April 3, 2014 -- CSA's opening statement to Senate Armed Services Committee

By Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. OdiernoApril 3, 2014

Thank you, Chairman Levin, Ranking Member Inhofe and other distinguished members of the committee. Chairman Levin, I want to thank you for not only your thirty six years of service in the United States Senate but for what you have done for our Army and our Soldiers. You have been a steadfast leader here in this committee and we appreciate everything you have done for us.

Despite declining resources, the demand for Army forces continues to increase. More than 70,000 Soldiers are deployed today on contingency operations and about 85,000 Soldiers are forward stationed in nearly 150 countries including nearly 20,000 on the Korean Peninsula. Our Soldiers, Civilians, and Family members continue to serve with the competence, commitment and character that our great Nation deserves. A typical day for our Soldiers includes patrolling alongside our Afghan National Army partners, standing watch on the DMZ, providing security for the embassy in South Sudan, manning missile batteries in Turkey and Guam and assisting the recovery efforts from the devastating mudslide in Washington.

As we consider the future roles and missions of our Army, it is imperative we consider the world as it exists, not as one we wish it to be. The recent headlines alone - Russia's annexation of Crimea, the intractable Syrian civil war, artillery exchanges between North and South Korea -- just to name a few, remind us of the complexity and uncertainty inherent in the international security environment. It demands that we make prudent decisions about the future capability and capacity that we need within our Army. Therefore, we must ensure our Army has the ability to rapidly respond to conduct the entire range of military operations, from humanitarian assistance and stability operations to general war.

The 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review builds on the defense priorities outlined in the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance. Last year, I testified that we can implement the defense guidance at moderate risk with an end strength of 490,000 in the Active Army, 350,000 in the National Guard and 202,000 in the U.S. Army Reserve and I stand by that assessment.

We appreciate the short term predictability in FY 14 and FY 15 afforded by budget levels in the Bi-Partisan Budget Agreement. BBA supports an FY 15 Army funding level of $120.5 billion but it is still $12.7 billion short of our request. BBA will allow us to begin to buy back some short term readiness by funding additional CTC rotations and thereby increasing the amount of forces trained and ready for decisive combat operations. However, we still are required to make tough choices and had to reduce our modernization efforts by ending four programs, restructuring thirty and delaying fifty programs. We continue to take significant risk in our facilities sustainment and home station training.

However, sequestration is the law of the land, and it will return in FY 16 without immediate Congressional action. The readiness gains achieved in FY 15 will quickly atrophy as we are forced to reduce future planned CTC rotations and other planned training activities in order to fund immediate operational requirements. Sustained readiness requires sustained training dollars. Our modernization accounts will receive a 25 percent reduction with no program unaffected. Major weapon programs will be delayed, severely impacting the industrial base both in the near and long term.

Under sequestration for the next 3-4 years, we will continue to reduce end strength as quickly as possible while still meeting operational commitments. As we continue to draw down and restructure into a smaller force, the Army will continue to have degraded readiness and extensive modernization shortfalls. At the end of FY 19, we will begin to establish the appropriate balance between end strength, readiness and modernization, but for an Army that is much smaller. From FY 20 to FY 23 we begin to achieve our readiness goals and reinvest in our modernization programs.

We will have no choice but to slash end strength levels if sequestration continues in order to attain the proper balance between end strength, readiness and modernization. We will be required to further reduce the Active Army to 420,000, the National Guard to 315,000 and the U.S. Army Reserve to 185,000. At these end strength funding levels, we will not be able to execute the defense strategy. In my opinion, this will call into question our ability to execute even one prolonged, multi-phased major contingency operation. I also have deep concerns that our Army, at these end strength levels will not have sufficient capacity to meet ongoing operational commitments and simultaneously train to sustain appropriate readiness levels.

The President's Budget submission supports end strength levels at 440-450,000 in the Active Army, 335,000 in the Army National Guard and 195,000 in the U.S. Army Reserve. I believe this should be the absolute floor for end strength reductions. To execute the defense strategy, it is important to note that as we continue to lose end strength our flexibility deteriorates as does our ability to react to a strategic surprise. My experience tells me that our assumptions about the duration and size of future conflicts, allied contributions and the need to conduct post-conflict stability operations are optimistic. If these assumptions are proven wrong, our risk will grow significantly. Under the President's Budget, we will achieve balance between end strength, readiness and modernization 3-5 years earlier than under sequestration, around FY 18, and at greater total force levels.

In order to meet ongoing and future budget reductions, we have developed a total force policy in close collaboration with Army and DoD leaders. The Secretary of Defense directed that the Army not retain structure at the expense of readiness. Additionally, the Secretary of the Army and I directed that cuts should come disproportionately from the Active force before reducing the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve.

Our total force policy was informed by the lessons learned during the last thirteen years of war. We considered operational commitments, readiness levels, future requirements and costs. The result is a plan that recognizes the unique attributes, responsibilities and complementary nature of each component while ensuring our Guard and Reserves are maintained as an operational and not strategic reserve.

Ongoing reductions couple with sequestration level cuts over the next seven years, will result in a reduction of 150,000 Soldiers, 687 aircraft, and up to 46% of the Brigade Combat Teams from the Active Army. The National Guard will reduce by 43,000 Soldiers, 111 aircraft, and up to 22% of the Brigade Combat Teams. The U.S. Army Reserve will reduce by 20,000 Soldiers.

These end strength cuts to the Active Army will represent 70% of the total end strength reductions compared with 20% from the National Guard and 10% from the U.S. Army Reserve. This will result in the Guard and Reserves comprising 54% of the Total Army end strength while the Active component will comprise 46%. The Army will be the only service in which the Reserve outnumbers the Active component.

Under sequestration, we cannot afford to maintain our current aviation structure and still sustain modernization while providing trained and ready Aviation units across all three components. Therefore, we have developed an innovative concept to restructure our aviation fleet to address these issues. Overall, we believe this plan will generate a total savings of $12.7 billion over the POM.

Of the 798 total aircraft reduced under this plan, 687 aircraft or 86% will come out of the active component and 111 aircraft or 14% from the National Guard. We will also transfer about 100 UH60s to the Guard. As with end strength, we are disproportionately taking cuts from the active component aviation and in fact we will eliminate three full combat aviation brigades out of the Active component, while the National Guard sustains all of its brigade structure. This plan allows the Army to eliminate obsolete air frames, modernize the fleet, and sustain pilot proficiency across the total force. The result is an active and reserve aviation force mix with more capable and prepared formations that are able respond to contingencies at home and abroad.

Let me be very clear, these are not cuts we want to take but we must take based upon sequestration. I believe our recommendation delivers the best Total Army for the budget we have been allocated.

The Secretary and I understand that the American people hold us to a higher standard of character and behavior. Combating sexual assault and harassment remains our top priority. Over the past year the Army has established more stringent screening criteria and background checks for those serving in positions of trust. Army commanders continue to prosecute the most serious sexual assault offenses at a rate more than double that of civilian jurisdictions, including many cases that civilian authorities refused to pursue. We appreciate the continued focus of Congress as we implement legislative reforms to enhance the rights of survivors and improve our military justice system. We continue to take this issue very seriously and I also know much work remains to be done in this area.

We are also aggressively and comprehensively tackling the issue of ethical leadership individually, organizationally, and through systemic reviews. We initiated 360-Degree Assessments on all officers, especially commanders. We implemented a new officer evaluation report to strengthen accountability. For our general officers, we conduct peer surveys and developed a specific ethics focus as part of our senior leader education program.

We would also appreciate help with two issues impacting our ability to maintain the right balance for our Army. First, the Base Realignment and Closure process is a proven, fair and cost-effective means to address excess installation capacity. With the reduction of over 200,000 Soldiers from our Army and lower budgets, we need a BRAC to reduce unsustainable infrastructure. Second, we are extremely grateful for the high quality care and compensation provided to our Soldiers. We have endorsed proposals that recognize their incredible service while allowing us to better balance future investments in readiness, modernization and compensation.

We must keep in mind that it is not a matter of if but when we will deploy our Army to defend this great Nation. We have done it in every decade since World War II. It is incumbent on all of us to ensure our Soldiers are highly trained, equipped and organized. If we do not, they will bear the heavy burden of our miscalculations.

I am proud to wear this uniform and represent the Soldiers of the Active Army, the Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve. Their sacrifices have been unprecedented over the last thirteen years. We must provide them with the necessary resources for success in the future.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the entire committee, for allowing me to testify here today. I look forward to your questions.