Odierno: The Army is moving ahead to shape future and prevent conflicts
The Army chief of staff said contrary to what many people may think, the Army has been doing anything but slowing down and becoming stagnant, despite cash flow and end-strength issues.
Speaking before a full house of Association of the U.S. Army members at their monthly Institute of Land Warfare Breakfast in Arlington, Va., Jan. 23, Gen. Ray Odierno said the Army "is not standing still ... the Army is doing many, many, many things in order to shape the future environment and prevent conflicts around the world."
In his third year as the 38th chief of staff, Odierno often makes trips around the country and overseas, checking on the force and its capabilities.
He said because the Army is out of Iraq and drawing down in Afghanistan, people tend to think there’s not much going on in the service.
"Every one of our components is incredibly busy and continues to be," he said.
Adding, "A few months ago I was out at Fort Carson [Colo.] and the 4th Infantry Division was laying out all its missions for the next three years ... it’s mind-boggling to just listen to what they’re doing. You go down to Fort Bragg [N.C.], and go to the 82nd Airborne Division, [and the] 18th Airborne Corps; you go out to Fort Bliss, Texas, and the 1st Armored Division, and the missions and requirements they have worldwide outside of Afghanistan are quite significant.
"We have forces that are tailored and scaled, that are conducting operations, training, building partner capacity in many parts of the world and that’s what we’ll continue to do ... and, oh, by the way, we still have about 30,000 soldiers in Afghanistan; we still have another 20,000 in other places in the Middle East; and, we have soldiers in Turkey," Odierno stressed.
He added, "And, we’ve deployed our air defense capability to Guam in response to North Korea, and what a lot of people don’t know is I have a battalion commander and about 50 soldiers at the embassy in South Sudan, and they’ve been there now for several weeks."
Odierno said his number-one priority and something the Army had to stay out in front of was leader development because information travels so quickly that it gets pushed down to lower and lower levels.
"We have to develop our captains faster than when I was a captain. We have to develop our lieutenant colonels faster, and we have to develop them in many more diverse ways to give them an understanding of the socioeconomic culture and religious environments around the world because those are the environments they will operate in," he said.
"We have to have leaders who can do critical thinking under pressure and who can make tough decisions at the right time. That will always be our number-one priority and is an advantage we have today, and it’s an advantage we must sustain into the future," he noted.
Addressing the Noncommissioned Officer Corps, he said, "The mental agility, their understanding of the issues we have is at the highest levels I’ve ever seen it, so we must continue to develop that because what makes us different from everyone else is our NCO Corps."
Odierno said a globally responsive Army of the future must be leaner, smaller, tailorable, scalable and gets back to the expeditionary mindset – "our command and control systems are too heavy today."
"We have to be able to deploy very quickly, get there in small packages and then potentially build on them, and we have to get there with the least amount of support necessary," he said.
Adding, "We have to be able to go to remote areas anywhere in the world while building on our advantage of tactical operations strategic ability."
Remote areas include looking at the African continent on which he said Army units have conducted between 80 and 100 missions over the last eight months. Some of them took 10 soldiers, while other missions took 200.
Their key mission, he said, was to support the AFRICOM commander’s objectives across central and North Africa. He added that the Army has to build a force which understands what's going on there.
"The future is working in coalitions with multinational partners ... how we develop that," he said.
"These are the kind of things we have to do when we talk about regional engagement," he added.
Odierno also made remarks on the state of the Army’s modernization program, which he said, would continue to be centered on the soldier and squad, not just infantry squads, but logistics and artillery squads and the like.
Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, "our modernization strategy is going to be a bit delayed," he said.
"We’re not going to be able to do everything we wanted to do, but what we do must be affordable, versatile and tailorable."
He reiterated that over the next three years the Army will be relying on some mature technologies, but it will continue to modernize the Paladin howitzer and make cost-effective improvements in the Abrams tank and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle along with improvements to the M4 and M4A1 carbines.
"We’re going to build new when it’s absolutely essential – the JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) and the AMPV (Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle) replacement for the M113 (Joint Armored Personnel Carrier)," Odierno said.
He stressed, "We have to have these systems. Do we need a new infantry fighting vehicle? Yes. Can we afford a new infantry vehicle? No."
In this last statement, he inferred that the Ground Combat Vehicle – which has been under design to replace existing infantry fighting vehicles – is on hold, at least for now.
The general says he hopes technology will continue to all the Army so that in three to four years it will be able to build an infantry fighting vehicle ... "That’s absolutely necessary for us as we go forward," he said.
"We’re going to continue to modernize our aviation fleet, but we cannot afford our aviation fleet today ... so we’re going to have to make some difficult decisions in our modernization strategy ... reduce the number of systems that we have ... do the best we can to mitigate the risk as we move forward and make sure the systems we have are the best systems possible."
The UH-60M Black Hawk will replace all "L" models, while the CH-47 Chinook and AH-64 Apache fleets will also undergo modernization.
"Does that mean I’m walking away from the Scout helicopter? No," said Odierno.
"I think we need a Scout helicopter, but we can’t afford one right now, so we’ll have to figure out what we do as we move forward."
Odierno concluded his remarks noting that the Army would continue to invest in science and technology, but be very choosy about where it invests.
"We have to be able to find leap-ahead technologies," he explained.
"We want to look at vertical lift and what that means for the future. We want to look at manned/unmanned teaming, but what is that leap-ahead technology that we need that can make a real difference for our soldiers on the ground?" he asked.
"Is it materials technology that allows us to decrease the weight, so we can be more expeditionary?
"Over the last several years what we’ve done is trade mobility for survivability – we’ve got to get back in line," he said.
Adding, "I need tactical mobility for the future, so we need to move toward mobility and figure out how do we sustain survivability while increasing mobility."