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Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey Radio Interview with Laura Ingraham

Presenter: Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey
January 27, 2006 12:00 PM EDT

Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey Radio Interview with Laura Ingraham

LAURA INGRAHAM:  Joining us now, where absolutely we're happy he's with us, the Secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey.  Mr. Secretary, it's great to have you with us.

SECRETARY HARVEY:  Thank you, Laura.  Thank you.  Good to be here.

LAURA INGRAHAM:  Mr. Secretary, the charges were kind of flying fast and furious and these conclusions that the Army is really at the point now with Afghanistan, Iraq, all the other commitments we have obviously in the United States and around the world, is just being stretched to the point where it could just break at any moment.  What's your reaction?

SECRETARY HARVEY:  Well, needless to say I totally disagree with that. Today's Army is the most capable, best trained, best equipped, best led and most experienced force our nation has fielded in more than a decade.  Laura, when I hear talk about breaking or stretched, the barometer I use, the measure I use, is retention.  The retention rate in the Army today is as high as it's been in five years.  Soldiers vote with their feet like any other organization and they're staying in in record numbers and that indicates to me that the Soldiers have confidence in their leadership, they believe they have the equipment and resources they need to do their job, they have a great deal of job satisfaction and they're satisfied with the quality of life, so regardless of what you hear in all the talk, the best measure is retention and that, as I said, is at an all-time high.

LAURA INGRAHAM:  The piece by Mark Thompson in this week's Time Magazine refers to the 600 top officials in academia and in the military who are trying to figure out how to defeat the IED.  We've seen how much damage and how much death the IEDs in Iraq have caused our troops.  I'm going to Iraq last next week and am going to find out as much as I can when I'm there.  But what do you conclude from what they're trying to understand about how far we've come in trying to make some headway against this IED problem?

SECRETARY HARVEY:  We've made a lot of progress in terms of IEDs.  If you look at the effectiveness, I can't go into the details, but if you look at the effectiveness of the attacks, they've been cut by almost two-thirds.  That is to say the number of injuries per incident and the number of casualties per incident.  And we've done a lot to find them before they explode.  As we like to say, we render safe between 30 and 40 percent of all IEDs.

            We have a joint task force in the Pentagon that has developed a lot of technology along the lines of countermeasures and other technologies that we can't talk about to protect the Soldiers.  So a lot of progress has been made, but one casualty is one too many so we continue to innovate, we continue to put advanced technologies. 

            We are at a third generation technology when it comes to these countermeasures and that has just been developed and it's in production, being delivered in the theater.  So behind the scenes there is a lot of activity going on and we continue to do that.  Of course we've up-armored all our HUMVEES, all the Soldiers in theater for two or plus years have had the Interceptor body armor and we continue to improve that.  So a lot of activity.  We want to get, certainly, to where there's no casualties, and that's our objective.

LAURA INGRAHAM:  Is it true only one in twenty US troops that are killed in Iraq die from gunshot wounds?  Nearly all the rest are from these explosions?

SECRETARY HARVEY:  That's basically correct.  About five percent are from gunshot wounds and the other are from explosions which include IEDs, but there's rocket and mortar attacks also.  So just as a general category it's explosions.

LAURA INGRAHAM:  And Mr. Secretary, one of the issues which I know is so important to this country and to you as Secretary of the Army, is our recruiting.

SECRETARY HARVEY:  Yes.

LAURA INGRAHAM:  Last year the military, the Army did not meet its recruiting goal.  Where are we so far in 2006?

SECRETARY HARVEY:  We're going quite well right now, Laura.  If we look at the last, going back into the summer of fiscal year '05, going into the summer, we started making our goals and we've done that for seven months in a row.  The reason that has happened is early in the spring last year when we noticed that we weren't -- we have monthly goals, as you know, and those are great guidelines to say what's working and what isn't.  We said it obviously isn't working and we put a number of initiatives, we developed and implemented a number of initiatives.  For example we increased the number of recruiters by 35 percent and we're going to add another 3,000.  We have over 7,000 recruiters for the active.

            We initiative a number of outreach programs, also increased our incentives and increased our advertising budget by 65 percent, really changed the focus of our advertising.  Those are just a few of several initiatives that we developed and implemented and that resulted, I think, in our ability to make these goals.

            That's not to say that we don't have a challenge.  And in that regard it's important to realize that last year, although we missed our goal, we were 99.5 percent of our historic ten year average, recruited about 73,400, and if you look back ten years the average was 74,400.  So we were at approximately 1,000 of our historic average.  However, we're trying to grow the Army so we need to recruit 80,000.  So that's one of the reasons that we didn't make the goal.  But historically we're doing okay and we're turning up the game, so to speak, with all these initiatives and they're paying off.  But again, very challenging.  This is one thing I follow just religiously and daily, have many meetings on it.  I have all the Accessions Command people.  It's very critical.  It's critical to sustaining the force.  And that in combination with recruiting are two very important initiatives.

LAURA INGRAHAM:  Is there any doubt in your mind, Mr. Secretary -- talking to the Secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey -- that if we continue to be the presence, the level that we're at in Iraq right now which is still at about what?  We're at about 138,000?

SECRETARY HARVEY:  The total of which is around 115, 120 are Army and the remainder Marines.

LAURA INGRAHAM:  Right.  With that size deployment, if that had to continue over a five year period, what would that ultimately do to the US Army?  That has to be something that weighs on your mind.

SECRETARY HARVEY:  It does weigh on your mind.  You can read in these reports where people speculate that it will break the Army.  These are all speculative and opinions that really are not based on any facts.

            We worry about that, however, when you look at a couple of statistics you're encouraged.  For example, the 3rd Infantry Division, the so-called Rock of the Marne, has just completed their second tour in Iraq.  They're coming out right now, replaced by the 4th Infantry Division.  If you look at their retention rate, it's 36 percent above their goal.  When I speak to the commanders they say this is the highest goal we can ever remember having.

            So again, with two one-year deployments by the 3rd Infantry Division, retention is at an all-time high.  I think when you go over there you'll see it.  I don't want to prejudice you, but I think when you talk to Soldiers they know what they're doing is important for this country.  They're defending our peace and freedom.  They're a great group of young men and women, and their morale is quite high.  They're very proud of having liberated both in Afghanistan and Iraq almost 50 million people from tyranny.

            Right now, so far so good.  If it goes for another five years, that's all speculation.

LAURA INGRAHAM:  So Mr. Secretary, I know we're running out of time, but Krepinevich, and for people who don't know him, Andrew Krepinevich has made a lot of headlines in the last six months, wrote a very big piece about the state of the military, I think it was in Foreign Affairs, a retired Army officer, West Point grad.  He wrote this 136 page report assessing our military strategy.  He says the fact that we're hoping to reduce to 100,000 by year's end and that we're upping the bonuses for reenlistment in the Army, he concludes that those are two tacit admissions that the Army's being stretched too thin.  That seems to be --

SECRETARY HARVEY:  I guess I don't, with all due respect, I don't see the connection between recruiting and stretching the Army too thin or morale.  They're not related.  But I disagree with his conclusions obviously.  He quoted this ‘thin green line.’  If that's the case, then why is retention, that's the key, why is retention at an all-time high in general, and why a battle-hardened group like the 3rd ID, why is their retention rate in particular 36 percent above their goal and at an all-time high?

            So the prime evidence and the major evidence does not support conclusions.  Everybody clearly is entitled to their own opinions, but we have to rely on the facts here.

            I have a background in corporate, in the private sector and what we're doing is using the tools that the private sector use to staff their organizations, to recruit their organizations.  Why shouldn't we use incentives and why shouldn't we reward the Soldier?  After all, the Soldier is the person that's defending this country.  So I don't think there's anything basically wrong with what we're doing there.  It's prudent and good management.

            Again, this is not my Army or the Chief of Staff's Army.  This is America's Army.  It's an all volunteer Army and we need to sustain that.  It's the highest quality and the best equipped.

            The caliber of our Soldiers, talk to the commanding generals, the people that go back into the '80s and '70s, and they'll tell you about the quality of this Soldier.

            So I say we're being very successful at achieving that mission in terms of quality.

LAURA INGRAHAM:  We care so much about the men and women in uniform in all branches of our service.  It's tough, tough work, whether they're in Afghanistan or Iraq or deployed anywhere around the world, and we try to do everything we can to just remember that on a daily basis, regardless of the political in-fighting and the recalibration of our strategy.  It will happen over time.

            Mr. Secretary, it's great to talk to you.  It's the first time you've been on our program.  I hope you'll come back.  I know you have a very busy schedule but it helps I think the American people understand a little bit better about some of these things they're hearing in the press about the state of our US Army.

SECRETARY HARVEY:  Laura, thank you for that.  I will come back.  It's a pleasure to be on your show, and let me say in closing it's an honor to serve our country.

LAURA INGRAHAM:  Absolutely.

            Mr. Secretary, thank you.  I will be in Iraq the week after next, and I'll report back to you.

SECRETARY HARVEY:  Do that.  Let's compare notes.  I was there over Thanksgiving with the Soldiers.

LAURA INGRAHAM:  Okay, you take care.  On the Laura Ingraham Show, the Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey.

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