Some things change and some remain the same 

6/2/2011 12:00 AM 

Back in January, I wrote a column about change being a singular part of the Army, and I ended it with "So change at the top comes to the Army again. It is inevitable and it is good. The Army has been well-led and will be well-led in the future. Hooah!"  I was referring to the outgoing and incoming chiefs of staff of the Army, and I said at the time that after service as the Chief there was no more "up" there was only "out".

Well, in the case of General Dempsey, I got that wrong.  He has just been nominated by President Obama to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff!  So in his case, with the approval of Congress, he will move up to the top military job in the nation after only a few months of leading the Army. 

All of the characteristics he brought to the Army's top job - a warrior-visionary who, with his dynamic leadership ability, unmatched talent and unparalleled organizational abilities, able to lead with compassion and a unique awareness of the complexities our officers, noncommissioned officers, soldiers and their families - he will take with him to his new post.  Our nation will be well-served, but where will that leave our Army.

The president has nominated another combat-tested soldier to follow General Dempsey as the Army chief.  General Ray Odierno has more than 35 years of service at all levels of our Army and will use the enormous breadth of his military service to lead an Army still at war.  I urge the Congress to quickly confirm General Odierno and General Dempsey's nomination to their respective posts.

Against this backdrop of change, the Congress is beginning its work on funding the Defense Department and the Army in particular through its authorization and appropriations process. I have urged the Congress through letters and in person to complete the process with due diligence but with speed.  It is imperative that an Army  still engaged in two wars knows how much money it will have to fight those wars and maintain the people and hardware that comprise that Army. 

Currently the House has passed its version of the Defense Authorization bill which would authorize $690.1 billion for defense programs, including $533 billion for the Defense Department, $119 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and $18 billion for national security programs at the Department of Energy.  In total, the measure would provide $1 billion more than proposed by the Obama Administration and $35 billion less than currently authorized.

We expect the Senate to begin work on their version of the bill in June.

The two bills will have to be reconciled before they can reach the president's desk for signature.  Meanwhile, the defense appropriations process is getting underway in the House and it looks as though the bill will provide $530 billion in non-emergency funding, an increase of $17 billion over last year's level and a decrease of $9 billion from the President's request.  In addition, the bill contains $119 billion in emergency spending for Defense activities related to the Global War on Terror - $39 billion less than last year due to the drawdown of U.S. forces overseas. In both House bills money for a 1.6 percent pay increase is provided.

Your association will remain engaged with the new Army Chief of Staff and the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and we will fight to get our Congress to move forward at a pace far quicker than the glacial one of the last year.