The Army refers to itself as the strength of the nation.
But the Army is stretched thin after a decade of warfighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It must recapitalize its equipment, much of which is worn out. Plus, the Army faces a reduction in force from Congressional budget cutters.
He joined the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris from the Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington, D.C. to discuss the Army’s many competing priorities.
Odierno, who previously served as the commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq and oversaw the disestablishment of the Joint Forces Command, described the general state of readiness and the Army’s command structure.
Odierno said the Army’s three priorities are:
Continuing to provide trained, ready forces for Iraq and Afghanistan,
Developing forces and capabillities needed for the future,
Sustaining a high-quality all volunteer force.
Overall the Army’s state of readiness is “good,” Odierno said.
“But what we do now is get people ready as they deploy … So the forces, when they leave, are the most ready forces around,” he added. “We still have some gaps because the wars we’ve had — those who are just coming back and are ready to go to other contingencies or might be called to other places — they’re not as ready.”
Odierno said the goal is to turn the process around more quickly and make sure troops are “ready all the time.”
“So when somebody calls, we can send as many forces as necessary to meet the needs,” he said.
The painstaking process is called Army command generation, the rotation of forces through cycles.
The shift to a brigade structure about five years ago, Odierno said, has pushed the Army closer to its deployment goal of “reducing tension on the force.” DoD’s former guidance required at least two years at home for every year deployed.
Odierno acknowledged the Army hasn’t yet met that goal, but has gotten closer.
“We’re not there yet, but it’s always our goal,” Odierno said.
He said he works closely with — and for — McHugh, the army’s civilian leader.
“The strength of our government is our civilian oversight,” Odierno said. “We kind of sometimes don’t pay enough attention to that. We just take it for granted here. But it’s an incredibly important thing.”
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-9 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, DC region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.