General Odierno: As always it is great to be here today. It is such an honor to be in the Capitol. I do want to thank all the Senators and staffers who have taken time out of their incredibly busy schedules to be here. I know there is a lot going on up here, but I think this is an important forum to get together once in a while to have a chance to chat. I want to thank both our Assistant Secretaries and the Army Staff for being over here. We are one team, and it is that strong team that will help us to work through some of these difficult times that we all face. I am very confident that we have the abilities and capabilities to work through this. Our Army will come out stronger tomorrow than it is today, and we will do that by working together with Congress and within the Army and within the Joint Force. I am very, very confident of that.

I would like to say a couple of things. I would like to recognize Jack Stultz who is the current Commander U.S. Army Reserves. After almost six years, he is going to be retiring in June. I want to thank him for his incredible service to the Army. Jack and I first met early on in Kuwait when he was commanding a theatre support group down there. He did a tremendous job, and he has been a great asset for the Army. Jack, please stand up. Thank you for your great service.

I would also like to introduce Jeff Talley. He will be the incoming Commander U.S. Army Reserves, and he will take over in June. He had two tours in Iraq and has done incredible work. He has the right credentials. We are very happy about him coming onboard. He will continue to do a great job with our Army Reserve. Thank you so much Jeff for your service as well.

As I stand up here I always want to remind everyone that we sometimes forget, but as we stand here today the Army has 92,000 Soldiers deployed; 68,000 in Afghanistan; 24,000 at other places mostly within the Central Command area of operations, whether it be in Kuwait, Qatar, and many other places. We are still fully engaged. I think sometimes we forget this, and we talk about coming out of Afghanistan. We are out of Iraq. Forces are coming down, but today we have 92,000 Soldiers who are overseas fighting for our country to continue to meet our national security objectives. We are very, very proud of that.

Yesterday I had the opportunity at the White House to be part of a Medal of Honor Ceremony for Specialist Sabo who served in the 101st Airborne Division during Vietnam, and was killed in San Se, Cambodia. They went through his heroic actions. We will meet with his family and have a ceremony at the Pentagon today. What struck me when I was at that ceremony yesterday was how many people from his Company were there. I think there were 18 who were there with him when he was killed while performing heroic actions to save many lives. For them, it was their award because one of their own was being recognized. It really made me think back. That is why I have served for 36 years, because of those relationships. You can't describe it. You can't describe the relationships that occur when you are forward and when you are under tough conditions. I got to see it in their eyes. I got to see how happy they were for the Sabo family, how happy they were and proud they were of their own Unit, and how proud they were of the 101st Airborne Division. That never goes away. In my mind that is what makes the Army special. This bond that we form, it is a people centric, Soldier centric Force. It is one that we ask a lot of our Soldiers. I am incredibly proud that I have the opportunity to serve with them.

It also reminds me of the incredible valor that we've seen over the last ten years. In the Army we've had six Medals of Honor, 25 Distinguished Service Crosses, 653 Silver Stars. In the last three months, I've had the opportunity to award a Distinguished Service Cross to a great young Sergeant out of the 101st. I had the opportunity to present a Silver Star to a great Sergeant out of the10th Mountain Division. I just see these young men and who they are and what they represent. It reminds me that we have the best young men and women that our Nation has to offer. I want to thank those of you here in the Senate that supports us to make sure we have what we need in order to make sure these young men and women can do the job we ask them to do. You've done such a good job of standing up for us making sure of what we have, and I think it is that strong relationship that we have to continue to have as we go through these difficult fiscal times. We have to work together to make sure we don't ever let down those young Soldiers that are out there every day.

As Senator Inhofe in the Senate Caucus has said, "We never know what we might ask them to do." Frankly we have been terrible at trying to predict the future. I remember that I ended up one day in Albania, I ended up one day in Desert Storm, I ended up one day on the ramp getting to go to Granada (I didn't go because the Island was full by that time). The attacks of 9/11, the end of the Cold War - we just don't know what is going to happen. So what we owe you is an Army that is prepared. That becomes part of a balanced portfolio of a Joint Force that allows us to respond across a spectrum of capabilities and threats that we have to our Nation. We owe you that. We are ready to give that to you. In working with our Air Force colleagues, our Navy colleagues, and Marine colleagues, we will work together to make sure you have the right Force that is ready to do this. I want to thank you so much for your great, great support.

I want to touch on two other issues. Then I will open it up for questions. I do want you to realize that we are moving forward. We are in a dynamic time. Not only is it a dynamic time because of the fiscal challenges that we have, but we are operating in a dynamic environment today, one of great uncertainty around the world. I don't need to take everyone in this room around the world, but I can take you to 10 or 12 different places where we just don't know what could happen in those areas. It is also important for us as an Army to look forward. How do we adjust? How do we learn from the last ten years and apply it to what we believe we need to be able to do in the future? That is what we are focused on. What is the right mix of forces that we need? We are going to reorganize our Brigade Combat Teams to make them more capable and more adaptive and more flexible and agile in order to respond to a variety of threats. We are going to continue to take advantage of the expertise that is born of our National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve over the last ten years as we move forward. We are working through all of those kinds of programs.

But the Army of today is different than the Army of 2001 even as we come down to about the same size. It is a very different looking Army. It is one that has incredible combat experience. We've increased our Special Operations Forces capabilities significantly. We've increased our ability to do intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance significantly. We've increased the size of our aviation force, our rotary wing aviation force significantly. We've increased, we've changed and reviewed and continued to rewrite our doctrine in order to look forward at the potential threats that we might face. We've done such a better job of integrating Conventional and Special Operations Forces on a routine basis. We will continue to push that forward. We continue to look at how we will come together as a Joint Force. What have we learned? The Civil Military Whole of Government approach -- we can't ever walk away from that. The environments that we are going to have to operate in will not just require military capabilities, but capabilities across our entire government. We don't want to lose that. We have to put programs in place that continues to allow us, once we come out of Afghanistan, to continue to work with the State Department, with the Justice Department, with the FBI, with the CIA, with all of these other organizations. This is critical as we move forward. I believe there will be no type of warfare that does not require a Whole of Government approach in the future. So we will continue to focus on that.

I also want you to understand how important it is and how focused we are on sustaining the moral, ethical, and professional values of the U.S. Army. Over the last several months, there have been a few incidents. I think they have put questions in some people's minds. Are we war weary? Has it gone after the discipline of our Force? I will tell you it has not. Do we have issues we have to deal with? Absolutely. Are we going to go after those issues? Absolutely. But I never had more confidence in a Force. When I go to Afghanistan, I am struck by the high morale of our young men and women over there. When I go around here in the United States, whether it be to Fort Lewis, Fort Campbell, Fort Drum, Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, and any other installation, I am struck by the training and expertise that we are seeing. I went down to Fort Benning a month ago to see new recruits. I have never seen recruits so motivated before in my life.

We are getting the best quality people in the Army today, the highest quality we've had in sometime. Our retention is good. We are actually metering our retention. We've decentralized how we do retention, giving Commanders more responsibility so they get to make sure we are keeping the very best of the best. We will continue to do that. The applications at West Point are the highest they've ever been. This year we have 16,000 applications for 1,250 positions. It is the highest quality applications they've ever had. Those young men and women want to serve. So it is up to us to make sure we take these young men and women who want to serve and we provide them the opportunity and provide them the resources in order to do the missions that we are going to ask them to do. That is our responsibility in this room.

There are a few other things that are on my mind: sexual harassment and suicide prevention. We are all in on eliminating sexual harassment and sexual assault. We have a lot of work to do. It is a culture. We have to change the culture in our Army. We have to make sure we get people from all over our country. We are going to bring them into our Army, and we are going to talk to them about the Army culture, the Army culture of value and ethics, the Army culture of Soldiers taking care of Soldiers. We will not allow this type of behavior to permeate our profession. We are putting several different things in place that will allow us to do that. We will continue to work with the Senate on that to make sure that we have all the capabilities we need in order to go after this.

Suicides are vexing. We thought we leveled out on suicides, but right now we are having a very bad year in suicides. Right now we are at a rate that is probably going to be the highest year ever, potentially. I can't tell you why that is happening. That is what is vexing to me. There are no trends. I can't even tell you that the reason it is happening is because is happening to deployed Soldiers, and because many of the Soldiers that are committing suicide have not even been deployed. So I don't know what it is. What I do know is it is about intervention; it is about Soldiers knowing Soldiers; it is about leaders understanding Soldiers' issues. We are going to continue to work this problem as hard as we can, and we are going to overcome it. So let me end there, and I will be happy to take your questions. As I do when I end any talk, I want to make sure that you know that the strength of our Nation is our Army. The strength of our Army is our Soldiers. The strength of our Soldiers is our Families. That is what makes us Army Strong. I will be happy to take your questions at this time. Thank you very much. I don't expect the Army Staff to be asking me any questions by the way.

Participant: Will you give us a run down on the numbers of personnel that you will be expecting under the present round of cuts, and what those numbers might have to be if the sequester were to take place?

General Odierno: I think as we've talked about it in our POMS submission for this year, it will be 80,000 out of the Active Component down to 490,000. That is currently -- we are already doing that. Then we are taking 8,000 out of the National Guard and 1,000 our to the U.S. Army Reserve. If we get sequestration, it will affect both Active and Reserve Component. So it depends on what balance we pick. But what I talk about a lot is probably 70,000 out of the Active, 30,000 out of the Reserves; 80,000 out of the Active and 20,000 out of the Reserves. Some number around there is what we expect. If we go to an Active Component of between 425,000 and 400,000; our National Guard will probably go down another 20,000; our U.S. Army Reserves will go down 10,000. So it will be quite significant.

In my mind we will first have to develop a whole new strategy. The thing about sequestration that is also bothersome, even though the amount of cuts are unreasonable, it is the fact that we don't even have any choice on those cuts. They are directed. It is a percentage cut out of every line item that we have. It would completely have a significant impact on our modernization programs. I don't know how many Nunn-McCurdy breaches we would have it sequestration goes into effect, and how many contracts we would have to terminate, and how many lawsuits that might result because of the contracts we have to terminate. There are a lot of issues involved in this. So I hope that we will be able to come to some resolution on this pretty quickly.

Participant: Reset has been a real concern of mine, particularly now. Forward, we have the equipment and assets. There is not a real serious problem there, but it is in the training. Some of these kids go over there, and they have never been in an MRAP before. How serious is that, and how would sequestration aggravate that and any other existing problems?

General Odierno: There are several things to talk about there Senator. Our reset program has gone well, especially now that we have gotten some equipment out of Iraq. We are starting to be able to populate a lot more equipment back out to the Force back here to train. We now have some MRAPs that we can train on. One of the real issues was that we were not having our counter-IED equipment. We didn't have enough to do training on, so the first time they would see it was when they got into theatre. We now are starting to put some of that here. We now have some that we can put here to train on, but we are just starting. Before I talk about sequestration, my other concern is we have an incredible amount of equipment in Afghanistan right now. We have to get that equipment back because that is going to be the equipment that we have to have to sustain our readiness in the Active and Reserve Component. We've got to have the equipment back. We need the dollars in order to reset that as it comes back. It is going to take us a long period of time to get that equipment out because Afghanistan is a very difficult environment. For us to get this equipment out, it is going to take some time. We will need the money to continue to reset this even after we come out of Afghanistan. As this equipment comes back, that is going to be important.

If we have sequestration, the problem we are going to have is this balance between end strength, readiness and modernization. I think it is going to be really hard for us to create this right balance that we need. Secondly I think that it is going to impact not only end strength, it will impact our ability to train and be ready, and it will significantly impact our modernization programs. What I worry about is that it is a template for hollowing out the Force. As we work through the current reductions we have, we are very mindful and Secretary McHugh and I have been very clear, that we don't want to hollow the Force. Whatever we have is going to be ready. What I worry about with sequestration is that we get so small and our modernization programs get so small that it really will affect our overall readiness in the out years.

Participant: (inaudible)
General Odierno: I think that is fairly accurate. As we look at our readiness ratings, there are several things that go into that. One is the manning piece; one is the equipping piece; and one is the training piece. The bottom line is until we get all this equipment back out of Afghanistan, our units are going to be affected in equipment readiness. When you don't have the equipment, it is more difficult to train. So it is going to take several years to do this. But the one thing that we have done is the Army Force Generation Process that we have developed that gives us a progressive readiness model that we use to support Iraq and Afghanistan. We are going to modify that in such a way that will enable us in order to have a progressive readiness model. We will be able to make sure that we have units at significant high level readiness, some will be getting ready to have a high level, and then some units will have a C3 level readiness. We are going to direct that to ensure that we have ready forces even as we go through this transition period of getting equipment back. Our goal is to get as many into that ready category as possible that are available. Over the next several months, we will come forward and lay out for both the Senate and the House what our plan is for the Army Force Generation of the future. This will also be part of what we do to align our forces to Combatant Commanders in the future. They will come out of this process, and as they get into the training and available phase, we will start aligning them to Combatant Commanders and make them available for whatever missions they might have. So that is how we plan on addressing it, and I am very confident in this model. Actually I am pretty excited about it. I think it is going to allow us to provide the support necessary for Combatant Commanders. It will enable us to predict the right readiness throughout the Force. There will be some units and a portion of the Force that is at a very low readiness until we get all of our equipment back.

Participant: Let me suggest something. I have been critical of the lack of priority that this Administration has given to the military. But I have to say this about these Assistant Secretaries that are here. I have never seen people more responsive. I know they probably cringe every time Laser and I have a phone call for them. They are always there, and they are always helping, and I want to complement them on what they are doing. Jeff, can you share the thought that you shared with me?

Participant: I am a ranking member of the Budget committee, so we have been looking at these numbers. I would just share a few things with you. Numbers, as you all know, can be manipulated, but these are some things that I think are absolutely accurate, and we ought to think about when we ask ourselves how much the Defense Department can sustain in cuts. A lot of people think the war has put us in this financial crisis. Last year we looked at the numbers. Over ten years, both wars cost over $1,300 billion dollars or $1.3 trillion. That is a lot of money. Last year's deficit, and that year alone, was $1.3 trillion dollars, the same amount. This year, we will have a deficit of $1.2 trillion dollars. The base Defense budget is $540 billion. You could eliminate the entire Defense Department budget, and you wouldn't cut the deficit this year in half. If the sequester takes place, our staff calculates that in real inflation adjusted dollars over ten years, the Defense Department would take about a 13% real reduction in funding, whereas the remaining 5/6s of the Federal Government (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and all those programs) would increase 35%. So I think as we work our way through this process, we need to be aware of what we are talking about.

The war costs of course are coming down. In two years from now we will be at $40 billion, and we are at a little over $100 billion this year. Those costs are coming down, so the war costs will not balance the budget. The Defense Department won't balance the budget. We've got systemic problems that are deep and real, and we are all going to have to work them. The Defense Department will have to tighten its belt. We do not have the money. When Admiral Mullen said debt is the greatest threat to our national security, and if you just think about it, it is more like we will have a Greek like crisis. We could be in a position that we overcut our Defense Department leaving ourselves vulnerable, not acting from strength, maybe encouraging adversaries, and getting ourselves in a conflict we could have avoided through strength. Those are some thoughts I had. Thank you for letting me share them.

Participant: General Odierno you are a great American. We love you. Thanks for being here.

End of Remarks.

Page last updated Wed May 23rd, 2012 at 00:00