Jan. 29, 2011- Remarks to the Army National Guard Senior Leader Conference
February 7, 2011
I didn't want to let the opportunity pass to talk to such a great group of folks here. I'd like to talk a little bit about where I see us: where we've come as an Army, and where I see us going in the next 3-5 years. Then I'll talk a little bit about how -- from my perspective -- I've seen the Guard grow and change over the last seven years -- but most of that growth has come in the last five years. Then I'll talk a little bit about how I see us going forward together in this future environment.
I have been saying since 2007, that the Army was out of balance -- that we were so weighed down by the current demands [in Iraq and Afghanistan] that we couldn't do the things that we knew we needed to do to sustain this volunteer force for the long haul and to build the capability to do other things. We have been laboring away since 2007 to put ourselves in a better position by the end of this year. You'll remember the four imperatives that drove this change:
(1) sustain Soldiers and families;
(2) continue to prepare Soldiers for success in the current conflict;
(3) reset them effectively when they return; and
(4) continue to transform for an uncertain future.
We are finally getting to the point -- with the drawdown in Iraq and completion of our growth -- that we can start to breathe again. For the Active Force, we're getting to the point where 18 months at home is more the norm than 12. For the Guard, we're getting up toward three-and-a half to four years at home versus three. We had to get there. But let me just say a couple of other things.
First, we finished the growth of the Army three years early. In 2007, President Bush said increase the size of the Army by 74,000 (65,000 in the Active, the rest in the Guard and Reserve). Originally that was supposed to be done in 2012. We finished it in the summer of 2009. That, and the drawdown in Iraq, helped us increase the BOG (Boots on the Ground): Dwell ratio to something more sustainable. The other thing that we've been doing here is fundamentally transforming our formations -- undergoing the largest organizational change [for our Army] since World War II. We will, by the end of this year, have completed all but a handful of the modular conversions of our over 300 Brigades in the Army. And, we also have rebalanced about 150,000 Soldiers away from Cold War skills to skills more relevant to today. I'll tell you on both of those, we made a conscious decision to continue to execute the plan we set out in 2004 and not tweak it until we were done. I made that decision because I am keenly aware of the impacts of force structure changes on the Guard and Reserve. So, ideally you will have finished what we set out to do in 2004, and those formations and organizations are far better suited to the challenges we are dealing with in Iraq and Afghanistan and will continue to deal with during the rest of the 21st Century.
We've substantially improved the quality of facilities on our installations across the Army. We are also nearing the ability to execute the Army Force Generation process (ARFORGEN) as we originally intended. I know ARFORGEN has gotten a bad name because we haven't been able to execute the concept that we made out in 2005. However, when you only have one year back between deployments, you can't really execute any model. But, beginning this October 1, 2011 (the beginning of fiscal year 2012), the force levels will be at a point and our processes will have been refined to the point that we can begin executing ARFORGEN as we had intended on a 1:2 ratio for the Active Force and 1:4 ratio for Guard and Reserve. I believe that executing this to-standard is the only way that we are going to be able to: (1) continue to send ready-trained forces to combat, (2) build the capability to hedge against the unexpected, and (3) do both of those things at a tempo that is predictable and sustainable for the all volunteer force. I will tell you, one of the things that I took away from the Denny Reimer study was that ARFORGEN is probably more important for the Guard and Reserve than it is for the Active component because of the predictability. I hadn't really thought about it in those terms.
The other element that we are going to start to make progress with is the ability to restore the capability to do other things - to do things besides Iraq and Afghanistan. If you look at what's going on in the Middle East right now -- that only confirms what I've been saying for four years: that we're in an era of persistent conflict. Like it or not, there are going to be demands on our Forces for the foreseeable future. We have to have the capability to do -- not only counterinsurgency operations like we're doing in Iraq and Afghanistan -- but to execute our doctrine of full spectrum operations in environments other than Iraq and Afghanistan.
Then the last thing I want to talk to you about is where (from my view) the Reserve Components, particularly the Guard, have come over the last five to seven years. I must say, I couldn't be prouder.
Over 320,000 Guardsmen served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. You've been full participants in the fight -- lost over 600 Soldiers, more than 5,000 wounded, three Division Headquarters deployed in combat -- the 42nd served there with me, and the 34th and 36th are there now. When you throw in Bosnia and Kosovo, all the Guard Divisions have deployed since 2001. All the Guard's Brigade Combat Teams have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan at least once -- about half of them twice or more. Six have deployed in numerous other Brigade size units. The thing that struck me as I was looking at National Guard flag officers -- half of your flag officers are combat veterans. That's a fundamentally different Guard, and it has made us a fundamentally different Army.
You've also completed modular conversion of 114 Brigades of all shapes and sizes.
In the last five years, there have been $28 million in new equipment for the Guard -- and it was long overdue.
We've put a quarter billion dollars in the Family Programs since 2005.
Recruiting and retention have shown record growth since 2005 -- in the last three years we've exceed quality standards, and during all that you were modernizing, fighting, and you also kept your eye on the domestic ball with missions on the border and cleaning up the oil spill and picking up a mission.
It is amazing what you have accomplished in the last seven years. We are a fundamentally better Army for it. For a Soldier, I say that with confidence because I sent my son to war with the 86th Brigade, and they brought him home. I can't think of a better statement of confidence from one Soldier to another. I couldn't be prouder of what you've accomplished.
Now, as we look ahead to the future, one of the things that I keep telling people as I speak in public is that the war is not over. I believe we're going to have 50,000-100,000 Soldiers deployed for another decade -- and that means we're going to be in this for a while. I also believe that we're going to be involved in something in the next 3-5 years that none of us are thinking about. I ask you to help me with that across the country as you go out there. We're involved in a war against a global extremist network that attacked us on our soil, that's tried to attack us on our soil three times in the last year. You fought them, and you know that they are not going to quit. They are not going to give up. They are not going to go away. This is a long-term ideological struggle. It's going to take us a while to work our way through it.
When you look at the trends out there -- they seem to be more likely to exacerbate the situation than to ameliorate it. So we're in for a period of persistent conflict. I think that's the reality that we're dealing with.
The other thing we're wrestling with is the character of conflict has changed. I like to tell folks that I spent the first 30 years of my career training to fight a war I never fought, and the last 10 learning to fight a different war, while I was fighting it. That's really the bane of a Soldier's existence. When you go back and look at the decisions we made coming out of Vietnam -- they weren't necessarily bad decisions (as we've been criticized for); they were decisions made under the realities of the time. When Bill DePuy sent the first FM 100-5 to the Chief of Staff of the Army in 1976, the transmittal letter said this doctrine is designed to take us out of the rice paddies of Vietnam and put us on the plains of Europe. That decision was made consciously because of size and scope of the Warsaw Pact and our readiness to deal with it.
We are making just as conscious a choice today -- but, we are not saying it's either an irregular or conventional war. We're saying that we adopt a doctrine of full spectrum operations - offense, defense and stability operations applied simultaneously to seize the initiative to achieve the desired results. You apply offense, defense, and stability operations differently depending on where you are in the spectrum of conflict. I will tell you, that until we get some more Brigades out in the combat training centers, and they begin to apply this doctrine in other environments besides Iraq and Afghanistan, we're not going to get our heads fully around this. But that's what we're going to be able to do in the next three to five years. That's an important step for us.
I just visited the Third Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division down at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC). They conducted the first full-spectrum rotation against a hybrid threat in five years. There was a lot of learning occurring there. One of the main lessons was that we are spoiled by the fiber optic networks that we have in Iraq and Afghanistan. They did their mass TAC jump into JRTC and they said, "General, you don't jump fiber optics." Amen. The thing that struck me the most was when the Platoons and Companies closed with the enemy -- they were absolutely lethal. We have an Army that knows how to fight at that level. The Battalion and Brigade staff synchronization skills that we knew were going to be rusty were, but the good news is there are still enough people around who know how to do it, so they came back pretty quickly. So we'll be exercising out here over the next 3-5 years and gradually restoring our confidence.
As I look out over those 3-5 years, I see three major challenges. I think you'll see as I talk about them, they are conflicting challenges. Leaders really need to think their way through how they balance these. We have to (1) maintain our combat edge while we (2) reconstitute the Force and (3) build resilience for the long haul. We have to do this in a period of declining resources. And I don't know if [General] JD Thurman put up the budget slide -- there is a budget slide that I've been showing folks that shows over the last decade, from 2001-2010, we received $1.7 trillion dollars -- $1.7 trillion ... with a "T." And, that we received just under a trillion dollars of that in the last 4 years. Well, if you look at the budget that was just announced -- and it's a program that goes out through 2016 -- and you make projections that from fiscal year 2015 on the best we're going to do is zero growth -- then, we're going to get $1.7 trillion dollars over the next decade, but we're going to get half of that in the next four years. That's the best we're going to do. So, we have Majors who have been in the Army and known nothing but growth. We have a large mindset change that we need to make in the coming years if we're going to hold this Force together.
Let me come back to the three main points. First of all, in that environment we have to maintain our combat edge. We're going to continue to deploy Soldiers for combat -- including Guardsmen and Reservists -- for the foreseeable future. We have an absolute commitment to make sure that when we send Soldiers in harm's way, that they are well prepared. What's going to happen is, for example, in FY12, we're going to have as many Brigades on the patch chart to deploy as available and not deploying. That's good news and bad news.
Good news that they get to rest, and they have more time to train for other things. The bad news is that if we let [the daily administration of the Army] conquer us, we'll wind up spinning our wheels, spending a lot of time on things not related to sustaining our combat edge. I worry about that. That's where I came in during the early 70's. But in the early 70's the war had ended. Now, the war is still going on. So we have to focus on tough, demanding, full-spectrum training and continuous adaptation and modernization to maintain that combat edge.
For the Guard, we really have to think about that model. I have been thinking about this for a long time because I think the hardest thing to do is to balance not running these Soldiers into the ground, but at the same time, taking advantage of the fact that they are combat veterans. They want to maintain that edge. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that. It's an important issue we will have to work through.
Secondly, we have to reconstitute. We have to reconstitute, while we are fighting. We've been at war for a decade, and we will be bringing 100,000 Soldiers home and resetting them every year. So, we are going to continuously reset, but at the same time we have to be doing larger scale reconstitution to make up for the last ten years of war. For example, we've taken a lot of equipment from the units back in the States and we've pushed it to the units fighting over and above their inventory. As we continue to come down in Iraq, and start to come out of Afghanistan in a few years, we have to get that equipment back, get it back in the units so that they have the equipment that they need to train and deploy. So, it's continuous reset and then reconstitution at the same time while the war goes on. That's high adventure.
Lastly, we have to build resilience among our Soldiers for the long haul. I believe we're going to be at this for another decade or so. We are going to continue to send Soldiers to combat, and they are going to continue to suffer the impacts of combat. I notice that about 200,000 Guardsmen had taken the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness [Global] Assessment [Tool]. That's a good thing. There are about 175 Master Resilience Trainers.
I will tell you -- we put the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program online so that it could reach the Guard and Reserve. The fact that the Assessment Tool is online, and the self-help modules are also online in each of the five areas, hopefully, will be beneficial to you as you use these tools to strengthen the resilience of our Soldiers and Families for the long haul. So, maintain our combat edge as we reconstitute the force and build resilience for the long haul in a period of declining resources.
[General] Ray Carpenter mentioned the study I asked Dennis Reimer to do -- we did that in an attempt to get ahead of the curve because we have organized the Army not to be able to go to war without the help of the Guard and Reserve. We think that is a good model. You connect us to the American people in a way that we would not be connected without that link. It is hugely important as we go forward to maintain that link.
What they gave us, that we still need to flesh out, is a model that buys the level of readiness that we need for the formation. As we look ahead, none of us will be able to do everything we want. We have to do it in a balanced way that buys the readiness that we need. I know you all are working on this and I am very much looking forward to getting your inputs as we build the model to go forward. But the one thing that is sacrosanct -- the one thing that we know from the top of the Army on down to the bottom -- is that no one wants to go back to see the Guard become a Strategic Reserve. (Applause). We have to work together then to build an effective and efficient model that delivers the Guard units at an appropriate level of readiness for the task that we are going to ask them to do. It will be a different model than you grew up with. It will be a different model than I grew up with. We have to think differently about how we do our business. I am committed to working together to build the right model for the Army for the Guard and for the country.