Raymond T. Odierno
Building a Flexible Force
Foreign Affairs, May/June 2012
After six months as chief of staff, I can see clearly that the coming decade will be a vital period of transition for the
To ensure that declining budgets do not lead to shortfalls in training and equipment, the size of the active-duty force will have to be reduced. The reductions will be painful, but they are necessary and can be done responsibly. We must do our utmost to ensure that the soldiers leaving the force are treated fairly and that they and their families are provided with support to help them successfully transition to civilian life. We must also cut units as we cut soldiers, to prevent units from becoming undermanned and ineffective.
Although maintaining a smaller active-duty army will involve some risks, those risks will be less than some believe because of the changes that have taken place in the army in recent years. Today's force is qualitatively different from the army of a decade ago. It is more combat seasoned, more tightly integrated with the other military services and with special operations forces, and more technologically advanced.
Today's army also has an unprecedented level of integration between its active and its reserve components.
Multiple initiatives are under way to ensure that the army continues to improve the stewardship of its resources and increase its return on the investment of public dollars. These include broad-based reforms of the processes that support key army functions, changes to how the army defines its equipment needs and then buys and fields systems to meet them, a careful examination of both institutional and operational headquarters to eliminate excess layers of command, and the pursuit of alternative energy sources and practices that can increase operational effectiveness while also saving money.
Ultimately, maintaining the army the country requires with fewer resources will mean balancing three variables: the overall size of the force, its equipment, and its training and readiness. All the budgetary adjustments I recommend as chief of staff will be governed by the necessity of ensuring that each of these pillars is sufficiently robust to field an army with the capability and capacity to perform its assigned missions.
Pivoting To The Pacific
The recently announced training initiative between
Of course, even as the army increases its activities in the
In most of
Relationships with our European partners will be even more critical as so many Western nations reduce their defense expenditures. We have already announced the removal of two army brigades from
Finally, the challenges in
A Broader Mission Set
The final major transition the army must manage is that from a force focused on counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and advising and assisting to one that actively prepares to effectively conduct a fuller range of potential missions. Since counterterrorism missions will not diminish in the foreseeable future, the army will need to preserve and enhance its relationship with joint special operations forces. The evolution of this partnership over the past decade has been extraordinary, and the ties can become even stronger as we continue to develop new operational concepts, enhance our training, and invest in new capabilities. The army will also need to preserve the intellectual and organizational knowledge it has gained about counterinsurgency, stability operations, and advise-and-assist missions. This expertise has come at a very high price that is etched into the hearts and minds of all of us who have worn the army uniform over the last ten years, and we will not dishonor our fallen comrades by allowing it to atrophy. But we will address new needs as well.
The army will make it a high priority in the next several years to more fully integrate cyberspace capabilities into our tactical and operational units. Despite continuing ambiguities about how and when such capabilities may be employed, we will clearly be increasingly challenged in cyberspace, and we must accelerate our efforts both to protect ourselves and to exploit our advantages in this domain.
The army will also make sure it firmly embeds one of the most costly lessons it has learned over the last decade: how to deal with the challenge of hybrid warfare. In the future, it will be increasingly common for the army to operate in environments with both regular military and irregular paramilitary or civilian adversaries, with the potential for terrorism, criminality, and other complications. Advanced technology and the information revolution have fundamentally altered the battlefield. Now, any activity a soldier undertakes can rapidly evolve into a combination of combat, governance, and civil support missions, and any individual, military or civilian, can alter the trajectory of an operation with the push of a button on a cell phone. The army's experiences in
Finally, the army needs to prepare for doing many different things well. In addition to combat of all kinds, possible operations in the next several years will include everything from helping victims of a flood to restoring order in a collapsed state with large-scale criminal activity, violence, and perhaps even unconventional weaponry. But how can the army broaden its scope and maintain its readiness even as the available resources decline? First, we must align our forces, both active and reserve, with regional commands to the greatest possible extent. Regional commanders' anticipations of likely contingencies should dictate the mission set for which aligned units prepare. This means that some units may focus on higher-end war fighting while others dedicate much of their training to disaster relief or exercises with partners in the region. Regional alignment will also help inform the language training, cultural training, and even the equipment that units receive. Second, we will develop our capacity for adaptation and rapid adjustment so as to be able to respond to unexpected demands of any kind as and when they emerge. At the individual level, this means revitalizing how we train and prepare our leaders. At the unit level, it means reexamining how to provide the most efficient, effective, and flexible forces to joint force commanders -- making sure they retain a high level of war-fighting competency while still training for other missions as appropriate. And at the institutional level, it means ensuring that the army's equipping strategy includes realistic projections about the industrial base and reevaluating the army's capability to rapidly project power around the world.
Preventing, Shaping, And Winning
The English philosopher
Over the next ten years, we will be increasingly focused on preventing conflict and shaping the broader security environment. This means maintaining a force of sufficient size and capacity so that potential adversaries understand clearly our ability to compel capitulation if necessary. It also means maintaining a vigorous presence abroad, one that reassures our partners and dissuades our foes.
As we shift away from active involvement in major combat operations, we will increasingly emphasize activities aimed at deepening our relationships with partners and demonstrating our country's commitment to global security. Ideally, a focus on prevention and shaping will keep future conflicts at bay. Should they emerge nonetheless, the army, as part of the joint force, will be ready to decisively achieve American ends, whatever they may be. Ten years of war have produced an exceptional cadre of commissioned and noncommissioned leaders able to shift among different missions and different physical, political, and cultural environments. With years of sacrifice in
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