WASHINGTON, May 7, 2010 — Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said it is unfair that the press has portrayed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates as having to pressure the Army and its leaders to adopt counterinsurgency as a necessary capability.
“I spent 32 months in Iraq,” Casey said here yesterday during a Defense Writers’ Group breakfast. “I get it.”
The chief said that when he served as commander of the 1st Armored Division in 1999 to 2001, he thought that if a division could handle conventional war it could handle anything below it on the scale of conflict.
“After 32 months in Iraq, I don’t believe that anymore,” the Army Chief of Staff said. Casey said he now believes the Army has to posture itself and train to operate across the spectrum.
In 2008, he said, the Army came out with a new full-spectrum doctrine that said Army formations will simultaneously “apply offense, defense and stability operations to seize the initiative and achieve the desired results.”
“It is not an easy intellectual shift to move away from the idea that the Army is supposed to fight other armies,” Casey said. “It takes a decade to fully ingrain a doctrine in an organization the size of the Army.”
But, no one in the Army appears to be arguing with the need. “I don’t find there are a lot of dinosaurs out there that say, ‘We gotta go defeat the 8th Guards Tank Army [a major unit of the Red Army during the Soviet years],’” Casey said. “Most of the four-star generals in the Army have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. We understand it.” Still, some critics say the Army is concentrating too much on counterinsurgency doctrine and is not paying attention to conventional warfare. Casey said that this is because the time between deployments for soldiers is still too short.
If soldiers get two years between deployments, they will get the chance to train for all aspects of conflict. Right now, it is important that they train for the missions that confront them now.
In the future, the scenarios will be even more different.
“They still won’t be your regular force-on-force scenarios like we had back when I was a brigade commander going to the National Training Center,” Casey said. “They will be hybrid threats. They will look more like southern Lebanon in 2006 than large armored formations. They will be a mix of conventional, irregular, [anti-]terrorist and [anti-]criminal capabilities. That’s the change.”
The next big push for the Army will not be organizational, but institutional, Casey said.
“We will be adapting all of our Army units to support an Army on a rotational cycle like the Navy and Marine Corps,” he said. “Before 2001, we were largely a garrison-based Army that lived to train, and the Guard and Reserve were a strategic reserve to be called on only for the Big One.”
But this decade has seen a huge change, he said. This is exemplified by the fact that half the soldiers in the Army National Guard and Army Reserve are combat veterans and those units are fully incorporated into the rotational model.
“We’re going back and we’re looking at each of the warfighting functions,” he said. “We’re looking at the mix of our force that’s available, the design of the forces and whether we have the right active component/reserve component mix in those functional areas. This is continuous.”
The Army will continue to work with the effects of the reorganization. “We converted all 300-plus brigades in the Army to a modular configuration,” he said. “That’s a lot of change. You don’t undertake something that sweeping without having these effects.”
Modularity is designed to allow the Army to put together divisional force packages to meet the needs of the commander on the ground, he said. A division may have four infantry brigades, but the mission it goes on may require a mix of two infantry brigades, a Stryker brigade and a heavy brigade.
Casey said that on the combat service support side of modularization, the service did go too far.
“We have de-aggregated our combat service support units to the point that it makes it very difficult for the battalion commanders to control those small units,” he said. “We’ve got to go back and reactivate that.”
A reporter asked the chief if the Army – even with plus-ups – is big enough. “We’re not big enough today to meet the demands at a sustainable deployment regime,” Casey replied.
The Army today has moved from a deployment cycle of one year deployed to one year at home station, to one year deployed to about 18 months home. “That’s not good enough to get the force where it needs to be,” he said.
As the drawdown continues in Iraq, the force will be large enough to meet a sustained demand of one corps, five divisions, 20 brigade combat teams and about 90,000 enabling forces – a total of about 160,000, the chief said. “We can do that on a sustained level of one year out, two years back,” he said.
The dwell time is important. “We just recently finished a study that told us what we intuitively knew: that it takes two to three years to fully recover from a one year combat deployment – it just does,” Casey said.
“I believe two years at home is an interim step,” he said. “We ultimately have to get to one and three, not one and two. As demand continues to come down I think we can get there.”
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