Odierno Outlines Priorities as Army Chief
By C. Todd Lopez
Army News Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2011 After being sworn in Sept. 7 as the new chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno established some priorities for his tenure.
Shortly after taking the oath as 38th chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno warns of cutting the force too fast, too quickly. Army photo by J.D. Leipold
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Among them are: ensuring the continued training and preparation of soldiers to provide a ready force to combatant commanders, the development of Army leaders, the strengthening of family programs, and a desire for all soldiers to be able to tell the "Army story."
"Soldiers are the strength of our Army," Odierno said at a media roundtable event yesterday. "I must continue to provide trained and ready forces to Iraq and Afghanistan and in other places around the world where our presence is required. I also have to ... look to the future, 40 years out, and develop what I believe it is the right versatile mix of capabilities, formations and equipment which have the key characteristics that I think will be important in the future."
Leadership development is critical, Odierno said. Future leaders must be adaptable, agile, and able to operate in a threat environment that includes a combination of regular warfare, irregular warfare, and terrorist activity.
"We have to adapt their leader development programs," he said. "We have incredibly good leaders today, but we have to continue to develop them to address the many complex problems that I think we're going to face in the future."
The best leaders create environments that allow individuals to grow and trust their subordinates, the general said.
The best units he served in, Odierno said, had people who were confident in their abilities operating in an environment where “they work together collectively to achieve a goal."
"We can't have leaders who are risk averse, we can't have leaders who are micro-managers and don't trust their subordinates -- [that's] the kind of toxic leadership that we can't afford," the general added.
Soldier and family programs must be strengthened, and redundancies across programs must be removed to ensure the Army has "just the best programs that are capable of helping our families," Odierno said.
Additionally, he wants soldiers to make themselves available to tell the Army story.
"I think the Army has a great story, and I think sometimes we don't tell that story," the general said, noting soldiers and leaders must "make ourselves available to discuss the issues, to discuss what's good about our Army."
Budget and personnel cuts, Odierno said, likely will leave the Army smaller -- perhaps even smaller than the 520,000 directed by former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
"The initial reduction [to] 520,000 ... I think we all think is reasonable, based on the assumptions,” he said. “And the assumption of that was that we would be coming out of Afghanistan in 2014. So if that assumption bears out, that number is one we certainly can sustain."
But Odierno wasn't sure the initial plans for that many soldiers would pan out in the end. "Do I think we'll end up at 520,000? Probably not," he said.
What's important is that force reductions happen at a pace that allows the service to maintain its capabilities, the new chief said.
"The important piece here when we talk about force structure and troop strength reductions is that we do it in such a way that we allow ourselves the flexibility and ... capability to expand," he said. "My comments have been: be careful of going too small too fast. And the reason I say that is because if you go too small too fast, it takes away your flexibility."
The metric of whether the Army would still be able to fight two wars at the same time with troop reductions is something Odierno said is being looked at carefully.
"We're still doing some analysis," he said. "I think at 520 [thousand], we could probably do it fairly close. Below 520, I don't know."