Casey: Army Must Adapt to Changing Threats
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2007 The next few decades will be a period of persistent conflict, and the U.S. Army will have to adapt to changing threats, that service’s top general said today.
“Global terrorism and extremist ideologies are a reality,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “As I look to the future, I believe the next decades will be one of what I call persistent conflict. This a period of protracted confrontation among states, non-state and individual actors who are increasingly willing to use violence to accomplish their political and ideological ends.”
Though it has positive aspects, globalization is a trend that exacerbates protracted confrontation. “It has also created ‘have’ and ‘have-not’ conditions that are ripe for exploitation,” Casey said.
“Technology is another double-edged sword,” he said. “The same innovations that improve quality of life and education and livelihood are also used by extremists to export terror around the globe and manipulate our media,” he said.
Demographic change also could contribute to instability. “The populations of lesser-developed nations are expected to double over the next 20 years,” the chief said. “That will create a ‘youth bulge’ that is ripe for exploitation by terrorist groups, especially as the governments of these lesser-developed countries are unable to deal with large population.”
Casey pointed to the global rise in demand for energy, water and food as these populations grow as a likely cause of competition and conflict. Climate change and natural disasters may cause humanitarian crises, population shifts and epidemic diseases, he said. The danger of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction will increase, he said, and there is the potential for catastrophic attack.
Finally, dangers arise from failed or failing states providing havens for extremist groups, the Army chief said.
None of these trends point to a specific threat, from a specific group, in a specific area, Casey said. “We know the Army will remain central to our national strategy to ensure our security in spite of these threatening trends,” he said.
The service is developing forces agile enough, with leadership able enough, and sustainment robust enough to ensure victory against any foe, Casey said. The force must operate with allies and with interagency partners and be able to handle the full spectrum of operations from humanitarian assistance to full-scale war, he added.
The Army is growing to a total of 547,000 soldiers over the next three years. In questioning, Casey said the service may need to expand beyond that number.
Casey said the Army is “consuming” its readiness as “fast as we can build it.” He also said the service must restore the balance between active and reserve components. It also must rebuild the force’s depth and build needed capabilities for the future.
Soldiers are the ultimate asymmetric advantage the United States has, Casey said, adding that training soldiers, providing programs and facilities for families, and caring for those wounded or hurt in service are paramount concerns. Preparing soldiers means providing the best equipment and most realistic training to the force, he said.
The general also said that resetting the force is crucial to success on the battlefields of the future. Army equipment has been used hard in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said.
“Resetting our forces is critical to restoring readiness,” Casey said. “This year we will reset more than 130,000 pieces of equipment and over 200,000 soldiers.”
Finally, transforming the Army means more of a mindset change, as opposed to just changing wiring diagrams or equipment, Casey said. “Transformation is a journey, not a destination,” he said.