As General Sullivan and Secretary Geren mentioned, the theme for this year is "America's Army: The Strength of the Nation." I'd like to talk to you today about what that means, about what I've seen in my first six months on the job, and about the direction that the Secretary and I think we need to move the Army over the next three to four years to ensure that we retain that strength.

Our Nation has been at war for over six years following the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Our Army has been a leader in this war and in the liberation of 50 million people from tyranny and oppression. We have also been fully engaged in the difficult process of consolidating success by providing security, and by providing assistance to develop local security forces and governance capacity. Over time, these operations have expanded in scope and duration to stretch and, as a result, stress our All-Volunteer Force.

We live in a world where global terrorism and extremist ideologies are realities. We are locked in a struggle against a global extremist network that is out to destroy our way of life. As a result, I believe that the next decades will be ones of what I call persistent conflict. What I mean by that is a period of protracted confrontation among states, non-state and individual actors that are increasingly willing to use violence to achieve their political and ideological ends. The complexities of this environment will be compounded by several emerging global trends that are likely to exacerbate this confrontation. These trends will combine with existing local and regional tensions to create conditions that can be exploited by extremists to continue their destructive efforts.

Let me say a few words about these trends. Globalization. Now, clearly, globalization has positive impacts around the world, but it can also create have and have not situations that could be exploited by extremist groups to undermine governments and society. Population growth and the youth bulge that accompanies it can increase opportunities for instability, radicalism and extremism. Demand for energy, water and food for growing populations will increase competition, and possibly conflict. Climate change and natural disasters, as we've already seen, can cause humanitarian crises, population migrations and epidemic diseases. And the two trends that worry me the most. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has the potential for catastrophic attacks that will be globally destabilizing and detrimental to global economic development. And finally, failed or failing states that are unable or unwilling to maintain control over their territory can provide safe havens for terrorist organizations to export terror regionally or around the world.

Since that's the case, let me tell you what our Soldiers, Families, and Civilians know full-well. Let me tell you what's at stake in this struggle. At stake is the power of our values and our civilization - exemplified by the promise of America - to confront and defeat the menace of extremist terrorism. At stake is whether the authority of those who treasure the rights of free individuals will stand firm against the ruthless and pitiless men who wantonly slay the defenseless. At stake is whether the future will be framed by the individual freedoms we hold so dear or be dominated by demented forms of extremism. At stake is whether we will continue to expand freedom, opportunity and liberty to those who thirst for it, or let fall the darkness of extremism and terror. You can see why it's important that we, in this period, remain the Strength of the Nation.

While analysts generally agree that the next decades will be ones of persistent conflict, they also agree that we will be unlikely to predict the time, location or scope of coming conflicts. History shows that we usually get it wrong. We do know, however, that the Army will remain central to any national strategy to ensure our security and that we need versatile and agile forces that can rapidly adapt to unexpected circumstances. The Army has a vision to build those forces, and we're already executing it. We intend to transform the current force into a campaign-quality, expeditionary force that is capable of supporting combatant commanders across the spectrum of conflict in the 21st century. That's what we're about. And oh, by the way, we are well over half-way there in our modular conversions and rebalancing.

As we look to that future, we do so with an Army that's already stretched by the impacts of six years of war. And while we remain a resilient, committed, professional force, today's Army is out of balance. The current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply. We are consumed with meeting the demands of the current fight and unable to provide ready forces as rapidly as necessary for other contingencies. Our reserve components are performing an operational role for which they were neither originally designed, nor resourced. The limited periods at home between deployments necessitate a focus on counter-insurgency training at the expense of training for the full-spectrum of operations. Soldiers, Families, support systems and equipment are stressed by the demands of these repeated deployments. Overall, we're consuming our readiness as fast as we can build it.

We will act quickly to restore balance to preserve our All-Volunteer Force, restore necessary depth and breadth to Army capabilities, and build essential capacity for the future. Four imperatives will frame what we need to do. Implementing these imperatives will require several years, considerable resources and sustained commitment by Congress and the American people.

Our first imperative is "Sustain." We need to improve the manner in which we sustain the Army's Soldiers, Families and Civilians. Recruiting, training and retaining our Soldiers - the centerpiece of this force - can only be done by transforming our quality recruits into Soldiers who are physically tough, mentally adaptive, and live the Warrior Ethos, and by doing a better job of caring for their Families who are impacted by their commitment and service. These Warriors are our ultimate asymmetric advantage - the one thing that no enemy can duplicate now or in the future. And we need to keep them with us.

Secretary Geren talked yesterday about the "Army Family Covenant." It is our commitment to build a partnership with Army Families to ensure their continuing strength and resilience. We are committed to ensuring that the quality of life of our Soldiers, Families, and Civilians is commensurate with the quality of their magnificent service. LTG Bob Wilson has the lead for implementing our "Army Soldier-Family Action Plan." We will also ensure that our Wounded Warriors are cared for and re-integrated into the Army and society. Our Vice Chief of Staff General Cody is leading our "Army Medical Action Plan."

Our second imperative is "Prepare." We need to continue to prepare our forces for success in the current conflict. We have made great strides in equipping our Soldiers, and we're continually adapting our training and our equipment to keep pace with an evolving enemy. We remain committed to providing our deploying Soldiers with the best available equipment to ensure that they maintain the technological advantage over any enemy that they face. We'll also continue to provide tough, demanding training at home stations and in our combat training centers to give our Soldiers and leaders the confidence that they need to succeed in these complex environments. Military success in this war is tied to the capabilities of our leaders and Soldiers, and we will not fail to prepare them for success.

Our third imperative is "Reset." We must continue to reset our units and to rebuild our readiness to prepare for future deployments and contingencies. Since 2003, equipment has been used at a rate over five times that programmed, in harsh, demanding, mountain, and desert conditions. In addition to fixing, replacing and upgrading our equipment and retraining for future missions, we also have to revitalize our Soldiers and Families by providing them the time and the opportunity to recover from the cumulative effects of sustained operations. Resetting our force is critical to restoring readiness and to building for the future: we will reset for the future, not rebuild the past. We have told Congress that reset must continue as long as we have forces deployed and for several years thereafter. The commitment to providing resources to reset our forces is essential to restoring strategic depth and flexibility to the Army. It will be the difference between a "hollow Army" and the strategic flexibility we need in an era of persistent conflict.

Our last imperative is "Transform." We must continue to transform our Army to meet the demands of the 21st century. Transformation for us is a holistic effort to adapt how we fight, train, modernize, develop leaders, base our forces, and support our Soldiers, Families and Civilians. It's a journey, not a destination. Let me say a few words about four aspects of our transformation: growth; modernization; operationalizing our reserve components; and leader development.

First, let me discuss Army growth. We are growing the Army by 74,000 Soldiers to provide sufficient forces for the full range of current operations and future contingencies.
We have approval from the Secretary of Defense to accelerate this growth by two years: from 2012 to 2010. We believe that by accelerating our growth, we can increase the dwell time of individuals and units, improve manning, and improve opportunities for leaders to attend their professional military education. Meeting this target will not be easy. It will require a total force effort to expand more rapidly while maintaining the quality so essential to our long-term success.

Second, let me discuss our modernization. We believe we must continually modernize our equipment to put our Cold War systems behind us and to provide our Soldiers with a decisive advantage over any enemy that they face in the future. We'll continue to rapidly field the best new equipment into the force that is fighting every day, upgrade and modernize existing combat and support systems, incorporate new technologies spun out of Future Combat Systems research and development, and finally, begin to field the Future Combat Systems Brigade Combat Teams themselves. I have recently visited the FCS labs in California, and I am convinced that FCS is the full-spectrum system that we need for the 21st century. We're ultimately working toward an agile, globally responsive Army that is enhanced by modern networks, surveillance sensors, precision weapons, and platforms that are lighter, less logistics-dependent and less manpower-intensive. It's truly 21st century force.

Third, we must adapt our reserve components. Our reserve components are performing magnificently. They are no longer a strategic reserve only mobilized in national emergencies. They are now an operational reserve employed on a cyclical basis to allow us to sustain these extended operations. We must continue to adapt our reserve components for a future of persistent conflict. Operationalizing the reserve components will require national and state consensus and support, as well as continued commitment from employers, Soldiers and Families. It will require changes in the way we train, equip, resource, and mobilize and to cumbersome Cold War administrative policies to build the truly total force we have been working toward for so many years. We have changed the paradigm for our reserve component Soldiers and Families, and we owe it to them to make this transition rapidly. General Hondo Campbell is working closely with out reserve-component leaders to make this happen.

Fourth, we must develop agile and adaptive leaders. In this era of persistent conflict, it is essential that we develop leaders who can handle the challenges of full-spectrum operations. Leaders in the 21st century must be competent in their core proficiencies; broad enough to operate across the full spectrum of conflict; able to operate in joint, interagency, and combined environments; at home in other cultures; and courageous enough to see and exploit opportunities in the complexities of our future operating environments. General Scott Wallace, commander of TRADOC, is the lead for this initiative, and you will hear about the great work they are doing in other forums at this conference. We are committed to investing in our officer, warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, and civilian leaders.

So, that is what we have to do to rebalance the Army - "Sustain, Prepare, Reset, and Transform." We must do that while we are at war, and it will not be easy. But it is essential to keep the Army the Strength of the Nation. Faced with such challenges, it is useful to remind ourselves that this Army exists to field forces for victory. We have fought this way since 1775 and we always will. We have been at war for over six years, fighting for our freedom, our security, and our future as a nation. We have made hard sacrifices. We've lost over 2,400 Soldiers, and had over 20,000 wounded - a quarter of those from reserve components. We've also awarded a Medal of Honor, six Distinguished Service Cross medals, over 260 Silver Stars, and 6,700 other awards for valor.

Soldiers are the Strength of our Army and they make the Army the Strength of the Nation. It will be Soldiers who will lead our nation to victory over our enemies. And it will be Soldiers who preserve the peace for us and for our allies. Our combat veterans know well the meaning of Army Strong. Baptized in fire and blood, they have come out steel. That steel endures. Our Warrior Ethos has it right -- I will always place the mission first, I will never quit, I will never accept defeat, and I will never leave a fallen comrade. Seldom in our history, have Soldiers faced greater challenges. We serve at a time when the stakes for our nation and our way of life are high, and the demands on our force significant. We will continue to reflect the very best of our nation by defending our homeland, by defeating the enemies of freedom and by assisting our nation to build a better future for coming generations.

Your Army, while it is stretched, is still the best in the world. And we are that way because of our Values, because of our Ethos, and because of our People-especially our People. Let me tell you about one of those people today. I was in Iraq in August, and had the honor of pinning a Silver Star on Sergeant Kenneth Thomas from Utopia, Texas. He was on a joint river boat patrol with Iraqi Forces. At 1130 in the morning, the patrol came under fire from 70-100 insurgents. The Iraqi Police Officer assigned to the machinegun abandoned the weapon, so Sergeant Thomas took over while the rounds were striking the protective plates of the gun mount. The patrol attempted to push through, but instead found a position on the opposite bank. They were in a depression and trapped, under fire. The squad leader turned to Sergeant Thomas and said "get us out of here." Sergeant Thomas exposed himself to direct enemy fire and ran up the steep river bank, only to encounter a fence. While under constant fire, he pulled out his wire cutters and began cutting the fence. What he didn't know was that it was electrified. He received a significant shock, knocking him to the ground. But he got up and continued to cut while his gloves melted in his hands. He then got his squad through, but the last man was caught in the wire. Sergeant Thomas, knowing he would be shocked again, went back for the Soldier, and was again knocked to the ground. He got that Soldier through and then he led an assault on a house, secured the rooftop and continued suppressive fire until they were evacuated. The battle lasted two hours.

I could not be more proud to be a Soldier and to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our magnificent Soldiers, Families and Civilians. Together we are, and always will be, the Strength of the Nation.