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Vice Chief Addresses Army's Readiness at House Hearing

Apr 10, 2008
BY Carrie McLeroy

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 10, 2008) - Operational requirements and lack of training time between deployments have affected the Army's preparedness for the full spectrum of military missions, Gen. Richard A. Cody told Congress Wednesday, but added that Soldiers are making a difference in Iraq due to their determination and resiliency.

"We asked our Soldiers to sprint, and they did," the Army's vice chief of staff testified Wednesday to the House Armed Services Committee. "We asked them to run a marathon, and they have. That marathon has become an enduring relay and our Soldiers continue to run, and at the double time."

Cody, along with Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Magnus, acknowledged to the committee that today's ground forces are stretched thin. Both testified following Gen. David Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq.

"The current demand for our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds the sustainable supply and limits our ability to provide ready forces for other contingencies," Cody said.

Budgetary constraints were at the top of the senior leaders' lists of concerns. The Army used the $70 billion "Global War on Terrorism Bridge Fund," Congress provided in December 2007, to energize depots and replace globally pre-positioned gear moved to Iraq, according to Cody.

"When the surge came, units were able to fall in on that equipment," Cody said. "But now, time is not on our side. Timely and full funding is critical to get back to strategic readiness."

To date, the Army has not received $66.5 billion from the Fiscal Year 2008 GWOT supplemental request.

In order to maintain operational and program continuity, Cody said Congress must act to provide the GWOT balance prior to the end of May. Any delays would have substantial consequences. The Army anticipates the possibility of far-reaching impact should the funding be rolled into the FY09 budget, including no money to pay active-duty and National Guard Soldiers by June, Cody said. He added that he also anticipates equipment shortages, lack of Operations and Maintenance funding and the inability to upgrade and construct facilities for Soldiers and their families.

"(The funds) are absolutely vital to supporting our Soldiers, sustaining their families and restoring balance to our Army."

Cody said he is grateful for the support Congress has provided over the past six years, noting the 94 programs worth more than $100 billion it has authorized since Sept. 11, 2001, but added that its sustained investment in the Army's centerpiece - Soldiers and Families - is critical.

"With the continued support from the secretary of Defense, the president and the Congress, the Army will restore balance, build the readiness necessary in an era of persistent conflict and remain the strength of the nation."

Another key piece to the readiness puzzle, according to Cody, is the modernization of the Army. He cited Future Combat Systems as the cornerstone of the force's efforts in that arena, describing the union of new manned and unmanned air and ground vehicles linked via robust networks, which would allow Soldiers to operate more effectively in the ever-changing backdrop of the 21st-century battlefield.

He also spoke about continuing efforts to improve reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition capability to identify threats, as well as the need to stay the course regarding technical advancements in all facets of Army aviation.

"Maintaining our technological edge over potential adversaries, providing better protection and giving our soldiers significantly improved capabilities to accomplish their mission are the reasons for FCS," he said, as he asked committee members for full funding of this year's FCS request in the budget.

Cody re-addressed the readiness issue when he talked about the Army's "Grow the Force," initiative. The Army's end strength will eventually be increased by 74,200 (65,000 in active component, 8,200 in the National Guard and 1,000 in the Army Reserve). The plan, according to Cody, will build six additional active-component brigade combat teams, 15 support brigades as well as associated combat-support and combat-service-support units. With adequate funding, the total increase is expected to be complete by 2013, Cody said.

"Our 'Grow the Force' initiative is a critical component of reducing stress on the force, improving readiness and building strategic depth," Cody said.

In addition to building the Army, Cody said sustaining the current level of Soldiers is also paramount to the future of a well-trained, viable, all-volunteer force. He stressed the importance of providing Soldiers and their families with the quality of life commensurate to their service and sacrifice. He said that is key to retaining and recruiting a first-rate Army.

"In order to sustain our force we must offer dynamic incentives that attract quality recruits to meet our recruiting objectives for 2008 and beyond; provide improved quality of life and enhanced incentives to meet our retention objectives; continue to improve the quality of life for Army families; continue to improve care for wounded warriors and warriors in transition through a patient-centered health-care system, Soldier and Family Assistance Centers, and improved Warrior Transition Unit facilities; and continue to support families of our fallen with sustained assistance that honors the service of their Soldiers."

Cody commended the performance and dedication of Soldiers from all three components, but added that, "our readiness is being consumed as fast as we can build it. If unaddressed, this lack of balance poses a significant risk to the all-volunteer force and degrades the Army's ability to make a timely response to other contingencies."

He credited Soldiers and their leaders with successfully confronting an adaptive and intelligent enemy, and implored that they receive continued support.

"We are a stressed force, but not a hollow force. This Army is not broken," he said. "Has this broken the will of our Soldiers? No. They don't just want to run the race, they want to win it."

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