Odierno issues Army readiness warning at AUSA breakfast
When the Army began implementing defense cuts in 2011 and 2012, and drawdown operations kicked off in Iraq and Afghanistan, military leadership believed the world would require less intervention on the part of U.S. forces.
"Frankly, that’s not happened, and I think that’s the concern," said Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno, speaking at the Association of the United States Army’s monthly Institute of Land Warfare breakfast in Arlington, Va.
"The threat of terrorism is not going away ... it’s in our face every single day and it’s going to be throughout our lifetimes and probably throughout our children’s lifetimes, so we have to figure out how we’re going to deal with this threat ... and challenge it face-on," he said.
Odierno said that means the enemy’s intent must be understood and concepts must be developed that would allow the Army to respond across a broad spectrum of conflict – though he said he doesn’t believe that extends to putting 150,000 or 200,000 soldiers on a border.
He also said he believes today to be the most uncertain time in the country’s national security and that uncertainty is problematic because the nation doesn’t know what it’s going to respond to as it did during the Cold War when the Army had operational concepts and strategy.
"Today, we don’t have that luxury," he said.
Adding, "I can’t tell you if we’re going to be fighting on the Korean peninsula ... can’t tell you if we’re going to be in Iraq or Syria fighting a war ... can’t tell you if we’re going to be in Eastern Europe deterring Russia ... I don’t know. We have to be prepared to do a variety of things simultaneously, and that’s the challenge we have."
Odierno said what he and his counterparts work to do is develop budgets and create capability which support national security, and in his mind that means the ability to support soldiers with the right tools to do any job asked of them in the future.
He called for continuing investments in national security to sustain the readiness needed to respond to the variety of threats the country faces.
"To sustain readiness ... we need to invest today; we need to invest tomorrow; we need to invest the year after that because you’re investing in human capital, men and women and their ability to train and respond around the world," Odierno said.
He noted, "You’re investing in the equipment they need to be successful, and if we don’t have that consistent funding to do that, what will happen is we won’t be properly invested in our people or equipment and then when we have to use them, they will not be at the level the American people expect them to be."
Odierno said that in 2013, 10 percent of the Army was ready and, at the end of 2014 and today, the Army is about 33 percent ready. He expects to sustain that, "maybe move up a little to 40 percent at the highest."
"Prior to 2001, routinely, the Army was about 70-75 percent ready – we had built up capability that was there to be used if necessary," he said, noting that in 2016 the Army will face sequestration again and should that occur for the next three to five years, it would "hollow out" the Army.
"My definition of a ‘hollow Army’ is one where we don’t properly train our soldiers ... where they’re unable to do the exercises they need ... they’re not able to have the ammunition necessary or the equipment they need ... they’re not able to sustain that equipment to the levels necessary for them to respond with no notice to an unknown threat in potentially five different places around the world," he said.
Odierno also said the Army is not now adequately investing in modernization programs, citing a 50 percent reduction in modernization accounts.
"That will be worse if we go into sequestration ... so now we’re not investing in training; we’re not investing in equipment, and this falls on the shoulders of our soldiers," he said.
"The ones who will pay the price are the men and women in uniform they will go no matter what. It’s up to us to make sure they have what they need."