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Updated: 14 Jan 2003

Background Briefing


Wednesday, November 10, 1999 - 11:04 a.m.
Subject: Army Readiness
Presenter: Attributable to a Senior Defense and Military Official

Staff: A standing-room-only crowd here.

We had a team of individuals up on the Hill yesterday, briefing on current readiness issues, and you've seen some of those issues raised by a Washington Post story today that unfortunately has a very misleading headline. And some of you have also heard from the Defense Writers Group today, and General Shinseki was down talking about Army issues and touched on this as well. So we thought we would make our readiness experts within the Department of Defense, Joint Staff, and the Army available to go through issues on readiness and really put this in perspective in terms of what it is and what it represents and what it does not represent.

I think, as you know, the President and Secretary have devoted a great deal of time, attention, and resources to the readiness issue, and we have and will continue to do whatever it takes to keep our forces ready to meet the requirements of our national military strategy. And we've made a long-term commitment, in terms of the budget, to devote the resources necessary to maintain readiness, recruit and retain quality people, and meet our modernization requirements to protect readiness in the future.

You know, as we've reported to you, there has always been some fraying within the force, but we should not confuse what really is a technical reporting issue with the fact that our forces today remain as ready as ever to meet their major theater war requirements.

So we have two senior Defense officials and two senior military officials here. I'll introduce a well-known senior Defense official to start off and make some opening comments.

I would make one final caution: that obviously this is an area that is classified, so we will not be able to address the specific readiness issues of specific units. So we'll have to do some talking around certain issues that you guys have already reported on that. But with that, I'll introduce a senior --

Q: (Off mike) -- anything sensitive?

Staff: You've had a major Army figure on the record today.

Our purpose here is to primarily provide the perspective from a Defense Department standpoint on the fact that we have focused heavily on the readiness issue, you know, and we have the systems in place to report issues such as this one. And we are now in the process of dealing with the issues represented with, you know, deployment responsibilities of specific Army units and their overall major theater war responsibilities.

Let's go through the briefing, and you know, if you want specific things beyond what you've got, come to us and we'll work them. Okay?

Sr. Defense Official: Good morning.

The Army chief of staff reported to Congress on October 26th that the Army remains a trained and ready force, able to fight and win our nation's wars, if called upon.

Current concerns about readiness are the result of two of the Army's 10 combat divisions reporting a lower-than-normal readiness level for the month of October in the category of personnel availability. These Army divisions are presently providing forces to the Balkans, the 10th Mountain Division in Bosnia and the 1st Infantry Division in Kosovo.

These divisions have deployed fully ready forces to the Balkans. The issue is not resource inadequacies -- that is, training, manning, or equipment shortfalls. Instead, it reflects the fact that the Army's current readiness reporting system requires commanders to assess and report their unit's level of readiness based upon their ability to deploy ready forces to a major theater war within time lines established in the war plans. Further, commanders report the readiness of their divisions as a whole and do not report separately for their forces split between home station and the Balkans.

The commanders have lowered readiness assessments out of concern that they may be unable to disengage from the Balkans, retrain, and redeploy forces in time to meet their major theater war requirement deployment dates, as specified in the current war plans.

We have a force structure capable of winning two near-simultaneous major theater wars, not two wars plus a small-scale contingency. We've made that clear that in the event of a two major theater war scenario; all of our forces will be required.

Therefore, we will be required to withdraw these units from the Balkans in the event of such a scenario. To ensure their ability to redeploy quickly and meet this readiness concern, the Army, the European Command, the Joint Staff and the Office of Secretary of Defense have taken a series of steps:

First, we are building a detailed Redeployment Plan into our deliberate planning process. This, along with an Army-led training initiative, will speed up the time line required for retraining and redeployment so that units can get to the war fight more quickly.

Second, where necessary, other units will be substituted in our existing war plans for units deployed to the Balkans that would otherwise be required in the initial phases of a major conflict, so-called early-deployers.

Third, we are planning to use the Army National Guard units more frequently in the Balkans to free up active units to prepare for their principal wartime mission.

Fourth, the Army is modifying readiness reporting procedures to better reflect division readiness for units with dual missions, for small-scale contingencies and major theater war requirements.

We are happy to -- I don't know if any of my colleagues have any comments they would like to make -- otherwise, we are happy to answer your questions.

Q: Is there -- I guess I don't understand -- the 10th Mountain and the 1st Infantry Division have been providing peacekeepers for years, and they have not been categorized this way. Why today are they categorized this way when last year they weren't when they were contributing?

Sr. Defense Official: I think part of that is the unique circumstance that our forces find themselves in this month. And I don't know if it our plan to have all of -- why don't I ask my colleagues to join because I think all --

Sr. Defense Official: As my colleague read in his opening statement, the commanders make a subjective assessment based upon their capability to deploy along those time lines stipulated in the war plans.

In fact, when we look at the varying deployers to Europe, there have been a variety of divisions involved in the European operation. They have deployed at times with personnel and fallen in on equipment that has been in theater, and on other occasions they have taken their own equipment into the theater. And all of those factors weigh in to that subjective assessment that a commander makes, because the ability to disengage those forces are predicated on not only what's there but -- and the time line with which it has to be extracted and retrained and committed to the war plan, but the commitments by other supporting CINCs, like Transportation Command to facilitate the movement of both the personnel and that equipment. It happens that on this particular occasion -- and my colleague is better suited to discuss it -- but on this particular occasion, there happens to be a larger amount of equipment associated with this particular deployment than has occurred in the past. Again --

Q: (Off mike) -- we've had many more troops in the past were actually --

Sr. Defense Official: Let me give you a recent example of adjustments that we made along the same lines as we are faced with here, or a different scenario, but adjustments made. Last year we had in Bosnia an early deployer, as was stated in the statement. That early deployer was identified as problematic in terms of its ability to reconstitute and execute its major theater war responsibility. And as a result, the Army made a conscious decision to substitute for that early deployer within its division committed to the major theater war. So we didn't pull that unit out of Bosnia, but rather we identified a unit that would be the substitute for it in order to provide the commander the assurance that as an early deployer in the war plan, he could meet his war plan time line requirements.

Q: (Off mike.)

Sr. Defense Official: Currently, the divisions that are committed in the Balkans are not early deployers. They happen to both be late deployers. And it's in the extremes of the second major theater war that the commanders' concerns come into play. And in fact, as was stated, there is currently not only the study and planning ongoing to effect the withdrawal, but that has been ongoing for a couple of months.

Q: Can you refresh our memories on what the unit was last year in Bosnia, the early deployer?

Sr. Defense Official: I'm his esteemed colleague. You know, it was the First Cav Division, which was the early deployer, one of our Force Package One Units. And when the decision was made to send that unit over there, we elected to substitute that division with a light division, which was the Fourth Infantry Division, which was the latest deployer. And basically we looked at the two war plans that each one of those divisions have responsibilities for -- one in Southwest Asia, the other one over in Korea -- and we balanced the deployment time lines so that basically the First Cav would fall in on the late deployer piece of the time line and substitute the Fourth Infantry Division with the early deployer, replace actually the First Cav.

In the case of the two units now that are in SFOR and KFOR, both of those are two-brigade divisions, and falling later in the deployments, especially on the extreme side of the near-simultaneous major theater war.

And we have a process in place in the Army, as well the Joint Staff and DOD, to constantly look at readiness of the CINC approportioned forces and go through these scenarios, and that's the process we're going through right now, to assess how much later this one brigade -- and that's what we're really talking about, this one brigade out of the First Infantry Division, and this one brigade out of the 10th, how much later to the right do they show up in the worst-case scenario? And that's what we're working right now.

The other thing I want to reiterate is none of these SFOR, and now the KFOR rotations have ever been the same. They've varied in length, they've varied in numbers of troops, they've varied in numbers of equipment. And in the case of the First Infantry Division, presently in Kosovo, it's a different rotation than the First Infantry Division had when they were in Bosnia. In Bosnia it was a different set of troops that they sent in terms of equipment; they fell in on our prepositioned stocks; and they were much closer, in terms of time lines, to pull themselves out of Bosnia. In the case of KFOR, in Kosovo, we've had to bring all their equipment with them, and as you know, we had to bring it up through the port of Thessaloniki and then road march them into FYROM and then on into their AOR.

And in the assessment of the division commander, when he looks at all that, he has sent a flag up to us, saying, "I believe that right now these personnel would not be available to meet the TPFDD line that I'm looking at." And that's what we're assessing.

Q: Have you changed the standard by which you are measuring readiness?

Sr. Defense Official: No, sir, we haven't. This is the same AR-220-1 that is under revision. And there's been a study ongoing for about 12 months.

And of course, I think you're aware that Congress has mandated to all the services to rework their readiness reporting, and we have to have that done by April of '00. DOD has just finished their implementation plan to that, and we are now working -- the Army, as well as the other services, but I can speak for the Army -- we are working with the Army War College. We have a task force up there, tasked by the chief of staff of the Army and the secretary, to rewrite the new readiness reporting to better reflect really the geostrategic landscape we're now facing.

This readiness reporting system worked very, very well in the Cold War and bipolar world that we had. But now that we're faced with a continuum presence and small-scale contingencies, as well as the MTWs, we're having to go back and relook it.

Q: Are the ratings that were given for these two divisions -- is that the lowest they've been, or is this something that has -- you know, have divisions periodically had ratings as low as this C-4 rating that was given to these two divisions?

Sr. Defense Official: I would have to go back and look at all the readiness reports, but if the question is, have we had units report C-4 before as divisions, not in recent memory.

Q: So there is a change here, then? Wait a minute --

Sr. Defense Official: Well, the change is, you can't put the same unit two places. And so if it's in the plan -- if it's in the TPFDD plan for a major theater war, and you deploy it to Kosovo, one of two things has to happen. Either you need to find another unit to do the TPFDD plan, or you have to have a way to extract the unit from Kosovo, retrain it, and have it in the pipeline for the MTW. So I think that is what is driving this change in readiness reporting.

Q: In Bosnia we had three times as many troops as we now have, yet you are claiming you are more stressed now than you were when you had 20,000 troops in Bosnia. I don't get it -- why suddenly the readiness rate plunges when you have a third as many troops there, understanding you also have another contingent in Kosovo. Is it the fact that they're in two different places? I mean, this --

Sr. Defense Official: I think that if you just deal with the metrics, the numerator, denominator -- you have two divisions that are two brigades, not three brigades. So they have less available already.

And in the reporting procedure, a commander is allowed to count his readiness P rating, his personnel rating -- he takes what he's supposed to be authorized and what he has available, and he comes up with a percentage. And if he is above 90 percent, then he's P-1. If he's lower than that, he's P-2 and et cetera.

In the cases of both these divisions, they counted as not available for their MTW, and that's what the whole readiness is. This number of personnel --

Q: But did they count it differently when the 10th Mountain was in Haiti? Did they count it differently when the 1st Infantry Division was in Bosnia?

Sr. Defense Official: When the 10th Mountain was in Haiti, they didn't have the entire division. It was battalion sets, and the numbers were much smaller. When the 10th Mountain was part of some of the SFOR, it was much smaller. Now he's got a division headquarters and a brigade there.

When the 1st AD was in SFOR, different set, falling in on equipment, had his people deployed, but in his assessment and he -- as he looked at his time lines, that division commander said, "I can still extract myself, get back to Europe. I have both of my brigades here. My assessment is, I'm keeping them trained. I can fall in on the TPFDD."

Q: So now they're not keeping them trained.

Sr. Defense Official: I didn't say that. It was his assessment, based upon he had a large portion of his division and was not as split as the 1st Infantry Division commander is, who's now got a brigade in Kosovo and a brigade back in Europe.

Now the second -- my colleague already briefed that one of the problems we had -- and the chief of staff is addressing it -- is the manning of the divisions across the Army. You know that we manned some of our first deployers at a much higher level than we manned some of our late deployers. Both of these divisions are late deployers. In the case of the 1st Infantry Division, they were manned at a lesser rate than some of our other divisions. And one of the things that the chief of staff of the Army is working with his manning task force is to bring all 10 divisions up to 100 percent of authorized strength, to help take the stress off the divisions.

Q: In that circumstance, would the problem still exist if they were 100 percent of their personnel? You said that wasn't the issue.

Sr. Defense Official: Once we work through the redefinition -- not redefinition, once we work through the TPFDD line, now that we know there's a problem, and work through and let that commander know that this is when we expect that brigade to show up -- "Can you make it based upon the strategic lift that we'll provide you, based upon the training requirements you say you need before you go to your MTW, extracting from the SSC" -- it may change, it may not, in his assessment. That's one of the reasons why we're rewriting the readiness reporting.

Q: Are you going to leave equipment in Kosovo, then, so that troops can marry up with it and not have to have that long tail going through Thessaloniki?

Sr. Defense Official: That is something we have to study. You know that we have prepositioned brigade sets, and that's part of the equation we have to look at. Again, as we talked about, this assessment is based upon the worst-case, near-simultaneous MTW.

Sr. Defense Official: If I could just make one point here -- and for the purposes of those preparing the transcript, I'm now the fourth senior defense official -- to my mind, this is an indication that our reporting system is working. This allows -- the commander raises his hand and says, "I have an issue here. When I look at my requirements under the war plan and where I'm deployed now, there is an issue." This allows us -- my senior colleagues here and their staffs, who do this kind of planning -- to in peacetime get ready for the unlikely contingency, but the most stressing one, of a two-MTW scenario. So we build all of our deliberate plans and we put the procedures into effect such that this will not be a problem if we had to go to war. And that's the purpose of the reporting system.

And to go back, Jack, to your earlier question, would we like a better degree of granularity, if you will, to explain what a particular C-rating is and what it isn't? Of course. And that is in part what the chief of staff has got the Army War College doing, that's what we're trying to do in our new readiness reporting system, to get that degree of granularity in our overall readiness reporting to reflect the whole range of missions that our Army and all of our services are doing in the post-Cold War era.

Q: Now, I guess the part of this that makes no sense whatsoever is, at a time several years ago when you had far more troops committed to peacekeeping, you were not rating your divisions this poorly; and now, suddenly, with pressure from the Hill and pressure from other parts of the government, you are rating your divisions this poorly, with fewer troops deployed. And I know you have been trying to explain the mechanics of that, but it makes no sense to me.

Sr. Defense Official: It's a very complex way of how we report and how we gather all the information.

Again, the Army is not rating their divisions; the division commanders rate, and that's how we do business. He is reporting back to us: "This is what you're resourced with. These are the missions you gave me, and this is my assessment of my units' ability to be able to conduct those missions with the resources you gave me."

Q: And unit commanders, with more guys deployed, three years ago didn't come to this conclusion. And now with fewer troops deployed, but maybe some critical elements within those divisions deployed, they are saying, "We can't do it."

Sr. Defense Official: That one I don't know how to answer because I'd have to go back and take a look at the IFOR and KFOR and what missions we gave them, what guidance was given to them about where they would fall back in on the TPFDD line.

Q: Could you address something else?

The first official, or I guess the introducer, talked about this as being just a technical reporting requirement, a change in the technical reporting requirement. I think you have said there hasn't been any change in the reporting requirement. But there is a subjective judgment that comes from the brigade commander, that, "If I have got people stuck up in Kosovo, it's harder to get a hold of them and get their equipment and get them out."

Which is it? Is it a change in reporting requirement, a change in the way the reporting is done, or what?

Sr. Defense Official: There has been no change in the reporting requirement. We have made interim changes to better define and give specificity and get some of the subjective subjectivity out of the AR that we presently have. But we have pretty much exhausted it, and that's why we are overhauling it.

Q: Is this that you are using the same requirements but you are doing it -- maybe the fourth official could address this -- you are just doing it in a more reality-based way: that before you used to sort of paper over things; now you are actually looking at what it would take?

Sr. Defense Official: Traditionally, we have used these ratings to look at things like training and availability of equipment. And if these units were in garrison, they would have a rating of a high level of readiness.

You know, we examined readiness constantly during Operation Allied Force. We were very carefully scrubbing the impact on the Air Force as it affects the two MTW. They instituted a stop-loss. They instituted a Guard and Reserve call-up of units.

So very much the readiness factor is dynamic. I think what has changed in the last week is that two of the divisional commanders are, I think, using the readiness rating to reflect a more dynamic environment.

Q: So, I mean, it's impossible to know this, but a division commander sitting in their chair three years ago, that had even more of his troops out of the country on peacekeeping, might have come to different conclusions about how ready his division was; right?

Sr. Defense Official: That's a fair question and, you know, it's across the board. Again, we have generally used these ratings to assess the capability of the unit, not the relationship of the unit to a deployment. And so, you know, I think that's the new dynamic and apparently the Army --

Sr. Defense Official: Yeah that goes to the heart of the question. And it's not going to fix this problem today or be able to answer your question better, but the chief of staff of the Army, looking at the new environment we're operating in, said, "The question we need to address is readiness for what?" And that's what we've got the War College working on. Clearly, we've got more on our plate. Clearly, we've got more complex issues of how we train to be ready for the high end as well as the low end, of which we've deployed about 45 times in the last nine years on the low end. And so that goes to the heart of the metric piece that we have to address.

Q: So has readiness reporting changed or has it not? I think that's --

Sr. Defense Official: I'd like to see if I can answer the question literally. In the past two years, in fact, the secretary of Defense and the chairman have continually kept the pressure on the Joint Staff responsible for the readiness reporting system to make it more and more objective based. And many of the metrics that are reported by the unified commanders as deficit areas, and so forth, we're attempting and have been attempting to better quantify. So if there's an evolution in the reporting system, it's been to try and achieve better visibility into where our deficiencies actually are.

To answer the literal question with regard to this commander's subjective option, nothing has changed. But the readiness reporting system, I think, has been evolving toward providing us greater and greater visibility into where shortfalls may exist over time so that we can fix them, address them, and that's exactly what we're doing here.

Q: If the reporting is more objective, what would the impact be on the war plans if these two divisions aren't able to make it when they're supposed to?

Sr. Defense Official: Typically, when a division doesn't make a time line, it implies that they would arrive at the war later than expected or later than demanded by the war plan as drawn today, and so it would -- we use, apply, the term "risk" to our war plan assessments in exactly that context. That's our ability to meet the time line requirements exactly, very aggressive time lines demanded by the authors of these war plans and the through-put requirements to get all of the equipment and all of the people to the war fight on time when they're demanded.

And typically, when we have C ratings that are lower than ideal, it implies that there will be a delay in getting equipment or people to the war fight, and that increases the risk of our being able to execute the war fight on time. It doesn't imply we won't win the war; it means that there are delays in terms of getting the required forces and equipment to the theater.

Q: How about the other services? Are they going through the same sort of evolution in this readiness --

Sr. Defense Official: In terms of objectivity, yes. In fact, again, it's across the board. We execute a quarterly joint monthly readiness review that incorporates the unified commanders and all of the services, and all of the services report out to the vice chairman and, ultimately, to the secretary of Defense, through the Senior Readiness Oversight Council process, the results of those quarterly assessments, and they have been evolving into something more and more objective in the past couple of years.

Q: On the subject of what you're doing to fix this current situation, you mentioned building a redeployment plan. Would you talk a little bit about what that is, exactly?

What --

Sr. Defense Official: The next rotation into Bosnia is an Army National Guard unit. They have been in training. They are being resourced for the mission.

So this is an example of how you look at individual unit readiness, plus the op tempo question; I mean, the issue under the surface is op tempo. Again, a unit can't be two places at one time. And so if it's committed to Kosovo, then another unit has to be committed to the major theater war.

So the issue is making sure you have got a rotation date for your small-scale contingency that is not in conflict with your deployment of forces for your major theater war. And that's at the heart of this.

Sr. Defense Official: But I think the only other aspect of this that the senior Defense official alluded to earlier on; I mean, day in and day out, we are always building and revising our deliberate plans. That is what our strategic planning staffs do.

And you know, one element of being adequately prepared to withdraw, retrain and redeploy personnel deployed to a contingency operation, is ensuring that those deliberate plans you have on the shelf are adequate to do all the tasks you will need to do. And since those contingency deployments are constantly changing, different units from different home stations and the like, you have to look at your deliberate plans to make sure you have got the right air transportation assets and the like in place. And that's part of what we're really looking at.

Q: So in other words, when this division in Bosnia leaves, they are going to no longer be at the lowest rating, or -- I mean, what I am getting at is how are you going to raise the readiness of these units?

Sr. Defense Official: So when that unit leaves Bosnia or Kosovo, it goes back to garrison; it goes into retraining. And then it is ready for a deployment in a technical sense.

Now, we are also balancing op tempo. There are new reporting requirements in terms of how we measure operational tempo, how many days individuals are away from home station. So that's part of it.

But the normal rotation would be a unit comes out of Bosnia, it goes on leave for a period, and then it goes into retraining. And its readiness level is high, much as a carrier goes out on its mission, comes home. When it comes home, it is at a low "C" rating. It goes into retraining and then essentially builds towards its redeployment. So there is nothing new or complicated there.

Sr. Defense Official: Two issues I think I want to bring up, just so it couches this thing in the proper light.

One is the quick-train plans. Basically, if you take a look at the squads, troops and company-size elements, they are pretty well trained.

And we're seeing that those little battle tasks -- not little, but those battle tasks of cohesion down at the platoon level, company level, they don't perish over time. In fact, we find they are actually enhanced at the small unit level. What does over time is the combined arms piece of putting together the battalion and brigade formations, and that's the quick-train plan that we need on the high end for the MTW. And that's what we're working, and we're going to get a good metric for it.

The other point I want to make is this in some ways is a good news story about the integrity of our system and the fact that we have commanders that are able to call it the way they see it and feel no pressure and make an assessment and send the message up, and then for us that have policy and work the strategy, to have to work. And there are some subjectivities in our current system. And even with the new system that we're going to have in place here in April, there will be some subjectivity so that we have living, breathing, thinking strategists, tacticians down there that have to fight it -- can send that flag up. And I think that's a good news story. Otherwise we just push a button with data and spit out a rating. And I don't think we want to go there.

Q: So what you're saying is that in the past a commander might by the system have been discouraged from raising his hand --

Sr. Defense Official: No.

Q: -- and saying I've got a problem here, or --

Sr. Defense Official: No, I'm not saying that at all. I'm just saying in this situation we have a commander put in a situation. He's assessing it, and he's calling it the way he is. And we're reacting to it in a positive light, not a negative light.

Q: All right. But the division commander doing this assessment now is taking into account something that he didn't take into account a year ago. Is that correct?

Sr. Defense Official: Well, he wasn't in command a year ago. That is correct. He just -- he's only been in command about two months.

Q: A division commander who is doing this assessment of his division is taking into account now how quickly he can deploy, whereas he was not taking that into account last year. Is that correct?

Sr. Defense Official: No, that's not correct.

Sr. Defense Official: That's not correct. Because the subset's changed. A year ago he didn't know he had a Kosovo mission. It wasn't on his training calendar, I guarantee you. He did not have on his --

Q: (Off mike) -- taking that into account last year.

Sr. Defense Official: No, he was taking that into account last year. But the elements of the deployment to the Balkans have changed between this particular set of deployments and last year's set of deployments. There are many nuances that go into deploying troops, and it's not just the numbers of troops that are in theater. But again, it goes into many metrics of equipment that's with them: the nature of the equipment that's with them, whether they're a light or heavy division element that happens to be there, and the redeployment complexities of moving those in and out of theater.

Those are the elements that are taken into account when the division commander assesses his ability to meet his time line requirements against the war plan.

So I would argue that last year things were different, and this year these division commanders are looking at a different set of metrics and attempting to manage to them and apply their subjective assessment within --

Q: But one unnamed senior correspondent said earlier, you know, the Bosnia mission was already ongoing last year. You had more peacekeepers in Bosnia last year than you have this year. Why didn't the early deployers -- why didn't they get a lower rating based on that?

Q: Three years ago you had three times as many -- (inaudible) --

Q: Right. So, I mean, you know, something here doesn't jive. As the senior correspondent said earlier that doesn't make sense.

Sr. Defense Official: I can tell you, because I've gone back through all the readiness reports. On the specific question of, for example, why the first rotation, which was the First Armored Division, to then-IFOR would have given his division a different readiness rating than the current one, I can tell you the specifics have to do with the fact that he had two brigades, less one brigade deployed, and the means with which that eases his redeployment problem, where he fit in the TPFDD, and to be fair, the subjectivity of that particular division commander. He made the assessment, based on how he saw it, of what he felt this readiness rating should be.

I know -- I recognize that there is an inherent contradiction in the fact that he had that high a number deployed versus the First ID today. But let's bear in mind that all of these other factors -- it's not just a matter of numbers; all of these other factors, very important factors, have to be taken into account.

Q: There's also a new political reality now, which none of you guys are talking about. You're being pressed to report this differently, more acutely than you were three years ago. Certain key members of Congress want to hear from the divisions in a way that they didn't want to hear before. And the secretary, responding to that, is pushing the whole system to be more sensitive in the way it reports.

Sr. Defense Official: Well, I would argue that there was integrity in the reporting process three years ago, and there's integrity in the process today.

Q: I'm not saying there isn't integrity, there's just a different level of pressure on --

Sr. Defense Official: There is a focus and concern on op tempo. And that's, I think, an issue that every -- that the secretary is very much engaged in, the chairman, each of the joint chiefs, and how you start to reflect op tempo in the mix. Now, part of it was a year-plus ago, the highest op tempo was on the U.S. Army in Europe because they really had the Bosnia mission, and it was frequent deployments. And that's when the Army went to use more of the total Army for the deployment into Bosnia.

I mean, the irony is -- it's not irony, it's satisfaction that the highest retention in the Army are the units who are serving in Bosnia and Kosovo --

Q: (Off mike.)

Sr. Defense Official: -- because this is what they trained for -- full-up missions, fully resourced.

But what is changing is the commitment to deal with op tempo, and you need to understand that. It is a dynamic environment. Part of it is having individual division commanders make these assessments, but also, as both the secretary and the chairman, as well as the Congress, have told each of us, to find better measures for judging how frequently people are away from home station.

And so all of this -- I mean, the premise of your question is correct. We are trying to come up with a better way of managing the workload of our military men and women.

Q: But if you're saying that the criteria for ranking these has not changed, then the way that these criteria are being applied has changed.

Sr. Defense Official: Well, the -- I think you're putting words in our mouths a bit.

Q: Well, I'm adding, you know --

Sr. Defense Official: It goes -- again, it goes back --

Q: -- something it doesn't measure --

Sr. Defense Official: Well, it does. If you go back to the guidance given the commanders, the opportunity for a commander to make a subjective assessment has always existed and will continue to exist, frankly, in the reporting, in the reporting system that's evolving. The evolution toward objectivity concurrently is also evolving, and we are attempting to gain greater visibility into exactly what those deficiencies mean. And you know --

Q: But it's been an evolution without change.

Sr. Defense Official: No, I wouldn't say "an evolution without change." I would say, again, the criteria that permitted these commanders to grade themselves C-4 for these two divisions is unchanged from previous guidance.

Q: How about a redefinition, a word that someone here used earlier? They've been redefined.

Sr. Defense Official: The C ratings? No, they have not.

Q: The way that they reach the C ratings.

Sr. Defense Official: No. However, in establishing that we're deficient in particular areas, we apply -- we study them harder and attempt to grade them with greater objectivity than perhaps before -- in other words, without getting into individual deficiencies.

We have to know now exactly where those thresholds are between C-1, C-2, C-3 and C-4, and it's not always evident when we initially declare that we have a deficient area. It requires, in some cases, very detailed examination to determine where those values actually -- actually are.

Q: Are there any Air Force units that are C-4 now, today?

Sr. Defense Official: The short answer is that, again, because of the way the services do their deployments and then their post-deployment retrain and re-equip, I would -- I mean, I can't tell you specific numbers right now, but I would guess, in all of the services at any one time, there are units that are rated C-4 as they complete a deployment.

Sr. Defense Official: Good point, because the Navy has the bathtub effect in any --

Sr. Defense Official: Well, that's true in other services as well. It's certainly true in the Marine Corps and it's true in the --

Sr. Defense Official: In fact, the Air Force is transitioning to an expeditionary force that will permit them greater flexibility in taking advantage of those techniques.

Sr. Defense Official: But, I mean, the Air Force has been clear. I mean, it has just fought a significant -- it made a significant effort here, and so it is in a reconstitution phase. Somewhat different circumstance, though, because an Air Force deployed to Kosovo is easier to redeploy to a major theater war than an Army unit that has its equipment deployed; things like that. So, again, you can't use the same filter to look at air versus ground units.

Staff: Thank you.

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