Gen. Raymond T. Odierno
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

GENERAL ODIERNO: Thank you very much. It is an honor to be here. Thank you General Sullivan for that introduction and thank you for your lifetime of service to our Nation and how you continue to serve everyday. It's really a privilege to be here at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting. I am extremely happy to have the opportunity to talk to all of you as the 38th Chief of Staff. In the early days of my tenure, it is particularly important to me as we move forward.

I do want to recognize a few folks: Deputy Secretary of Defense Carter; Secretary McHugh - my boss and partner - thank you sir; SMA Chandler - my battle buddy along the way; members of Congress and their staffs; Former Chiefs -- General Vuono, General Sullivan, General Reimer, General Shinseki. Thank you all for being here. It is important to have your support as we move forward.

I also want to thank all of the numerous Department of Defense and Department of the Army Civilians, active and retired General Officers, Command Sergeants Major -- thank you so much for being here. And of course, I want to thank both our Medal of Honor Recipients -- LTG Foley and SGT Petry. Thank you so much for being here as well to support us today.

This luncheon commemorates the life of our 16th Chief of Staff -- General of the Army and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Many years ago when he was faced with a significantly changing global environment, Eisenhower stated, "our real problem is not our strength today; it is rather the vital necessity of action today to ensure our strength tomorrow." Of course those words truly resonate with me, and I know many today as we sit here. We have an Army that is incredibly strong and one that must remain so into the future.

Our Nation just passed a milestone in our history. Last week marked 10 years since the start of combat operations in Afghanistan. During this time, our Army has proven itself in arguably the most difficult environment we have ever faced. Our leaders at every level have displayed unparalleled ingenuity, flexibility and adaptability. Our Soldiers have displayed mental and physical toughness and courage under fire. They have transformed the Army into the most versatile, agile, rapidly deployable, sustainable strategic land force in the world. I'm proud to be part of this Army, in the ranks of great men and women that serve in this honored Profession of ours.

Having served as the Chief for a month now, I would like to talk to you today about where we are as an Army and where we are headed. But before I get started on that, to begin, I've asked some great Soldiers to join us as we show a video to remind us that the essence of our Army is our Soldiers.

Thank you and very well done … Our Army is and always will be about Soldiers. SFC Dale Schrull and the 82nd Airborne Chorus and the Soldiers in the video represent the 1.4 million members of the Army Team -- our civilians, National Guard, Reserve, and those on active duty. What I like best about this song is its strong message on the selflessness inherent in our Profession. It depicts the sacrifices of our Soldiers and of our Families.

Our Soldiers are a special breed and are the essence of what makes us the best Army in the world. They are Warriors, not employees. They don't work 9 to 5, they Soldier 24/7. It's not about a paycheck; it's about love of their country, their Families, and each other. Every time we ask them to pack their duffel bags and move out, they do it with unquestionable courage and determination.

Our Army will always stand ready … so that millions of Americans can sleep in peace. In large part, it's because of the American Soldier that the gates of freedom remain open today. Our Nation today has inherent trust in our institution and our Soldiers.

Trust is our bedrock. It comes in several forms: trust between Soldiers, trust between Soldiers and their leaders, trust between Soldiers and their Families and the Army, and trust between our Army and the American people.

As many of you in the audience know, combat is personal business. Trust under fire is essential. We depend unconditionally on the Soldiers on our right and our left, and to our front and behind us. We inherently know, if someone wears this uniform, they will do whatever it takes -- no matter the situation -- even if it means sacrificing their own life to help each other. That is why, after a decade of conflict, our Army continues to fill its ranks. We are an Army that represents the best about our Nation -- diversity, hard work, and moral and ethical values. Young men and women today want to be part of something greater than themselves. This is why they want to be a part of our Army. This is why America trusts us with their sons and daughters.

When I think about trust between Soldiers, I think about the over 14,000 valorous medals that have been awarded since 2001. I think about our 6 Medal of Honor winners: SFC Paul Smith, SPC Ross McGinnis, SFC Jared C. Monti, SSG Robert Miller, SSG Sal Guinta, and our latest Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry. These all come to my mind when I think about trust. On May 26th, 2008, SFC Petry was shot through both legs and still continued the operation when a hand grenade was thrown at his position. He picked up the grenade to save his men and it detonated, amputating his right hand. After applying his own tourniquet, SFC Petry finished the assault. Risking his life so that others would and could live, SFC Petry was determined to accomplish the mission, never quit, never accept defeat, and never leave a fallen comrade. His is the story of a Soldier who demonstrated all that is best about our profession and about our values.

His actions demonstrated an unwavering strength of character that inspires us all. But, frankly, what I admire most about SFC Petry is his humility, his selflessness, and his dedication to his team, squad, and platoon. This is the essence of our profession. I know he believes he did nothing exceptional and only did what was expected and what was right. It's this attitude that makes me be proud to be a Soldier. Please join me in a round of applause for SFC Petry and the hundreds of thousands of Soldiers he represents. (Applause)

Over the past few weeks, I have been involved in discussions over how to best address the fundamental tension between an increasingly complicated and unpredictable world and a fiscally austere environment. It's an even greater challenge because we still don't know just how austere it will become. But from where I sit, I know that our Nation expects us to be a part of the solution to our debt. We should be, and we will. But we also must be honest with the Nation about the risks such decisions bring with them.

Today I want to briefly sketch out how I see those risks, and where -- from my foxhole -- I think we should head. I'll touch on my perspective of the emerging strategic environment. Then I'll offer some thoughts on priorities for the Nation and Joint Force to consider, but most importantly, the direction of our Army -- ready today and prepared for tomorrow.

There is pretty broad agreement that the massive progress we've seen in the world, over the past two decades in particular, has on the one hand fueled immense growth, but on the other has created a strategic environment that is increasingly complex and unpredictable. Threats like terrorism, failed and failing states, man-made disasters are no longer regional issues. We have weapons of mass destruction, narco-trafficking, cyber threats. These threats are compounded by the growing scarcity and competition for energy, food, and water. The proliferation of information technology, which now allows news to spread at the speed of Twitter, has only added to this complexity. One needs look no further than the Arab Spring for proof of the dynamism such technologies are unleashing. What this all means to me is that we're not likely to break the thus-far perfect record of wrongly predicting the future any time in my lifetime.

The challenge for our leaders, therefore, is to successfully chart a path to manage this uncertainty with fewer resources. I only see one way to do this: to set priorities, channel resources, and prevent conflicts before they become too costly.

In our Nation today, I believe that there is broad agreement that we have to "win the wars we're in." Some might wish to move past the struggles we continue to face in bringing about a decisive resolution to the conflicts in Afghanistan, and to shore up a fragile but peaceful Iraq but we must stay the course. We will never let up on going after the terrorists who threaten America and our own way of life. And I personally remain focused on doing anything and everything within my power to ensure we meet our national goals and provide everything we possibly can in support of our brave men and women in the field. At the same time, I know how important it is to maintaining the support of the American people. We must complete our task without draining their goodwill and treasure.

Beyond the current wars, there is growing consensus that our future economic and security interests are greatest in Asia. Ensuring the evolution of a peaceful and constructive relationship with China is good for us, for them, and for the world. We cannot ignore China's military modernization, but it need not lead us to confrontation. A key part of avoiding miscues that might bring that about involves our interaction with China's neighbors, as we bring the full complement of diplomatic, economic and military tools to bear in reassuring them of our continued commitment to the region.

This is something I'm looking forward to getting after. As our operational commitments fall in Afghanistan, I believe the Army can contribute still further to continued stability in the Pacific. As I remind my staff, there's lots of water in Asia, but also lots of people and lots of armies, and that's our business.

But as I mentioned earlier, the breadth and depth of our relationships in the Pacific span the full range of tools of national power. This allows us many more options when deciding how best to address both short- and long-term goals.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in other difficult areas where we have much weaker diplomatic or economic ties. In many of these areas, this necessitates a greater reliance on military power to shape and influence behavior. This is particularly true for states like Iran and North Korea, but also many places throughout the Middle East as well.

So, what are the lessons and priorities that we have to set? What should they be? Today, we are the best trained, best equipped, best led -- combat tested -- force the world has ever known, even today as we address our own fiscal constraints. It is imperative that we maintain those credentials into the future, and that is my charter. We must remain the best trained, best equipped, best led, combat tested land force in the world today.

We must be a Joint Force that is adaptive, agile, versatile, integrated, lethal, and synergistic. So, as we look ahead, what must the Army be able to do? What are our priorities?

First and foremost, we must win the current fight by ensuring we continue to provide trained and ready forces for Iraq, Afghanistan, and other ongoing contingencies.

Second, the Army must develop a versatile mix of capabilities, formations, and equipment that allows us to be a flexible force in the future that provides agility, adaptability, deployability, and depth to the Joint Force.

Third, we must preserve our high quality All-Volunteer Force, not only today, but into the future. We have the best quality All-Volunteer Force we've ever had. We cannot waiver on this commitment.

Fourth, we must foster a continued commitment to the Army Profession. The Army is about standards, discipline, and fitness. As I said earlier, this is a Profession, not a job. We represent the greater good; individuals pulling together to form the strength of this Nation.

And fifth, we must continue to adapt our leader development programs in order to develop broad, adaptable and thoughtful leaders. We must challenge our leaders to think creatively, take prudent risk, and more importantly, provide them the confidence of our support. They deserve nothing less!

Ultimately, this Army must provide depth and versatility to the Joint Force, be effective when employed, and provide an array of options to our national leaders. The Army is -- and must remain -- the force of decisive action for our Nation. To be this force, it means being decisive in a wide range of missions including regular and irregular warfare against conventional and hybrid threats; providing humanitarian assistance, both home and abroad; engaging with our allies while building partner capacity; and supporting civil authorities. It also enables the Joint Force with decisive and sustainable land power, while being responsive to our Combatant Commanders. Above all, it is an Army that maintains trust with the American people.

In line with these priorities, we are implementing some of the lessons we have learned from a decade of war. As our start, our new Army Doctrinal Publication 3.0 -- Unified Land Operations -- captures the most critical lessons learned over the past decade and provides a common operational concept for a future in which Army forces must be prepared to function across a range of military operations, integrating their actions with joint, interagency, and multinational partners as part of a larger effort.

We've learned from the Special Operations Forces that networked, flat and agile organizations tend to succeed in a distributed environment. Our Special Operation Forces and conventional integration is the best it has ever been. One cannot succeed without the other. We must sustain and build upon that complementary bond today and into the future.

While no decisions have been made, the lessons of the past 10 years of combat call for the Army's introspection and self-analysis to ensure we remain the Nation's Force of Decisive Action. We must achieve the right balance of end strength, modernization and readiness. Over the course of the next several months, we will review several areas including our force mix. What do I mean by mix?

What is the right mix of heavy, medium, light, and airborne forces? What is the right mix of capabilities that is shared between our active and Reserve Component? What is the right mix between military, Department of the Army civilians, and contractors for our future force?

We must have an affordable modernization strategy that is integrated and synchronized between our Soldier programs, our networks, combat vehicles, tactical wheeled vehicles, aviation, and missile defense capabilities. We must develop a clear vision with priorities.

We must get right the relationship between the Active and Reserve components. Just as the Joint Force really became realized over the last decade, so too did we realize the promise of the true Total Army. We couldn't have done all that we have done without our Reserve Component, and we would be foolish to let the progress unravel. We know we must preserve the readiness of our National Guard and Army Reserves as a highly skilled operational Force. And as we get smaller, the Reserve Component will become even more integral to our ability to manage risk. We must ensure we have continued access and the ability to get the most out of this powerful partnership.

So what are some of the challenges we look at today? In the past during periods of austerity we've said, "We will have to do more with less." As we move ahead under significant budget restrictions, we will have to do "less with less." We will have to accept higher levels of risk than we have in the past. Determining where best to do so is the primary task before us.

This implies we must more wisely share resources -- and burdens -- and apply them in the most efficient and effective manner. It's ultimately about achieving greater effectiveness in global security.

One major concern that I have is the potential for a reduction of a Trillion dollars from the defense budget, should the super committee be unable to reach an agreement. A cut of this magnitude would be devastating. This would threaten every aspect of the Joint Force and especially the Army -- its force structure, modernization efforts, and ability to sustain the All-Volunteer Force, as well as our defense industrial base. These automatic cuts would hollow the force and come at a time that could severely impact our ability to influence this uncertain security environment that we face around the world.

All of us have to realize and understand that we will get smaller. That is fiscal reality. But, it's the how that is critical. If we go too fast, we risk the current and future readiness of the force and lose the flexibility to react to the uncertain security environment we find ourselves in. We also threaten the trust that is the foundation of everything we do.

As I talk to Soldiers and Veterans, one of the most prevalent concerns I have is about future compensation and entitlement programs. Everyone needs to know that decisions have not yet been made. The President recently announced a committee to study military compensation. The Department of Defense will provide input. Rest assured, we are dedicated to providing a system that cares for Soldiers and Families -- now and well into the future.

I do think that as we move forward, it is important to take history into account. The Army has faced similar challenges before. After every major conflict -- from the Revolution to current times -- pressures to decrease end strength have led to a decline in effectiveness. Decreases after World War I directly contributed to failures at Kasserine Pass. Decreases after World War II led to the Task Force Smith failure in Korea.

Recent history, after the end of the Cold War, demonstrated the need our Nation has for agile, adaptable, and decisive ground forces to conduct a wide range of operations. These numerous missions include Operation Provide Comfort in Iraq, Joint Task Force Andrew in Florida, Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti, Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Operation Joint Guardian in Kosovo, and several others I have not mentioned. The trend throughout these operations is that they were all unforeseen. Policymakers promised the Nation in 2001 that we would neither conduct nation-building nor fight a sustained land war in Iraq. We must avoid letting the present debate decrease our ability to fulfill our role as a vital part of the Joint Force. Instead, we must maintain our effectiveness and the deterrent it provides as we prepare for the future.

But first and foremost, we must maintain our trust with Soldiers and their resilient Families -- they are the foundation of our Army and they have paid a high price the past 10 years. We have deployed 1.1 million Soldiers to combat at least once -- and many have endured multiple deployments. Over 4,500 Soldiers have given their lives in the cause of liberty. Nearly 1,200 Soldiers have lost a limb. The courage and bravery of our force have earned the Army over 14,000 awards of Valor. To all of our Soldiers, thank you for your steadfast dedication - your courage under fire. To our Families, I know that Soldiering is a Family affair. Thank you for your unwavering love and support, and taking on the corresponding sacrifices.

For over 236 years, our Army has overcome many challenges and answered our Nation's call. Change and transition are not new to the American Soldier. As the opening video reminded us, providing for our future is our responsibility. You can expect that when liberty's in jeopardy and the President draws a line in the ground, he does so with the bayonet of the American Soldier.

I want to thank all of you in this room for your support to our Soldiers and our Families. Today I could not be more proud to be a Soldier, serving alongside the great men and women that willingly serve our country. We are all in this together. Together we will sustain the Army and ensure a balanced Joint Force to provide flexibility and capability to the greatest Nation in the world. And I remind everybody as I leave, the strength of our Nation is our Army; the strength of our Army is our Soldiers; the strength of our Soldiers is our Families. That is what makes us Army Strong! May God bless all of you. Thank you very much. (Applause)

(End of Remarks)

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