Thank you, Secretary Rice.
This afternoon, General Pace and I will appear before the House Armed Services Committee to discuss the military aspects of the Iraq strategy announced by the President last night. Tomorrow, we will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The security plan is designed to have Iraqi forces lead a campaign with our forces in support to protect the population of Baghdad from intimidation and violence instigated by Sunni and Shia extremist groups and to enable the Iraqi government to take the difficult steps necessary to address that nation’s underlying issues.
This means, above all, strengthening those in Iraq who are prepared to address its problems peacefully against those who seek only violence, death and chaos.
The term “surge” has been used in relation to increasing U.S. troop levels, and an increase certainly will take place. But what is really going to take place, and what is going to take place, is a “surge” across all lines of operations – military and non-military, Iraq and Coalition. The President’s plan has Iraqis in the lead and seeks a better balance of U.S. military and non-military efforts than was the case in the past. We cannot succeed in Iraq without the important non-military elements Secretary Rice just mentioned.
The increase in military forces will be phased in. It will not unfold overnight. There will be no “D-Day.” It won’t look like the Gulf War.
The timetable for the introduction of the additional U.S. forces will provide ample opportunity early on – and before many of the additional U.S. troops arrive in Iraq – to evaluate the progress of this endeavor and whether the Iraqis are fulfilling their commitments to us.
This updated plan builds on the lessons and experiences of the past. It places new emphasis on and adds new resources to the “holding” and “building” part of the “clear, hold and build” strategy.
At this pivotal moment, the credibility of the United States is on the line in Iraq. Governments in the region – both friends and adversaries – are watching what we do and will draw their own conclusions about our resolve and the steadfastness of our commitments.
Whatever one’s views on how we got to this point in Iraq, there is widespread agreement that failure there would be a calamity that would haunt our nation in the region. The violence in Iraq, if unchecked, could spread outside its borders and draw other states into a regional conflagration. In addition, one would see:
· An emboldened and strengthened Iran;
· A safehaven and base of operations for jihadist networks in the heart of the Middle East;
· A humiliating defeat in the overall campaign against violent extremism worldwide; and
· An undermining of the credibility of the United States.
Given what is at stake, failure in Iraq is not an option. I would like to conclude my remarks with two announcements.
First, the President announced last night that he would strengthen our military for the long war against terrorism by authorizing an increase in the overall strength of the Army and the Marine Corps. I am recommending to him a total increase in the two services of 92,000 soldiers and Marines over the next five years – 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines. The emphasis will be on increasing combat capability.
This increase will be accomplished in two ways. First, we will propose to make permanent the temporary increase of 30,000 for the Army and 5,000 for the Marine Corps. Then we propose to build up from that base in annual increments of 7,000 troops a year for the Army, and 5,000 for the Marine Corps until they reach a level of 202,000. And the Army would be at 507,000.
We should recognize that while it may take some time for these new troops to become available for deployment, it is important that our men and women in uniform know that additional manpower and resources are on the way.
Second, for several months, the Department of Defense has been assessing whether we have the right policies to govern how we manage and deploy members of the Reserves, the National Guard and our active component units.
Based on this assessment and the recommendations of our military leadership, I am making the following changes in Department policy.
First, the mobilization of ground reserve forces going forward will be managed on a unit instead of an individual basis. This change will allow us to achieve greater unit cohesion and predictability in how reserve units train and deploy.
Second, from this point forward, members of the Reserves will be involuntarily mobilized for a maximum of one year at a time, in contrast to the current practice of 16 to 24 months.
Third, the planning objective for guard and reserve units will remain one year of being mobilized followed by five years demobilized. However, today’s global demands will require a number of selected guard and reserve units to be remobilized sooner than this standard. Our intention is that such exceptions be temporary. The goal for the active force rotation cycle remains one year deployed for every two years at home station. Today, most active units are receiving only one year at home station before deploying again. Mobilizing select guard and reserve units before this five year period is complete will allow us to move closer to relieving the stress on the total force.
Fourth, I am directing the establishment of a new program to compensate individuals in both the active and reserve components who are required to mobilize or deploy early or extend beyond the established rotation policy goals.
Fifth, I am also directing that all commands and units review how they administer the hardship waiver program to ensure that they are properly taking into account exceptional circumstances facing military families of deployed service members.
It is important to note that these policy changes have been under discussion for some time within the Department of Defense and would be needed independently of the President’s announcement on Iraq last night.
And there will be a handout on the details as they are complicated.
Finally, I am also pleased to report that all active branches of the U.S. military exceeded their recruiting goals for the month of December, with particularly strong showings by the Army and the Marine Corps. Our nation is truly blessed that so many talented and patriotic young people have stepped forward to defend our nation, and that so many servicemen and women have chosen to continue to serve.
Thank you, and we will be happy to take your questions.
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