Happy St. Patrick's Day everybody ... thank you all for coming out.

If I could just start by giving you a quick update about where I see us and what I see as the challenges facing us in the next 3-5 years.

I was doing an interview yesterday with a reporter, and the reporter said he went back and read the headlines from the spring of 2007 -- and the headlines were saying that "the Army's broken" ... that the Army was "hollow" and that the Army wasn't going to make it through the next several years. I can tell you today, that -- in no small portion because of the support of our Members of Congress -- that we are in an entirely different place as an Army than we were at this time back in 2007. It's been a herculean effort on the part of the Soldiers, the Families, the Headquarters, and the Civilians of this great Army.

We've come from a position where we were absolutely stretched -- we were deploying Soldiers with about a year at home [between combat deployments] ... sometimes less. And, we put ourselves on a plan back in 2007 to get ourselves back in balance by the end of this year. And, we have largely accomplished what we set out to do. And I can tell you that on the first of October of this year -- for the first time in over five years -- a Soldier deploying will deploy with an expectation of two years at home when they return. (applause) That's for our Active Force. And, for our Guardsmen and Reservists -- without whose support we wouldn't have been able to do all that we have done -- can expect four years at home when they get back. That's a huge accomplishment and we knew we had to get there 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 all human. And, when you turn Soldiers back faster -- the cumulative effects build up faster.

So, we're in a fundamentally different position -- and it wouldn't have happened without the support of Congress and the American people.

The second thing that's been going on over the last 7 years (really) is we have fundamentally transformed the Army away from the very good Cold War Force that we were on September 11th [2001] to versatile, experienced force that is much more ready for the challenges of the 21st Century than we were seven years ago.

That's involved changing every brigade in the Army to new modular organizations that are more easily tailorable to the different circumstances that we'll face. It's involved moving 150,000-160,000 Soldiers out of skills that were very necessary in the 20th Century into skills more necessary today. It's involved moving 380,000 Soldiers and Families all across the Army to be able to execute BRAC. As you know -- the law passed in 2005; you get the money in 2006; you design and build in 2007and 2008; and then people move in '09, '10, '11 -- we're all getting to move in the next six-months or so. We're on track to make that happen. So, huge accomplishments -- transforming while we're sending 120,000 Soldiers over and back to Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are -- in addition to being in a fundamentally different place -- we're a fundamentally different Force than we were just seven year ago.

As we look to the future, though, one thing about the world we live in is you never want for challenges. And -- as I look ahead -- what I see as the challenges facing us is:
One, we have to maintain our combat edge -- because I believe we're going to continue to have a good number of Soldiers in harm's way for a long time. I'm not making policy -- I'm saying that we're in an era of persistent conflict, and there's a lot going on -- and we're going to continue to need to rely on our military to deal with those challenges. What that means is -- the war's not over. We have to continue to modernize, to train our Soldiers and our formations -- because we don't know when we'll be called on.
The other thing we have to do while we maintain our combat edge is to reconstitute the force. We've been at war for a decade, and as I mentioned, we've transformed -- we've changed the design of every brigade in the Army -- we've done about 400 brigade reliefs in place in combat, so we have a little tidying up to do to make sure we get control over all our resources and get them back in the right place. So, that has to go on at the same time we're working to maintain the combat edge.

And then, lastly, we have to continue to deal with the challenges of a decade of war -- and those challenges are going to be with us for a while. We've got some great programs that are helping us build resilience into the Force, but we can't turn our back -- for example -- on our Survivors. We've lost over 4,000 Soldiers in the Army in the last decade and they've left more than 20,000 [surviving] family [members]. We've had over 29,000 Soldiers wounded -- 8,000 of them seriously enough to require long-term care. We can't turn our back on them. Our Families have been a huge part of us being able to hold this Force together -- and, we have increased our support to our Families over the last seven years and it's made a big difference. We can't go back on that.

All of those things have to go on here while we continue to prosecute this war. And, we have to do it in a period of declining resources. We all recognize that the resources for defense have to come down -- but, I would just say that we have to be very, very careful as we do that. Because, in the past, resources have come down at the end of wars and we have taken down the size of the Army as a result. But, we haven't done it while we're fighting a war. And, the worst thing we could do is inadvertently hollow-out the Army while we're fighting a war. So, we're forced to do all these initiatives -- to use the money we're given as effectively and efficiently as possible, but we're going forward very carefully so we don't inadvertently hollow-out this Force [while we're] in the middle of a war.

So, thank you very much for your attention. I'd like to introduce my boss -- the Secretary of the Army -- and then we'll take some questions.

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