By U.S. ArmyJune 7, 2012
Thank you very much. It is really an honor to be here. I do have to comment that was the best display of creamed chipped beef I have ever seen. I know there are some people that thought that was yogurt. It is interesting because it was in fact a year ago that I was actually here when I got a call from the White House while I was here in Chicago that they wanted me back at the White House on Memorial Day in 2011. We were supposed to stay another day, but we had to leave quickly and fly out. That is when the President asked me to join him the Rose Garden when he made that announcement, so it was quite an exciting time for me. I do truly remember being here in Chicago, and it really is great to be back. This is a great city with great people who support our military. It is such an honor for us to come back here. Bob, thank you so much for that great introduction, your comments and hospitality. I also want to take one minute to thank my friend John McKey who is a great man. He has spent a lot of time with the military. He came over to Iraq while I was Commander over there with the Wounded Warriors. He dedicated himself to that, and John I just want to recognize you and thank you so much. I thank you so much for being here as well.
I am very pleased to see such a great turnout so early in the morning after a long weekend. Thank you so much for being here. This weekend has been a busy weekend. It has been one that has been frankly uplifting for me. On Friday night I had a chance to speak at the West Point Graduation Banquet, where we graduated 1,032 brand new Second Lieutenants from the United States Military Academy. I had a chance to speak to them and 3,000 family members in the mess hall at West Point, where about 50 years ago Douglas MacArthur gave his famous speech to the class of 1962. What struck me as I stood there was frankly the incredible young men and women that we have in our country. We have a lot of discussion in our country about where we are at from an education standpoint and where we are in terms of someone who cares about the service. I got the chance to watch these 1,032 cadets, who are some of the best our country has to offer. They are bright, poised, smart. They are dedicated; they are selfless. In my mind it was uplifting that I had the opportunity to do that on Friday night. Then Saturday morning I had the chance to shake their hands and hand them their diplomas when 25,000 people showed up for graduation at West Point. They had it at the football stadium, and it was probably the biggest event they've had in a while. We are going to change that too. That is one of our goals. It was really great to be there.
Yesterday Linda and I saw several celebrations in Washington. The first was when the President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We had the opportunity to be there yesterday. The importance of recognizing those who have served in our wars, I think, is really important. When I think of the men and women who have sacrificed for our country, we have to remember the reason they did this. Many of them died when they were 21, 22, 23, or 24 years old, which meant they really never had a chance to live their life. They truly gave their life so others could have a better life. They fought in any one of the wars our country has unfortunately been involved in. But what they won is having a better place for their children, grandchildren, and their grandchildren's children.
As I was sitting there yesterday afternoon, when we went to the Vietnam Memorial, the President gave an incredible speech talking about the men and women who served in Vietnam. He frankly talked about how they were treated in this country as they came back, when really all they were was young men and women who were called to duty by their country, and they answered that call. But yet they were blamed for policies that might not have been the most popular policies. They didn't establish those policies. They were called to duty. They went to Vietnam. They fought their hearts out; 58,000 people were killed in Vietnam. They gave their lives because they wanted it to be a better place for their children, their grandchildren, and their grandchildren's children. What I ask everybody as I go out is to take advantage of the opportunity they gave us. The Veterans of all the World Wars: World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the current conflicts. Because they gave their lives so our children could have a better life. So take advantage of that. We should take advantage of it and make the most of it.
I will tell you as I have traveled around the world, the thing that I realized most, is we are so fortunate to live in this country. When you see how other countries are, and I am not just talking about Iraq or Afghanistan, I am talking about anywhere in the world, there is no place like the United States. There is no place that allows us the freedoms and liberties that we so rightfully enjoy. I would argue we should never forget that. So on this Memorial Day I had an opportunity to participate in these great events, it hit me very hard why we have these days. It is to remember those who have served and given so much. I just ask you to think about that. As we stand here today, I know many people do not realize this because we say the Iraq war is over and Afghanistan is coming down, but today as we sit here there are 94,000 U.S. Soldiers at war, almost 69,000 in Afghanistan and another 25,000 in other places in the Middle East. So yes the wars are coming down. Yes those numbers are less than they were last year, but there are still 94,000 Soldiers in harm's way. We can't forget that. They have families who are supporting them selflessly as we move forward.
I want to thank especially the Chicago 502 for your support to the 502nd Infantry Regiment at Fort Campbell. Thank you so much for what you do to support them. I want to thank the 721 Club for your support of the Sailors and Families of the USS Chicago. Thank you so much for that. It is quite fitting that the Union League Club's Motto is Commitment to Community and Country, as your continued support will be critical as we look ahead. I want to thank you for that. I want to thank you for what you do.
I want to start with a video. It is about a five minute video. It is about our Army. I just want you to have the chance to see it, and then I will come back and finish my discussion. (Video plays). That is the 82nd Airborne Division Chorus who sang that. They are not professional singers or a professional chorus. They are professional Soldiers who play together and sing at events around the country. I think that says something about the talent we have in the Army. When you saw the picture of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Soldier guarding it, that was during a hurricane. During a hurricane, they continued to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and never left their post. That is who we are. The other piece about this is that the Army is always about its Soldiers. We are not about equipment; we are not about things; we are about people. So as we move forward, America's Army is moving forward during a time of marked transition. What we want to do is to capitalize on what we've learned over the last ten years of combat, building upon this as we all move forward.
Right now the Army is in a huge transition from fighting two conflicts in one region, to being more responsive around the world to meet our future needs in this country. We have to continue to adjust. All of us have a tremendous stake in how the Nation navigates the considerable challenges that we are facing, from the economy to energy, from war to international diplomacy, from deficits to defense. I would like to share with you this morning my thoughts on how the Army has adapted to meet these challenges and doing so in a time of international fiscal austerity. I know there are a lot of important issues to discuss. As Linda reminded me this morning, the recipe of a good speech includes quite a bit of shortening. So I will try to keep it short.
Our strategic environment has changed, and it absolutely will continue to change in unpredictable ways, coupled with an increasingly complex dynamic and interconnected nature of our environment. This calls for us to think and lead in new ways. I truly believe that the full impact of the global economic crisis is not yet known. I would argue that the Arab Spring has just begun. Its final outcomes in the Middle East, Egypt, and other places are still very much unknown. As we see the elections start to unfold, we are starting to see some violence and other things with the Arab Spring. We all pray that they will continue to move forward in democratic ways. The Syrian unrest continues to spill over. Iran remains a destabilized influence with the pursuit of nuclear weapons. We actually see Iraq now exporting as much oil as Iran does for the first time. What economic and fiscal impacts will that have on the rest of the Middle East? South Asia remains a complex environment. Various extremist groups impact the security of Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan. In the Asia Pacific, China's approach to regional competitors, especially over resources, and North Korea's lack of transparency changes in leadership and continued threats and intimidation of South Korea are all cause for concern. In all of those, I didn't even mention the Arab-Israeli tension or other Iranian issues with Israel.
We are in a time of austerity. We are in a time of great uncertainty, and this will be underpinned by global fiscal challenges. As we move forward we must be able to adapt and adjust to figure out how we can contribute as an Army to a more stable world environment. Moving forward, our Army's primary purpose is resolute. It will always be to fight our Nation's wars. But the Army must be able to do much more than that. So I have developed the five priorities of the Army as we look to the future.
Priority number one is that the Army will remain committed to its 94,000 Soldiers forward deployed. We will continue to provide trained, manned, equipped and ready forces. This will always remain our top priority. We will never send our sons and daughters anywhere without ensuring that they have the training, equipment and all they need to be successful. My second priority is to continue the development of the U.S. Army of the future. We have coined a term, the Joint Force of 2020. What is the kind of Force we want to have by 2020? Developing this future force will require a versatile mix of capabilities, formations, and equipment that will enable us to succeed in a full range of missions. Looking ahead, I believe there are several key characteristics that are essential to maintain our credibility, which will prevent miscalculations by potential adversaries, and if necessary, fight and win dominantly and decisively.
Let me take a moment to discuss these characteristics. First is the depth and versatility that Armies provide their Nations. Importantly, depth and versatility provide scalable options to national security decision makers. That is very important. Now we have a range of options that are scalable that enable us to react to crises in sometimes small ways, and not always the largest ways. Next the Army must be adaptive and innovative. This requires an adaptive and innovative mind, a willingness to accept proven risk in unfamiliar and rapidly changing situations, an ability to adjust based on continuing successes. Over the last ten years our Army has adjusted and adapted in the conflicts that we have been involved in. That would be the norm as we go ahead. In my mind the nature of warfare has changed, and it is going to continue to change, and we have to be able to change with it. We have to be able to adapt with it. We have to be prepared to address theses many threats that we face. We must also be flexible and agile to our responsiveness; able to dominate in any environment. Flexibility is achieved by preserving responsiveness to a broad range of missions. While effective mission command, collaborative planning, and decentralized execution foster and engender reliable and responsive leaders. We put them in positions that cause them to have to make difficult decisions, so we have to make sure they are ready for that as we move forward. We must be flexible to be able to deploy very quickly around the world, whether it be for humanitarian reasons, natural disasters, to fight a counter insurgency, or to fight some other type of warfare. We must be ready and able to do that around the world.
We also must be integrated and synchronized. Army leaders integrate and synchronize their operations within the larger effort of the Joint Force. We must be integrated and synchronized with all responders. That is where we get the most efficient and effective capabilities that we need to face the dangers that we might face. Finally it is imperative that we remain lethal and discriminate. Let me discuss that for a moment. As I said, warfare continues to change. The one thing that continues to change is in part because of the instantaneous global communications that we face around the world. People are much more responsive to collateral damage, the killing of innocent civilians, and other events so it is absolutely critical with us no matter what we do, where we have to use some level of lethality, we must be very discriminate in how we use it. My argument as the Chief of Staff of the Army is there is no more discriminate weapon that we have than the American Soldier. I think that is proven over time over the last several years. So we have to figure that out because we want to be an Army that can accomplish our mission without inadvertently killing those that are not involved in that mission. That sounds easy, but it is incredibly difficult to do.
My third priority as the Chief of Staff is that we will remain committed to our All Volunteer Force -- Soldiers, civilians and their families. Our objective is to retain the highest quality force we can. These Soldiers want to contribute to the Army and be part of something greater than themselves. Over the last two years we have brought in the highest quality recruits we ever have had in the Army. Part of that has to do with the economy. Part of that has to do with the Army getting smaller, bringing in less people, and the competition is greater. We have the highest educational levels that we've had. We have had the least amount of waivers given for those who might have had some difficulties. At West Point this year, they had 16,000 applications for 1,200 positions, the most ever. So we have lots of young men and women who want to serve their country.
My fourth priority is we must adapt our leader development programs for all our Non-Commissioned Officers, Officers, and civilians. We are focused and must prepare to develop innovative, adaptive leaders to operate in this uncertain and complex environment I just described, a much more complex environment than I faced when I was a young Officer. We ask Lieutenants Captains, and Majors to make decisions that are much more difficult than we ever had to make because the world is more complicated. The world is more complex. Frankly being a military officer anymore is not just understanding the military issues alone. You have to understand the environment that surrounds you, the economic environment, the political environment, and the cultural issues involved wherever we might be. So we expect a lot more of our young leaders. We owe them a leader development program that trains them and enables them to be successful in these environments. That is what we will continue to do.
Finally we are working on reinvigorating our commitment to our Profession of Arms, a reminder of the importance of esprit de corps; trust what our history is; who will come after us. But most importantly we represent our country's moral and ethical values, and we must represent those wherever we go. This is key to us. We have to be held to a higher standard. In my mind the military should be held to a higher standard because we are given special responsibilities, special responsibilities to protect our country. So we are striving and we will continue to strive to ensure that we embed these moral, ethical values in each and every one of our Soldiers. We are dedicated to doing that. So those are my five priorities.
In this period of transition I believe we will have to respond to three major changes that really will define how we do business today. First is declining budgets. The Army is working hard by continuing to improve the stewardship of its resources and increase its return on investment of public coffers. Ultimately maintaining the Army with full resources will require balancing three key variables or rheostats, as I call them, which are the Army's end strength, the Army's readiness, and the Army's modernization program. It is my responsibility to keep those in balance. We must always balance those to the right way. What the Secretary of the Army and I have told the President and the Secretary of Defense is that whatever Army we have, it must be always ready. In the past we have made some mistakes. We wanted to keep a large Army but didn't have the resources to either modernize it or train it or man it or equip it appropriately. So we became what we call a hollow Army. We can't do that again. We have to match those up. That is one of the things that we will continue to work very hard.
The Army is going to get leaner over the next five years. We are reducing our Active Duty end strength over a deliberate and gradual ramp through the end of FY17. We will reduce the Army by 80,000 Soldiers. We think it is appropriate. We think with the reduction we will continue to sustain and conduct the missions necessary as long as we have the resources to ensure that smaller number is ready and continues to be modernized. We are working that very hard. So what the Army will look like in 2017 number wise is very similar to what it looked like in 2001. But it is a very different Army than the one we had in 2001. Besides the ten years of hard earned combat experience in our ranks, we've made incredible gains in several areas to include the integration and synchronization of the Conventional and Special Operations Forces. We are also increasing the sizes of our Special Operations Forces. The Army Special Operations Forces is 60% of the total Special Operational Force in the Joint Force.
We significantly increased our ability to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. I would say it has increased 10 or 20 fold in the last ten years. Our ability to gain intelligence, conduct surveillance, and conduct reconnaissance, which enables us to understand the environment to make the right decisions. We have increased our rotary wing aviation because we believe that will be necessary in the missions that we will have to do in the future. We will continue to increase our ability to conduct cyber operations, probably the new greatest threat to our country. The cyber threat is cheap. It is easy, and it can wreak havoc all over the military and our civilian institutions as well. So we are very focused on building our capability to assist and protect our military assets and advising those in order to defend our civilian community. The reason we only advise is because currently we do not have the authority to help our civilian institutions to protect ourselves. That is something the military currently is not allowed to do. But we are doing everything we can to advise and assist in these areas.
The second piece is that we will shift to Asia Pacific region. I think you have probably heard a lot about this from the President's speeches, which call for us to re-emphasize the Asia Pacific region. The Army has critical role in this as 7 out of 10 of the largest land armies reside in the Pacific; 22 out of 27 of the Chiefs of Defense are Army; and the dominant service and most politically active service in every country in the Pacific region is the Army. So we will build our strong foundation of strategic partnerships with out allies and partners while seeking opportunities to engage in new relationships. We will do this while continuing to maintain some of our focus on the Middle East.
Let me finish by talking about our Veterans. The Army remains a great opportunity for our youth to serve their Nation. I am honored to lead America's greatest institution. I have known several Soldiers over my career who have explained to me how the Army changed their life. Most recently I had a young lady who worked for me who is getting out the Army after eight years as a Staff Sergeant in the Army. When we were giving her a final award, she said a couple of things that really struck me. She said, "There I was at 19 years old sitting on the front step of my trailer that was being repossessed. I couldn't pay for my electricity. I didn't know what to do so I joined the Army. Here I am eight years later, and it has completely changed my life. It has given me direction; it has given me skills." She met her husband, and the reason she was getting out was that she had just had twins. She had to make a decision on whether to continue to serve or become a mom. It was a very difficult decision for her, but she decided to become a mom. She was thankful for the fact that the Army gave her an opportunity that no one else could. I can tell you thousands of stories like that. It is important that people understand that the Army is a place where all can be successful. All can grow. All can learn. All can be given opportunities, no matter the color of your skin, no matter what your religious beliefs are, no matter if you are male or female. We still have our problems. We are not perfect. But I would argue we give more opportunity to everybody than any other occupation. I am very, very proud of that.
The Army is committed to honoring the service of every Soldier, especially during each Soldier's transition out of the Army. Our country trusts us to support and protect their sons and daughters. We have a saying, Once a Soldier, Always a Soldier. We have multiple efforts underway to facilitate this transition. Every year the Army transitions 200,000 Soldiers out of the Army. Most people don't realize that. We want them to know how and where to look to find jobs. The US Chamber of Commerce's Hire a Hero program is a great start. But Veteran unemployment is still high. We need help from every community to give these deserving individuals the chance to bring their skills into the civilian sector. Trained leaders, who are willing to sacrifice, are selfless, disciplined and innovative, with moral and ethical courage: these are the characteristics of the young men and women leaving our Army. If I was hiring, I would surely like to hire one of our combat Veterans. Let me conclude by letting you know that America's Army will continue its long tradition of answering the Nation's call as it navigates through a period of transition. All the changes I have spoken about requires understanding the environment, builds unity of effort to confront a significant amount of challenges and uncertainty that we face. I want to thank organizations like the Union League that allow me to come and speak with you. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with everyone this morning. I will just end by saying 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. Thank you very much for allowing me to talk to you. I would be very happy to answer any questions that you may have.