Gen. Raymond T. Odierno testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, July 21, as part of the confirmation process for his nomination as the next Army chief of staff.
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, welcomed Odierno and gave a brief history of his accomplishments. He also spelled out the duties he will assume if confirmed to this position.
Odierno currently serves as the commander of the United States Joint Forces Command. If he is confirmed, he will be the 38th Army chief of staff to succeed Gen. Martin E. Dempsey who has been nominated by President Obama to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"I’m proud to be part of this Army with the opportunity to serve with these great men and women," Odierno said.
Adding, "And, I’m humbled and honored that I have been nominated to be the 38th chief of staff of the Army."
Odierno told lawmakers how the Army has proven itself over the last ten years, in the most difficult environment the nation has faced.
He also said soldiers have displayed mental and physical toughness and courage under fire, while transforming the Army into the most versatile, agile, rapidly deployable and sustainable force in the world.
After his opening statement, members of the committee – including the committee’s ranking member, Sen. John McCain – asked questions about his views on current conditions and his future as the Army’s senior military leader.
One of the main topics covered were cuts to the defense budget and the Army’s drawdown of soldiers in Afghanistan.
The service is planning to cut back 10,000 soldiers by the end of 2011, and the remaining 23,000 by the end summer 2012.
Odierno expressed concerns with the budget cuts.
"First off, the Army is about soldiers," he said. "So when we talk about defense cuts, you’re talking about structure, you’re talking about the end strength of the Army, so depending on what the demand is for the use of our soldiers, we can continue to sustain our all-volunteer force, and we will continue to meet commitments around the world."
McCain also asked Odierno about the expansion of al Qaeda forces in Yemen and Somalia. He agreed that al Qaeda is a concern to U.S. military forces.
"We must avoid our historical pattern of drawing down too fast and getting too small," Odierno said. "Especially since our record of predicting the future has not been very good."
McCain then asked Odierno’s opinion on the importance of the Army maintaining, with the agreement of the Iraqi government, a troop presence in that country.
Odierno said he believed the U.S. should support Iraq with as much as they find necessary. He said that is especially true with evidence of increased Iranian activity in Iraq, including weapons.
Odierno was also questioned on leader development. He explained how leaders over the past ten years have changed significantly.
"We have to understand that we have a force that is very different, now," he said. "We have majors today and captains – all they’ve experienced is war."
Odierno said the Army has to help ensure soldiers and leaders understand the "Profession of Arms," and how the Army has to reinvigorate this as they move forward.
"We have to be able to continue to challenge them, because we are going to need them as we move forward in the future," he said.
The next step in the confirmation process is for the Armed Services Committee to vote on Odierno’s nomination. If the confirmation passes, a vote will be taken by the entire Senate, based on the committee’s recommendation.
Others testifying at the hearing were Adm. James A. Winnefeld, nominated to be the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. William M. Fraser III, nominated to be commander of the United States Transportation Command. (ANS)