Army Secretary: Balance Needed as Wars Draw Down

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2011 — With the draw­down of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, tal­ent­ed sol­diers will need to be retained while Army infra­struc­ture draws down, and the Amer­i­can peo­ple and warfight­ers need to main­tain a con­nec­tion, Army Sec­re­tary John M. McHugh said here yes­ter­day.

“You can’t have an Army with­out peo­ple,” McHugh told reporters at a Defense Writ­ers Group break­fast, adding that the Army today is fam­i­ly-ori­ent­ed, unlike the 1970s, when the vast major­i­ty of sol­diers were single. 

McHugh said it’s also time to take a look at the bal­ance between con­tract­ing and pro­vid­ing gov­ern­ment services. 

“I think it was long over­due that the Army takes the oppor­tu­ni­ty to look at how it does its busi­ness,” he said. “We had out­sourced a lot of jobs, hired a lot of con­trac­tors, and they did yeoman’s work for us, but it was time after near­ly a decade of that trend to take a bet­ter look at how we’re doing things inside the Army. And I expect … by the time these [changes] are imple­ment­ed, we could save, say by the year of 2017, upwards of $10 bil­lion a year.” 

McHugh said he hopes these kinds of sav­ings will con­tribute toward decreas­ing the deficit and the debt, and will, in turn, spur the econ­o­my. But with­out a bud­get, he added, deci­sions are dif­fi­cult to make. 

“Now, we’re look­ing at pos­si­ble options so that we can make smart deci­sions cor­rect­ly, rather than not-so-smart deci­sions quick­ly,” he said. “But until we know what our fig­ures are, it’s kind of hard to say what we would actu­al­ly take action against.” 

And what­ev­er comes about, the Army sec­re­tary said, he believes the mil­i­tary needs to remain part of the Amer­i­can fab­ric, not­ing that the Nation­al Guard and the Army Reserve pro­vide that connection. 

“I would argue that the Guard and Reserve are ter­rif­ic ambas­sadors across vir­tu­al­ly every state and every com­mu­ni­ty in this nation. … They put a face on the good­ness that is mil­i­tary ser­vice,” he said. “Those that are oper­at­ing in areas or states where we don’t have a base are play­ing an even more impor­tant role, because they can help bring the mil­i­tary mes­sage to com­mu­ni­ties and peo­ple that oth­er­wise don’t have rea­son to be exposed to it.” 

Mean­while, after 10 years of war with less than 1 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion serv­ing in uni­form, McHugh said, the Army has to make sure it does­n’t become an enclave unto itself. 

“We’re already sched­uled and pro­grammed to come down from cur­rent [strength], rough­ly [from] 569,000 to 520,000,” he said. “But for us, the glides­lope by which we reach that end strength so that we can direct resources and bal­ance our­selves, while pro­vid­ing the pro­grams that are under­pin­ning those forces, is equal­ly important.” 

End strength — the total num­ber of sol­diers — dri­ves the Army’s cost, McHugh said. So if the bud­get goes down fur­ther, he explained, the end strength is like­ly to come down as well. 

“What that will be will in part be deter­mined, of course, by what that bud­get num­ber is,” he said. “So it’s not like we have a vote in this mat­ter. We will, at the end of the day, be hand­ed a bud­get. And our key objec­tive, what­ev­er that bud­get num­ber may be, is to come out and shape an Army that is bal­anced and retains the great skills and capa­bil­i­ties that have been honed over the last 10 years. 

“We don’t want to lose this most effec­tive land force the world has ever seen,” he added, “and bal­ance is the key to that.” 

As the Army draws down in size, McHugh said, it has less need for facilities. 

“At some point, we have to begin to look at ratio­nal­iz­ing the vacan­cies, and would it make sense for us to sup­port anoth­er [base realign­ment and clo­sure process],” he said. “We don’t want to be over-struc­tured. That costs — in fact, it wastes — mon­ey. But at this point, we need to do a lit­tle bit more analysis.” 

The oper­at­ing force has become incred­i­bly adap­tive over the last 10 years, the Army sec­re­tary said, recall­ing a recent trip to Afghanistan’s Arghandab Val­ley, one of the blood­i­est bat­tle­grounds of the war there. 

“We took off our body armor and walked into a vil­lage about a half mile away, and the sol­diers that led the fight to clear that part of the val­ley were now work­ing with the Afghan elders,” he said. “They were estab­lish­ing the Afghan local police with a spe­cial oper­a­tions cap­tain, a young man, and a first lieu­tenant, just over a year out of West Point.” 

The young offi­cers were exer­cis­ing author­i­ties and respon­si­bil­i­ties the Army prob­a­bly would have giv­en to a brigadier gen­er­al 10 years ago, McHugh said. 

“Now, they were out there doing amaz­ing things, and each and every day they change what they’re doing, because the ene­my changes,” he told the writ­ers. “That’s adapt­abil­i­ty. That’s creativity.” 

Young lead­ers accus­tomed to hav­ing such author­i­ties and respon­si­bil­i­ties in the com­bat the­ater over the past decade could become frus­trat­ed with gar­ri­son life, McHugh noted. 

“How do we bring sol­diers like that home, who have exer­cised such author­i­ties and have shown such cre­ativ­i­ty, into a gar­ri­son envi­ron­ment and keep then inter­est­ed and chal­lenged and engaged is one of our crit­i­cal chal­lenges for the future,” he said. 

“I’ve asked our [Train­ing and Doc­trine Com­mand] folks, and I’ve asked lead­ers through­out the insti­tu­tion­al­ized Army, as to how we can recon­fig­ure every­thing from social pro­grams to edu­ca­tion pro­grams to flex­i­bil­i­ty and our rat­ing sys­tem to allow more cre­ativ­i­ty and per­haps re-exam­ine the tra­di­tion­al Army lad­der of pro­mo­tion to see what we can do to cre­ate an envi­ron­ment that keeps young lead­ers — just amaz­ing sol­diers like that — inter­est­ed in the Army, and at the same time, of course, attract­ing those kinds of folks in the future. 

That’s not a bud­get prob­lem,” he con­tin­ued. “It’s just a prob­lem of our break­ing out of our tra­di­tion­al way of think­ing about things and try­ing to cre­ate a peace­time Army and oppor­tu­ni­ties in that peace­time Army that will keep the kind of incred­i­ble peo­ple that have been step­ping for­ward and putting their name on the dot­ted line for the last 10 years com­ing to us.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →