The Army’s top two leaders insisted Monday, Oct. 10, that whatever size the Army will be under the sharply reduced future defense budgets, it will be a balanced, full-spectrum force, ready and able to meet all the security challenges the nation will face.
Army Secretary John McHugh and Gen. Raymond Odierno, the chief of staff, rejected the frequently heard analyses that future conflicts will require primarily air and naval capabilities, not ground forces.
Despite the budget cuts required by the deficit reduction act, "we still have an obligation to preserve the strategic options for the President of the United States and to maintain modernized forces capable of decisive combat action," McHugh told the opening session of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting and exposition.
"No major conflict has ever been won without boots on the ground," the secretary said.
"Accordingly, our national interests demand that as we go about the task of reshaping this Army in the years ahead, we remain steadfast in continuing to support this, the greatest land force the world has ever known," he told the audience at the Washington Convention Center.
At a news conference later with McHugh, Odierno said he had heard the same comments about not needing ground forces in 2001, before the 9-11 terrorists attacks.
"We just went through the longest ground campaign in our history," he noted.
The thing he will remain focused on, the new chief told reporters, "is ensuring we will have the trained and ready forces available."
"No matter what happens" with the future budget, "we are not going to have a hollow force."
McHugh also rejected the proposal that the ground forces would have to sacrifice funding to allow more of the reduced budget to go to the Air Force and Navy.
"There is no getting around the fact that the Army has carried the major burden of the past decade, providing between 50 and 70 percent of our deployable forces," he said. "It’s important to recognize that while the Army represents half of our nation’s defense force, it gets a quarter to 30 percent of the budget."
At the news conference, he said he would work to maintain the historic one-third budget share for each of the three service departments.
Odierno said the Army will probably have to cut personnel end strength below the 520,000 goal it had set before the deficit reduction act, but he did not know how low it would go.
The two leaders said they are conducting intense studies of the possible force structure size and the mix between heavy and light units and between active and reserve forces.
Odierno disagreed with a study released last week by a prominent defense think tank that argued for shifting most of the Army’s heavy forces into the Army National Guard so the active force could maintain more light counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism units.
He said it was hard for him to accept "the idea of giving up a large part of the heavy force," and noted "we are using heavy forces in Afghanistan."
Because of the threat from IEDs, "we need to protect the troops. We need to build some heaviness into the force," the general said.
McHugh and Odierno said the Army was not likely to go back fully to the division-oriented structure, but was reviewing the lessons learned from the modularization move that emphasized brigade combat teams.
McHugh said the studies indicated there may be a need for more division oversight on training.
The two leaders also dismissed the idea that the budget cuts would prevent any modernization. They pointed to the improvements already made in reforming the acquisition process, with McHugh citing a reduction in "must have" requirements for the new ground combat vehicle from 1,000 to 300.
In his speech to the AUSA audience, McHugh said one of his primary concerns was finding ways to provide the opportunity at home stations for the creativity, initiative and advancement soldiers are finding on the battlefield.
"In the course of 10 years of war, the operational, warfighting Army has changed each and every day" to adjust to an adaptive enemy, he said. The institutional Army "must be able to adapt just as quickly."
He said he has issued directives "to begin transforming this institutional army, primarily to cut cost, but fundamentally to change the way we do business."
Steps include eliminating redundancies in research and development, reviewing temporary organizations and task forces "to see if they still make sense" and reforming and streamlining the acquisition process.
And, he added "we are looking at sweeping changes in human resources management," because a survey of senior officers rated the personnel management system one of the worst run Army organizations.
"We can, we must, and I promise you, we will do better," the secretary said.