October 2nd, 2007 06:45 EST
Army leaders urge congressional support
BAGHDAD — The Army, stressed and stretched by six years of conflict, needs continued and uninterrupted support and resourcing to maintain its current operational levels while preparing for the future, its top civilian and military leaders told Congress Sept. 26.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. outlined four imperatives for the House Armed Services Committee that he called critical to the Army's ability to restore balance and maintain the all-volunteer force:
• Improving the way the Army sustains Soldiers, Families and Civilians;
• Preparing troops for success in the current conflict;
• Resetting troops and equipment for future deployments; and
• Transforming the force for the 21st century.
Gen. Casey urged committee members to support these efforts into the next fiscal year, and to ensure there's no funding gap after Oct. 1 that could slow efforts under way.
"The Army is the best in the world at what it does, because of our values, our ethos, our people and your support," he said.
Keeping that standard, he said, will require more hard sacrifices by Soldiers and their Families and clear recognition by national leaders of the threat the country faces and the need to maintain an Army able to face it.
Calling Soldiers "our ultimate asymmetric advantage" in the war on terror, he said the Army needs to continue improving the way it recruits, trains and retains them.
While increasing the readiness of the force, the Army also must increase the quality of life it provides its members as well as their Families, he said.
Army Secretary Pete Geren noted that the Army's focus has moved from pay issues that dominated the 1970s and housing issues that dominated the 1990s. Today, in an era of persistent conflict that's expected to continue into the foreseeable future, the big emphasis must be on taking care of Families, he said.
"Twelve months (deployed overseas) was asking a lot of those Families, and 15 months is asking more," he said.
Gen. Casey said the Army needs to ensure that the quality of life it provides Soldiers and their Families "is commensurate with the quality of service" they are providing.
Meanwhile, the Army must continue preparing troops to succeed in the current conflict, he said. The Army has made "great strides," continually adapting as the operational environment changes, he said.
It's also committed to providing the best equipment possible to give Soldiers the technological advantage on the battlefield, he said, as well as tough, demanding training at their home stations that ensures they have the skills and confidence to win.
"Military success is tied to the capabilities of our leaders and Soldiers," Gen. Casey said, promising that the Army won't fail them.
To keep that promise, the Army must focus on resetting the force, he said. Resetting means more than simply fixing or replacing equipment that's being used at five times its programmed rate, he told the committee. It also means giving Soldiers and their Families time to regroup between deployments.
Secretary Geren noted that the current Army force is carrying the lion's share of the third-longest conflict in U.S. history. Not since the Revolutionary War has the country asked this much of an all-volunteer force for this long, he told the committee.
And as the country faces what is expected to continue to be an era of persistent conflict, it must take care of its troops and their Families to ensure the all-volunteer force remains strong, he said.
Today's Army is the best-led, best-equipped and best-trained force that's ever been to the field, Secretary Geren said. He expressed hope that with congressional support and funding, the Army will be able to continue making that claim five, 10, even 20 years into the future.
So as the Army focuses on the current conflict, it must keep looking ahead as well to ensure it's ready to face future threats, Gen. Casey said. This involves fielding the best new equipment to fighting forces, incorporating new techniques and fielding the Army's future combat systems to brigade combat teams to ensure the Army has a decisive advantage on the battlefield.
The Army's transformation is "a holistic effort" that affects the way it fights, trains and modernizes, he said. "It's a journey for us, not a destination," Gen. Casey told the lawmakers.
(Story by Donna Miles, special to American Forces Press Service)
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