Army Modernizing to Win Long War, Officials Tell Congress
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2006 The U.S. Army needs the support of Congress to win the long war against terrorism and to meet other 21st century threats, Army officials said during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee here yesterday.
"In order to sustain the current missions and continue to posture for future commitments, the Army needs the full support of the Congress," Francis J. Harvey, secretary of the Army, said.
The Army secretary said the 2006 Army posture statement - the Army's plan to address current and future challenges - "provides a roadmap to first build a more capable and relevant Army for the 21st century through transformation and modernization, and second, sustain the full range of the Army's current commitments, particularly fighting and winning the global war on terrorism."
"The Army's plan is a total plan to transform the entire Army - active, Guard and Reserve," he added.
Harvey said it is important for the Army to shift its "center of gravity" to give it broader operational capabilities to meet the complex challenges, such as "irregular asymmetric warfare."
On Sept. 11, 2001, the Army's operational capabilities lacked the "breadth and depth" to win the long war, but the service has spent the past few years remedying this issue by converting an operational Army to a modular, brigade-based combat force, with the objective of increasing combat-ready units, Harvey said. The units are called brigade combat teams.
"To date we have completed the conversion or activation of 19 BCTs to the modular design, or approximately 27 percent toward the objective of 70 BCTs," he said.
Even though the modular-force effort is not complete, it has already increased operational capabilities, and "established the foundation for a rotational force-generation model that is structured, predictable and provides more combat-ready units while reducing stress on the force," he said.
The plan shifts the focus of the Army Reserve from a strategic to operational force, Harvey said, and National Guard brigades are beginning to be transformed to the same modular design as the active Army.
"In essence, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve are transforming and modernizing from an under-resourced stand-by force to fully equipped, manned, and trained operational ready units," the Army secretary said. Harvey also said full funding is needed for the Future Combat Systems program.
"This is really the first major modernization effort in over four decades," he said. "Simply put, the FCS program is the fastest and surest way to modernize the Army."
In addition, Harvey made the point that to preserve an all-volunteer force, funding is essential to maintain the quality of life for those who serve.
"This is the first time in our modern history that the nation has tested the concept of an all-volunteer force in a prolonged war. Full funding and support of Army programs in this way is critical to sustain the finest Army in the world," he said.
Also testifying before the Senate committee was Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, who began by saying that the Army was stretched, not broken.
"We were severely challenged, if not broken, in the post-Vietnam Army. Although it was filled with great people, we were challenged in almost every dimension," Schoomaker said. "And this Army today, although we are challenged and we are busy ... some would call it stretched -- this is not a broken Army.
"This is a very strong Army, the best that I've been in in my entire service," the general added. "And quite frankly, observing my father's three decades of service, I don't remember one as a kid that was as good as this Army."
Schoomaker noted the Army is on the right path, and that if he were given more resources he would "accelerate" what the Army is already doing, not "grow it bigger."
When asked if either the secretary or general, under the president's budget, would seek a permanent increase in end-strength for the active duty Army, Harvey said the plan calls for an increase of 40,000 soldiers for the operational Army.
Harvey explained that the Army essentially is divided into three parts: the operational Army, the Army that fights the war; the institutional Army, which generates the force; and the "overhead account," which is made up of "trainees, transients, holdees and students," he said.
"I remain confident that with the continued strong support of Congress, America's Army can accomplish its mission and meet our strategic goal of being relevant and ready both today and tomorrow," Harvey said.