Senate asks hard questions on future of Army personnel
April 26, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 25, 2012) -- With the downsizing of the active force over the next few years, reliance will need to be placed on the reserve components to wage another long-term conflict, Army personnel leaders told lawmakers April 25.
During a Senate Armed Services Committee personnel subcommittee hearing, both Thomas R. Lamont, assistant secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, and Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, deputy chief of staff, G-1, spoke about preparations needed for future wars, reduction of force and dwell times.
"America's Army, our Soldiers, families and civilians, are strained by nearly a decade of persistent conflict," Lamont said. More than 1.1 million Soldiers have deployed to combat, impacting not only the Soldiers, but their families as well, he explained.
"Additionally, Army civilians shoulder a majority of the generating force mission, and 30,000 civilians have deployed into harm's way. Now we will transition to a smaller force, while continuing to remain vigilant of new threats and prepare for new capabilities and requirements," he said.
REDUCTION OF FORCE
Asking about the requirement to reduce the Army by 80,000 over the next six years, and future conflicts in terms of land engagements, one of the senators related what Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno had earlier reported to the appropriations committee.
If America had another Iraq-like conflict, Odierno said, where a large number of forces deployed over a fairly significant period of time, about 50 percent of the troops would need to come from the Army Reserve and the National Guard.
"Clearly, we're going to be in need of a significant operational reserve," Lamont said, "to the extent that we have the trained and ready forces to support a smaller active component, it's absolutely essential.
"I think we have to be very careful because as we reduce the active component of the Army we may very well find it necessary to shift further capabilities into the Guard and Reserve. And if we're going to do that, then we better make sure they're trained and ready to go," Lamont said.
As the Army gets into the budget process, he said, it must ensure sufficient funds are available for not only full-time support to assist the Guard and Reserve but to also fund training.
"We're very good right now in the equipping level, but we're a little concerned that we have sufficient and adequate funding to train them at the readiness level that we all need to do."
Bostick was asked whether he's comfortable with troop reduction bringing the Army's end strength to slightly above what it was at the time of 9/11.
"Yes senator, it was (then) about 482,000 to 443,000. We're (now) going to come down to 490,000. Given the strategy that has been laid out we're comfortable that if we stay on the ramp that we're on, in terms of drawing down the Army end strength that we can do this in a reasonable way and take care of Soldiers and families as we come down, and still meet the missions that we've been asked to do," Bostick said.
If the Army draws down its end strength in the planned manner through 2017, he continued, there will be risks, but "we've mitigated the risk as best we can."
"We can get hollow in a number of areas, and a lot of folks think about hollowness of a force in terms of people, but the chief and the secretary have said we need a balance, and we're not going to retain force structure to hurt ourselves in readiness.
"And readiness could be in training readiness, it could be in the quality of life for our Soldiers and families, it could be in modernization, so currently the biggest portion of our budget, 45 to 46 percent of our budget, is in personnel," Bostick said.
If the Army comes out of Afghanistan as planned in 2014, that's when the majority of bigger end strength reductions will happen, he said, 2014 and beyond.
Placing more noncommissioned officers in drill sergeant status and in recruiting will enable the Army to reverse and ramp up more quickly if it needs to for an emergency, he said. He said placing mid-grade officers and mid-grade noncommissioned officers in the institutional Army would provide "some flexibility to grow the Army."
Lamont had more words to say about dwell time, the ratio of time Soldiers spend at home station compared to being deploying overseas.
"We're moving our deployment cycle down to a nine-month cycle so we hope that will reduce some of the stress on the force and maybe, as we reduce in Afghanistan, our dwell time will then rise.
"As you say on the hollowing out of the force, and our concerns on assumptions, the problem is, we never know what the enemy is going to do. We don't know what contingencies are going to arise and we must be extremely careful in how we plan for reversibility and expandability, as necessary," Lamont said.