WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 30, 2007) - Reshaping support to Army Families and rebalancing a force stretched by war will be the priorities for Army Secretary Pete Geren.

Secretary Geren spoke during an arrival ceremony hosted here today by Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr.

In a nod to Secretary Geren's Dallas background, the Army Band played "The Yellow Rose of Texas" during the pre-event concert. Secretary Geren, who represented Dallas in the House of Representatives from 1989 to 1997, has served as the 20th Army secretary since July 16.

"Pete Geren is the right person, at the right time, to serve as secretary of the Army," Gen. Casey said in his remarks at the ceremony.

Gen. Casey said the U.S. Army is a force at war, and is transforming in an era of persistent conflict. "Our force is stretched and out of balance," the general said. "The tempo of our deployments are not sustainable, our equipment usage is five times the normal rate and continuously operating in harsh environments."

Gen. Casey said the institutional elements of the Army - such as health care, education and Family support systems - were designed for the pre-Sept. 11, 2001, world. He said those elements have adapted too slowly to the changing world "and they are fraying" under the accumulated stresses.

"Overall, we're consuming readiness as fast as we're building it," Gen. Casey said.

Secretary Geren arrived at the Pentagon in September 2001 as a special assistant to the Secretary of Defense. In the past six years, he said, he has been in awe of the servicemembers who deploy time and again and of the military Families who have been steadfast in support.

The Army secretary said he and Gen. Casey share a heartfelt commitment to Army Families. "We need to provide the support they have earned and deserve in an era of persistent conflict," he said.

The Army's more than one million soldiers are a national treasure the nation is taxing at unprecedented levels, Secretary Geren noted.

"Our Army, Soldiers and Families are stretching to meet the demands of this current conflict," he said. "We currently have 260,000 soldiers deployed in more than 80 countries around the world, including 150,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Since the conflict began, more than 550,000 Soldiers have served in combat zones, with 220,000 deployed multiple times. "A Soldier who joined the Army on Sept. 12, 2001, has deployed at least two times - likely three - and he or she is getting ready for the fourth one," Secretary Geren said. "Yet our resilient Soldiers and their Families - all volunteers - continue to serve with courage, professionalism and distinction. Our soldiers continue to re-enlist and go back to the fight again, and again, and their Families continue to stand with them."

The Army is growing by 74,000 soldiers, and the Army Reserve and National Guard are changing from strategic forces to operational forces. Secretary Geren said the Army is halfway through its greatest organizational change since World War II, and must not lose sight of what's important to the service's future.

"In order to sustain our force, we will do more for our Army Families in these challenging times," he said. "Family support systems, health care, child care, housing and education designed for the pre-9/11 Army must be adapted to sustain an Army at war."

Secretary Geren said the Army Family Action Plan will launch this autumn to bolster the support to Families.

"The demanding present and the prospects of an unrelenting future require an overhaul of Family support systems," he continued. "Our Army Families deserve a quality of life commensurate with their extraordinary service."

(Jim Garamone writes for American Forces Press Service.)