US Army

Army Remains Strong, But Stretched, Offi­cials Say

By Ger­ry J. Gilmore
Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

The U.S. Army remains ready to engage and defeat America’s ene­mies despite expe­ri­enc­ing strain after sev­en years of wartime deploy­ments, the Army’s top civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­ers told a Sen­ate pan­el here today.

“Our Army is stretched by demands of this long war, but it remains an extra­or­di­nary Army,” Army Sec­re­tary Pete Geren told mem­bers of the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. “It is the best-led, best-equipped and best-trained Army we’ve ever put in the field.

“Today, we are an Army long at war,” Geren con­tin­ued, not­ing U.S. sol­diers have fought in Afghanistan for sev­en years and bat­tled in Iraq for about five years.

The war against glob­al ter­ror­ism is the third-longest war in Amer­i­can his­to­ry, Geren said, behind the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War and the Viet­nam War. It also is the longest U.S. war being fought by all-vol­un­teer forces, he added.

The Army cur­rent­ly has 250,000 sol­diers deployed to 80 coun­tries, Geren said, includ­ing those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sol­diers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan “are our top pri­or­i­ty, and we will nev­er take our eye off of that ball,” Geren empha­sized.

The near­ly $141 bil­lion allo­cat­ed for the Army under the fis­cal 2009 defense bud­get and sup­ple­men­tal fund­ing “ensure that our sol­diers have what they need, when they need it,” Geren said.

The bud­get con­tains mon­ey for the Army to put its 64,000-soldier expan­sion on the front burn­er, Geren not­ed. “We have accel­er­at­ed the 64,000-man growth in the active-duty Army from 2012 to 2010, with a com­mit­ment that we will main­tain recruit qual­i­ty at no low­er than the 2006 lev­els,” he report­ed.

These added sol­diers will assist in meet­ing wartime require­ments dur­ing a peri­od of per­sis­tent con­flict that is chal­leng­ing the Army’s sol­diers and their fam­i­lies, Geren said. “But, our Army remains strong,” he empha­sized. “It’s stretched; it is out of bal­ance; but it is resilient. Those who seek par­al­lels with the ‘hol­low Army’ of the late ’70s will not find it.”

Despite the chal­lenges, the all-vol­un­teer Army con­tin­ues to meet its recruit­ing and reten­tion goals, Geren said. “They’re vol­un­teer sol­diers; they’re vol­un­teer fam­i­lies,” he said. “They’re proud of who they are, and they’re proud of what they do. We all are inspired by their ser­vice and hum­bled by their sac­ri­fice.”

The Nation­al Guard and Army Reserve also have made heavy con­tri­bu­tions to the war effort, Geren said, not­ing that 184,000 reservists and 270,000 Nation­al Guard mem­bers have been acti­vat­ed for ser­vice in the war against glob­al ter­ror­ism since the ter­ror­ist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Reserve-com­po­nent mem­bers also stepped up dur­ing human­i­tar­i­an relief mis­sions in the after­math of hur­ri­canes Kat­ri­na and Rita, Geren said, as well as help­ing fight for­est fires and patrol America’s bor­ders.

“We are one Army; the active com­po­nent can­not go to war with­out the reserve com­po­nent,” he said.

The cur­rent Army bud­get pro­pos­al address­es the trans­for­ma­tion of the reserve com­po­nents into an oper­a­tional reserve. The new Army bud­get, which con­tains $5.6 bil­lion for new Guard equip­ment and $1.4 bil­lion for reserve equip­ment, con­tin­ues a pat­tern of steady invest­ment for the reserve com­po­nents, Geren said. To illus­trate, he not­ed that the Nation­al Guard pos­sessed 290 trucks of mod­ern design in 2001. Today, the Guard has more than 9,000 such trucks. Today’s Nation­al Guard force also has more than 82,000 mod­ern tac­ti­cal radios, Geren said, which is dou­ble the num­ber of such radios it had in 2001.

And, over the next 24 months, Geren said, $17 bil­lion worth of equip­ment, rep­re­sent­ing more than 400,000 new items, will enter the Nation­al Guard’s inven­to­ry.

Oth­er funds will go to improv­ing care for wound­ed war­riors, and to increase the qual­i­ty of life for sol­diers and their fam­i­lies, Geren said, includ­ing bet­ter bar­racks, hous­ing, health care and fam­i­ly sup­port net­works.

The Army also will con­tin­ue “to grow our knowl­edge and improve the care and treat­ment” of post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der and trau­mat­ic brain injury, Geren said.

The new bud­get also will be used to devel­op trans­for­ma­tion­al war-fight­ing tech­nolo­gies such as armed recon­nais­sance heli­copters, light util­i­ty heli­copters, unmanned aer­i­al- and land-based vehi­cles, and joint car­go air­craft.

Dur­ing today’s tes­ti­mo­ny before the Sen­ate com­mit­tee, Casey not­ed that he told the com­mit­tee in Novem­ber that the Unit­ed States’ mil­i­tary would be involved in “per­sis­tent con­flict” over the next decade.

The next 10 years will wit­ness “pro­tract­ed con­fronta­tion among state, non-state, and indi­vid­ual actors who are increas­ing­ly will­ing to use vio­lence to achieve their polit­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal objec­tives,” Casey told com­mit­tee mem­bers. Glob­al trends that like­ly will exac­er­bate this sit­u­a­tion and pro­long this peri­od of unrest include: increased glob­al­iza­tion and tech­nol­o­gy, over­pop­u­la­tion in devel­op­ing coun­tries, com­pe­ti­tion for resources, pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass destruc­tion, and safe havens for ter­ror­ists in ungoverned areas of the world.

The Army must con­tin­ue to adapt itself to become more agile and expe­di­tionary to con­front such future chal­lenges, Casey point­ed out.

How­ev­er, “the cumu­la­tive effects of the last six-plus years of war have left our Army out of bal­ance (and) con­sumed by the cur­rent fight and unable to do the things that we know we need to do to prop­er­ly sus­tain our all-vol­un­teer force and restore our flex­i­bil­i­ty for an uncer­tain future,” Casey said.

Despite the chal­lenges, today’s Army “remains a huge­ly resilient, pro­fes­sion­al and com­bat-sea­soned force,” Casey said.

To put itself back into bal­ance the Army must sus­tain, pre­pare, reset and trans­form, the gen­er­al said.

“First and fore­most, we must sus­tain our sol­diers, fam­i­lies and Army civil­ians,” Casey said. “They are the heart and soul of this Army and must be sus­tained in a way that rec­og­nizes their qual­i­ty of ser­vice.”

Sec­ond, the Army must con­tin­ue to pro­vide prop­er train­ing, equip­ment and oth­er resources required to defeat ene­mies that they face in Afghanistan, Iraq or any­where else, Casey said.

Third, the Army needs to rest its sol­diers and repair or replace dam­aged or destroyed equip­ment after repeat­ed deploy­ments to dan­ger­ous and harsh envi­ron­ments, Casey said.

“Fre­quent deploy­ments are tak­ing their toll on our sol­diers and their equip­ment,” Casey said. “In my mind, resources for reset are the dif­fer­ence between a hol­low force and a ver­sa­tile force for the future,” he added.

Final­ly, the Army must con­tin­ue to trans­form itself into an agile expe­di­tionary force to meet secu­ri­ty needs of the 21st cen­tu­ry, Casey said.

“For us, trans­for­ma­tion is a holis­tic effort to adapt how we train, mod­ern­ize, devel­op lead­ers, sta­tion forces, and sup­port our sol­diers, fam­i­lies and civil­ians,” he said.

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