By U.S. ArmyJanuary 28, 2015
General Odierno: I am impressed. Everybody was here prior to 7:00. I see many of you still have your Army tendency with you. So that is very good. It is great to see so many people here. These are important times. I am very happy that I have the opportunity to speak today. I also want to thank General Sullivan for putting the whole staff at one table so it was easy to reach over and ask while I was sitting there. I don't normally get them all together. So thanks for that. I appreciate that very much.
It is always great to be here, and having an opportunity to talk to an audience like this, a diverse audience, and an audience that cares about the future of our national security and specifically the future of our Army. I want to thank all of you for being here.
I just got back as General Sullivan mentioned. Over the last 30-45 days I spent some time in Iraq and some time in Afghanistan. I just got back last weekend from Israel and Jordan. They are incredibly tense, busy places. I think one of the things as I think through where we are and where we are headed is I always go back to I started this journey of defense cuts and peace dividends in 2011 and 12, the thought process was that we are coming out of Iraq. We are coming out of Afghanistan; the world is going to require significantly less military intervention. Frankly that has not happened. I think that is the concern. I think the type of intervention that we will do will be different. I don't see us putting 150,000 or 200,000 Soldiers on orders and attacking a country, but I do think we still need the capability to deter.
What I do believe is we will be doing what we are doing today. That is to conduct many operations simultaneously around the world. Let's take a look at what is going on today. The threat of terrorism is not going away. We should know that. It is in our face every single day, whether it is in Paris; whether it is the continued operation going on in Yemen, where we now have them occupying the Presidential Palace, who is a friend of the United States who is helping us to fight the war on terror in Yemen. We have ISIL that is occupying Iraq and Syria attempting to establish a caliphate. So terrorism is not going away. It is going to be with us throughout our lifetime and probably throughout our children's lifetime. So we have to figure out how we are going to deal with this threat. We have to understand that it is going to be there. We have to meet the challenge face on. We have to figure out what that means to us. As an Army what does that mean? What it means to us is that we have to understand the enemy. We have to understand their intent. We have to develop concepts that enable us to respond across a variety of different responses. Whether it be building partner capacity, whether it be deploying forces to conduct operations, whether it be reassuring allies, we have to have the capability to do this across a broad spectrum of conflict.
The other thing that has occurred over the last 12-15 years is the investment in our partner and allies' defense had gone down significantly. If you look at the capability of many of our NATO partners, their investments have been much less than they were. Their capabilities are less. Their armies are smaller. Their investment in modernization is less. We are starting that a little bit in the Pacific as well as we look at some of the issues that we have in the Pacific. If you go around to every continent, you will find that the dependence on the United States and the dependence on our leadership is growing, not going down. So we face that dilemma.
I have said it many times, I believe that this is the most uncertain time that it have seen in our national security since I have been in uniform. I am not necessarily saying the most dangerous, but I am saying the most uncertain. Uncertainty is problematic because you have to be able to respond. You don't know what you are going to respond to. When I was a young Officer, when I was a Lieutenant, Captain, Major assigned to Europe, each one of those times were reflected by the Cold War. Although we had an enemy that was incredibly capable, the Soviet Union, we knew who they were. We knew what they were going to do. We knew what capabilities they had. So we developed an operational concept and a strategy that would enable us to go after that threat. Today we don't have that luxury. I cannot tell you if we are going to fight on the Korean Peninsula. I cannot tell you if we would be in Iraq or Syria fighting a war. I cannot tell you we are going to have to be in Eastern Europe deterring Russia. I don't know. So what that means is we have to be prepared to do a variety of things simultaneously. That is the challenge we have.
So lets now walk forward to what we do here in Washington, which is appropriate the capability and develop budgets that support our security strategy, and in my mind support our Soldiers so they have the right tools to do the job that we might ask them to do in the future. That is my concern. I usually talk about it as an insurance policy. The military and our national security capability is like an insurance policy. Of course all of us sitting here knows what it is like when you are hunting for insurance. You look for the cheapest deal possible, until you have to actually use it. Then you want the best policy and say why did I get that $1,000 deductible. Why did I not buy more life insurance? That is what we are talking about here. Are we willing to invest in the future of our security? When we need it we cannot start investing then. There is not enough time in order to invest properly.
To sustain the readiness that we need to respond to the variety of threats that we face, we need to invest today. We need to invest tomorrow. We need to invest in the year after that. You are investing in human capital. You are investing in the men and women and their ability to train and respond around the world. You are investing in the equipment that they need to be successful. If we don't have the consistent funding to do that, what will happen is we won't properly invest in our people. We won't properly invest in our equipment. Then when we have to use them they will not be at the level we expect them to be and the American people expect them to be. That is the challenge we have.
In 2013 10% of the Army was ready. At the end of 2014 and today we are about 33% ready. Through 2015 we will probably sustain that, maybe move up a little bit to 40% at the highest. Prior to 2001, routinely the Army was about 70-75% ready. We had built up capability that was there to be used if necessary. For the last three to four to five years we are moving towards a hollow Army. What does a hollow Army mean? My definition of a hollow Army is one that we don't properly train all of our Soldiers. They are not able to do the exercises that they need, and they are unable to have the ammunition necessary. They don't have the equipment they need. They are not able to sustain their equipment to the levels that are necessary for them to respond with no notice to an unknown threat in potentially five different places around the world.
We are also not investing in our modernization programs the way we would like. There is almost a 50% reduction in our modernization accounts. That will be worse if we go into sequestration. So now we are not investing in training; we are not investing in our equipment. This falls on the shoulders of our Soldiers. That is the point I try to make to everybody. The ones who will pay the price are the men and women in this uniform because they will go no matter what. It is up to us to make sure they have what they need, not them.
The last thing I will say on this subject is today we have about 45,000 Soldiers deployed. Most people do not understand that or realize that. We are not standing still, 45,000. Another 80,000 are forward stationed in about 150 different countries. So we are busy. Also we are doing the best we can to rebuild our combined arms capability. So we are very, very busy. Our Soldiers are doing great. Our leaders are doing terrific. We owe it to them to get them the resources necessary for them to do their jobs.
Let me touch on one other thing here. I think it is very important. As we move forward and the complexity of the world, I think many of you have heard me talk about this before. The number one thing we have to invest in is our leaders, our Officers and our Non-Commissioned Officers. Because what we are going to ask them to do is much more difficult than what we had to do as young Officers and young Non-Commissioned Officers because of the complexity of what we face around the world. I was just in Israel and they walked me through their operations that they conducted in Gaza in late August and September. One of the lessons they learned is how decentralized operations will be, and it was worse than that. In fact, they had trained Platoons, Companies, and Battalions, and they had to have leaders that are able to be adaptable making decisions, understanding what they were doing, and be able to operate in a chaotic environment and make sound decisions. That is what we are going to ask of our leaders in the future. So we have to invest in them. We are in the process of investing in changing what we do throughout our institution. We are changing NCOES. We are changing how we are training our Officers. We are adjusting and adapting. It is not just one change today. It is going to be constant change and adaptation so we start to develop young men and women who can thrive in an environment that is complex and difficult. That is our advantage. That is very important.
The other key here is the importance of innovation. In my mind, that is the key tenet of the new Army operating concept that we have developed. What do we do and how do we drive innovation? How do we develop the new tools, the new operational concepts? How do we develop them and match them with the technologies that are already developed or the technologies that can be developed in the future in order to operate in this complex environment that we are going to operate in? How do we maximize our Soldiers? The Army is about maximizing Soldiers and organizations. How do we use innovation to maximize the capability of our Soldiers and the organizations in which they serve? We have to change the bureaucratic processes here in Washington. We also have to reach out to industry, to reach out to higher education institutions, and talk about how we can innovate together. How do we make sound investments? How do we put new capabilities into the force faster? We are too slow. The world is moving too fast. We have to keep up with it. So we have to change how we are doing things.
We have to keep ahead of our determined enemies. It is much easier to be an adversary of the United States because everything we do is on the internet. All the technologies that we have are readily available to anybody who wants them. All you have to do is look on the internet. So the playing field is being leveled. It is being leveled because of the movement of information and access to information. It is important that we get quicker, that we get more adaptive. In my opinion the future is not about how much technology and information you have, it is about how you use that technology. We have to be better at using the technology than anybody else. I was in Israel, and I was at their National Training Center, and I was talking to the Deputy Commander of the Training Center. He made a comment to me that I thought was interesting. He was talking about his forces, but I think it applies to us as well. In the past Israel was used to being the David versus the Goliath. When they were David, they spent a lot of time thinking about how they could outsmart their enemies, how could they be innovative when they did not have the resources necessary that could keep up with the Goliaths. Now that they have invested more, they have now in the Middle East become the Goliath. The problem is they are no longer thinking like Davids. They are thinking like Goliaths. That is what we have to do. We have to think like David. We have to think like David because the world that we are in, we have to be adaptive and innovative in everything that we do. We have to be ahead of them in using the technologies that are there because everybody now has access to them. So that is the key tenet of what we are going to try to do.
We have a campaign of learning that we are going to do. We are going to do Army warfighting assessments. The first one will happen in about 18 months from now. We are going to do an exercise out there that is going to assess the concepts. We have about 15 international partners signed up. We are going to start building new concepts that will enable us to be ahead of our adversaries in these complex environments. We will use it to validate force design, training, complex systems integration. We will also use it to validate technology and how it fits into where we want to go in the future. We have identified 20 war fighting challenges. When you first read the 20 warfighting challenges, there is nothing in there that you will say is unbelievable or that you have never thought about before. The issue is we have to understand these concepts are what is going to drive our capability in the future.
Let me give you an example. Conduct space and cyber operations is one of the 20 war fighting challenges. For us what is the challenge? How do we integrate offensive cyber operations into our tactical formations? We have to solve that problem. We have to figure out how we are going to do that. How do we increase reliability of our systems? How do we reduce our dependence on energy so we can get there faster and quicker? How do we improve Soldier leader teams? How do we maximize and optimize Soldier performance? We should be the experts in the world in optimizing individual performance because that is what we do. We want to bring people in from all walks of life. We want to use them and develop them and train them and teach them and optimize their ability to operate in complex environments. How do we do that? How do we conduct early entry operations? How do we do that with small packages? How do we do that with complete situational awareness? We have to understand how we do that. What will combined arms operations look like in the future? Some of it will look like it does today? How do we integrate different concepts, manned and unmanned capabilities, cyber, information operations, how do we increase mobility and lethality? How do we do it wit smaller footprints? Those are the challenges that we have to address. Those are the kinds of things I think are very important for us.
So although I could sit up here and talk about "woe is us, we are worried about sequestration", here is the bottom line. I am worried about sequestration. I don't like it. I would ask to do everything we can do make sure it does not happen. No matter what happens in the future, we have to drive forward and start thinking about the future and what our Army is going to look like, and we have to drive there now. This is about making sure our Soldiers have what they need to do the missions that we ask them to do. It is up to us in this room to work together and be transparent and make sure we are doing everything possible to make sure we continue to have the best Army in the world. The one thing I do know as I continue to go around is that we have the best young men and women in the world working for us, who have faith in us, who trust in us to give them the tools necessary for them to do their job.
So what you are going to be seeing over the next six months is us continuing to drive this new Army operating concept, this new deal with these 20 war fighting challenges that we have, having systems in place to speed up our ability to acquire new systems, to develop new operating operational and tactical concepts and integrate them quickly into our formations. To me it is an exciting time in the Army. It is a time of great change. We need the right leaders and the right capability, and we need everybody working together to help us as we move forward with this new change.
I will say I had a chance to travel around and watch what we are doing in all of these different parts of the world. It is interesting by the way that Lithuania, I think it was, that has the person of the year. We have the person of the year in this country. The person of the year was the American Soldier in Lithuania. They have something like the Time Magazine. The picture was of an American Soldier because they were there when they needed them. They reassured them in a time of need. When I go to Iraq and I work with and talk to the Iraqi leaders and talk to the Kurdish leaders, they talk about the incredible support that they are getting from the United States Army's Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers. They are there helping them to develop capability. When I went to Jordan to visit our Soldiers the King asked to see me. So I went to see the King. He was talking about our Soldiers and the work that they are doing and how important that is. Our Soldiers all around the world do what we ask them to do every single day. It is up to us to make sure we give them tools necessary to be successful and come back to their families. So thank you very much for allowing me to talk, and I guess I will take some questions if anybody has any questions.
Participant: The Pentagon's air sea battle concept recently became the Joint Concept for access and maneuver. You have spoken critically about this in the past. I was wondering that it seems the concept is evolving in ways. So what are your expectations of the Army's role in JMGC, and you have spoken a lot about innovation. So what information do you have…
General Odierno: The first thing is that I have not talked critically about it. I want to make that very clear. What I have said in the past is I absolutely agree with the concepts of what they are developing in the Joint Concept in air and sea battle. What I have always said to everybody is the reason they do this is gain access to areas around the world. The reason they want to gain access is to get Soldiers on the ground. So it is inherently a joint concept. I talked about the early entry operations. In the first week of August at the National training Center, we are going to do a joint early entry operation which includes Special Operations Forces, Conventional Forces, Air Forces, Naval Forces, in order to develop the concept that is necessary to ensure we can get our ground forces any where in the world. That is part of this concept. So in my mind there are many innovative ways for us to ensure that we insert and project combat power around the world in a variety of sizes and shapes. I always remind everybody, and people have heard me say this before, but I remind everybody that 100% of the people live on land. We have to be able to conduct operations on land. That is what we do. So as we develop these new concepts, we are an integral part of that. I feel very comfortable with that.
Participant: General, thanks for joining us this morning. I want to ask you about the threat from ISIL in terms of these big training missions where you are looking at training moderate Syrian rebels, Iraqis and other countries. I am wondering if you are worried about insider threats like we have seen in Afghanistan and how we can stand against that. It sounds like especially in Syria that could be a security nightmare.
General Odierno: I think first of all we always worry about insider threats because that is part of the tactics they use by these extremist allies. I will say on the training, we are not actually training in Syria, we are training in four other countries around. That is part of the mitigation strategy. We will train outside of Syria and have those forces go into Syria. We obviously are training forces in Iraq. We are always concerned about insider threat. We dedicate a significant amount of resources to intelligence collection, and we train our individuals that are in there how to understand the threats that are there and how to respond to those. We have been doing that for quite some time. So I feel pretty comfortable with our ability to understand that threat, but your comment is a good one. It is always a threat and we have to be very careful as we go forward.
Participant: General, you talked about two things. On one hand there is a lot of resource constraints, and on the other hand there are a lot of new ideas. This would not be the first time the Army has come up with a lot of new ideas and done a lot of work under resources constraints. We have the 1930's. We have the 70's and the air and land battle and the big five. We have arguably the 1990's. However it hardly makes it easier. So if sequestration hits in full or in part, how do you sustain the innovation, sustain the working on the future? What is the damage that is done no matter how hard you think if you don't have enough resources?
General Odierno: The bottom line is we have no choice. Because of the reduction of resources you have to increase the rate of innovation. So it is a chicken and egg argument. The bottom line is we have to do both. So you have to balance your ability to innovate. You have to balance your ability to develop new concepts with the fact that you have to sustain a level of readiness in order to respond. You cannot do one or the other. You have to do both. So we will have to develop a budget that allows us to do both. What does that mean? That means we will get a lot smaller. What that means is your ability to deter is a little bit less. You risk increases because you only have the capability to do certain things, not everything. Where are we going to take risks? Those are the kinds of things you have to do, but we cannot walk away from this. We have to move forward because if we don't, we will find ourselves left behind. We cannot do that. The world is changing too quickly. We have to change with it. I am confident that we can do both, but there are risks. So what happens is the risk increases. My job is all about mitigating risks. That is what you do as a military leader. You try to mitigate risks. So what happens with sequestration is the risk increases significantly. Our ability to conduct unknown missions around the world, the ability to do that decreases. So the risk to instability increases, but we cannot stop innovating. In fact a time of decreased resources requires us to do the innovation.
Participant: Our Army is being asked more and more to build partnership capacity around the world. You have spoken of the training missions. I read this morning that a General was (inaudible) yesterday and announced a training mission our Army will be training four Companies of Ukrainian National Guardsmen. Can you give us some insights into that training mission?
General Odierno: No. (Laughter). It is like everything else. We are working with them to develop small unit capability. So it is things that we do all the time. We will do Squad, Platoon, Company training with them to help them build capability. We will do some leader development training, NCO development training. Those are the kinds of things that we continue to do to help them rebuild some capability in their Army. That is the intent.
Participant: President Obama has authorized up to 3100 troops to go to Iraq for the train, advise and assist and force protection mission. Do you think that will be enough or will additional troops need to be sent over time?
General Odierno: I think it is a constant assessment. We started with 1500. As we did that we realized that was not enough. So we increased it to 3100 so we can increase the velocity of training and development of the Iraqi security forces. So I think what we do is we ask our Commanders forward to constantly assess that, and they will. If they think they need an increase in the amount of people in order to increase the velocity based on actions on the ground then we will consider that. Then the Joint Chiefs will make a recommendation to the President. We do that all the time. We will continue to do that.
Speaker: Thank you very much General. Let's have a hand for the Chief of Staff. (Applause).