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Department of Defense Briefing by Gen. Odierno from the Pentagon Briefing Room

Presenter: Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno
June 25, 2013 12:00 PM EDT

            GENERAL RAYMOND ODIERNO:  Good afternoon, everybody.  How you all doing today? 

            COLONEL DAVE PATTERSON:  Good afternoon, everyone.  I'm Colonel Dave Patterson, chief of media relations division.  Just before we begin the press conference, I just have a couple of admin notes.  The press conference is on the record.  We have a hard stop of 2:30, 1430.  We'll have opening comments, and then we'll take questions and answers.

             GEN. ODIERNO:  Thanks.  Well, again, thanks, everybody, for being here.  Appreciate it.  It's been a while since I've been down here.

             Today, I want to announce the results of the Department of the Army force structure decisions.  I think as all of you know, the Army's in the process of undergoing one of the largest organizational changes probably since World War II.  As we transition from a force at war, our decisions are in line with the fiscal year '13 budget submission, which implements a $487 billion reduction in DOD funding based on the Budget Control Act of 2011.  It began in fiscal year 2013 and extends over 10 years.

             The Army's share of this reduction is approximately $170 billion.  As a result of budget cuts, the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the 2012 defense strategic guidance, the Army is reducing the authorized end strength of the active Army from a wartime high of 570,000 to 490,000.  The Army National Guard will go from 358,000 to 350,000, a reduction of 8,000 soldiers from the Army National Guard, but this will be achieved without any force structure changes in the National Guard.

             The Army Reserve is foregoing a planned 1,000-soldier growth and will remain at 205,000.  The reduction of the 80,000 soldiers out of the active component is a 14 percent reduction.  This reduction will be completed by the end of fiscal year 2017, and I want to be clear that we are taking these actions as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011.  This end strength force structure reduction predates sequestration.  So as sequestration moves on, there will be a requirement potentially to take out more force structure out of the Army.

             If sequestration continues into fiscal year 2014, Army reductions to end strength, force structure, and basing announced today will be only the first step.  Our decisions on where we would make these reductions based on a number of criteria, which include the ability to train our forces, our ability to project power, provide for soldiers' and families' well-being, the ability to expand and regenerate forces, and -- and an appropriate geographic distribution to also include environmental and social economic impacts, cost, and our institutional alignment with the 2012 Strategic Defense Guidance, including the rebalance to the Pacific.

             Based on extensive analysis, the lessons of 12 years of war and the need to increase the Army's operational capability and flexibility, the Army is also reorganizing our brigade combat teams (BCT), which will reduce the overall number of headquarters, while sustaining as much combat capabilities as possible.  In other words, we are increasing our tooth-to-tail ratio.

             As part of the reorganization of each brigade combat team, we will add a third maneuver battalion, an additional engineer and fires capability to each of our armor and infantry brigade combat teams, in order to make them more lethal, more flexible, and more agile.  In order to do this, while keeping our force structure in line with our end strength reductions, we'll reorganize our 45 brigade combat teams into 33 brigade combat teams.

             As we activate brigade combat teams, we will reinvest some of the soldiers' equipment and support personnel into the remaining brigade combat teams.  We conduct an extensive analysis that included 6,500 hours of simulated combat and 34 separate scenarios and extensive interviews with our commanders.  We also conducted a programmatic environmental assessment that looked at both the environmental and socio-economic impacts of these reductions.

             Additionally, we conducted listening sessions at 30 installations with soldiers, families, vocal leaders, and the business community to better understand the impacts of all of our potential decisions.  We also took steps to ensure we were being prudent fiscally in this decision.  For example, as part of our course calculations, the Army had deferred $788 million in military construction projects until decision on force structure reductions were made. 

             As we organize our brigade combat teams, we expect to cancel over $400 million of these projects permanently.  The Army will inactivate a total of 12 brigade combat teams, two overseas, stationed at Baumholder and Grafenwoehr, Germany, will complete their inactivation in fiscal year 2013, leaving two brigade combat teams in Europe to fulfill strategic commitments.  The remaining 10 will come out -- will come out of each of the following 10 U.S. installations between now and the end of fiscal year 2017 -- Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Drum, New York; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Knox, Kentucky; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Stewart, Georgia; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.

             In the future, we will announce an additional BCT to be inactivated, which will bring the number of BCTs to 32, but that decision is yet to be made.  As we work through this drawdown and inactivation of units, we will maintain our communications with our congressional officials in local communities to ensure a smooth, deliberate, and transparent process.

             Again, I want to emphasize that these reductions do not reflect reductions due to sequestration.  Full sequestration could require another significant reduction in active guard and reserve force structure as much as 100,000 combined. 

             At this time, I'd be happy to take your questions.

             Q:  General, a couple things.  Is there a total cost that you have or even some sort of approximate cost for how much this is going to take?  And you have said over time that you had thought you'd be able to do most of this through voluntary reductions.  What's your current assessment on that?  And particularly as you look ahead to sequester, how much -- you said -- just said sort of 100,000.  Does that then get you to the point where you probably wouldn't be able to do that all-voluntarily?

             GEN. ODIERNO:  Yeah, thanks.  First, on the cost, as I mentioned on the MILCON [military construction] costs, that's the major cost, is MILCON.  And so we had about $700 million in MILCON costs that were out there for the whole Army over the next four, five, six years, so we now have been able to reduce that by $400 million, based on these decisions.  So in my mind, it's an overall reduction in the cost.  We'll still have some MILCON projects, but those are things that are already planned inside of the Army, as we go through our continued modernization of facilities.

             In terms of -- of bringing the force down, so far we have been able during this reduction of 80,000 to do almost -- almost all of it through natural attrition.  However, we will announce -- I think we've already announced or will announce this year that we're going to selectively release some colonels and lieutenant colonels.  And then next year, for a certain number of year groups, we'll select to choose to release some captains in year-groups that are over-strength.  Officers are managed by year, and we have some years that are over-strength, and we would reduce those, and we'll have to do boards in order to reduce those.  That will happen next year.  But the large majority will be able to be done by natural attrition.

             Q:  Just as a follow-up, do you know about how many that would have to be released, ballpark?

             GEN. ODIERNO:  I don't.  I don't.  For the colonels, lieutenant colonels, it's around 200 to 300.  For captains, it's maybe around 500.  But don't -- we'll get you the numbers, okay?  If we go to full sequestration, we're going to have to do more forced reductions out of the personnel.

             Q:  General, Sydney Freedberg, Breaking Defense, sir.  Let me ask, you know, this is how -- very -- and basically almost entirely on the active component.  And, you know, you say eventually the R.C.'s time may come.  You know, what are the factors there?  I mean, political, which you can't ignore what the Guard, and practical, in terms of why you've hit the A.C. so hard and, you know, what happens when you go to the R.C. pocket?

             GEN. ODIERNO:  So -- so if we remember history here, as we had to increase the size of the Army when we were involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, the large majority of the increase happened in the active component.  We were at actually 482,500 in 2001.  We grew to 570,000.

             So as we reviewed the new defense strategy, we believed that it was more appropriate, since we were out of Iraq and we were reducing our commitment to Afghanistan, that we, in fact, can reduce the active component to 490,000.  So we think based on strategy, that's appropriate.

            As we move forward, we have to do more of a balance, because in my mind, there's a role that we have the National Guard, Army Reserve play in the active component, and we have to make sure we keep those roles in line with each other.  We'll still reduce quite a bit out of the active, if we have to do more, but there will also be some out of the guard and reserve.

             Now, it'll maintain that balance that I think we need in order to maintain an Army that can respond quickly, but also have the depth of response, if necessary, from the Guard and Reserve.

             COL. PATTERSON:  Next question? 

            Q:  General, could -- it seems like this is fairly divided between light and heavy brigades.  Can you talk a little bit about how the strategy influenced what brigades you chose to reduce and how -- how that may change in the future under... 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  Yeah.  So -- so although I'd mentioned the number of brigades I'm going to reduce, there still will probably be some minor adjustments to the type of brigades.  So I think what you're seeing up there right now is 12 armor, 14 infantry, and 7 Stryker brigades.  My guess is, over the next couple years, that will adjust a little bit.  And my guess is, we'll go to something like 10 armor, 14 IBCTs and eight SBCTs [Stryker brigade combat team] in the end.  But that'll be an adjustment that comes later as we move equipment around.

             And we've done that based on analysis of what would be needed in our -- in our contingency operational plans and how we see our rotational requirements that could come up in the future, whether it be to the Middle East or the Pacific, and these are the amount we need in order to meet those commitments. 

            Q:  So in the future, a little bit more reduction on the armor side? 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  That's right. 

            Q:  General, Tony Bertuca, Inside Defense.  To what extent will the redesign impact the stated acquisition objective for things like the ground combat vehicle, the joint light tactical vehicle?  Do you need less now? 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  We do.  So -- so for all of our systems, it'll be -- it'll be less systems that we -- that we need.  So it'll reduce our ability -- or it'll reduce the cost of us fielding and -- to our -- to our armor brigades and our infantry brigades. 

            Q:  Do you know what the decrease is or when you'll... 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  I don't.  I don't.  Because we're still working through that.  As we submit our budget for next year, the '15 to '19 budget, we'll start -- you'll start to see some of those things. 

            COL. PATTERSON:  Over here. 

            Q:  Hi.  Have you done any -- or has the Army done any assessments of sort of the -- the impact that this could and will have on local communities, like how many potentially civilian jobs would be lost at the bases and surrounding them and -- and local impacts -- I suspect the Hill -- you've heard from the Hill about this... 

            (CROSSTALK) 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  We have.  So we -- that was part of this -- we did a socio-economic impact study.  So as you -- as you noticed, we've spread it out quite good, and one of the reasons we did that was, first, it allows us to have diversity across the United States, so we maintain that we have forces on the West Coast, forces in the -- in the Midwest, and forces on the East Coast. 

            And the way we took the brigades out limits the amount of impact.  The only outlier is Fort Knox, because there's only one brigade there, and we are taking a brigade out of Fort Knox.  And that -- that decision was made because of -- it scored the lowest in terms of military value on our analysis of training and other things, so that's why we decided to take that one out. 

            Q:  And do you have any -- any numbers, even estimates of how many civilian jobs could be lost, whether it's on the bases or... 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  Well, so -- you know, civilians -- what happens is we have a baseline of civilian jobs that really is required no matter what -- what the -- how many you have, because it's basic foundational requirements that we have for family programs, for soldier programs.  So the increase for numbers is a little bit, but not a lot, so there will be some that comes down with us, and there will be a commensurate civilian drawdown with the military, and we're working our way through that. 

            Q:  General, thank you.  Raghubir Goyal from Asia Today.  My question is, as far as this announcement is concerned, how the relations will affect with other countries in Asia, especially with India?  Because so much is going on now between U.S. and India.  Now secretary was in India and also vice president going there.  

            And also, at the same time, Talibans are still now again active in Afghanistan, so how are you going to...

             (CROSSTALK) 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  Well, a couple things.  First, I believe -- my assessment is with the -- with the forces we have left over in this, we have more than enough to meet the requirements that we need to respond.  

            If I could just comment on the -- you know, this morning, this attack in Afghanistan -- I'll just go off a little bit on a tangent -- I would tell you is another example of great success.  Actually, the Afghan security forces did an incredible job of repelling that attack and killing the attackers this morning.  It's another great example of the progress I think the Afghan security forces made, although there's some concern that the Taliban is still able to do those type of attacks. 

            Q:  Is that because of U.S. is -- has announced that -- and U.S. will leave Afghanistan in 2014 and they're sending some kind of messages? 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  Well, actually, we've said we're going to -- we're going to remain committed to Afghanistan through 2024.  And, you know, we still -- still haven't made a decision yet on what -- how many troops will be left after 2014. 

            Q:  Thank you.

             COL. PATTERSON:  Richard? 

            Q:  Richard Sandza, Army Times.  To add a maneuver battalion to each existing -- each succeeding brigade, I assume you're going to take the fourth -- the two battalions from the fourth at Fort Hood... 

            (CROSSTALK) 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  ... yeah (OFF-MIC) Fort Bragg.  So Fort Bragg, two of the infantry battalions and this brigade will move over (OFF-MIC) battalion (OFF-MIC) converted to (OFF-MIC) battalion.  And what happens is, you lose the brigade headquarters.  You lose the fires battalion.  You lose the support battalion.  And there's another mix of engineers and other (OFF-MIC) those battalions go away.  But those -- that capability increases a little bit inside of those brigades. 

            Q:  How many soldiers will have to PCS as a result of this? 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  So -- so, for example -- example, 3,500 in this brigade, 2,100 will be reinvested, so 1,400 will be reassigned.  They still could be reassigned on Fort Bragg and other places, depending on our -- our manning (inaudible). 

            Q:  (OFF-MIC) if sequestration is enduring, what sorts of further reductions are you looking at?  Have planners begun to look at that? 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  Oh, yeah, we've looked at it.  And, you know, we just went -- we were going through a process with the secretary of defense.  We looked at several different ways to do this.  You know, it's always about capacity versus capability.  And so we -- one course of action, we keep more capacity.  We want capabilities that keep more -- options that keep more capability.  So that depends on what we keep, so we're still working our way through that. 

            And in the end, the bottom line is, we want to make sure we sustain enough capability to deter.  We want to make sure we sustain enough capability to be able to conduct our contingency operations, and we're still working through those numbers. 

            Q:  (OFF-MIC) possibly a further reduction of brigade combat teams? 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  Yes, with sequestration, if we go through a full -- there's going to be another reduction in brigades -- there's no way around it.  And there will be reductions in aviation.  There will be reductions in other capabilities, as well.

            Q:  (OFF-MIC) my question, with these cuts that are on the table now, does the Army still need the 13 aviation brigades?  Or will changes be needed there? 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  With this structure now, we're sustaining 13 aviation brigades.  If full sequestration continues, we will have to take a look at the number of aviation brigades.  It'll probably reduce. 

            We have a formula that goes with a number of battalions, how much aviation we need to support those battalions, and in that formula, we need 13 in this scenario. 

            COL. PATTERSON:  Yes?

             Q:  General, will these reductions have any effect on overseas quick reaction readiness, with the reductions in Germany and Italy, in Europe and AFRICOM, for example? 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  So the brigades are manning -- there will be a brigade left in Italy, one brigade in Germany, but we’ve regionally-aligned forces, so we've aligned a brigade from the United States to Africa.  So second brigade of the 1st ID is aligned to Africa.  And, in fact, they have soldiers in Africa (OFF-MIC) so that's how we -- we will align forces from the states to the combatant commands to make up for this.

            We're also aligning a brigade with the NATO response force, which will do training with our NATO partners to continue to train them and keep interoperability relationships with them, and that will happen, as well, as we do this, so you'll have -- you'll have units from the states who assist in Germany, assist in the Pacific, assist in AFRICOM, and they will be aligned and they'll work very carefully and closely with the combatant commanders. 

            Q:  But are you concerned with them not being there physically in the region... 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  Well, that's why... 

            Q:  ... hurts the readiness?

             GEN. ODIERNO:  If you look -- yeah, if you look in Hawaii -- I mean, if you look in the Pacific, you know, we still have quite a bit of forces in Alaska, Hawaii, Fort Lewis, and they're all focused towards the Pacific region.  And so we'll maintain -- my issue is, you know, with the budget issue, we've had continuing resolutions in the budget, it's eroding our readiness.  That's a different question than what we're talking about here.  That's why we need a budget, because if we don't get a budget (OFF-MIC) hurting the readiness of all of our units as we move forward. 

            Q:  (OFF-MIC) India.  First, a follow-up on a question (OFF-MIC) Taliban.  Given the response of Afghan's armed forces under attack in Kabul today, are you now more confident that Afghanistan (OFF-MIC) secure with the ANSF (OFF-MIC) 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  I am.  I see it as a positive sign as we continue to train and turn more responsibility over to them.  I'm very encouraged by that.  We still have some work to do, but I think by the end of 2014, they are going to be ready to protect the people of Afghanistan.

             Q:  And, secondly, in (OFF-MIC) what impact (OFF-MIC) I think (OFF-MIC) giving a sense (OFF-MIC) no change in the number of (OFF-MIC) in the region. 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  In the Asia -- right, that's right.

             Q:  And, finally, you are traveling, I think, to India later this year. 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  I am.

             Q:  Can you give us (OFF-MIC) what (OFF-MIC)

             GEN. ODIERNO:  Well, I'm going in July.  I'm going to visit the Army.  You know, obviously, as you know, it's a very important relationship for us.  So we'll -- we'll -- I'll travel there, and we're going to -- I'll meet with the head of the Army and other defense officials, and I'll have a chance to go around and visit the Indian Army, and we're going to continue to work and build where we have common interests, and we'll discuss many issues that we have in common to help each other grow as armies.  And I'm looking forward to that very much.

             Q:  Thank you. 

            Q:  Hi, general.  Jon Harper with the Asahi Shimbun.  Will these reductions affect the Army rebalance to the Pacific at all, in terms of engagement activities with partners and allies or any other way?

             GEN. ODIERNO:  No, because I think -- as I've said, we've sustained all of our commitment here.  The problem we had over the last four or five years is all of these units here were in Iraq or Afghanistan.  They're now back.  And we've kept them here so they can continue to do the engagement that we want to do so seriously in the Asia Pacific region. 

            Q:  General, I'm Carl Osgood with Executive Intelligence Review.  Just to follow up, the answer you just gave and what you've been saying about the -- this plan meeting -- you can still meet the Army's commitments under this plan, what happens to the Army's engagement plans under sequestration? 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  Yeah, well, let me talk about it in terms of the Defense Strategic Guidance of 2012.  This force structure can meet Defense Strategic Guidance that was outlined last year.  When we go to sequestration, we're going to have to -- we're going to have to do another analysis of whether we can still meet that strategy or not.  And that's what we have to work -- and we've been talking about that and working through that now.  And depending on where it ends up will depend on whether we think we can still meet the strategy or not.

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