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CSA: Army on target with force growth, transformation

Army News Service

By Sgt. Lorie Jewell

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Army News Service, July 27, 2004) - The Army is on track in its efforts to temporarily grow the active force by 30,000 Soldiers as it restructures into modular brigade combat team units of action, or BCT (UA)s, Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker said.

Schoomaker discussed troop strength and transformation in a Department of Defense press briefing July 26, pointing out that some news stories have been inaccurate or misleading. He emphasized there is a difference between growing the Army - a temporary measure granted under the Global War on Terror authorities and paid for with supplemental dollars - and increasing end strength, a permanent move that becomes part of the Army's core budget. Adding 30,000 Soldiers to end strength could cost as much as $3.6 billion a year, which would take away dollars needed for current and future programs, Schoomaker said.

"With our efforts to grow the active component of the Army by 30,000 Soldiers over the next three years, using supplemental dollars, we can do what we need to do,'' Schoomaker said. "We are changing and we are making great progress in this regard."

Recruiting and retention are key tools in growing the force, the chief said. The most recent reports on how well goals are being met in these two areas are encouraging, despite concerns about current operations straining the force, Schoomaker and other senior leaders said.

In the active Army, the recruiting goal for the current fiscal year is projected to reach 101 percent based on recent figures; the Army Reserve is on track to hit 102 percent and the National Guard, 88 percent. Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard, said the Guard goal was set high because officials did not expect the high numbers of re-enlistments they are seeing. The Guard's retention rate is currently projected to reach 100.7 percent of its goal, with the active Army at 101 percent and the Reserve, 99 percent. With three months left in the fiscal year, officials are still optimistic that the Guard's recruiting goal can be met, Blum said.

"Counter intuitively to us, we are re-enlisting Soldiers, or they're staying with us, at an unprecedented rate,'' Blum said. "We didn't calculate for that. And we didn't adjust our recruiting goal, and we won't, because I really want to see what this volunteer force will be able to sustain within the artificiality of raising or lowering goals and numbers."

Lt. Gen. James Helmly, chief of Army Reserve, said he believes Soldiers are staying in because they believe in what they're doing and they are motivated by the transformational changes, which should lead to more predictability about deployments and improved training.

"First of all, there's an element of the service ethic there,'' Helmly said. "Second, they really get it. They don't question our motives and the need for their being there, and they're proud of what they're doing. So I think the internal emotional part carries a lot."

Blum agreed, adding that he sees people volunteering to be Soldiers because they see their country under attack and want to defend it.

"The quality has never been higher than it is right now and they're stepping forward at a most difficult time ever seen in the 31-year history of the volunteer Army,'' Blum said. "They understand that it is about us, it's about our country, our way of life, and that it's at risk and that they're willing to step forward and be counted and answer the call to colors."

Blum noted that he has twice met with state governors in recent months to address their concerns about not having enough National Guard forces to handle state emergencies. Blum said he assured them that they would have up to two-thirds of their Air and Army Guard capabilities at hand. For Vermont, New Hampshire, Idaho and Montana, Blum said those states have the two-third capabilities when assets from the Air Guard and assistance from neighboring states are factored in.

The retention figures are not affected by stop loss, Schoomaker noted. And efforts to grow the active force by 30,000 Soldiers do not include plans to alert and mobilize up to 5,700 Soldiers in the Individual Ready Reserve, Schoomaker said. The IRR Soldiers will be used to fill vacant positions in the reserve components, which is not unusual in time of war, the chief noted. During Desert Storm and Desert Shield, more than 20,000 IRR Soldiers were called up, he said.

Of the 5,700 IRR Soldiers who have or will be alerted, Schoomaker said the Army is looking for volunteers before starting involuntary mobilizations.

Schoomaker said a decision on how long the Army will need the additional 30,000 Soldiers would be made in 2006, when 10 additional BCT (UA)s are expected to be in place. Plans are to create three this year, three in fiscal 2005, and four in fiscal 2006. At that time, officials will decide if the Army needs five additional BCT (UA)s, he said.

"We know we need them now," Schoomaker said of the 30,000 Soldiers. "We don't know if we'll need an Army that large later."

Once the BCT (UA)s are in place, and the National Guard has restructured into 34 units of action, the Army will have between 77 and 83 combat brigades available across the force, Schoomaker said. With that, officials expect to be able to put the active force on a three-year rotation base and the reserve components on a five- to six-year rotation.

Recent financing decisions are helping keep transformation plans moving, Schoomaker said. A few months ago, the Office of the Secretary of Defense put aside $4 billion to help cover anticipated budget shortfalls, Schoomaker said. With the $25 million lawmakers allocated last week for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army remains on track, he said.

"We now can maintain momentum,'' Schoomaker said. "We feel very good about that."

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