DOD News Briefing with Gen. Odierno from the Pentagon
GENERAL RAYMOND ODIERNO: How y'all doing this morning? I guess I got everybody in here a little early this morning. (Laughter.) Sorry about that.
MR. : (Off mic.)
GEN. ODIERNO: (Laughs.) Not for me, no.
I want to talk for about three or four minutes and then open it up to any questions that you -- might have.
I really just want to start off first by reminding everybody that today the United States Army remains committed and engaged around the globe. We have 92,000 soldiers currently deployed in support of operations. Sixty-eight thousand of those are in Afghanistan.
As you know, the president and the secretary of defense provided a new defense strategic guidance to focus our efforts in the beginning of the year. The guidance was clear, very collaborative process -- you've been through that -- more than 10 years of fighting, two large- scale operations. The Army clearly now is moving inside a frame of transition over the next five, six, seven years.
It's important to me that we continue to apply the lessons of more than 10 years of continuous combat. We will be leaner. We'll be more agile Army that is an adaptive, innovative, versatile and ready component of the joint force. Our charter will remain to be the best- manned, best-equipped, best-trained and best-led land force in the world, to be decisive for a broad range of missions.
In today's increasingly uncertain and complex strategic environment, we must ensure that we sustain a diverse mix of rapidly deployable capabilities, adapt processes to reflect a broader range of requirements, and provide scalable options towards national security decision-makers. And through the changes ahead, we will demonstrate unwavering commitment to the honor of our profession and our values. To guide us through this dynamic landscape, underpinned by global fiscal challenges, the secretary of the Army has espoused our vision as the Army is globally engaged and regionally responsive, is an indispensable partner and provider of a full range of capabilities to combatant commanders in a joint interagency-intergovernmental and multinational environment. As part of the joint force and as America's army in all that we offer, we guarantee the agility, versatility and depth to prevent, shape and win in the future.
Acknowledging the changing geopolitical environment, the DOD Strategic Guidance articulates priorities for our 21st century defense that sustains U.S. global leadership. The Army has a vital role in these -- in these priorities, and we are developing several initiatives to support the new strategy. And I'd like to quickly share a few of those with you.
First, our Army force-generation process has served us well in meeting our demands over the last several years in Iraq and Afghanistan. But with operations in Iraq complete and an ongoing transition in Afghanistan, we will have the opportunity to adapt this process to be more wide-ranging, especially as we rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region. As such, we will implement a progressive readiness model for both the active and reserve components to be more responsive to all of our combatant commanders. In support of the combatant commanders, we'll be implementing a regionally aligned force concept beginning next year to better meet some theater requirements.
The intent is to focus unit or headquarters during its training cycle on specific mission profiles and unique environmental characteristics that make them available to the combatant commander for employment in their area of responsibility.
We'll conduct a pilot next year when a brigade combat team from the 10th Mountain Division will be the first unit to execute this concept in coordination with U.S. Africa Command. The regionally aligned forces concept will be especially important in the Asia- Pacific region as we move forward -- home to seven of the 10 largest armies. And this will follow in more enduring ways over the next several years.
For enduring commitments in some of the theaters, we plan to employ rotational units. Europe comes to mind as we reduce two forward station brigade combat teams over the next two years. We'll leverage pre-positioned equipment, sets and multilateral training exercises to allow us to promote regional security and enhance capacity and interoperability and sustain our relationships with our NATO and other allies in Europe.
Finally, as the Army's end strength reduces over the next five years, it is important to note that this leaner Army will be vastly more capable than our pre-9/11 Army. Besides 10 years of hard-earned combat experience in our ranks, we continue to increase our special operations force capacity. We have significantly increased our ability to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. We've increase our aviation assets to support worldwide missions and responsiveness around the world. We continue to increase our cyber capability as we move forward. And we continue to look at other capabilities in order to move forward.
We are also reviewing and refining our organizational design, mission command and training methods to institutionalize the lessons learned in combat.
All in all, I believe these are the right investments to posture the Army to meet our strategy and will serve our nation well in the future.
In addition to these initiatives, we will continue to reinforce standards, discipline, fitness and accountability. Rightfully so, the military is held to the highest standard, since it's entrusted with special responsibilities by the American people. Trust and respect are paramount. Standards and discipline are fundamental. And I will never pass up an opportunity to talk to our soldiers and our leaders about the sacred trust and our commitment to moral and ethical behavior and values.
Secretary McHugh most recently announced that we'll be standing up the 7th Infantry Division headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, to focus on the training, mentorship and discipline to five other brigades stationed there, similar to our other large bases with corps headquarters such as Fort Hood and Fort Bragg. As you may have heard, Major General Steve Lanza will assume command of the 7th Infantry Division to provide requisite division-level training, readiness and administration oversight that promotes standards, discipline, esprit de corps and excellence.
On another important note, last week we concluded our annual Sexual Harassment and Assault Response (and) Prevention Summit with our Army senior leaders. We discussed efforts to get after curbing sexual assault and sexual harassment in our ranks, something that is absolutely intolerable and inconsistent with our Army values. It is something that I've charged commanders at all levels to stay focused on, to take care of and protect each other. That's what we do, and that's who we are, and we cannot expect anything less.
As many of you know, earlier this week more than 200 women began reporting to the maneuver battalions in nine of our brigade combat teams, selected to participate in the exception to the direct ground combat assignment rule.
Additionally, co-location as an assignment restriction is rescinded. This revision will result in the opening of six military occupational specialties and 80 units, more than 13,000 positions to women, opening up new opportunities to our female soldiers, which make up about 16 percent of our force, and allows us to leverage the tremendous talent resident in our ranks.
As I have testified over the last several months, it's important for the Army to execute the fiscal year '13 budget as planned. It reflects the highest priorities of the Army in support of the new defense strategic guidance and allows the Army to meet contingency requirements, take care of soldiers and families and achieve balance between end strength, readiness and modernization.
Our approach to the current and future budget cycles remains -- will remain strategy-based and fiscally prudent. So thank you for allowing me to give this opening statement. I welcome your questions.
STAFF: First question, Lita.
Q: General, Lolita Baldor with AP. One quick question and then a broader one. You mentioned the women who are just starting with this -- it's not a pilot program -- but I understand that there had been some discussion or some initial discussion about Rangers. Can you talk a little bit about what that --
GEN. ODIERNO: Well, yeah. I mean, this is a progressive way forward. So first what we're doing is we're doing -- in nine brigade combat teams, we're opening up the occupational specialties that currently women serve in, down to infantry and armor battalions. And we will run this for several months. And my guess is, based on my experience in Iraq and what I've seen in Afghanistan, we'll then move forward with a more permanent solution inside of the Army probably sometime this fall.
The next step is we have to continue to attempt to look at do we open up infantry and armor MOSs to females. And that's the next step. So what we've done is -- we're really now in collecting information, and we're setting a course forward on how we might take a look at this.
And so that's what I've asked General Bob Cohen (ph), the training and doctrine commander, and Major General Bob Brown (sp), the commander of the -- (inaudible) -- start taking a look at this and provide us recommendations how we might move forward. There's been no decisions made. What we want to do do is bring information up to the secretary and I so we can take a look at it and decide the way forward on how we want to progress in potentially opening up these positions.
Q: General -- (inaudible) -- does that depend on how you see things go over the next several months with what's happening now or is that independent of --
GEN. ODIERNO: I think it's not -- it's not based -- we're not going to wait. I've asked them to start looking at it now, and then we'll chart a course of action, as we -- a way forward as we -- and I suspect something like that will probably come out some time this summer.
STAFF: David -- (off mic).
Q: Has this included a plan to send women through the Marine Corps equivalent of their infantry officer school?
GEN. ODIERNO: No, I mean, we have our own schools --
Q: (Off mic) -- I know you -- (off mic) --
GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah.
Q: -- go?
GEN. ODIERNO: Well, we'll take a look at it. I mean, that's what the recommendation will come forward: Are we going to do something like that? And that's part of one of the recommendations are, and what -- we'll make some announcement on that later as we have a -- have a chance to look at it.
Q: The House opposition bill heads to the floor today. I wonder if you could comment on a couple items: One, there's language in there that limits the pace of the downsizing of the force, and the argument is that that somehow alleviates an unwanted pace, you know. And can you give a reaction to how you managed that --
GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, well, I submitted the budget for the pace that I thought was the most appropriate pace for us to downsize. I have two concerns. One is the language, the last time I saw it, caps us at 552,000 through '13, and right now that will hinder us because we were planning at being at about 543,000 by the end of '13.
So what does that mean? Well, that means that we'll not be able to use attrition, necessarily. This might cause us to force more people out of the Army than we want, instead of using natural attrition over the five- or six-year period that we've identified over the last two budget submissions.
So I've talked with the House. I've told them that I don't agree with those amendments. I'd like to see them adjusted. But we'll continue to work with them as we move forward. I think we'll be able to come to an agreement. We'll work with them very hard to come with (sic) what is the right pace of reductions.
I think what we submitted was the right pace. It enables me to do three things. It enables me to take care of our soldiers and families. It enables me to continue to meet our commitments in Afghanistan, and it continues, if necessary -- it gives us enough leeway, if something occurs, we could reverse it, if necessary. And I think all of those factors can be met in what we submitted in the budget.
Q: And the second thing I wanted to say was that Secretary Panetta has said that the way they've put some money back into some hardware items is going to take away from, you know, military personnel or other items. Have you identified an example of where you --
GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I would say, for us, in the budget, the real issue is the end strength number. So if they -- if we have to keep a higher end strength number, that means we start to lose our balance between what I call the three rheostats, which is end strength, readiness and modernization. And if those start getting out of balance, we have to be careful. What we don't want is a hollow force. I want one as the best-trained, best-equipped and ready Army, if asked to deploy, and I worry that could impact that if we don't do this right.
Q: (Off mic) -- your time. Can I just follow up on Lita's question? I'm just a little unclear on the -- on your answer on the Ranger question.
GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah.
Q: What exact -- what did you say? That you're looking at this? You mean -- Lita asked, what is the chance of women being able to take Ranger training?
GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I think we're taking a look at it.
Q: (Off mic.)
GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I don't want to get ahead of myself, OK? So -- let me give you some statistics, OK? So as we look at our senior infantry officers, about 90 percent of our senior infantry officers are ranger-qualified. So if we determine that we're going to allow women to go in the infantry and be successful, they are probably at some time going to have to go through Ranger School. We have not made that decision yet, but it's a factor that I have asked them to take a look at and, again, to come back to us as we look at this problem. We have to look at the all-encompassing problem that we have in terms of if we decide to do this, we want to -- we want the women to be successful, and how do we make them most successful. And that's what we've asked them to do, to gather data, come back to us so the secretary and I can chart a way forward.
Q: What are the MOSs they're going to be going into right now?
GEN. ODIERNO: I think it's signal -- it's -- no, it's already in these MOS, but they're now being able to go into infantry battalion at much lower levels. So it's --
Q: (Off mic.)
GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. It's signal; it's adjutant general; it's MI; it's medical MOSs.
Q: (Off mic.)
GEN. ODIERNO: What's that?
Q: (Off mic.)
GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. Yeah, MLRS, which is an MOS. Those are the ones as a result of co-location.
Q: Sir, could you tell us, beyond the current budget, if sequestration follows through, what kind of cuts do you anticipate to end strength and modernization? How will that affect the Army? What are you doing to prepare for it?
GEN. ODIERNO: Well, it's two -- two points on sequestration. One is my estimates are it would cause us to cut another 80(,000) to a hundred thousand in end strength, but it'll be a combination of Reserve component and active component end strength.
But what even makes sequestration worse is we have no say in where the cuts come. It is directed across every element of our budget, and it's a certain percentage.
So what that would cause us to do is increase the pace of our end strength reductions. It would cause a hollowness -- significant hollowness in the force. It would probably cause us to breach many contracts that we already have in place because we would not meet the current requirements that we have on our developmental contracts. So it would affect every asset that we have in every area. So that's the concern.
And fundamentally, I think all the Joint Chiefs have come to the conclusion that we'd fundamentally have to relook our whole strategy if it occurs. And those are the concerns that we have.
STAFF: (Off mic.)
Q: Quick clarification. These regionally aligned brigades --
GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah.
Q: -- are those those specialized units that you have alluded to?
GEN. ODIERNO: No.
Q: Then what are those? Give us a sense of --
GEN. ODIERNO: So what -- so what we're going to do -- so what we've done in the past -- so we go through a generation process where we put brigades, we put all different -- aviation, engineer forces -- and we prepare them to go to Kuwait or -- I mean -- excuse me -- Afghanistan or Iraq, OK?
So what we're changing is, they will now be aligned to a combatant commander. So as they go through a training process, then they become available for a period a time, nine to 12 months. And they will be aligned with SOCOM, with CENTCOM, with PACOM, with -- and will -- based on their requirements. And then they can use those forces to meet whatever requirements they might have. It might be rotational forces. It could be building partner capacity. It could be providing security assistance. It could be doing exercises.
And what this does for us is it enables us to focus those units in these areas so they become more understanding of the tasks that they'll have to work.
So what we're doing is, we're meeting combatant commanders' requirements by aligning Army forces so they can use them in the future, plan on them, which helps them to shape the environment that they're operating in. And that's the -- that's the thought process behind it.
Q: (Off mic) -- additional specialized units for security --
GEN. ODIERNO: No. No, we're using the forces that we'll have, and they will adapt and adjust in order to meet whatever requirements that that combatant commander will have.
Q: So everybody will remain full-spectrum capable -- (inaudible) --
GEN. ODIERNO: That's not what I said, OK? What I -- what I said was we will have units that will train to certain levels and then, as they get requirements from combatant commanders, they will train and be capable of conducting operations in those areas of -- for that specific combatant commander.
So give me an example. So we might have a unit that says they're going to do -- in AFRICOM, we want them to do small-unit training. Now they will reach a certain level of capability -- combined arms training -- and then we'll use them to help train and assist units in other nations in Africa in order to continue to build partner capacity.
You know, the bottom line is if you want to train units to be more capable in their -- in their specialties, you want units that are capable in their specialty. So we want infantrymen training infantrymen, armor officers training armor, and so you want that capability within each individual in order to be able to train that. And you want unit capacity in order to train that. So we'll align them as such. And we'll continue to train to a certain combined arms level as we move forward.
Q: General, must a follow-up on the AFRICOM thing.
GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah.
Q: Can you talk a little bit more about how this is going to work? I mean, as we all know, a lot of the special operations forces would be doing a lot of this training in, you know, Somalia and Yemen, et cetera, and other places. Will the Army be working with special operators? Is this now -- in AFRICOM you're going to be more of an Army job and --
GEN. ODIERNO: Well, it's both. It's both. I mean, there are some missions -- there are many -- there are many things that go on. You really need to probably -- it's better to talk with General Ham, and he can give a better feel for exactly how he's going to use them. But there's a mission for both conventional and special operations forces. They'll be some cases where conventional forces are supporting special operations forces.
You know, we've built these strong relationships in both Iraq and Afghanistan over the last seven, eight, nine years, and we'll continue to utilize that. We had talks with Special Operations Command about two months ago to discuss this very issue. So we will carry this on in all of the combatant commanders' areas.
But in addition to that, you have some additional requirements that require conventional units to assist, build capacity, do exercises and other things. So it'll be a combination of both of those things.
Q: How many -- how many of them?
GEN. ODIERNO: Well, again, we'll develop this over time. So what I expect is, you know, each combatant command will come in with their own requirements, and once they do that, we will then start aligning forces.
Now, we're just going to do some -- in '13 we can only do a couple because we're still so much engaged in Afghanistan. But starting in '14, you'll see a -- you'll see many more Army units starting to be aligned to other combatant commands, and that will be specifically determined on their requirements.
We had a meeting in the -- in the -- Joint Staff had a meeting a couple weeks ago that outlined these requirements that are coming in from the combatant commands. So we'll take that, and then we'll align our forces appropriately to meet the requirements.
Q: How many for the AFRICOM initially, for the --
GEN. ODIERNO: Oh, initially one brigade combat team. And it's a -- it's kind of a pilot or a test of how we're going to do this.
STAFF: We have time for one more question.
Q: Do you anticipate one brigade per region or several brigades per --
GEN. ODIERNO: I think in some region(s), it might be one; in some, it could be four, five or six. It depends on the requirements.
STAFF: You can take a couple more.
Q: For clarification on the earlier point you made about 80,000 to a hundred thousand troops cut because of sequestration --
GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah.
Q: Is that over and above the existing cuts that already planned?
GEN. ODIERNO: Yes.
Q: So does that mean that you're doing some -- (inaudible) -- drills to try and understand how the sequestration will affect the military services?
GEN. ODIERNO: No, we're not.
Q: I'm just trying to understand how you came up with that number.
GEN. ODIERNO: Because it is a -- it is a percentage cut, so it's very easy to understand. In other words, we have no choice to where the cuts come. It's already directed, a certain percentage out of every -- so we understand in order to meet this, that's the requirement.
It'll be somewhere around that. But it's a -- it depends on the combination of active and Reserve forces we decide to use, and that's why the number varies a little bit.
Q: How will you -- how will you -- excuse me. How would you accomplish that if you had to get rid of another hundred thousand troops? Would you accelerate some of the processes you plan over the next four years of -- with boards and RIFs? What --
GEN. ODIERNO: Sequestration will require us to do it over the same time period. So yes, we will have to force -- if this happens, we will have to force many more people out than we are now. We've been able to do 65 (percent) to 70 percent of our reductions right now through natural attrition. If we get sequestration, that changes all that, and there'll be many that are forced out. And that's why sequestration, in my mind, is disastrous to us. And then it also affects our overall strategy as we move forward.
Q: Give us a sense, please, about the role of heavy armor in the new defense strategy. How is it changing? As you know, the associated hardware is a topic of contention on the Hill.
GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. I mean, I think through our analysis and what we've looked at -- we've run -- we've done hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours of analysis of what's happened in the -- over the last 10 years and what we expect will happen in the future. We've also brought brigade and battalion commanders from all over the Army in, and we determined there is a role for armor. There's a role for armor in counterinsurgency; there's a role for armor in the future. But it'll continue to evolve. So there'll continue to be armor in the force. Will we reduce the amount of armor? Probably. That -- as we -- as we come forward with the specific force mix. But we still need a combination of all those capabilities, in our mind, as we look to the future.
Q: Could you -- we're coming up on the third anniversary of Bowe Bergdahl being abducted in Afghanistan. And his -- I believe his parents are supposed to come in soon for another update in this -- who -- do you meet with them? Or when Army leadership meets them or -- (inaudible) --
GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, I met -- I met with them last time when they came in. And I talk with them, and if they want to, I will meet with them again.
Q: And can you just sort of give us an update of where you see the search for Bergdahl standing now?
GEN. ODIERNO: I think -- I think you need to ask that to CENTCOM. I mean, that's their requirement. I mean, we look at it -- there's lots of work we never give up. There's lots of work being done. There's a lot of analysis continuing to be done to try to find where he is. We never, never stop. I can tell you that much. I do get updates on it. But there -- but CENTCOM's responsible for this. So I'd ask you to ask them that question. So --
Q: As you move forward with the regionally aligned model, what is your plan for rotational or deployment availability versus required dwell time?
GEN. ODIERNO: Well, 2-to-1 is what we shoot for. And in fact, by the way, for the first time last month, we're finally at a 2-to-1 dwell time ratio. It's the first time we've reached it, and it has to do obviously with the reduced requirement in Iraq and the continued reduction in Afghanistan. And we'll have to see.
Now, I think we won't have that problem initially because I think there won't be as many rotational forces. But we will have rotational forces, I believe, to support several combatant commands as we continue to develop those requirements. And we'll have continued rotational requirements in CENTCOM. We'll have some in EUCOM. We'll have some in PACOM. And we'll -- and we'll continue to work that with the combatant commanders as we move forward, OK?
Q: If I could go back to the Ranger question very briefly --
GEN. ODIERNO: Sure.
Q: -- in your clarification you mentioned Ranger-qualified. Does that mean that you're looking specifically at entrance into Ranger school as opposed to entry into the Ranger units themselves?
GEN. ODIERNO: I'm not sure I understand your question.
Q: (Chuckling.) And that 90 percent of your senior officers --
GEN. ODIERNO: Infantry -- of infantry officers is what I was --
Q: All right --
GEN. ODIERNO: -- of infantry officers are Ranger-qualified. And so what we have to look at is -- so if -- you know, what I'm looking for is if we decide sometime to put females in infantry, we got to make sure they have the qualifications for them to be competitive in that branch.
And so we have to look at all of that. So what I've asked them to do is we got to take a holistic look at this and see what would it look like and what are the requirements. And that's what we're doing right now.
Q: And I believe the secretary has actually asked for recommendations by November. So this -- you mentioned summer. So this would be an accelerated --
GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I mean -- I mean, I think we'll make a -- there's several iterations of this, and so, you know, they're starting to look at it now. So we'll get some initial results this summer, but -- you know, we'll continue to look at it. My guess is the final results will be sometime in November.
Q: On BRAC, you know, the Hill has pretty resoundly rejected the idea, at least for now. So what happens for the Army? Do you still pull troops back and leave empty buildings? Or does this change, you know, the whole plan?
GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I think for the Army, we have to -- for BRAC -- we have to do some things around the fringes for BRAC. We made some very significant changes in the last BRAC. And so with the reductions we have now, most of them are coming out of -- will come out of major installations. So it won't be the closure of any installations. So I think we'll be OK. But we are very supportive of a BRAC in '15 because we -- there are -- there are some things that we still have to look at.
And specifically in our Reserve and National Guard, because they did not benefit as much from the last BRAC as we would like -- so we'd like to do some things in looking at how we might be able to do a better job of consolidating for them. And there's some other areas we might take a look at. But for the most part, in terms of reductions, we're OK because most of those will happen on the larger installations. And I feel pretty comfortable with that.
Q: Thanks, General. A recent Blue Star family survey listed -- of military families listed retirement benefits, health benefits and pay as their top concerns. Where do you stand on whether changes need to be made as far as those are -- areas are concerned?
GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I mean, it's a -- it's a very complex question. I mean -- I mean, here's the bottom line is the rate of increase of pay and benefits -- we cannot sustain the rate of increase.
I'm not saying we reduce benefits. What I'm saying is we cannot sustain the rate of increase in our benefits.
Since 2000 the benefits have doubled till today. And if that continues, we're not going to be able to afford the end strength that we have. So it's a trade-off between end strength and pay and benefits. And so we got to just slow the rate. And we're trying to find out what's the best way to do that. And you got to do a holistic review of all the benefits that are available. And that's what we're trying to look at as we move forward because we certainly want to honor the service of those and make sure that they are appropriately compensated for their selfless sacrifice, and the families that have sacrificed. So that's clearly in the back of our minds as we move forward. So it's a -- it's a very complex calculation that has to be done, and that's something we'll have to continue to look at as we move forward.
Q: And also, with women being able to -- you know, researching whether women can, you know, someday be in the infantry, what -- how is this going to -- how is this research going to be conducted? Are they going to be allowed to train this summer as infantry?
GEN. ODIERNO: Well, that's part of the recommendations that we'll get back, OK, is how we move towards it. It's not -- we're going to move towards it, OK? It's how we do that and how -- you know, what do we have to do to make some assessments. And that's what we're going to have to do as we move forward.
Q: You haven't yet decided how to look?
GEN. ODIERNO: I need -- so what I've asked -- so we've asked them to just look at it and come back and give us -- and lay out for us how we want to do this. And that should happen here over the next several months.
GEN. ODIERNO: OK. All right. Thank you very much. Have a great day.
MR. : Thank you.