Talking about the U.S. Army in 2011 is not just the story of the world’s greatest military land force, but the story of an institution that is critical to the existence of the American social fabric.
The past year has provided that institution with an amazing set of historical reference points, spanning from the passing of the country’s last known World War I veteran, Cpl. Frank W. Buckles, in late February, to the declared end of conflict in Iraq and the Army’s last tactical road march out of that country in late December. And all across that 12-month spectrum of myriad challenges, the soldiers of America’s Army have continued to fulfill their role as “the Strength of the Nation.”
One early glimpse of the U.S. Army in 2011 was provided by former Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., in March 2, 2011, testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. As part of his opening remarks about the fiscal year 2012 budget, Casey acknowledged that his testimony over the previous four years had addressed an Army that was “out of balance.”
“Today – thanks in large measure to the sustained support from this committee – I can tell you that we have made great progress toward the goals that we set for ourselves in 2007, and – as an Army – we are starting to breathe again,” he said. “We’re emerging from a decade of war and transformation with a well-equipped, combat-seasoned ‘Total Force’ that – while still stretched by the demands and lingering effects of a decade at war – is able to begin preparing for the challenges of the second decade of the 21st century.” [Editors’ note: Gen. Martin E. Dempsey replaced Casey as chief of staff of the Army in April 2011. Dempsey served in that role until early September 2011, when he assumed the role of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen. Raymond T. Odierno became chief of staff of the Army.]
A decade of war and transformation – two processes normally considered to be mutually exclusive – were forged together by the realities of the past decade. And not only forged together, but forged successfully by the Army, a feat that some have likened to trying to rebuild an airplane while remaining in flight.
In his budget overview, the former chief of staff highlighted a number of significant accomplishments in the areas of: service end strength (both the permanent increase directed in 2007 and the temporary 2009 increase to achieve success in the Afghanistan “surge”); expanded dwell time at home between combat deployments; implementation of a successful Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) model that fully integrates active, National Guard, and Army Reserve elements; and completion of what he called “the largest organizational transformation of the Army since World War II.”
“We’ll finish the modular conversion of all but a handful of our 300-plus brigades of the Army and finish rebalancing soldiers out of Cold War skills into skills more relevant and more necessary today – that’s to the tune of 150,000 to 160,000 soldiers. Taken together, it’s a fundamentally different Army than it was on Sept. 11, 2001 – and we had a great Army then. But, today, we’re a much more versatile and experienced force,” he said.
Casey acknowledged that it would be critical to maintain the combat edge “honed over a decade of war” through “an affordable modernization strategy that provides the equipment that gives our soldiers a decisive advantage over any enemy that they face.”
Offering a few key elements of that strategy, he added, “No matter where our soldiers are operating, they need to know where they are, they need to know where their buddies are, they need to know where the enemy is, and – when they shoot at the enemy – they need to strike them with precision. They’ll also need protected mobility. This budget contains funding that will begin the fielding of some key elements of the network that will enable our soldiers in any environment. And these include the Joint Tactical Radio System [JTRS] and the Warfighter Information Network. It also includes funding for a new Ground Combat Vehicle [GCV] that provides protection against IEDs [improvised explosive devices], that has capacity to carry a nine-man squad, and is capable of operating across the spectrum of operations – and we also hope that it can be developed in seven years.”