Active and reserve components must be balanced as a ‘total force’

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Army’s top leaders stressed the need to maintain a balance between the active and reserve components during a time of declining budgets, while emphasizing their commitment to the Total Army.

Army Secretary John McHugh and Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff, also discussed their actions to prepare the Army for the future and to care for soldiers and their families, regardless of the level of funding.

The two leaders handled those and other issues on the opening day of the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center Oct. 22.

McHugh gave the key note address to the opening session, then joined Odierno later in taking reporters’ questions at a press conference.

Moving by wheelchair or on crutches due to injuries suffered in a bicycle accident, McHugh cited a list of things that "keep me up at night," including the state of the national economy and its impact on future Army resources, the need to maintain the capabilities of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve and his concern that "the service and sacrifice of the American soldier is not only appreciated, but really understood" by the nation.

Regarding the future budgets, McHugh said, "The reality is, after more than 11 years of war ... the Army is going to have to do its job with less."

But he expressed his confidence that it can do that and has already started the process.

He noted some of the efficiencies he ordered implemented last year, including a consolidation and reduction in service contracts, which had consumed "21 cents of every dollar the Army spends."

Those changes resulted in $330 million in savings, he said.

McHugh also pointed out that one "of the most important things we learned’ since Sept. 11, 2001, was how valuable the reserve components are.

Ensuring that the reserve force is trained and ready "is paramount to the readiness of our Army and to our nation’s security," he said.

The secretary announced he had signed a directive "to create a total force policy" for the Army, that would organize and train the active and reserve components into an integrated force.

It would also create unified personnel management and pay systems and allow soldiers to move between the active and reserve forces throughout their careers.

At the later news conference, Odierno reinforced that message.

He said that when the Army made its initial force reductions in response to the planned budget cuts, it took almost 90 percent of the personnel out of the active component.

"What we have to do is maintain the right balance between the active and reserve," he said, noting that the two components have different requirements, he said.

Adding, "The active force must be ready to deploy immediately and able to handle a more complex range of missions, while the reserves would have more time to get ready for a less complex range of missions."

"We need both. It’s not one or the other," he said.

Both leaders said if the Army would have to make additional force reductions because of deeper budget cuts, it would affect both the active and reserve components.

Addressing their plans for the future, the chief of staff said the Army "will be optimized for a broader range of missions in support of the joint force," and will "empower our soldiers and squads by being connected to the network in vehicles that have greater lethality while maintaining survivability."

Adding, "That’s our goal as we move forward."

Odierno also stressed, "We’ll have scalable and tailorable organizations that can provide options to our national security leaders in order to operate across the wide range of missions, from humanitarian support all the way to campaign quality conflicts, if necessary."

McHugh said that during the time he spent at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center being treated for his injuries, he was "struck more than ever not just by the resilience and courage of our wounded warriors but the devotion, courage and sacrifice of their family members and loved ones."

He said, "I truly wonder, do we really appreciate them? Are we doing enough?"

Adding, "That’s what really keeps me up at night ... making sure we do everything we can to support our wounded warriors and their families."