By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Jan. 17, 2008) -- After six years of war in the Middle East, the Army is out of balance, said the service's senior military leader.
"Things aren't as we would like them," said Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. "But certainly, by no stretch of the imagination, are we a hollow Army -- or a broken Army. But it is out of balance. And out of balance means that we are so consumed by current operations that we can't do the things we need to do to prepare ourselves organizationally or institutionally. We are at a point where we are having difficulty sustaining an all volunteer force."
Speaking Jan. 16 during a breakfast sponsored by the Association of the U.S. Army, General Casey said any problems with the Army are fixable, with the right kind support.
"This is not an impossible position, particularly with the support of Congress and the American people," he said. "And we have a plan to put ourselves back in balance. But it is going to take three or four years. And we have to do four things: sustain, prepare, reset and transform."
Gen. Casey told attendees at the breakfast session that the Army has been leaning heavily on, and will continue to lean heavily on it's mid-level officers and noncommissioned officer corps.
"One of the major elements holding this Army together in a very difficult time is our noncommissioned officer corps," he said. "They are absolutely magnificent. So we kind of need to sustain that and we need the resources to do it."
Part of that sustainment of the NCO corps, he said, involves recruiting efforts. But it also involves providing support to NCOs and their families, through initiatives such as the Army Family Covenant, to ensure retention of quality enlisted members.
"We have put our money where our mouth is. In the 2008 budget there are 1.4 billion dollars for Soldiers and Families. That's about double what we normally do."
The general also said the Army must ensure those who fight the global war on terror are equipped to fight that war. For the Army, that means ensuring Soldiers have the right training and equipment to do their jobs.
"We are also absolutely committed to making sure that every Soldier that goes in harms way is well trained, well equipped and has what they need to be able to accomplish the mission," he said.
Resetting the Army means reconstituting or replacing lost, ageing or spent equipment and materials. It's also about ensuring Soldiers themselves have the time they need to recuperate from the fighting and deployments. General Casey said Army senior leaders are working hard to ensure the service can replace what has been expended during six years of fighting the GWOT.
"Reset is about money -- the money to reset this force," he said. "If you don't reset you will start to see hollowness emerging in the force. So it is the difference between a hollow force and a flexible and versatile force. We can also not look the other way when it comes to fixing Soldiers and Families when they come back. That means equipment, and training...rest and recuperation. The second deployment is harder than the first. And the third is harder than the second -- it wears on you."
The Army must also prepare for the future. The general said he believes the Army will not see a break in conflict in the near future, and America's Soldiers must be prepared for continued persistent conflict around the world. Additionally, he said, changes in warfare and in the causes of terrorism will force change in the Army.
"We are at war with a global extremist terrorist network," he said. "As I look at the future, I see a long-term ideological struggle. And I see that struggle fueled by global trends, because they create a breeding ground for recruitment in these extremist networks."
Some of those global trends include modern technology and globalization.
"Clearly (globalization) is enhancing prosperity around the globe," he said.
"But there is a negative side: that prosperity is not necessarily evenly distributed. Look at South America, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
There are various estimates, but by 2015, 2.8 billion people around the world will be below the poverty level."
It is that poverty, the general said, that will help fuel the ideology that feeds terrorist networks.
Warfare in the future will also differ from the conventional warfare America's forces are trained to fight.
"I see a conflict that is a mix of irregular warfare and conventional warfare," he said. "I see it being fought in a lot of urban areas. Sixty percent of the world is expected to live in cities by about 2020. We were going to fight in cities. And it's going to be fought more with non-state actors and individual groups."
Fighting those non-state actors, he said, will be more difficult even that fighting the most difficult of conventional wars.
"When you are fighting non-state actors, it gets a little more difficult because they are not bound by rules of warfare. They are not bound by the rules we use," he said.
Changes in warfare mean the Army as an institution will have to adapt, General Casey said, in both the way it trains to fight and in the way it operates as an institution.
"The force has to be agile -- agile in its ability to deploy quickly to change missions quickly," he said. "But also it must be institutionally agile. Everything from getting the right equipment to the Soldiers as quickly as they can, to how we train and develop leaders. And we are not very agile as an institution now. Our institutions were designed for an early a pre-Sept. 11 Army."
One of the steps the Army is undertaking to improve the institution's ability to be agile in the 21st Century is the development of a new FM 3.0 manual. This capstone doctrine manual will revolutionize the manner in which the Army conducts operations., officials said. Most importantly, they said, it will elevate stability operations as missions that need to be conducted simultaneously along with offense and defense.