Superb Performance Reflects Force Quality, Personnel Chief Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2008 The U.S. military’s insistence on quality has visibly paid off through servicemembers’ superb performance during the war on global terrorism, a senior U.S. defense official told members of a House panel here yesterday.
The all-volunteer force “has served the nation well” since 9/11, David S.C. Chu, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told members of the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel subcommittee. Chu and a group of senior military leaders representing the armed services were on Capitol Hill to discuss recruiting, retention and compensation issues with the House panel.
The United States has purposely “set high standards for the quality of that force and for the motivation of the young people that seek to join the American military,” Chu explained.
“And, I believe we see the payoff to those high standards in the performance of this force in the field, which has been truly remarkable,” Chu said. “It is a tribute, in my judgment, to this young generation of Americans and to some not-so-young Americans” serving worldwide in the U.S. military.
Chu also praised Congress for providing the financial means to the defense department, “so that we could be successful in recruiting and retaining military personnel.”
Increased congressional funding provided over the years has enabled the department to increase and broaden its military enlistment incentives, bonuses and retention pay necessary to maintain the force, Chu said.
The proposed defense budget for fiscal 2009 includes requests for additional funds for recruiting and retaining qualified people for the military, Chu said.
The vast majority of military enlistees meet a high-quality education standard, possessing either a high school diploma or a general equivalency degree, Chu said. And, the percentage of military members with either a high school diploma or a GED surpasses the national average of 80 percent, he added.
Many of today’s military members are married, and increasingly, the decision to stay in uniform is a family decision, Chu noted. Accordingly, he said, the defense department has proposed initiatives that would transfer unused G.I. Bill education benefits to military spouses, and other programs that assist military spouses in finding career employment opportunities and childcare services.
The Army “is still the best-trained, best-equipped, best-led Army in the world,” reported Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, deputy chief of staff for personnel. However, after seven years of war the Army has become “out-of-balance,” Rochelle said.
Restoring balance and enhancing readiness across the Army “is our top priority, after winning the war on terror,” Rochelle noted.
Key in re-balancing the Army is growing it to more than 547,000 soldiers “as soon as possible,” Rochelle said.
“We are on target to meet this goal by fiscal year 2010,” Rochelle said. Army expansion “will help us return to shorter deployments, increased time at home between deployments, and greater predictability for soldiers and families in both the active and reserve components.”
The current recruiting environment is challenging, Rochelle said, noting 3 out of 10 perspective enlistees between ages 18-24 do not qualify for enlistment due to health reasons, education shortfalls, or character. A good civilian job market and opportunities for post-secondary education are among the reasons young people cite for not joining the military, he said.
Yet, “we are on track to meet our recruiting goal” for fiscal year 2008, Rochelle reported, noting the Army continues its commitment to enlist only the highest-qualified people possible.
The Navy “is ready, relevant, and responsive,” reported Vice Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., deputy chief of naval operations. “We are recruiting a high-quality force and we are retaining those high-quality sailors we need to sustain a high quality force.”
Harvey recalled the USS Lake Erie’s success on Feb. 20, when the cruiser fired a missile to shoot down a malfunctioning U.S. reconnaissance satellite while the ship was posted in the northwest Pacific Ocean. He also described various Navy exploits in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the world.
“It is the Navy’s people who are making it all happen, executing these important missions and achieving great success,” Harvey said.
The Air Force, too, is engaged in war-related and other important missions, said Lt. Gen. Richard Y. Newton III, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services.
“Today, airmen are fully engaged in the interdependent joint fight and stand prepared for rapid response in conflict across the globe to provide capabilities for joint combatant commanders,” Newton said. The Air Force’s priorities, he said, are winning the war, developing and caring for airmen and taking care of their families, and preparing for tomorrow’s challenges.
The Air Force aims “to improve capability while maintaining the greatest combat-ready air force in the world,” Newton said. The key to achieving Air Force goals, he said, is to recruit the highest-quality servicemembers and maintain a continuous learning environment during their careers.
To meet the challenges of the 21st century, the Air Force “must recruit, develop and organize America’s diverse and brightest talents for a very complex, multinational and interagency operations of the future,” Newton said. Since 2000, he said, the Air Force has enlisted more than 258,000 people, resulting in a 101-percent mission accomplishment rate.
In addition, the Air Force “is on track to meet our (enlistment) goals this year,” Newton said.
Meanwhile, the Marine Corps “achieved unprecedented success” during its recruiting mission in fiscal 2007, said Lt. Gen. Ronald S. Coleman, deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs.
“We exceeded our goal of growing to 184,000 Marines,” Coleman reported, by ending the fiscal year with 186,492 active-duty Marines in uniform.
The Marines also expect to exceed their next milestone by reaching 189,000 active duty servicemembers by the end of fiscal year 2008, Coleman said, as the Corps continues toward its goal of having 202,000 active duty Marines in uniform.
All the while, the Marines remain committed to enlisting only those people of the highest quality standards, Coleman said.
The Marines also have exceeded their retention mission, Coleman reported.
However, Coleman predicted that his service’s future retention efforts will “pose a significant challenge as our goals become more and more aggressive.”
And, the Marine Corps’ wounded warrior regiment program, Coleman added, has become “a comprehensive and integrated approach” for the caring of wounded, ill and injured Marines and sailors in all phases of their recovery. The program now includes a 24-hour-a-day call center, he said, along with job-placement services.
“We’re very proud of how the regiment has progressed in such a short time, and are thankful for the high priority you have given it,” Coleman said.