Feb. 17, 2011 - House Army Caucus Breakfast remarks
February 23, 2011
It is wonderful to be here with you. I am not going to run through all the Four Stars that are here, but I would like to just point out a couple of them.
The first is General William Kip Ward, the Commander of U.S. Africa Command. He is retiring next month, after over forty years of service. Kip you will very much be missed. (Applause)
And Skip Sharp will be retiring later this summer when he figures out what all those titles mean. He will be missed. (Applause). Then, I know he's not presuming confirmation, but I will ask Marty Dempsey to stand up because he has been nominated by the President to be my successor. There you are Marty. (Applause)
If I could just take a few minutes here and give a little retrospective. You will remember when I came here four years ago, I said the Army was "out of balance." At that time we were deploying Soldiers for 15 months, and they were having 12 months home between deployments. It was an unsustainable pace. We got there because we had an Army that was too small to do what the country asked it to do when the time came.
Over the last four years -- with your assistance -- we have brought this Army back into a position of balance. Starting the first of October of this year, when our Soldiers deploy, they will deploy with the expectation of two years at home. That was some place we had to get to because all of our studies tell us that it takes 24-36 months to recover from a one year combat deployment. It just does. We're human beings. But, that wouldn't have happened without your assistance.
The other thing that has happened over that period of time is we have completed a transformation from the very good Cold War Army that we were prior to September 11th to an Army that is far more relevant and effective for the challenges of the second decade of the 21st Century. We've done that while we've been deployed over 150,000 Soldiers over and back to Iraq and Afghanistan. It is an amazing accomplishment.
We've also been doing a little moving. Remember BRAC of 2005' You know how that works: you get the law in 2005; you get the money in 2006; you design in 2007and 2008; you build in 2009 and 10. Then what happens' Everyone moves in the last six months. Well, it's the last six months, and we'll let you know where we wind up. But, the upside is quality of the facilities of Army installations has really, really improved. You can't go onto an Army installation without seeing cranes, and that is a great thing.
The other thing that has happened - I mentioned the transformation of the Army -- we have converted all 300 Brigades of the Army to a new design: away from the Cold War design to the types of formations we need today. So it's been a huge transformation, and we're in a far, far better place than we were just four years ago. We wouldn't have gotten here without your support.
That brings me to where we are today. As I watch what is going on around the country, it worries me. It took us a decade to put the Army where it is today. We all recognize that budgets, including the defense budget, have to come down. That's important.
What I worry about is what happens after every war, since World War I in this country: that when the war is over the budgets come down; the size of the Army is reduced; and the effectiveness of the forces is reduced. But the war is not over. We still have 110,000 Soldiers deployed in harm's way today, and that's just the Army. I am not making policy, but I suspect we will have a large number of Soldiers deployed for a while.
So what I worry about is that we come down and the ramp down comes in waves. There's no one big event or one big cut to cause the pain, but rather lots of little ones that causes us to turn around 5 or 6 years from now and say, "What the heck happened to the Army'"
When I first got this job I called Shy Meyer -- he was the Chief of Staff of the Army who went to Congress in 1980 and said the Army is "hollow." That was seven years after the last combat Battalion left Vietnam, and it was seven years of little cuts. Then we turned around and realized we'd broken the Army. So we are with you on reducing the size of the budget and operating more effectively and efficiently with the funds that we get. We know we have to do that. I just think we need to be very careful because the war is not over.
Thanks for your attention here, it is my privilege now to introduce my boss, and partner. For those of you who find that a puzzling way to say it, you are not married I can tell. Anyway, let me introduce the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh. (Applause)