By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (March 02, 2011) -- For years the Army's chief of staff has said the service was "out of balance," but he believes next year's budget request will keep it on the right footing after 10 years of war.
During testimony before the House Armed Services Committee March 2, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. told lawmakers the Fiscal Year 2012 Army budget submission, now moving through Capitol Hill, marks a "transition point" between restoring balance to the force and sustaining that balance.
"This budget enables us to sustain the balance that we have restored into this great Army," Casey said, adding that "sustaining that balance is critical because this war is not over."
Casey told lawmakers "after a decade of very hard work, we have a force that is the right size, that is organized in versatile modular formations on a predictable rotational cycle, and that has sufficient time at home to begin training for the full range of missions and to recover from a decade of war."
The Army's recent growth, plus the drawdown in Iraq, Casey said, have enabled the service to improve dwell time for Soldiers, which is the time they spend at home training and with their families between deployments.
"This is a critical component of sustaining an all-volunteer force in a protracted conflict," Casey said. "For the better part of five years we were returning Soldiers to combat after only one year at home. We knew that was not sustainable and have been working to bring dwell to two years at home as quickly as possible."
Now, the general said, the Army has reached that goal -- a two-year dwell for Soldiers.
"Given what we know about the projected demands, our active units who deploy after the first of October will deploy with an expectation of having two years at home when they return," Casey said. Guard and Reserve units will deploy with an expectation of having four years at home when they return.
"We've worked very hard to get to this point, and it's a significant accomplishment," Casey said, adding that the Army will continue to work toward a goal of providing a three-year dwell time to active units.
Casey said this year the Army will complete the organizational transformation of the Army, will finish the modular conversion of all but "a handful" of the service's 300 brigades and finish rebalancing some 150-160,000 Soldiers out of Cold War skills to skills more relevant to today's conflicts.
Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh confirmed for legislators the Army's successes in working to meet the Iraq withdrawal deadline.
"As we continue to drawdown our forces to meet the Dec. 31, 2011, deadline, we've already closed or transferred over 80 percent of the bases we maintained to the Iraqi authorities," he said. "We've reduced the number of U.S. personnel by over 75,000 and we've redeployed some 26,000 back to other operations."
McHugh said following a trip to Iraq, he was able to confirm the immense size of the retrograde operation ongoing there, and also that morale was high among Soldiers "as they continue to advise and assist and train Iraqis to support that still burgeoning democracy."
Along with the drawdown in Iraq, McHugh said the Army has surged an additional 30,000 Soldiers to Afghanistan to help defeat the al Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban insurgency.
"The surge enabled our Soldiers and our Afghan partners to seize multiple sanctuaries in the traditional insurgent heartland of southern Afghanistan," the secretary said.
McHugh told lawmakers U.S. forces have trained some 109,000 Afghan National Army soldiers and 41,000 Afghan National Police.
The secretary told lawmakers the Army must stand ready in the future to defend against new threats and must have the right equipment to maintain an edge over America's enemies today as well as for the future.
"Our FY12 budget request is critical to achieving this goal by supporting the extraordinary strides we made in the Army state-of-the-art network, tactical wheeled vehicle and combat vehicle modernization programs," McHugh said.
For the network, McHugh said, the Army is asking for $974 million in procurement dollars and $298 million in research dollars for the Warfighter Information Network - Tactical, known as WIN-T, which will "become the cornerstone of our battlefield communications systems."
Also, he said, the Army is seeking $1.5 billon for tactical wheeled vehicle modernization and $1.4 billion for the Army's combat vehicle modernization strategy -- including $884 million for the Ground Combat Vehicle and $156 million for modernization of the Stryker, Bradley and Abrams programs.
The secretary also told the committee members about Army initiatives toward energy security, including the establishment of a senior energy council, the appointment of a senior energy executive, the creation of an Energy Security Office and adoption of a comprehensive strategy for energy security.
"We're developing more efficient generators, and power-distribution platforms, factoring in fuel costs as a part of equipment modernization, and developing a net-zero approach to holistically address our installations' energy, water and waste needs," McHugh said.
The secretary also said the Army has commissioned a panel to review the service's acquisition systems from "cradle to grave."
"We're currently reviewing the panel's insightful report and we'll use it as a guide over the next two years to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Army's acquisition process," he said.
McHugh also mentioned "the devastating impact" of the continuing resolution on the Army's programs.
"From modernization to military construction to family services and base operations support, the lack of a fiscal 2011 budget is adversely affecting critical needs and projects that support our Soldiers and their families -- not to mention delaying long-term projects of the department a large," he said.
McHugh and Casey were on Capitol Hill to explain to Congress the Army's portion of the president's Fiscal Year 2012 budget. The Army's portion of that budget includes funding for a 1.5-percent pay raise for Soldiers, a 3.1-percent increase in housing allowance, and a 3.4-percent increase in subsistence.
The Army base budget request for Fiscal Year 2012 amounts to $144.9 billion, an increase of just $1.5 billion over the Fiscal Year 2011 request. The Army also requested an additional $71.1 billion for the overseas contingency operations budget -- to fund operations in Afghanistan and to wrap up operations in Iraq.
The OCO budget request was $31 billion less than the Fiscal Year 2011 request because Operation New Dawn in Iraq will end in December 2011. Overall, the Army is asking in Fiscal Year 2012 for about $29.5 billion less than it did in Fiscal Year 2011.