FORT BRAGG, N.C. (March 27, 2012) -- "Just being good enough is no longer going to be good enough," said John M. McHugh, secretary of the Army, as he spoke about the Army's new standard for retention.
McHugh, who was accompanied by Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick, XVIII Airborne Corps commanding general, and Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland Jr., commanding general, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, spoke with local reporters at Pope Field's Silver Ramp.
McHugh explained that the service plans to use its retention and selection tools to ensure that it is keeping the best Soldiers.
"It behooves every man and woman in the United States Army who wants to be retained to know that they're going to have to strive to work harder to achieve greater and higher levels and if they can do that, we'll be proud to keep them on and keep them as part of what is our objective of remaining the greatest land force the world has ever seen," he said.
McHugh also acknowledged that the Army might see more rounds of the Base Closure and Realignment Committee recommendations in 2013 and 2015.
"The Department of Defense and, ultimately, the president's budget has asked for two more rounds of base closures, in '13 and in '15," he said. "We have no authorities to unilaterally conduct those. They have to receive congressional approval and presumably, if it were approved at DA- (Department of the Army) level, we're on the same models as previous rounds, including that of 2005."
McHugh said he does not know if Congress will support the recommendations, but added that from an Army perspective, the goal of a more streamlined force is to be able to manage its property resources and facilities in a way that makes sense economically, which will ensure that the force has more money to spend on the service's most important asset -- people.
McHugh also spoke about recent events in Afghanistan, including the accidental burning of the Koran by NATO forces and the alleged mass killing of 17 citizens in Afghanistan by a U.S. Soldier. He pointed out that while these events have made the mission somewhat more difficult, the American public should keep in mind that they are isolated incidents.
"They've obviously served to set the mission back to some degree, but I think we all have to be mindful of the fact that those were very isolated incidents and the fact of the matter is, in terms of all of the U.S. forces there and our allied coalition partners, the mission continues and we're going to continue to stay focused on the larger picture."
McHugh said the Afghan people also recognize the U.S. commitment to their country, despite the incidents. He added that he did not make a connection between the Afghanistan incidents and post-traumatic stress disorder.
McHugh said that jointly, the U.S. military has more than 50,000 service members who are on their fourth combat deployment. The incidents that occurred several weeks ago in Afghanistan are abhorrent, but rare, he added.
"As tragic as they are, they don't reflect, either the mental health or the incredible sacrifices or achievements of our troops," McHugh said. "We continue to stay focused on making sure that we have the right behavioral health programs and we're looking very carefully at obviously the causes, but also the treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and other related incidences, but we're not making a connection between those challenges and the acts that have received so much attention."
McHugh arrived at Fort Bragg on Monday and was accompanied by Helmick and Mulholland throughout his visit.
"Through the leadership of these two great generals behind me, I've had a chance to see what goes on within the XVIII Airborne Corps and Special Operations Commands and I've spent much of the afternoon, much of yesterday morning with General Helmick and his team, hearing about their mission and recent redeployment (of the) headquarters out of Iraq and the incredibly successful close down of that theater."
McHugh said he was also briefed on the ongoing forward deployed operations in Afghanistan.
"Through this morning, I was with General Mulholland and his team and was able to hear about the amazingly diverse range of activities that his Special Operations Forces undertake each and every day, providing incredibly unique skill sets throughout the world to our ambassadorial leaders and to combatant commanders for their ongoing requirements."
Overall, McHugh said the visit to Fort Bragg was enjoyable.
"It's been a great visit and I can say with both pride and confidence that this is an outstanding post that plays host to some absolutely incredible men and women who wear the uniform of the United States Army and their families and civilian employees," he said.