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White: Army Transformation dates remain unchanged

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., (Army News Service, March 5, 2003) -- Even though the military is on the verge of war, the Army has no choice but to transform, said the Army's top civilian during the Association of the U.S. Army's mid-winter meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The Army has a set schedule to stick with in the coming months to make Transformation happen, said Secretary of the Army Thomas White. Mainly the May Milestone B decisions that will determine the direction the Army will take toward the Objective Force, he added.

"We are not backing off that date...and the Army is in the position to pay for it," White said. "We can't wait. The Army is in the middle of the river."

If the Army does not meet the schedule it has put forward, other Defense Department agencies will take away money the department has invested in Transformation, White said. The schedule calls for the first Future Combat Systems to be ready in 2008.

"We have put the money for Transformation where our mouth is," White said. "And everybody knows that. They will run off with the money if we don't deliver on that time schedule."

He said that the Army still requires six Stryker brigades as a bridge to the future.

"We are at a critical junction in bringing on the Objective Force and the Future Combat Systems." The Objective Force is the term the Army uses to describe how it will train, equip and fight in the future.

"See first, decide first, act first and close decisively is a fundamental shift" in the way the Army fights, White said.

White also said the Army has 610,000 soldiers, both active and reserve, on active duty, and is 10,000 over strength in the active component.

"We will need a supplemental or several of them ... to cover mobilized reservists and unbudgeted operations in the war against terrorism and possible military action against Iraq," White said. "How we're going to pay for them will be a matter of great interest between now and the Easter recess with the U.S. Congress."

Transformation is on the hearts and minds of Army leaders, but the Army's contract with the nation to win wars is nonnegotiable, White alluded.

"It would be a wonderful thing if we had some operational pause ... while we transform the Army." But "we will not have that. We have to transform as we are doing everything else."

Any nation that continues to harbor terrorists will be regarded as a hostile nation, White said. The gravest danger is outlaw regimes willing to share weapons of mass destruction with terrorists, he added.

"We have seen what terrorists can do with four commercial jetliners. Imagine what they can do with weapons of mass destruction," White said.

"Imagine what one canister" of chemical weapons could do if used on a civilian population," White said. "It would bring a day of horror like none we have never known. Saddam [Hussein] agreed to disarm as a condition of ending the Gulf War more than a decade ago.

Using just one example, White said, "to date they have not accounted for 25,000 liters of anthrax."

The United Nation's "final chance" several months ago was the 17th resolution calling on Iraq to disarm, White said. "The Army is in place" with U.S. allies "and a growing coalition of nations" to enforce compliance with the disarmament resolutions.

White cited National Guardsmen's and Army reservists' service in Bosnia, Kuwait and the Sinai, as well as throughout the Central Command theater of operations. "There are over 120,000 guardsmen and reservists mobilized" to fight the war on terrorism "and they have answered the call. We have taken the fight to the terrorists," he said.

White added that the United States has received a great deal of allied support in the fight and he expects allied support in the future in rolling up terrorist cells around the world. He said 3,000 terrorists have been arrested in more than a dozen countries, including the United States.

(Editor's note: Special from the Association of the United State Army.)

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