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Casey says Army must focus on versatility

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (March 31, 2011) -- The Army and DOD must move away from organizing for conventional war and instead focus on versatility, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. told lawmakers.

Casey and Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee March 31 to discuss the Army's posture.

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Casey said the Army must change how it's been organizing for the last 60 years.

"We were designed to build the systems to prosecute conventional war," he said. "We are not doing that now. And I believe the central organizing principal needs to shift to versatility.

"We need to structure our forces so that we have a versatile mix of heavy, light, Stryker, and enabling forces, so we can put together force packages for a wide range of contingencies that are going to face us," Casey said.

Casey also told lawmakers one of the greatest challenges for the incoming chief of staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, will be preserving gains the Army has made over the last 10 years -- including end strength and dwell time.

"I'm going to tell Marty his greatest challenges will be to preserve the gains we together have built over the last decade," said Casey. "End strength is a key consideration for the Army we have to have the right size Army that can meet our commitments with a one year out two years back cycle."

The general had been asked what advice he'd have for his replacement who was recently confirmed. Dempsey will assume the role of chief of staff of the Army April 11.

Casey also said Dempsey would have to deal with the impacts of 10 years of war -- including issues related to post traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury.

"He can't take his eye off that and has to focus on the dwell," Casey said.

One senator asked the general if Congress should establish guidelines to ensure dwell time for Soldiers will always be met. Casey said such rules might limit the Army.

"My initial reaction would be that any time Congress puts another constraint, it limits flexibility," Casey said. "I believe we have drawn a new baseline now and we can't knowingly accept an end strength that will cause us to do less than that... I don't think we should accept an end strength that would allow us to do less than two years at home."

Lawmakers were also concerned with photos recently published in a German magazine allegedly related to murders committed by American Soldiers in Afghanistan. Those Soldiers were from 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

"The pictures are reprehensible and they are not indicative of the conduct of the million soldiers that have deployed in combat in the last decade," Casey said.

McHugh told lawmakers the Army is investigating what happened with those Soldiers, with their units and with their leaders -- to uncover what happened. And he said he is not pleased with claims the Army will simply punish the most junior of those involved.

The secretary said he is "distressed when I read reports that I think are at best premature, perhaps somewhat irresponsible, that the Army is just going to hold a few lower-ranking Soldiers in this case responsible ... we are absolutely looking at the higher command," McHugh said.

The secretary said that it is an "assumption" there is command responsibility, but "the important part is we are looking very hard at it. I think there are some serious questions as to the culpability, responsibilities of overseeing a unit that was engaged in this kind of activity, and we will take that wherever the facts and the truth lead us."

Casey said 12 of the Soldiers involved are pending court-marital charges now, with some convictions already. Five have been charged with murder and convicted. "We believe we are pressing this to the full extent of the law," he said.

One legislator asked about the range of diversity in Army leadership. McHugh said the Army is doing a good job of recruiting a diverse range of Americans -- a range that looks very much like America. But he said senior-leader advancement is not as diverse as it could be.

"In baseline recruiting, we are doing pretty well in the segments of the population we are bringing in," McHugh said. But he added that the Army "has to work very hard ... in promoting officers through the ranks that represent that same level of diversity."

The Army's secretary, formerly a congressman from New York, also expressed some disappointment to lawmakers over failure in the Congressional ranks to exercise their privilege to recommend candidates to the U.S. Military Academy, at West Point, N.Y.

"I think the Congress can be enormously helpful in going out and actively utilizing their full allocation of nominations... in promoting young minority students, young minority Soldiers," he said, adding there is a "broad array" of members of both houses of Congress that don't take advantage of their privilege to recommend candidates to the school -- a major source of Army-commissioned officers. He said to see billets at West Point go unfilled "is crushing."

Casey recently visited Fort Riley, Kan., and was able to meet with Soldiers who had received training related to repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law. He said he believes the training there was effective.

"The thing I took away: the training is simple, it's effective, and it's starting to break down misconceptions that (Soldiers) had in their mind," Casey said, adding those opinions were shared by leaders and Soldiers at every level he observed.

But Casey also told lawmakers that, until Soldiers and leaders were confronted with openly gay and lesbian Soldiers in the ranks, the issue is still "an intellectual discussion."

"What I took away is, this is the start of the process," he said. The general said the Army still does equal opportunity training, and training on race relations and gender bias. "We're going to be doing this for a while."

He said sexual assault and harassment training for Fiscal Year 2012 will be prepared "gender neutral."

He also said concerns from Soldiers involve billeting -- if a Soldier will need to live with a gay or lesbian Soldier, for instance. "I emphasized to commanders we are not going to have segregated billets -- but the commanders do have discretion to adjust the billets to suit people's needs," he said.

The general also said there is "a lot of concern among the very religious element of our population, and they are wrestling harder with this than the others."

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