By Gary SheftickJune 16, 2016
WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- As instability around the world increases, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Daniel B. Allyn said the forces available to respond "are on a reverse vector."
Once the current drawdown is completed, the Army will have cut 120,000 Soldiers from the strength level it had in 2010, Allyn told reporters and analysts, June 13, at the Heritage Foundation, a research and educational institution in the nation's capital.
At the same time, "we see instability on the rise virtually in every combatant command's area of operation," he said.
The dwindling numbers pose a risk if the Army must respond to worldwide crises, he said, especially if it must be ready to defeat a "near-peer" competitor and at the same time deny the objectives of another.
"We have prioritized readiness to ensure that we can deliver the forces and capabilities," Allyn said.
Great leadership across the force allows him to sleep better at night, he said, adding that the Army is also striving to train its units for "high-intensity" combat, rather than just the counter-insurgency operations of the past decade. Partnerships with allies are also key to helping the Army meet its objectives, he said, along with maintaining a technological edge.
"We are focused on building that future Army while continuing to deliver the force that's needed today by our combatant commanders," Allyn said.
"Two to three years down the road, the ability to ensure we deliver the most modern equipment possible is where we have accepted risk," he said.
The Army is looking at fielding new equipment to a smaller, more select number of units, Allyn said, instead of "trying to spread the peanut butter for 35 years across the portfolio."
"Fundamentally it's a math problem," he said. With technology changing so fast, once new equipment is fielded to a percentage of the force, "you're going to be going after newer, more modern capability anyway."
One of the priorities is to deliver "active protective systems on our combat vehicles and our aviation platforms," he said.
There's a great need to modernize the Army's aviation portfolio, he said, "both in way of a new engine" and eventually an entirely new aircraft.
"We believe the Army's going to play a role in seizing at least temporary control of air space," he said, looking into the future.
DOD's "offset strategy" focuses on what the force needs 15-20 years down the road, Allyn said, explaining it's important to do so. Projects on integrated air defense and long-range precision fires might help close gaps with potential adversaries, he said.
Today only a third of the Army's brigades are ready to deploy, Allyn said.
The Army consumes readiness as fast as it can build it, he said. "In many respects, (we) mortgage our ability to build the force that we're going to need in the near future."
About 187,700 Soldiers are now serving around world in 140 different locations, he said. About 25,000 of those deployed are from National Guard and Reserve.
However, the Army has about 100,000 troops that are "non-deployable," he said, adding that about 80 percent of those Soldiers are unable to deploy due to medical issues.
Personnel readiness is the Army's No. 1 priority, he emphasized. One fix is to get as many Soldiers healthy as possible: "Suffice to say that we're probably talking about 10,000 that we can expect to get back in by those means," Allyn said.
Another solution is to work with Veterans Affairs to speed up the process of determining disability claims and medical retirements. These "Soldiers for Life" deserve a quicker resolution so that they can get the help they need, he said.
RECRUITING AND RETENTION
The Army needs about 120,000 recruits annually just to sustain the force.
"We know that we will be strained this year to meet the objectives that we've set in recruiting," Allyn said. He predicted that it will continue to be challenging over the next few years.
Some parents are hesitant about having their children join an Army that is at war, he said.
On the other hand, retention "remains very, very solid," Allyn said. "In fact, we've over-retained in several of the last few years."
As the Army has decreased in size, he said it's been necessary to ask some Soldiers to leave. The Army has been over-strength in some ranks and grades, he said, compared to what it will need in the future.
FUTURE OF TOTAL ARMY
The National Commission on the Future of the Army made 62 recommendations that the Army is focused on, Allyn said. One is to retain four Apache helicopter battalions in the National Guard.
"The challenge that we face, to be brutally honest," Allyn said, is that the commission did not identify the resources to make their recommendations happen. Never-the-less the Army is exploring how it might keep those battalions in the Guard and implement other recommendations, he said.
"We communicate as one Army; we are one Army; we fight and bleed as one Army," Allyn said.
Delivering more combat training center rotations to the National Guard brigade combat teams was another recommendation made by the commission. Allyn said funding for that has been written into the Army's budget request for next year.
A total of 39 training days is not enough to ensure readiness of Guard and Reserve units, he said. So the Army is looking at how reserve-component units might be authorized more than a weekend per month and two weeks of annual training.
Another recommendation is to establish an eleventh active-component combat aviation brigade in Korea. "That's a critical capability that the commission made a recommendation on," Allyn said, "and we've got a resourcing strategy to get after that.
"What's most important is that we are working together to improve the readiness of the total Army -- all of its components," he said, adding "that is not an easy challenge."