Feb. 9, 2012 - Gen. Odierno House Army Caucus Breakfast Remarks
February 10, 2012
General Odierno: First I want to welcome everyone. What a great turn out here! This really is really an incredible turnout. I appreciate all the great support that we get out of Congress. I want to thank Rep. "Judge" Carter and Rep. Reyes for all the great support that you give us by leading this Caucus. It is an important event for us to have people who are here interested in the Army. First I want to welcome everybody again.
I want to especially welcome our new Vice, General Austin. We made the decision to bring him in as a Vice right at the time of sequestration. I knew I needed all of the help I could get, and I wanted intimidation. (Laughter). So I figured between me and him, we could intimidate just about anybody. We are going to keep trying to do that as we move forward. (Laughter) As you know, Lloyd Austin has a long and distinguished career in combat and also as a great thinker with work on the Joint Staff. He is a great member, along with, obviously, Secretary McHugh, my boss and great partner. We are navigating through the many challenges that we have together, and we will continue to work closely together. But we will work more importantly, closely with Congress as we work through those issues, and all the other great leaders of the Army, led by Undersecretary Wes Hall, and all of the rest of the great Army staff. We have some great people on our staff. I am very fortunate to have professionals and people who care about their Army, and who understand the real tough issues.
There is one message I would like to say before I start. Everyone who is sitting in this room in uniform is available to you all. When you have a question, ask us. We will get somebody over there as quickly as possible because it is important to us to continue this relationship and build on what we've already established. I am absolutely dedicated to this. Again, I have to mention Sergeant Major of the Army Chandler, our senior enlisted Soldier in the Army who continues to help us work through and keeps us grounded on the issues, specifically involving the Soldiers. He is also a great asset, and don't be afraid to call on him as well if you have any questions.
As I started to lay out my remarks for today, I realized if I went through all these notes I would be here for about an hour, and I know that is not what we want to do. But what that represents is we have a lot of things ahead of us that we have to work through, and a lot of issues that we are going to have to work on together. But I will start out by telling you the thing I am absolutely most confident about is today, we still have the best trained, best equipped, best manned Army in the world. Over the last several weeks I have made a couple of trips. I went out to Afghanistan right before Christmas. I came back on Christmas Eve, so I had the chance to spend three of four days out there.
As a military leader, the first thing you want to sense is the morale, dedication and the attitude of the Forces forward. I am always so impressed when I go out there. I get a chance to see these young men and women, many of them on multiple deployments, many of them who have been away from home quite some time, and I see their attitudes and hear about their jobs, and how dedicated they are to doing what is right for the mission, what is right for our Nation. That gives me hope every time I visit.
When I was over there, I had a chance to meet with all the leaders; I met with some Afghan leaders. There is clearly progress being made, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Afghanistan, as everyone knows, is a very difficult, complex place. According to the Lisbon Agreement, we have three more years. In December of 2014, we will come out of Afghanistan, but there is a lot of hard work to be done. You know that the President has announced that we will go down to 68,000 by the end of September. We are in the process of working through those details now to ensure that we understand what the force is that we need by the end of September as we continue to transition responsibility over to the Afghan Security Forces. But as we've done this in Iraq, and as we do it in Afghanistan, we have to do this extremely carefully. It has to be well thought out, and they are doing that. I am confident that with the work we are doing in growing the Afghan Forces, the work we are doing continuing to impact--in a positive way--security in Afghanistan, we will continue to make progress. I encourage all of you, when you have the opportunity, to head over to Afghanistan to get a look for yourself so you have an idea of what is going on and where we are, as you continue to make decisions on Afghanistan.
I also had an opportunity, based on the new strategy that has been laid out by the Secretary of Defense and the President, to make a trip immediately over to the Pacific region. I thought it was important. I will make another one at the end of this summer. The point of my trip was that the Army is going to be significantly involved in the Pacific, and frankly the Army has always been significantly involved in the Pacific. Many people don't realize that. We have quite a few forward stationed forces out there and have had for a very, very long time. But the point I make to everyone is that 7 out of 10 of the largest land armies in the world are in the Pacific. 22 out of 28 Chiefs of Defense in the Pacific region are Army officers. The predominant service in every major country in Asia is the Army. So we have to help them, to engage, build partner capacity, and establish military to military relationships as we continue to work our issues in Asia and the Pacific region.
I had the opportunity to go to Hawaii and visit with PACOM, US Army Pacific, as well as the 25th Infantry Division, whose headquarters had just returned from Iraq. They are absolutely focused on working through the issues we have on establishing access for US Forces, to ensure that we are there to help the nations in the region to continue to grow and to ensure that they have the freedom to make their own choices--economically, politically, and militarily--as we move forward. I am very confident in that.
I also had the opportunity to go over to Japan and then Korea. Obviously in Korea, there was some concern about the reduction of defense spending and the impact it would have on Korea. We reinforced with them our commitment, our treaty commitment that we have with Korea, that we will be there for them if necessary. Of course everyone is watching what is going to happen in North Korea, given that we now have a new 29 year old leader in North Korea. And they are watching that very carefully. So far it has been fairly good, but this is something that will have to be watched over time to see where North Korea will go, how they will react to a new leader, and what effect that will have on both their external and internal policies in the country. So we continue to watch that very carefully. We continue to look at the readiness of the forces in Korea.
We look at our relationship we have with Japan, and we are working to build a strong triad relationship with Japan, Korea and the United States as we work through many problems. As you know, there is a lot of history between Japan and Korea. What is encouraging to us is that we are starting to see some discussion that is going on, more discussion, more agreement between the two countries. And we are there to help facilitate that. We established a tri-lateral agreement between myself, and the Chief of the Japanese Defense Force, and the Chief of the South Korean Army to continue to meet together to deal with some of the key issues that face our militaries in the region. I think that will be something that is extremely positive. But there are other places that we have to continue to engage with. The Australian Chief of Staff of the Army is here visiting this week, and I will meet with him today. They obviously are a key ally in the Pacific region. We are looking at how we can work together to build partnerships and continue to help train many other countries in the region to continue to help them move forward. So I am looking forward to this meeting today. He has been traveling around the United States. He was down in TRADOC and he was out in Fort Lewis, so he has had a great visit so far. So we will continue to build these strong partnerships.
So I look ahead at how does the Army fit as we move forward. Right now it is important that we are still significantly involved in Afghanistan. We have over 60,000 Soldiers deployed still in Afghanistan, and we will for a while. Obviously our top priority is to ensure that our Soldiers continue to be trained, ready, capable, and have everything they need to be successful in their mission. But as I look to the future, what is the Army's role and strategy? I put it in to three categories: Prevent, Shape and Win.
As I work my way through this, in order to prevent conflict, it is about a combination of having the right capacity, having the right readiness, and having the right modernization, so what we don't have is miscalculations by many of the knuckleheads we have around the world who want to cause problems and gain ground for themselves. So it is important that we have this capacity. We have to determine what is that right capacity. It is our challenge, the Secretary's and mine specifically, to adjust these rheostats we have: end strength, force structure, readiness (which is training, manning and equipping) and modernizing in such a way where we sustain our technical advantage. In my mind, if we do that correctly, it helps to prevent conflict around the world.
The second category is to shape. When I talk about shaping, it is about helping the Combatant Commanders with the tools of the Army on how we can help them to build partner capacity, build military to military relationships, and also to help us to ensure that we have access around the world if we need it. You do that through developing relationships and engagements. As the Army is now out of Iraq, and as we begin to come out of Afghanistan, what we want to do is have forces available that will allow us to do this. In my mind, it is a very important piece to shape the future environment (whether it be in the Pacific region, whether it be in the Middle East, whether it be in SOUTHCOM, whether it be in EUCOM), to help to establish relationships that will help us shape the environment to help us to prevent conflict.
Then finally, the mission that I think we must always do is be capable of winning if asked to do so. Only as a last resort do we hope to have to deploy our forces to conduct conflict. But if we are asked to do that, we have to be able to win, but not just win. We have to be able to do it decisively and dominantly. Why do I say this? If we don't do it decisively and dominantly, it is at the cost of American lives. It is at the cost of extended conflicts, so it is important for us that we maintain the edge necessary to win decisively and dominantly wherever we are asked. So as we look forward, the Army is going to be preventing, shaping, and if necessary, have the capability to win if we are asked to do so.
So as we looked at this and developed this, the Secretary of the Army and I have established some priorities for the Army. I also talked about the first priority, which is focused on providing trained, equipped, and ready forces to win the current fight. We will never walk away from that. That is our primary focus. Second, we must develop an Army for the future as part of Joint Force 2020. This is about having a versatile mix of capabilities and formations and equipment that is based on what we've learned over the last ten years, but also looks to the future and what will be needed for us in order to sustain security around the world. Third, we must sustain a high quality All-Volunteer Army. We must ensure that we continue to take care of these young men and women who raise their right hand to be part of our Army in the future. We have to make sure we do that in such a way that we get the high quality of young men and women that we are getting today. That is key to our success in the future.
We will continue to transform and revitalize our equipment by better aligning requirements, resources, and the acquisition process. This is key to us as we move forward. We understand how important that is with constrained resources. We were doing this already. It is important that we get the most out of our money. It is important that we have flexibility built into our acquisition systems. We must invest in energy initiatives. There are a couple of things I talk about quite often. As we go forward, we have to cut our energy costs. We simply cannot afford the rate of increase that we have today for energy costs. So there are things that we need to do here, back in the United States as we sustain and train our Army in order to gain energy efficiencies. We are working that very hard. But also, as we deploy, we have to develop ways where we save energy and reduce the cost. It is a major driver of everything we do, so it is imperative for us to begin to move forward with these initiatives to reduce costs.
Finally we have to adapt leader development to meet our future security challenges. As I often say, the strength of our nation is our Army; the strength of our Army is our Soldiers. What we need is to develop our Soldiers. We need to understand that we are developing leaders in an ever-evolving, more complex world that we live in. So we have to adapt what we are doing. I will tell you that what we ask our Captains to do today is much more complex than what I was asked to do when I was a Captain. What we ask our Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels to do today is much more difficult than when I was a Colonel or Lieutenant Colonel. We must provide them the education, the capabilities, and the broadening experiences that allow them to operate in these complex environments. So we are looking from beginning to end at how we will adapt our leader development programs: from the time you become an ROTC Cadet or a West Point Cadet all the way through to when you are a General Officer. And the same on the Noncommissioned Officer side: how we develop leaders beginning from basic training all the way through all of the NCO leaders courses we have; how we mix our institutional training and organizational training and our self-learning capability that we have; how we put those together and how we orient those so that we continue to have the best leaders in the world. That is what will solve our problems: leaders. We are going to be totally invested in our leaders as we move forward.
Finally, it is important to me that we focus on the importance of our Profession at Arms. That has to do with loyal and ethical behavior; that has to do with the bedrock of what we consider the trust that we have: trust between Soldiers, trust between Soldiers and leaders; trust between Soldiers, leaders, families and the Army; and trust between the Army and the American people. That is our profession. We are a unique profession. We have to make sure that people understand the uniqueness of what our profession entails, the importance of our moral and ethical values, and the values associated with trust; the values associated with raising your right hand and swearing to the Constitution of the United States and what comes with that. We will continue to work through this as we move forward.
If I could just cover a few other issues so that you understand that they are important to us. First: sexual assault. Sexual assault is, frankly, absolutely inconsistent with our Army values that I just talked about. One of the things we talk about is that as a Soldier, we have each other's back. We take care of each other. Sexual assault and the problem we have in the Army does not fit into that category. We are not taking care of each other. So we are dedicated to establish a campaign for awareness, to change a culture, to understand that we are Soldiers together, that we will protect each other no matter where and when.
But we are also working on other things. We are working on ensuring that we have the investigative capabilities to ensure that when we do have a sexual assault, we can bring it forward properly for the appropriate prosecution. We have special programs we are now putting in place for our prosecutors to ensure they understand how to move forward with this. We simply are not going to tolerate this. We will push forward and do whatever we can to solve this problem. Again, this is about respect; this is about leadership. We will continue to push forward as much as we can.
Hazing is another thing we are working on. We have had some unfortunate incidents of hazing that has occurred within the force. In some cases, it is believed they start out as something that is an initiation or fun, but they get too carried away. Again, this is a leadership failure within our Army. We are not going to tolerate hazing. We are not going to tolerate the abuse of individuals because of their race or their religion. We are going to continue to work through this very hard.
We continue to struggle with suicide prevention. We have put a full court press on suicide prevention, yet we've made only a marginal difference in suicides. So we are going to continue to work this. It is about training our Soldiers. It is about awareness. It is about identification of the signs of suicide. We continue to work this very hard. I have now been the Chief for about five months. As you are out in other jobs, you never get to see the whole Army. Since I have become Chief, I get to see the whole Army. Frankly, it is bothersome about the number of suicides that we have and how often it occurs, and how different the situations are. We are tying to find a pattern. We can't find a pattern. That is what is so difficult about it, but we are going to continue to work this, and we are dedicated to ensure that we do that.
Finally, women in combat. The Women in Service review is going to be released later today and is the latest report on women in combat. First, we are opening more positions to women. During the Department of Defense review this year, we requested to go even further by opening key positions in combat units at the battalion level that were previously closed to women. Since we, frankly, have been doing this. The bottom line is we have been doing this in Iraq and Afghanistan for a very long time. I think it is important. To me it is about talent management. It is about using our best talent in the best positions. I don't want to ever limit our ability and hinder the talent that we have in our Army. So we will continue to work through this, but I am dedicated to working through this problem. I hope to have the chance to work with you on this issue.
I can talk about sequestration. I think you understand the risk involved with sequestration. My position on the $487 billion dollars of cuts that we have now, $261 billion with this one…in the Army we are on a fine line right now with this cut. But yes, we have made it. Yes, we have done it; we are able to make this cut. But frankly, we are on the razor's edge when we talk about readiness, modernization, our end strength and force structure. If sequestration goes into effect, we will have to stop. Within the Joint Chiefs, we will have to sit down and really go through how we are going to do business, because this is going to fundamentally change how we do business. We will have to sit down and come up with a strategy much more reduced than what we have now. The capabilities that we have will be significantly reduced as well. It will affect all things. It will affect Reserve Component, National Guard, the Active Component. It will affect our modernization programs. It will affect many of the programs we have to take care of our families. It will affect every piece of the Army if sequestration goes into effect. So I ask you to continue to work this issue.
Finally I want to talk about the importance that I know you all feel about continuing to nominate the right people for our military academies, and how important that is and the processes you use. I know you all do it differently. I know you all have very good processes, but I do want to thank Representative Frelinghuysen for the way he does this and the way he set up a committee to really go through and choose the best applicants that have decided to go to the military academies. To us, this is a very important decision. Again, you are selecting our future leaders as you select those whom you nominate to be Cadets at West Point, Midshipmen at Annapolis, or Airmen at the Air Force Academy. Obviously I am more concerned about West Point, but it is important for all. Now, we have record applications at West Point. We have higher applications now than we've ever had before for our military academies. Young men and women are interested. It is important as you go through this process that you employ a process that picks the best candidates that we have. I appreciate the efforts. And I appreciate what Representative Frelinghuysen has done in the nomination process. I had the opportunity when I was the Commander at Fort Hood, to participate in the process we used in central Texas to nominate individuals to the military academies. I can't tell you how important it is.
I want to close by telling you that with the current reductions we have, we are going to reduce our end strength, we've taken some cuts on our modernization. When we come out of this, we will still have the best Army we've ever had. But it is something that will have to be managed very carefully, and it is going to take a lot of work between the Army and Congress to help us to continue to manage this as we move forward. As the Secretary and I work these issues, this is not a one year issue. We have to refine. We have to adjust. This will occur over the next four or five years as we begin to reduce the size of the Army by 80,000 people. We will continue to refine it every year and adjust it. We will talk about what we will do in 2013. Next year we will start to talk about what we will do in 2014 and 2015. So we are constantly going to adjust it and review it, assess it, to ensure that we do this right. We want to be pragmatic about it. We will continue to do that as we move forward.
I want to thank you all for coming this morning. It has been an honor to be here. I look forward to answering some questions. I want to introduce my boss, the great Secretary of the Army, Secretary McHugh. I know you are all very familiar with him. He provides great leadership, great counsel to me and many of us on the Army staff and the Army leadership. With that, Secretary McHugh.
End of Remarks.