The U.S. Army in a Time of Transition

Building a Flexible Force

Odierno testifies at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the impact of sequestration on the national defense, November 7, 2013. ()

After six months as chief of staff, I can see clearly that the coming decade will be a vital period of transition for the U.S. Army. The service will have to adjust to three major changes: declining budgets, due to the country's worsened fiscal situation; a shift in emphasis to the Asia-Pacific region; and a broadening of focus from counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and training of partners to shaping the strategic environment, preventing the outbreak of dangerous regional conflicts, and improving the army's readiness to respond in force to a range of complex contingencies worldwide. 

SMALLER BUDGETS

To ensure that declining budgets do not lead to shortfalls in training and equipment, the size of the active-duty force will have to be reduced. The reductions will be painful, but they are necessary and can be done responsibly. We must do our utmost to ensure that the soldiers leaving the force are treated fairly and that they and their families are provided with support to help them successfully transition to civilian life. We must also cut units as we cut soldiers, to prevent units from becoming undermanned and ineffective. 

Although maintaining a smaller active-duty army will involve some risks, those risks will be less than some believe because of the changes that have taken place in the army in recent years. Today's force is qualitatively different from the army of a decade ago. It is more combat seasoned, more tightly integrated with the other military services and with special operations forces, and more technologically advanced.

Today's army also has an unprecedented level of integration between its active and its reserve components. The Army National Guard and the Army Reserve have stood shoulder to shoulder with active-duty troops around the globe, and the level of trust, respect, and mutual understanding between them is unparalleled in the army's history. Our reserve component soldiers are better than they have ever been, and we will dedicate resources to ensure that some of them will be either deployed or ready to deploy around the globe. 

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