March 2, 2011 -- Opening Remarks to the House Armed Services Committee
March 4, 2011
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Congressman Smith, members of the committee ...
I'm trying to keep a straight face, but being here for the last time is not all it's cut out to be -- I'll just tell you that. But, it is a great opportunity for me to talk to you about the progress we have made in the Army over the last decade.
I would echo the Secretary's comments on Congresswoman Giffords and add my wishes for her speedy recovery and return to this Chamber. And, if you would indulge me, Mr. Chairman, I would like to introduce some guests here today who represent the men and women of this great Army:
First of all -- if you would just stand up there Ruth -- Ms. Ruth Stonesifer. Ruth's son, SPC Kristofor was killed in a helicopter crashed along the Afghan-Pakistan border in 2001. And, Ruth has committed herself since to helping other surviving spouses. She's recently completed a tour as the Director of the Gold Star Mothers Foundation for the last year -- so, thank you very much for what you do ... [applause]
Sitting next to her is 1SG Damian Anderson. He's the 1SG from the Old Guard, but he has recently completed a 10-day Master Resilience Trainer course at the University of Pennsylvania. Master Resilience trainers are part of our key program to give our Soldiers, Civilians and Family Members the skills they need to deal with the coming challenges of the next decade -- so, thank you very much 1SG ... [applause]
And, lastly, SGT Joel Dulashanti. In 2007, SGT Dulashanti was severely wounded and lost his right leg. He's been working (actually) here in our Legislative Liaison Office while he's been completing a two-year recovery. The good news is, he's completed that recovery and he'll leave this summer to go to our Airborne School as a member of the cadre down at Fort Benning, Georgia -- so, thank you very much ... [applause]
Now, if I may, Mr. Chairman -- for the past four years, you've heard me say that the Army was out of balance -- that we were so weighed down by our current commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan that we couldn't do the things we knew we needed to do to sustain this All-Volunteer Force for the long-haul and prepare to do other things. Today -- thanks in large measure to the sustained support from this Committee -- I can tell you that we have made great progress toward the goals that we set for ourselves in 2007, and -- as an Army -- we are starting to breathe again.
We're emerging from a decade of war and transformation with a well-equipped, combat-seasoned Total Force that -- while still stretched by the demands and lingering effects of a decade at war -- is able to begin preparing for the challenges of the second decade of the 21st Century.
And, let me just quickly update you on some of that progress:
First, we've completed both the permanent end strength increase that was directed by President Bush in 2007 and the Temporary End Strength Increase of 22,000 authorized by Secretary Gates in 2009. This allowed us to meet the plus-up in Afghanistan before we departed Iraq without having to increase deployed time for our Soldiers. I know there is concern about the conditions-based reductions planned in our end strength that were announced by Secretary Gates a few weeks ago. But, I can tell you that I believe that if the draw downs in Iraq and Afghanistan go as planned, that it is prudent to begin planning to reduce the size of the Army in 2015 and we need to do that to facilitate sustaining a balanced Force -- one that is both the right size to meet our National Security Strategy at an appropriate deployment tempo but is also well-trained, well-equipped, and well-supported. In a time of war, we just can't afford anything less.
Second, our growth, plus the drawdown in Iraq, enabled us to significantly improve Dwell -- and by dwell I mean the time at home between deployments. This is a critical component of sustaining an All-Volunteer Force in a protracted conflict. For the better part of 5 years, we were returning Soldiers to combat after only one year at home, and we knew that wasn't sustainable and have been working to bring dwell to two years at home as quickly as possible. I will tell you that beginning the first of October of this year, given what we know about the projected demands, our Active units who deploy after the first of October will deploy with an expectation of having two years at home when they return. Our Guard and Reserve units will deploy with an expectation of 4 years at home when they return. We have worked very hard to get to this point and it's a significant accomplishment -- 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. And, turning faster than that accelerates the cumulative effects of combat. I would tell you that we will continue to work toward our long-term goal of 3 years at home between combat deployments.
Third, this year we will also largely complete the largest organizational transformation of the Army since World War II. We'll finish the modular conversion of all but a handful of our 300-plus Brigades of the Army and finish rebalancing Soldiers out of Cold War skills into skills more relevant and more necessary today -- that's to the tune of 150,000-160,000 Soldiers. Taken together, it's a fundamentally different Army than it was on September 11, 2001 -- and, we had a great Army then. But, today, we're a much more versatile and experienced force.
Fourth, to enhance this versatility, we've developed a fundamentally different way of building readiness and providing trained and ready forces to Combatant Commanders -- I think you've heard about it, but we call it the Army Force Generation Model. It's an out-put based readiness model that fully integrates the Guard and Reserve, that brings the kind of predictability we need to sustain our All-Volunteer Force, and that allows us to build the readiness we need to both meet current demands and hedge against unexpected contingencies. ARFORGEN is also a more effective and more efficient way of building the readiness we need -- when we need it.
So, if you add these things up -- accelerated growth, increased dwell, transformation, and the ARFORGEN readiness model -- together they begin to allow us to restore some strategic flexibility -- the capability to provide trained and ready forces to all combatant commanders for operations across the spectrum of conflict.
So, after a decade of very hard work, we have a force that's the right size, that is organized in versatile, modular formations on a predictable rotational cycle, that sufficient time at home to begin training for the full range of missions and to recover from a decade at war. This would not have been possible without your support and the support of the American people -- so thank you.
Now, this Fiscal Year '12 budget marks a transition point -- in which we can begin shifting our focus from restoring balance to sustaining the balance we -- together -- have so painstakingly restored to this force. Sustaining that balance is critically important, because this war is not over by any stretch of the imagination.
The Fiscal Year '12 budget that we are presenting today enables us to maintain our combat edge, to reset and reconstitute our force, to continue to deal with the impacts of a decade at war, and to build the resilience into this force for the second decade. I'd like to say a few words about each of those, but in short -- this budget enables us to sustain the balance that we have restored to this great Army.
First, maintaining our combat edge. It's important that we maintain the edge that we've honed over a decade of war. And, we'll do that through continuous adaptation, affordable modernization, tough demanding training for the full range of missions, and by sustaining the gains that we've made in our Reserve Components. Last week, Secretary Gates said that we were "an institution transformed by war." He's absolutely right, and I talked about that transformation a few moments ago. But, I believe we are in a period of continuous and fundamental change driven by rapid technological advances and adaptive enemies. Critical to our ability to maintain our edge will be an affordable modernization strategy that provides the equipment that gives our Soldiers a decisive advantage over any enemy that they face. This budget lays out such a plan, and I would like just to highlight two key areas and reinforce what the Secretary said:
No matter where are Soldiers are operating, they need to know where they are, they need to know where their buddies are, they need to know where the enemy is, and -- when they shoot at the enemy -- they need to strike them with precision. They'll also need protected mobility. This budget contains funding that will begin the fielding of some key elements of the network that will enable our Soldiers in any environment. And these include the Joint Tactical Radio System and the Warfighter Information Network. It also includes funding for a new Ground Combat Vehicle that provides protection against IEDs, that has capacity to carry a 9-man squad, and is capable of operating across the spectrum of operations -- and we also hope that it can be developed in 7-years.
Maintaining our combat edge also requires training for the full spectrum of operations. This training is conducted at both home station and at our combat training centers and it will be critical to ensuring that we sustain our combat experience and restore the ability to rapidly deploy for the full range of missions. It will require moving Operations and Maintenance dollars from OCO to the Base over the next several years.
It will also be important to consolidate the gains that we've made in our Reserve Components. Think about it -- half of our Guardsmen and Reservists are combat veterans. Half of the General Officers in the Guard and Reserves are combat veterans. I've never seen the relationship between the Active and Reserve Component Forces better than it is now. And, we are working together to establish an effective paradigm that allows us to leverage our substantial investments and the substantial experience of our Reserve Components.
Second point -- reconstituting the Force. I see two elements to this: One is the continuous reset of forces returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. We've got over 110,000 Soldiers there today, and they -- and their replacements and their equipment -- will need to be reset over time. Reset isn't a one-time shot. It's a process that's necessary for every returning unit. And, it will require sustained funding for 2-3 years after we're out of Iraq and Afghanistan to ensure that we reconstitute the force fully and restore readiness into our next-to-deploy forces -- we haven't had that ability in five or six years and so it's important that we restore that readiness.
The third critical element for us 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. Think about it --
- More than 4K Soldiers killed ... leaving more than 20K family members;
- Over 29K Soldiers wounded ... 8K of them significantly enough to require long-term care;
- Over 100K Soldiers diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury ... fortunately greater than 90% are moderate or mild;
- 40K Soldiers diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress; and
- Over 30K Soldiers processed through our Warrior Transition Units.
This budget contains funding for programs like the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention, the Army Family Covenant, Survivor Outreach Services, and Sexual Assault Prevention that will allow us to continue to build resilience into the force for the second decade. We remain -- as I know you do -- committed to the well-being of our Soldiers, Families and Civilians.
So, in conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to leave the Committee with two thoughts as I complete over 40-years of service to this great country:
First, we're at a key transition point here as we move from a decade of war and transformation to a decade of sustaining a force at war in a period of declining resources. Together we have built a great Army, but it's an Army still stretched and recovering from the last decade of war and it continues to prosecute a war in two theaters. It took us a decade to get where we are today. And, we recognize that the country is in a difficult fiscal position, and we have, and will continue to work hard to use the resources that you provide us as effectively and efficiently as possible. But, we are at war, and this war is not over. So we need to proceed with caution, because the last thing any of us want to do is to create a hollow Army while we're fighting a war.
And second, Mr. Chairman, is to thank the members of this committee for your enduring support of our Army. You've visited our troops and their families at home and in war, you've helped us bury our dead, and you've seen firsthand -- through all this change, hardship and demands of war -- what has remained constant is the courage, the selfless service, and the sacrifice of our Soldiers, our Families, and our Army Civilians.
I couldn't be more proud to have worn this uniform for the past 40 years and to have served alongside the men and women of this great Army -- I am humbled and particularly proud to have led them in this last decade. It's been the greatest honor of my career.
So, thank you very much and I look forward to taking your questions.