Third, we have done some re-balancing. We have taken about 160,000 Soldiers out of skills that were necessary in the cold war and moved them-retrained them and equipped them-and move them into skills more relevant today. By the way of example, we have stood down about 210 tank companies, artillery batteries, air-defense batteries, and we have stood up a corresponding number of civil affairs, psychological operations, and military police. Taken together those two elements represent the largest organizational transformation of the Army since WWII. And we have done it while sending 150,000 Soldiers over and back to Iraq and Afghanistan. [It is a huge] change but [it is also] an essential change.
The other huge change has been in our reserve components. Half of our Guardsmen and Reservists are combat veterans. And one of the things we're looking at is-as we help them recover from that-it's more difficult for them compared to the active Soldier because they are dispersed all around the country. I recently asked a retired four-star to do a study to see how we are taking care of our Guardsmen and Reserves. And, we have got some work to do on that. But, we would not have been able to do what we have done for our country, without the contribution of our Guardsmen and our Reservists.
Next up-is that was not enough-because of the base realignment and closure act we are moving about 380,000 Soldiers and Families in the next 18 months. And you know how it works. You get the money, you develop the plans, you build the buildings, and then everybody moves in the last 18 months. Well, that is happening. The up side for us is that the quality of those facilities on our installations has improved hugely. The last thing I will tell you about change for the Army is that we are moving to put the whole Army on a rotational model much like the Navy and the Marine Corps have been on for years. And it is the only way we can figure how to sustain commitments at a tempo that is predictable and sustainable for our all-volunteer force. It is a huge internal change-you won't see much of it outside the Army-but it's really causing us to do things a lot differently.
Now let me wrap up with the sustain piece of this. As I said, we will be dealing with the cumulative effects of the last nine years for some time to come. First of all, the most important element of this force-and I realized this over the last three and A,A1/2 years-is to increase the amount of time Soldiers are at home-to increase the dwell. As I mentioned when you're only time for a year there's not much you can do except get ready to go back. You don't have time to fully recover. The effects back up quicker. And so, we will get the Army to a point whereby this time next year units deploying can expect two years at home when they get back. And that is very, very important for us. We're also exploring a possibility of where we would go to three years at home because I believed that is sustainable in the long haul. Second, I mentioned to you that we have over 20,000 surviving Family members. We created a program a couple of years ago called Survivor Outreach Services. What became apparent to Sheila and me as we were going around the Army was that more and more of the surviving Family members wanted to stay connected. They wanted to remain a part of the Army. So we organized ourselves better to support them and to keep them connected to the Army. And I mentioned to you there are 7,500 or so severely wounded Soldiers in our wounded warrior program that tracks those requiring long-term care and its effects since 2004. We continued to expand our capability to maintain contact with our severely wounded Soldiers. The big effort-probably the main effort on the sustain side is recruiting a firm behavioral care force. You have read about the recent suicide rates in the Army and that is a huge challenge for us. I think some of you may have seen earlier today in the announcement by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary Sebelius, who worked with the Secretary of Defense. They announced a National Action alliance for suicide prevention. And the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, is on that [panel] along with former Senator Gordon Smith. And again, it's another way of focusing attention on a national problem that is not just an Army problem-as are all of the behavioral health issues. It's a national health problem that we are all working on together. I would tell you about a program called Comprehensive Soldier Fitness. As we look at our programs for behavioral health we had some great treatment programs, but only after we discovered some kind of problem. What we did not have was a program that allowed Soldiers and Family members to build resiliency so that they didn't have the problem to begin with. And last October we kicked this program off after about two years of working with key leaders up at the University of Pennsylvania who have 30 years of study in this area. The whole point of this program is to give Soldiers the skills they need to be more resilient. And it has four key elements. One-we have an online survey that will give Soldiers an assessment of their strengths in the five key areas of fitness: physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and Family. It takes about 20 minutes. Over 800,000 people have taken the survey since October. [The survey results] gives them a bar graph. If the bar graph has a long line-have a nice day [they don't have to go any further]. But if it has a short bar graph line, it allows them to connect to online self help modules. Over 500,000 modules have been used by the Soldiers already. We're also creating master resilience trainers-Sergeants who go to the University of Pennsylvania for a school for 10 days and learn how to help Soldiers develop resiliency. I think it has a lot of promise. Not just for us, but the entire country. It's based on a premise that the majority of people that go into stressful situations, like combat, have a growth experience. We all thought, those they go to combat get post traumatic stress-that's not true. The vast majority of them come out stronger and so we are trying to give some [more resiliency] to the Soldier.
[In conclusion], I'll just mention the three things we don't know. First of all, we don't know what else is out there. We don't know what other challenges will be thrust upon the country. I think whatever they are, they are going to be are going to be complex. They're going to be uncertain. So we have to keep that in mind as we go forward. Secondly, we don't know, and we are wrestling with trying to figure out how the cumulative effects of the last nine years at war are going to manifest themselves as we have more time at home. And what we hear from Soldiers and Families is that they are deferring a lot of stuff because they only have that year at home. And we have to work our way through that. And lastly, we are asking ourselves a lot of hard questions about what the impacts of the war have been on our culture and our profession. We have some introspective work to do. I'm going to stop and I'm just going to close by saying you can be extremely proud-not only of your Army but of your Armed Forces as well. In the last two days the President has announced two new Medal of Honor winners. One was posthumous and the other was not. The second one was Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta. He is the first surviving Medal of Honor winner we have had in our current conflicts. And there's a lot more heroes out there-over 13,000 awards for valor have been presented over the course of the last nine years at war. We couldn't sustain that force without the support of the American people-groups like yourselves and the support of Congress. So, thank you very much for your support and for what you do for the men and women of our Armed Forces.