Open / Welcome / Thank

Thanks Sully ... it's great to be down here with you. And, as this is my final AUSA event as Chief, let me thank you for your personal support during my tenure and for your continuing service -- and that of AUSA -- on behalf of all our Soldiers, Families and Army Civilians.

Acknowledge other VIPs ...

- Under Secretary Westphal
- Assistant Secretary O'Neill (ASA for Acquisition, Log&Tech)
- Pete Chiarelli
- Marty Dempsey ... I keep running into you these days
- Ann E. Dunwoody

Great to see you all ...

I know it's early, but I couldn't resist one more AUSA breakfast of SOS. But seriously, I wanted to come here and talk to you today, but I don't have a lot of time -- I have to get back to DC this afternoon to host the farewell ceremony of SMA Ken Preston. For nearly 7 years as our 13th Sergeant Major of the Army -- and for 28 years before that -- Ken and Karen Preston have devoted everything they have to our Army and the Soldiers, Families and Civilians who make it great. Absolutely nobody has been more individually responsible for sustaining this Army over the past decade of war than Ken Preston -- because as everyone in this room knows, as goes our NCOs, so goes the Army.

Ken has done more to improve the training and education of our NCO Corps in the past 7 years than anyone I can remember in my lifetime. He's been a huge part of making our NCO Corps the strong, straight backbone of the finest Army the world has ever seen. And, even though they're not here, I think we owe the Prestons a round of applause for everything they have done for our Army and our Nation. [Lead Applause]

What I want to do this morning is talk a little bit about what we've accomplished in the past few years and how that has put us in a better position -- moving forward -- to meet the needs of the Nation in this second decade of persistent conflict. Then, I want to leave you with some thought on what I see as the major challenges the Army -- and you lead and support it -- are going to face in the very near future.

Reflections on What We've Accomplished

For the past four years now you've listened to me say that the Army was out of balance -- so weighed down by our commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan that we were unable to do the things we knew we needed in order to prepare for other contingencies and sustain this All-Volunteer Force for the long haul. Today, I can tell you that we have made great progress toward the goals that we set for ourselves back in 2004. And, while we're struggling a bit without a 2011 budget -- a year-long Continuing Resolution means a loss of about $13B off what we expected to have this year -- but, because we've reprioritized and been creative in shifting funds to the most critical areas, we're in pretty good shape to reach the balance goals that we set for ourselves in 2004 by the end of this fiscal year. We're starting to breathe again. So, we're in a transition period -- away from focusing on restoring balance and toward meeting the challenges of the second decade of persistent conflict.

So, how did we get back in balance' Let me just tick off a few highlights here:

First, we accelerated the growth of the Army that was directed by President Bush in 2007. And, we are close to finishing the additional 22,000 growth that was authorized to us and we're right at it. We're within a couple of hundred of reaching that target right now. We've increased the size of the Active Army by almost 90K Soldiers since 2007. We're going to hold that target through the end of fiscal year 2013 so that we can rest this force a little bit before we have to start coming back down. We'll come back down to our original strength of about 547,000 at the end of 2013.

That growth, plus the drawdown in Iraq, enabled us to do the second thing -- increase the BOG:Dwell. For the better part of 5 years, we were turning units at almost 1:1 -- 1-yr home for every 1-yr deployed ... we knew that wasn't sustainable. Now, we expect that by the first of October of this year, units deploying will deploy with the expectation of BOG:Dwell at 1:2 and 1:4. We had to get there -- because it takes 24-36 months to recover from a one year combat deployment. It just does. And, when you turn faster than that, the effects build up faster.

Next, we completed the largest organizational transformation of the Army since World War II. By the end of this fiscal year, we will by and large have finished the modular conversion of all 300-plus Brigades of the Army, with less than a handful left. We will have finished rebalancing -- moving Soldiers out of Cold War skills into skills more relevant and necessary today -- to the tune of 150,000-160,000 Soldiers. Taken together, it's a fundamentally different Army than it was on September 11, 2001. We had a great Army then. We have a great combat-seasoned Army -- all components -- that is organized in a way that makes it much more versatile, and much more relevant today.

The fourth thing we did was to develop a fundamentally different way of building readiness and providing combat-ready forces to Combatant Commanders -- the ARFORGEN model. We started talking about it in 2005 -- and for a while it got a bad rap because the demand levels in Iraq and Afghanistan were forcing us to turn units at a pace that made it impossible to execute as designed. But, as demand has come down, we've been able to institute it -- and reset our people and equipment, and build readiness in our units from left to right as designed. It's an out-put based readiness model that fully integrates the Guard and Reserve and brings the kind of predictability necessary to sustain our All-Volunteer Force for the long-haul. We've been moving to adapt the institutional support systems to support it, and I think we're close to achieving that goal by the end of fiscal year 2012.

And finally, we doubled our investment in Soldier and Family programs between '07 and '10. Doubled it. Because we went around the Army and saw the effects on Families of everything we were asking them to take on while their Soldiers were deploying back and forth to combat year-in-year-out, we recognized that simply saying "make the best of it" wasn't good enough. So, with the Army Family and Community, we made a concerted effort to improve Soldier and Family housing, Child and Youth Services, education and employment opportunities, and Wounded Warrior and Survivor Outreach Services. We have an obligation to all our Soldiers, Families and Civilian and we are committed to delivering on it.

It's largely because of these five things that by the end of this fiscal year, we'll be in a much, much better position than we were four years ago and be ready to step off and start doing some of the things that we wanted to do over the past several years, but just haven't had the ability to do it.

Moving Forward: Objectives for the 2nd Decade

Now, from this point of "relative" balance, I see three critical things we need to do moving forward.

First, we need to maintain the combat edge we've developed after a decade of war. We have a combat-seasoned force, but what is going to happen soon is that we will have about half our available pool of forces going to combat and half not. The good news is they have time to reconstitute and prepare to do other things, and that is what they need to be doing. But, we need to guard against developing a "have" and "have not culture" within the Army -- regarding those in units that deploy while limiting the advancement of those that don't.

The other piece about maintaining our combat edge is our continuous adaptation because of the uncertainty and complexity of the environment. I believe we are in a period of continuous and fundamental change, and what I tell the folks around the Army is that if you're uncomfortable with that, then you're in the wrong place. Because that is what we do, and we have to take the lessons we get out of Iraq and Afghanistan everyday and adapt them to bring them into the force -- to our organization, to our equipment, to our doctrine.

The other thing we have to do to maintain our combat edge is to consolidate these gains we've made with the Reserve Component. I've never seen the relationship between the Active and Reserve components better than it is now. Half of our Guard and Reserves are combat veterans. They are an operational force -- and that makes us a fundamentally different and better Army.

The final major subcomponent of maintaining our combat edge is to get back to that full spectrum training. We've begun to do that with units that at our CTCs and I can tell you that -- while we're extremely lethal at the Company and Platoon level -- we have a lot of work to do on synchronizing operations.

The second point then, after maintaining the combat edge, is Reconstituting the Force. I see two elements to this: One is the continuous reset of forces today coming and going from Afghanistan and Iraq. We have over 100,000 Soldiers there today, and they -- and their equipment -- will need to continue to be reset over time. I've told Congress -- reset isn't a one-time deal. It's a process that is going to need sustained funding for 2-3 years after we're out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then there's the reconstitution process: the capability to build readiness in the next-to-deploy forces; to have the capability to surge forces that are not available in the pool to another contingency. We haven't had that ability in five or six years and it is going to take time to restore it.

The third critical challenge for us moving forward is building resilience in the Force for the long haul. We have been at war for almost a decade. The cumulative effects are still with us -- and they are going to be with us for awhile, so we have to deal with those effects of the last decade of war. We have great programs put into place.

All of you know about the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness. Last year at this time we had 100,000 Soldiers take the Global Assessment Tool (GAT) -- an online self assessment that measures their resilience in five key areas. Almost a million Soldiers have taken the GAT today. And more than 125K Soldiers have taken more than 750K comprehensive self-study modules to give them the tools to enhance their resilience.

Our program on Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, Suicide Prevention is getting some traction -- for the first time since 2004 it appears we have slowed the rate of suicides among our Active Duty Soldiers. We are certainly not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination. But, with all the huge effort we are putting into this -- including the additional 1,200 Behavioral Health providers we've added since 2007 -- we are starting to see the slowing of the rate of suicide of Soldiers on Active Duty and that's a good thing.

So, as we shift our focus away from restoring balance to preparing for the second decade of this war -- we will work on maintaining our combat edge as we reconstitute the force and build resilience for the long haul -- that's the direction we're headed.

What Worries Me

I want to wrap up here with a bit of reflection. Like many of you -- over the course of my 40+ years of service -- I've seen the Army change dramatically. But, never more so than in the past decade. From adopting a bold new doctrine, to transforming to modular formations, rebalancing skills, fielding new equipment, and completing a major realignment -- we are a fundamentally different -- and better -- Army today than we were on September 10th, 2001. And we were the best in the world then too.

But, as I look to the future I'm worried about a couple of things -- and they're things that you all are going to have to address -- as I'm sipping Corona's watching sunsets on the beach in Scituate.

First, you don't have to have an MBA from Stanford to recognize that our Nation is in a dire financial situation. And, you don't have to work in DC to know that many people in government are looking at cutting the defense budget as the remedy for what ails our economy. Now that we're largely out of Iraq, and people think they see the light at the end of the Afghanistan tunnel -- there are increasing calls to drastically cut defense spending to trim the deficit. Just last week, Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen devoted a good deal of their testimony to staving off calls for deeper cuts in defense spending.

And that worries me for a couple of reasons. First, this war is not over. Some sense that our successful transition in Iraq, the planned (conditions-based) redeployment of our Afghan plus-up forces next summer, and the potential transition there by 2014 are all harbingers of the end of our struggle with violent extremism. They are not. These events do not signal a return to the global security environment of 1991 when America was unchallenged, complacent and unconcerned.

Second, recognizing the danger of this mindset, we've looked at history and what has happened after our major conflicts -- WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Shield/Desert Storm -- and it's always been the same. A Nation weary of war, struggling to get its domestic economy going again, looks to cash in on a "Peace Dividend" and drastically cut back on defense. But, we've seen time and again that a "Peace Dividend" is, at best, a mirage and, at worst, a danger to the long-term security of our Country, our allies and our interests.

When I first got to this job I went to Shy Meyer -- he was the CSA who went to Congress in 1980 and said that the Army was "hollow." That was 7 years after the last combat battalion left Vietnam. It was 7 years of little budget cuts who's cumulative effect was to break the Army. It took a decade to recover.

We can't make the same mistake again. We can't fool ourselves into thinking that we have defeated the enemy of ideological extremism -- that the security of the United States and our allies and partners no longer requires a vigilant, combat ready Army. That's the mentality we carried through the '70s after Vietnam and the '90s after the First Gulf War ... we simply can't afford it.

The long-term nature of the ideological struggle we're in, and the confluence of trends shaping the international security environment, convince us that we simply cannot afford to dismantle this incredible Army that we have so painstakingly built over the past decade. 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. That's the message I'm going to be taking to Congress when I testify for the final time next week.

The other thing that worries me -- and it's intricately tied to both the budget and to the mindset that these wars are winding down -- is the potential for a push to cut back on our access to the Reserve Component. Today, the Guard and Reserve is better than it has been at any other point since WW II. In the Guard alone:

- >320K Guardsmen served in Iraq and Afghanistan;
- 3 Division HQs have deployed to combat -- the 42nd served there with me, and the 34th and 36th are there now ... when you include Bosnia and Kosovo, all the Guard Divisions have deployed since 2001.
- All the Guard's BCTs have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan at least once -- about half of them twice or more. And, 114 have been converted to modular organizations.
- Half of our Army National Guard flag officers are combat veterans.

That's a fundamentally different Guard -- and it's the same story in the Reserves -- it has made us a fundamentally different and better Army.

But, again, as we transition in Iraq and think about the end of Afghanistan -- there is going to be mounting pressure from the American people, American employers, and Congress to start cutting back our access. The questions are already being asked: Hey, we're (basically) out of Iraq -- why are we still mobilizing Guardsmen and Reservists' And the answer is: we built this Army so we couldn't go to war without them. We are inextricably tied to them -- and they keep us tied to the American people. The Guard and Reserves are equal partners in the Total Force and are critical elements in the long-term viability of the ARFORGEN model, and -- therefore -- the health of the All-Volunteer Force. 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.

We have to work together then to build an effective and efficient model that -- not only maintains our access to the Guard and Reserves -- but delivers those units at an appropriate level of readiness for the task that we are going to ask them to do. One of my predecessors, Dennis Reimer, head up a study to assess how we can best employ the Reserve Component in this era of persistent conflict and gave us a number of great ideas. But, at the end of the day, our continued access to the Guard and Reserves is more a function of political will than of military necessity -- and I'm worried about our ability to sustain that will as we complete our mission in Iraq and the American people sense an end in Afghanistan. It's going to be tough -- and I'm bringing that message with me to Congress as well.

Close

Finally, I want to close by again thanking you -- everyone here from AUSA, the Army, and Defense Industry -- for everything you do on a daily basis to support the Soldiers, Families and Civilians of your Army. What you do is enormously important -- and all-too-often overlooked. So, again, thank you. And, I am incredibly proud to have served with you for four decades and alongside thousands of men and women who share your values and ideas -- who live them every day -- and who make this country what it is today ... the greatest Nation on earth.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16