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USA (Retired)



7 OCTOBER 1998

Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. I am honored to appear before your committee once again. I am glad to be here because this committee gave me tremendous support when I was the Chief of Staff, United States Army, and today, as the President of the Association of the United States Army, I would like to recognize the bipartisan patriots who serve on this committee, who are concerned - about our nation's security.

I am proud that my relationship with America's Army continues. I am grateful for the opportunity to address the committee on selected key thoughts and concerns of what I know and what I have seen in my recent extensive travels that be may helpful in your assessment on the "State of U.S. Military Forces and Their Ability to Execute the National Military Strategy." I have centered my remarks around three major themes - Perspectives in the summer of 1995, the bedrock of readiness - our quality soldiers, and the institutional fragility of the Total Army as it faces the dawn of the 21st Century.


As I have stated to this committee in the past, the world poses many challenges, and many dangers to the interests and the security of the United States. The same is true today as it was in the summer of 1995. The United States Army had come off a year where we deployed soldiers to Haiti, Kuwait, and Korea, and had come out of Somalia. The pace was so intense in 1994, along with resource constraints, that three late deploying divisions in the fourth quarter of FY 1994 experienced a readiness dip. Commanders had moved training funds into their must fund Base Operations (BASEOPS) requirements - electricity, emergency repairs, training ranges support, infrastructure maintenance. You may note from my prior testimony, this was a symptom of a larger issue where unforeseen contingencies, late reimbursements, and underfunded major programs were causing real problems as we transformed the Army of the Cold War and DESERT STORM into America's Total Army - ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century. This massive transformation process entailed taking out huge chunks of our force structure, closing bases, and realigning equipment between the Army's active and reserve components- while at the same time maintaining a high state of readiness to fight and win the nation's wars. Our goal throughout the transformation process was to become an adaptive, creative and innovative institution that focused its longer range efforts on leader development, Army Warfighting Experiments, and digitization of the battlefield. Budget and force structure stability was on my mind throughout fiscal year 1995, as well as prompt reimbursement for contingency operations, as we exchanged views during the hearings and letters. In this process I termed the Army's near-term readiness as "on the razor's edge," and highlighted that we needed to recapitalize our modernization accounts by FY 1997. In fact, in one of the letters I specifically articulated that a trained and ready Army - ready to fulfill the National Military Strategy could be had at the FY 1995 TOA funding level, plus pay raise and inflation. I underscored that in the post Cold War world of "Old Wars" there was no such thing as a financial time out for readiness, and that we should be funding for the long haul a force structure of 495,000 in the Active Army, and 575,000 in the Reserve Components.

My thinking at that time was conditioned by the previous series of deployments where we prepared to fight, deployed, and then recovered the force and got it ready for the next series of contingencies. I also viewed our world as a series of islands of stability that faced a bifurcated environment --- the areas of instability. And, in light of the substantial deployments that we had just gone through, that smaller was not better, but that better was better.

Now that I reflect back, I would be the first to point out that I did not foresee the scope of the unstable world and that our islands of stability faced quickly developing cauldrons of chaos - such as we have seen in the Balkans. I would also hasten to add that the consistency, that is the magnitude of the instability, and the constancy of US involvement that followed was not something that I would have predicted in the summer of 1995. The subsequent length of deployments into Bosnia and Macedonia alone, plus all the other worldwide commitments, clearly added up, and despite reaching into the Reserve Components, had a cumulative impact on the troops. It is a great testimony to the Army's ability to be adaptive and accommodative to these substantial requirements, that it has met all these challenges, but at a cost. That cost has been further aggravated by the attenuation of its resource stream since FY 1995. The Total Obligational Authority (TOA) shrinkage from the FY 95 purchasing power level (net of contingency funding) has been significant. The FY 1996 purchasing power declined by $.7 billion from the FY 1995 level. FY 1997's was a further decline of $2.6 billion. In FY 1998 that decline was a substantial $5.2 billion and is slated to be $5.4 billion in FY 1999 - unless the Congress acts. No small wonder then that General Dave Bramlett highlighted the kinds of resource readiness issues he faced as the FORSCOM Commander in front of this committee.

The significant purchasing power decline from the FY 1995 level - almost $14 billion in Army TOA alone in four years (FY 1996 - FY 1999) has its consequences. First, I think we are at the point where the Army is so short of funds that doing more with less costs more to do more. It is the Total Army that is doing more. Just ask the employers of our Reserve Component soldiers who have deployed to Bosnia. Secondly, the psychic costs have increased substantially. These psychic costs are two-fold. Our current national ambivalence to adequately fund national security and the Strategy of Engagement sends mixed messages to our citizens. And, our troops are feeling the impact of this lack of support, both here and abroad. That psychic impact is real. Anyone visiting our troops can quickly confirm the impacts of visible underfunding. Yet to be articulated is the extent that we have mortgaged future readiness through skimping the modernization and the research and development accounts.

In general, I would grant that it is hard not to argue that smaller is better, but we are now at a point that enhanced, flexible resourcing and a stable force structure are warranted for the Total Army. The reality of the cumulative impact is such that I have chosen to speak out.

Bedrock of Readiness - Quality Soldiers:

In my view, the Total Army is underresourced, overcommitted, and underpaid. We are now in the 14th year of defense funding decline. The troops know it. Their families know it. They know that there is a 14% pay gap. In some cases they lack decent housing. Their quality of life programs are shrinking. Access to quality health care is problematic, and the three track retirement system has become a major retention and recruiting issue.

Our critical junior mid-termers, the ones who will form the backbone of the noncommissioned and commissioned officer corps in the next century, are assessing with their minds and are starting to vote with their feet. Soldiers and their families are disassociating themselves from service to their nation. They are tired of fighting against the trends and living in the widening negative readiness spiral. Their parents and mentors are highlighting high paying opportunities in the civilian sector, and the fact that the corporate world provides the resources to do their jobs properly. This negative spiral impacts also on recruiting.

We must fix the pay gap now. It is counterproductive. Volunteer professionals - be they active, guard, or reserve - deserve adequate pay. No soldier should have to make ends meet through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, food stamps, Army Emergency Relief Funds, second jobs, or by having their parents contribute to household necessities just to get by.

This is a great nation. It humbles itself when it breaks its quarter century covenant with the volunteer force and partly finances the nation's defense on the backs of its servicemen and women in uniform. Our peace dividend is peace, and it should not be a piece of their take-home pay.

Institutional Fragility and the 21st Century Challenges:

I have testified in the past that the world today poses many challenges and many dangers to the interests and the security of the United States. From peacekeeping to humanitarian assistance, the United States Army is engaged worldwide. And, the Total Army must always be prepared to fight and win the nation's wars. We live in the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. The India and Pakistan nuclear testing, the recent North Korean long-range missile shoot, or the bombings of our embassies in Africa are a reflection of our current realities. This will most likely not change. Consequently, I draw three conclusions. First, our nation continues to need a trained and ready Army. Secondly, America's Army must be of sufficient size, deployability, and versatility to deal with the many and varied threats that exist today and in the foreseeable future. Third, we must continue to work to keep our Army trained and ready today and into the 21st Century.

We collectively - have our work cut out for us. The Army, I mean the Total Army, is FRAGILE. Its fragility stems from the overcommitments, the underresourcing, and the pay shortfalls to our soldiers. I liken this fragility to an egg. An egg is remarkably strong, but it is also fragile. It is a paradox. You get a very strong structure, but it's fragile. Hold the egg in your hand and squeeze it. You really don't know where that egg is going to crack. The Army is, in my view, like an egg. If you keep putting pressure on it, it is liable to crack in some places. At some point it will crack. My concern is that the psychic disassociation by our junior officers and noncommissioned officers constitute a fissure that is noticeable. The critical junior mid-termers are the harbingers. If the egg cracks, it will begin with the exodus of QUALITY people that are the bedrock of our readiness. How many must vote with their feet before we listen to them?

From my perspective, the recent admonitions by senior military leaders of "frayed around the edges, soon to be a tear," " nose down to nose dive," and " there are no shock absorbers left in the system" ARE REAL. I do not care what your analogy is - IT IS REAL. The signs are all around us.

This summer one movie, Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" managed to capture in a few hours the sacrifices of an entire American generation. It also captured the horrors of war as only veterans have previously seen and experienced it. What struck me the most, and is now etched in my mind, are the scenes of the white crosses in the Normandy cemetery. These endless crosses remind one of lives not fulfilled, of hopes and fears never realized, of the mortality of man, and of this nation's unpreparedness. A ready American Army might have shaped history differently in the late 1930s. It is for this reason that I see a shared responsibility between the American citizens, their elected and appointed officials, and the Armed Services.

I believe we have a shared responsibility at the dawn of the 21st century to ensure that this nation has an Army whose forces are prepared and ready. Our national security strategy ought to be based on forces that are not only ready in the short term, but also are funded for mid- and long-term readiness capabilities. Our society should have the certain options that permit this nation to deal with the realities of an uncertain world. We all - compelled by our shared responsibilities - must speak out to the American people. Three percent for defense is not enough. The Army alone needs $5-7 billion per annum for the foreseeable future. We cannot continue to overcommit, underresource, and underpay this instrument of national power.

In closing, it is our sons and daughters who fight the Republic's wars. Much as we are concerned about Social Security for our older citizens, so too should we be concerned about our national treasure - those willing to take up arms and serve this nation. The blood they spill and the sacrifices they make should not be on the basis of short changed investment in national security. We truly have fragile armed forces.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias