MARK DAVIS: It's the Friday, January 27th show. I'm Mark Davis. It's great to have you here. The telephone number is 214-787-1820, 1-800-288-WBAP #820, free call on Verizon Wireless.
At the President's news conference yesterday the subject arose; in some news reports recently the subject has arisen, and in our minds it's a natural thing to ask with a war in progress and a war that may be about to broaden, is our military stretched too thin? Do we have enough guys and gals in uniform to get this job done and other jobs that lie ahead?
There is no one better equipped to answer that than Dr. Francis J. Harvey who is the nation's 19th Secretary of the Army. What a pleasure to welcome you, sir. Welcome to WBAP.
SECRETARY HARVEY: Hi, Mark. Good to be here.
MARK DAVIS: Flat out, from coffee tables to water coolers, a lot of people are wondering. We've been at war for a few years, it's not nearly about to be over and it may in fact be about to broaden. We hear about deployments being lengthened, we see news reports. What kind of a toll has it taken and how are we generally doing in terms of troop levels?
SECRETARY HARVEY: Mark, let me say this. Today's Army is without a question the most capable, best trained, best equipped, best led and most experienced force our nation has fielded in well over a decade. So I fundamentally disagree with any characterization of the nation's Army as broken.
Hey, we have our challenges, but every challenge that the Army has they step up to and I think you saw this year, rather last year in 2005, that we had deployed something over 120,000 to 130,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Army surged when the nation called in support of disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita with over 50,000 Soldiers, most of those of course in the National Guard. But I think that's a demonstration of the overall capability of the Army to respond when the nation calls it to.
MARK DAVIS: Let's talk in very general numbers. We still have roughly 150,000 troops in Iraq. Am I pretty close on that?
SECRETARY HARVEY: It's approximately 138,000 and that includes the Marines, too. There are about 20,000 Marines.
MARK DAVIS: And there were some drawdowns that were planned anyway.
SECRETARY HARVEY: Yes.
MARK DAVIS: So if nothing changes, if we go according to what's on paper now, what might troop levels be like just for Iraq the middle of 2000 say?
SECRETARY HARVEY: Mark, that's a difficult question to answer and it depends on the conditions on the ground. It’s really condition based. The way the process works is that our commanders, such as General Casey, General Abizaid and General Chiarelli now, will make an assessment of the situation and simultaneously with all the other activities, we're standing up the Iraqi security forces. They've gone over the last year, since when I was there, they have increased by 60-70 percent, so that's going on. The insurgency, as we know, is being defeated. So those combination of factors go into an assessment by the commanders and a recommendation to President Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and together the decision is made on troop levels. So it's hard to speculate because --
MARK DAVIS: Let's put aside the crystal ball thing because you're totally right about that. Let me establish a condition and ask a question based on that. Let's say troop levels, for whatever reason, need to remain about the same, that we have about 138,000 at mid year or later in the year. Does that bode ill for our ability to mobilize in another whole new theater in the war if that becomes necessary?
SECRETARY HARVEY: We have a fundamental force management process, not to go into the details, in which brigade combat teams go through various stages of readiness. If I could show you a graphic I think you'd see, it's one of those things you've got to see. But we have a force management model which is basically a deployment cycle for all units in the Army and also in the reserves. They rotate around this cycle. So when we have a number of brigade combat teams deployed, we have a number that are getting ready to deploy. Those ones that are getting ready to deploy have the capability to surge if the nation requires us to do that.
So there are a number, we say in the second cycle, there's a number of brigade combat teams both in the active and the National Guard that have high states of readiness and are getting higher states. Those we can use to surge while keeping the forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
MARK DAVIS: The Secretary of the Army, Dr. Francis Harvey is with us for just a couple more moments, and we're very glad to have him.
There's a reorganization afoot of active duty Army and the Guard. What does that portend for the future?
SECRETARY HARVEY: That's going to make us better able to fight the global war on terrorism. What we have going on is, we call it the Army Modular Force, Mark, and it's essentially a total redesign of the operational Army. We're taking functions that used to reside in the divisions and we're incorporating them in the brigade so that the brigade is now, and this is midway, we're midway through this. We've done a lot of this so that the brigades are more self-sufficient, stand-alone, and they're rapidly deployable.
Before you had to deploy a division. Now you've deployed a brigade and a brigade is approximately 3500 to 4000 Soldiers vice a division which was 15,000 to 20,000 Soldiers. So we have a design here that I think is much better aligned with the 21st Century security environment, one characterized by these irregular, asymmetric threats. We're able to get to the theater of operation much quicker, and not to get into the details, have a design that is very, it keeps in our three missions, one of conventional combat, but one this irregular warfare including all the stability operations, security, training of indigenous forces, everything that you see going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. So I think we're transforming and building an Army that is even going to be better than the great Army we already have.
MARK DAVIS: I get the occasional call, the occasional e-mail, and a lot of them, asking have we had to use the Guard too much?
SECRETARY HARVEY: If you go interview some Guardsmen, they're very proud to serve, they're proud of what they're doing, they have this dual mission. You're going to see the number of Guardsmen and Reserves are going down dramatically in theater. And just to get back to the point I was making before, the Guard bought the active Army the time to do this reorganization that I talked about, this restructuring. Now that is very much down the line, very great progress we've made. So we're not going to rely on the Guard and Reserve as much.
For example, last year we had ten brigade combat teams from the Guard in theater. This rotation that we're going into is only going to require four. Also the Reserves of the Army have decreased probably in half. So we're going to rely less on the Guard and Reserves. But they'll be there. We need them. We need both the Reserve and the National Guard to meet our total commitments.
MARK DAVIS: We had some local Guard guys on in person, upon their return just a few short days ago, and their pride was so infectious. It was great to meet them and hear their story.
SECRETARY HARVEY: The Guard's a great organization.
MARK DAVIS: They are so magnificent.
Last thing. How are we doing meeting recruitment quotas? There was a tough period in '05 there, then it got better. Where do we stand now?
SECRETARY HARVEY: We're continuing to improve. For the last seven months we've made our goals. That goes back to June of '05. We had a rough spring and in the middle of that rough spring I put together a group, we came up with a number of initiatives. We developed those, we implemented those, and from the whole spectrum of increasing the number of recruiters to what we call lead refinement center, to also increasing the incentives across the board, changing the focus of our advertising and increasing our advertising budget by about two-thirds. We continue to initiate other actions and so far, so good. It's a great challenge. But keep in mind we're trying to grow the Army so our recruitment goals are a historic high.
If you look at last year, although we missed our goals, we were approximately the same in terms of raw numbers that we have been for the last ten years. It's this increase in the goal that is our challenge.
MARK DAVIS: Mr. Secretary, a pleasure and an honor. I hope we can check in from time to time. It's been wonderful to have you here.
SECRETARY HARVEY: My pleasure to do that, Mark. It's good be to on your show.
MARK DAVIS: Dr. Francis Harvey is our Secretary of the Army. I'm Mark Davis, Secretary of Chat.