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Vice Chief Says Strain on All-Volunteer Force Unprecedented

Apr 07, 2008
BY J.D. Leipold

ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, April 7, 2008) – The Army’s vice chief of staff said America’s Army continues on track to achieve the most comprehensive transformation since World War II, but warned challenges lie ahead to sustain the all-volunteer force.

Gen. Richard A. Cody, who has announced plans to retire in August, spoke to a large audience of industry and Army leaders Thursday at the Association of the United States Army’s Institute of Land Warfare Forum breakfast. He said now is a critical time in the testing of the nation’s resolve to defeat terrorism and the days ahead will test whether the country will continue to have the “wisdom, courage and foresight” to sustain the all-volunteer force in an age and era of “persistent conflict and unpredictable challenges.”

Cody said there is no historical precedence for a volunteer professional Army serving on such a huge scale for so long, so well and so far from home.

“There’s no question that what has held this Army together is our people – from our leaders who have built winning teams by building trust Soldier to Soldier, leader to led, and unit to unit,” he said. “and our Army Civilians who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with these uniformed counterparts and finally to our resilient Families who have endured 15 month separations and hardships. To a one, there’s no question our strength and our source of every success has been our people.”

Cody added that manning, equipping and training are on target and that basic warrant officer and commissioned officer training will continue to improve without waivers to educational requirements because “this Army has no shake-and-bake substitute, a lesson learned long ago.”

He said the Army would continue to develop new doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures and refine leadership courses in real-time feedback from commanders returning from the fight.

“We have also continued to develop and improve our equipment, challenging you and industry and our acquisition community to reach new levels that our Soldiers demand,” he told the audience, adding that in 2003 costs to outfit a Soldier for combat were $1,700 but today that figure is closer to $17,000 reflective that Soldiers have the best equipment available and it’s constantly improving.

“We’ve introduced 94 programs and more than $100 billion to include the MRAPs (mine resistant ambush-protected vehicles) we’re fielding today and more than 18,000 up-armored Humvees that we’ve built since 2003,” he said. “We have the individual body armor upgrades, the counter-IED systems, aircraft survivability equipment, M-4s and so forth of our future combat system spin-outs that are realities today and making a difference on the battlefield… all this while providing in and out of combat 176,000 Soldiers every year that we have to reset, retrain and then deploy.

“We must continue to recruit and retain quality Soldiers to grow our Army and meet the increased, enduring operational demand in this era of persistent conflict,” he said.

Cody said that by making hard choices, the Army has grown by 43,000 Soldiers to an end-strength in the active force of 525,000 with a combined total of active, Guard and Reserve standing at 650,000.

“We’ve increased the number of brigade combat teams in the active force from 33 to 40 since 2003 and we’ve added five new Stryker brigades,” he said. “We’ve also completed the modular conversation of more than 75 percent of our formations across the Army (to include the Reserve component) so that we’ll have three types of brigade combat teams, not 15. “We’ll modulize not just them, but all across the functional brigades.”

He said the Army has completed and rebalanced more than 70,000 force structure spaces to rebalance the active and Reserve components so the Army can execute now and into the future what the new Army doctrine demands in order to be a full-spectrum force.

To help alleviate strain on Soldiers and their Families, Cody also said the Army’s top priority was the investment of $66 billion in the next five to six years into new housing, barracks, community centers, child development centers, health care and education so the force could be sustained.

Alluding to the fiscal year 2008 supplemental budget request and the FY09 budget, Cody said those budgets must be passed to avoid substantial impacts on readiness and unneeded uncertainty and stress on Soldiers and their Families.

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