Mr. Chairman, Senator McCain, members of the committee.
Let me say at the outset that it's a pleasure to appear before this committee for the first time as secretary of Defense. The Senate Armed Services Committee has long been a steadfast friend and ally of our men and women in uniform, and a source of steadfast support in meeting the nation's defense needs, and I thank you for that and I look forward to working with you.
Let me begin by quickly summarizing two announcements I made yesterday morning.
One of which Senator McCain just referred to. I have recommended to the President an 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.
The increase will be accomplished in two ways. First, we'll make permanent the temporary increase of 30,000 for the Army and 5,000 for the Marine Corps. We then propose to build up from that base in annual increments over five years 7,000 troops a year for the Army until they reach 547,000 and 5,000 a year for the Marine Corps until they reach 202,000.
While it may take some time for these troops to become available for deployment, it is important for our men and women in uniform to know that additional manpower and resources are on the way.
Second, for several months the Department 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 prepared to make the following changes to Department policy:
First, mobilization of the ground Reserve forces will be managed on a unit basis 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 Reserves will be involuntarily mobilized for a maximum of one year at any one 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 will 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 one year at home station before deploying again. We believe that mobilizing select Guard and Reserve units before their five-year period is complete will allow us to move closer to relieving the stress on the active -- on the total force.
Fourth, I'm directing the establishment of a new program to compensate individuals in both the active and Reserve components that are required to mobilize or deploy early or extend beyond the established rotation policy goals.
Fifth and finally, I'm 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's important to note that these policy changes have been under discussion for some time within the Department of Defense, and would need to take place regardless of the President's announcement the other night.
Just as an aside, but an important one, I'm pleased to report to the committee that all active branches of the 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.
With respect to the President's initiative, he described a new way forward in Iraq on Wednesday night, a new approach to overcoming the steep challenges facing us in that country and that part of the world.
I know many of you have concerns about the new strategy in Iraq and in particular are skeptical of the Iraqi government's will and ability to act decisively against sectarian violence and are skeptical as well about a commitment of additional troops.
The President and his national security team have had the same concerns as we have debated and examined our options going forward. And yet our commanders on the ground, and the President's intended nominee as the new commander, believe this is a sound plan, in no small part because General Casey and other senior military officers have worked closely with the Iraqi government in developing it.
Further, the President, Ambassador Khalilzad, and General Casey have had prolonged and extremely candid conversations, not just with Prime Minister Maliki, but with other senior leaders of the Iraqi government, and have come away persuaded that they finally have the will to act against all instigators of violence in Baghdad.
This is, I think, a pivot point -- the pivot point -- in Iraq, as the Iraqi government insists on assuming the mantle of leadership in the effort to regain control of its own capital. I want you do know that the time table for the introduction of 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.
Let me make two other quick points. First, this strategy entails a strengthening across all aspects of the war effort -- military and non-military -- including the economic, governance and political areas. Overcoming the challenges in Iraq cannot be achieved simply by military means -- no matter how large or sustained -- without progress by the Iraqis in addressing the underlying issues dividing the country.
Second, we must keep in mind the consequences of an American failure in Iraq. As I said in my confirmation hearing, developments in Iraq over the next year or two will shape the future of the Middle East and impact global geopolitics for a long time to come.
I would not have taken this position if I did not believe that the outcome in Iraq will have a profound and long-lived impact on our national interests.
Mistakes certainly have been made by the United States in Iraq, but however we got to this moment, the stakes now are incalculable.
Your senior professional military officers in Iraq and in Washington believe in the efficacy of the strategy outlined by the President. They believe it is a sound plan that can work if the Iraqi government follows through on its commitments and if the non-military aspects of the strategy are implemented and sustained.
Our senior military officers have worked closely with the Iraqis to develop this plan. The impetus to add U.S. forces came initially from our commanders there. It would be a sublime yet historic irony if those who believe the views of the military professionals were neglected at the onset of the war were now to dismiss the views of the military as irrelevant or wrong.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.