February 2008 - Opening Remarks House Armed Services Committee
March 7, 2008
Thank you very much, Chairman, Congressman Hunter, members of the committee. Not much has changed since the secretary and I were here in September, but I would like to reemphasize some of the themes that we talked about then, but this time do it in the context of the fiscal year '09 budget that we're presenting today.
Our country, as has been said, is in our seventh year of war. And your Army remains fully engaged on the front lines, both abroad and at home. I testified in September that I believed the next decades would be ones of persistent conflict. And I defined that as a period of protracted confrontation among state, non-state, and individual actors who are increasingly willing to use violence to accomplish their strategic or their political and ideological objectives.
I also described some global trends that I see going in the wrong direction that I believe will exacerbate and prolong this period of persistent conflict: the double-edged swords of technology and globalization, doubling of populations in developing countries, terrorist organizations seeking weapons of mass destruction, terrorist safe havens in ungoverned spaces.
I said that because of that, our Army must be versatile enough to adapt rapidly to the unexpected circumstances we will surely face. And your 12 instances, Mr. Chairman, are exactly what we must be prepared for. And we have been building that agile, campaign-quality expeditionary force that we believe the nation needs for this future.
I also said that the cumulative effects of the six plus years at war have left our Army out of balance, consumed by the current fight and unable to do the things we know we to do to sustain the all- volunteer force and to build strategic flexibility for other things. I wrestled hard to find the right words to describe the Army, because, as has been said several times already, it's not broken, it's not hollow. I lived through hollow in the early '70s.
It's a very resilient, competent, professional, and combat- seasoned force, as you said. But as we all recognize, we are not where we need to be.
I've said that we have a plan to help restore that balance. And with your help, we believe that there are four imperatives that we must accomplish here in the next several years: sustain, prepare, reset, and transform. And let me just say a few words about each of those.
First and foremost, we must sustain our soldiers, families, and civilians. They are the heart and soul of this Army and must be sustained in a way that recognizes the quality of their service. The secretary mentioned several initiatives here, and they will continue, with your support.
Second, prepare -- we need to continue to prepare our soldiers for success in the current conflict. And we cannot flinch from our obligations to ensure that they are properly organized, trained, and equipped to have a decisive advantage over any enemy that they face.
Third, reset -- reset is about returning our soldiers and their equipment to appropriate condition for future deployments and contingencies. In fiscal year '07, you gave us resources to properly reset the force. And as a result, we made significant strides in restoring systems and capabilities. Resources for reset, I believe, are the difference between a hollow force and a versatile, flexible force for the future.
Lastly, transformed -- and, Mr. Chairman, even as we work to put this Army in balance, we must continue to transform to give it the capabilities it needs in the 21st century. For us transformation is a holistic effort. We want to adapt how we train, how we fight, how we modernize, how we sustain our soldiers, families, and civilians, and how we station our forces.
When I was here in September, I showed you some of the equipment that's part of our future combat system. Future combat system is the core of our modernization efforts. And it will provide us the full spectrum capabilities we know we need for the 21st century security environment.
We're seeing the value of some of the systems today in Iraq and Afghanistan and at Fort Bliss, Texas where a brigade of our soldiers is actually testing some of those systems. At its peak, future combat systems amounts to a third of our investment accounts, which I think, as you know, represent about a quarter of our overall budget. So a third of a quarter. And we believe that the future combat system is both essential and affordable.
Now, Mr. Chairman, as you have said many times, the intellectual has to proceed the physical. And later this week we'll be releasing a new version of our operations manual. This is field manual three, operations. And it describes the future security environment and prescribes a framework for Army forces to be successful in that environment.
Let me just talk about five significant elements that you'll find in this manual. First of all, it describes the complex, multi- dimensional security environment of the 21st century where we believe war will be increasingly fought among the people.
Second and probably most importantly, it elevates stability operations to the level of offense, defense and prescribes an operational concept called full spectrum operations where Army forces simultaneously apply offense and defense and stability operations to seize the initiative and achieve decisive results.
Third, it emphasizes the commander's role in battle command and describes an intellectual process for developing solutions to the very complex challenges and problems we'll face in the future.
Fourth, it emphasizes the importance of information superiority in modern conflict.
And lastly, it recognizes that our soldiers remain the centerpiece of our Army.
We believe this doctrine will provide us a great start point from which to build on our experience of the past seven years and shape our Army for the future. So that's our plan, Chairman: sustain, prepare, reset, and transform.
And over the last two years, you have given us the funding to begin the process of putting the Army back in balance. This budget, the war on terror supplemental that will accompany it, and the balance of the '08 war on terror supplemental will allow us to continue the process of putting the Army back in balance.
We appreciate your support, and we have worked very hard to put the resources that you've given us to good use. And I'd just like to highlight a few.
First, we've made great strides through our Army medical action plan in improving our care to wounded soldiers. And we're absolutely committed to continuing to improve that.
Second, we've initiated an Army soldier and family action plan to improve the quality of support to our soldiers and families.
Third, we're over 60 percent of the way through our transition to modular organizations. And this is the largest organizational transformation of the Army since World War II. And I have seen the power of these units in Iraq. And they are the types of formations we need in the 21st century.
We're also over 60 percent through our reconversion of 120,000 soldiers to skill sets from Cold War skill sets to ones that are more relevant in the 21st century. We've reset with your support over 123,000 pieces of equipment. We've privatized over 4,000 homes just in the last year, bringing the total to 80,000, which is a significant enhancement to the quality of life to our soldiers and families. And your depots of the Army Materiel Command have won 12 industry awards for efficiency.
So, Mr. Chairman, as you can see, we are not sitting still, and we're actively working to put ourselves back in balance and to give the nation the Army that it needs in the 21st century.
Now, let me just close, Mr. Chairman, by relating an experience I had right before Christmas. I went up to Alaska, and I was asked to pin a distinguished service cross on a young sergeant, Sergeant Greg Williams. He was on a patrol in Baghdad in October 2006.
His patrol was ambushed from three different directions, and the ambush was initiated by an attack by four explosively formed penetrators. And I think you know those are the very lethal, anti- armor improvised explosive devices.
He was knocked out. He awoke to find himself on fire, to find his vehicle on fire. His eardrum was burst. He put himself out. His first instinct was to grab the aid bag and begin treating his soldiers under fire.
He recognized the lieutenant was still back on the track. He went back on the burning vehicle, dragged the lieutenant to safety and continued to place fire on the enemy.
Recognizing that no one was manning the 50-caliber machine gun on the Stryker, he went again back into the burning vehicle, which contained over 30 pounds of TNT and detonating cord. He got on the 50-caliber, brought the 50-caliber to bear on the enemy and broke the ambush. That's the kind of men and women that we have in the armed forces today. You can be rightfully proud of what they're doing for this country.
But it'll require more than the courage and valor of our soldiers to ensure our Army can continue to fight and win the nation's wars in an era of persistent conflict. It'll require recognition of national leaders like yourselves of the threats and challenges that America faces in the years ahead. And it will also require full, timely, and predictable funding to ensure that our armed forces are prepared to deal with those threats and can preserve our way of life.
So, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you very much for your attention