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May 16 Defense Department Briefing

By The Pentagon, The Pentagon - May 16, 2012

            GENERAL RAYMOND ODIERNO:  How y'all doing this morning?  I guess I got everybody in here a little early this morning.  (Laughter.) Sorry about that. 

            MR.     :  (Off mic.) 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  (Laughs.)  Not for me, no. 

            I want to talk for about three or four minutes and then open it up to any questions that you -- might have. 

            I really just want to start off first by reminding everybody that today the United States Army remains committed and engaged around the globe.  We have 92,000 soldiers currently deployed in support of operations.  Sixty-eight thousand of those are in Afghanistan. 

            As you know, the president and the secretary of defense provided a new defense strategic guidance to focus our efforts in the beginning of the year.  The guidance was clear, very collaborative process -- you've been through that -- more than 10 years of fighting, two large- scale operations.  The Army clearly now is moving inside a frame of transition over the next five, six, seven years. 

            It's important to me that we continue to apply the lessons of more than 10 years of continuous combat.  We will be leaner.  We'll be more agile Army that is an adaptive, innovative, versatile and ready component of the joint force.  Our charter will remain to be the best- manned, best-equipped, best-trained and best-led land force in the world, to be decisive for a broad range of missions. 

            In today's increasingly uncertain and complex strategic environment, we must ensure that we sustain a diverse mix of rapidly deployable capabilities, adapt processes to reflect a broader range of requirements, and provide scalable options towards national security decision-makers.  And through the changes ahead, we will demonstrate unwavering commitment to the honor of our profession and our values. To guide us through this dynamic landscape, underpinned by global fiscal challenges, the secretary of the Army has espoused our vision as the Army is globally engaged and regionally responsive, is an indispensable partner and provider of a full range of capabilities to combatant commanders in a joint interagency-intergovernmental and multinational environment.  As part of the joint force and as America's army in all that we offer, we guarantee the agility, versatility and depth to prevent, shape and win in the future.  

            Acknowledging the changing geopolitical environment, the DOD Strategic Guidance articulates priorities for our 21st century defense that sustains U.S. global leadership.  The Army has a vital role in these -- in these priorities, and we are developing several initiatives to support the new strategy.  And I'd like to quickly share a few of those with you.   

            First, our Army force-generation process has served us well in meeting our demands over the last several years in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But with operations in Iraq complete and an ongoing transition in Afghanistan, we will have the opportunity to adapt this process to be more wide-ranging, especially as we rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.  As such, we will implement a progressive readiness model for both the active and reserve components to be more responsive to all of our combatant commanders.  In support of the combatant commanders, we'll be implementing a regionally aligned force concept beginning next year to better meet some theater requirements.   

            The intent is to focus unit or headquarters during its training cycle on specific mission profiles and unique environmental characteristics that make them available to the combatant commander for employment in their area of responsibility. 

            We'll conduct a pilot next year when a brigade combat team from the 10th Mountain Division will be the first unit to execute this concept in coordination with U.S. Africa Command.  The regionally aligned forces concept will be especially important in the Asia- Pacific region as we move forward -- home to seven of the 10 largest armies.  And this will follow in more enduring ways over the next several years. 

            For enduring commitments in some of the theaters, we plan to employ rotational units.  Europe comes to mind as we reduce two forward station brigade combat teams over the next two years.  We'll leverage pre-positioned equipment, sets and multilateral training exercises to allow us to promote regional security and enhance capacity and interoperability and sustain our relationships with our NATO and other allies in Europe. 

            Finally, as the Army's end strength reduces over the next five years, it is important to note that this leaner Army will be vastly more capable than our pre-9/11 Army.  Besides 10 years of hard-earned combat experience in our ranks, we continue to increase our special operations force capacity.  We have significantly increased our ability to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. We've increase our aviation assets to support worldwide missions and responsiveness around the world.  We continue to increase our cyber capability as we move forward.  And we continue to look at other capabilities in order to move forward. 

            We are also reviewing and refining our organizational design, mission command and training methods to institutionalize the lessons learned in combat. 

            All in all, I believe these are the right investments to posture the Army to meet our strategy and will serve our nation well in the future. 

            In addition to these initiatives, we will continue to reinforce standards, discipline, fitness and accountability.  Rightfully so, the military is held to the highest standard, since it's entrusted with special responsibilities by the American people.  Trust and respect are paramount.  Standards and discipline are fundamental.  And I will never pass up an opportunity to talk to our soldiers and our leaders about the sacred trust and our commitment to moral and ethical behavior and values. 

            Secretary McHugh most recently announced that we'll be standing up the 7th Infantry Division headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, to focus on the training, mentorship and discipline to five other brigades stationed there, similar to our other large bases with corps headquarters such as Fort Hood and Fort Bragg.  As you may have heard, Major General Steve Lanza will assume command of the 7th Infantry Division to provide requisite division-level training, readiness and administration oversight that promotes standards, discipline, esprit de corps and excellence. 

            On another important note, last week we concluded our annual Sexual Harassment and Assault Response (and) Prevention Summit with our Army senior leaders.  We discussed efforts to get after curbing sexual assault and sexual harassment in our ranks, something that is absolutely intolerable and inconsistent with our Army values.  It is something that I've charged commanders at all levels to stay focused on, to take care of and protect each other.  That's what we do, and that's who we are, and we cannot expect anything less. 

            As many of you know, earlier this week more than 200 women began reporting to the maneuver battalions in nine of our brigade combat teams, selected to participate in the exception to the direct ground combat assignment rule. 

            Additionally, co-location as an assignment restriction is rescinded. This revision will result in the opening of six military occupational specialties and 80 units, more than 13,000 positions to women, opening up new opportunities to our female soldiers, which make up about 16 percent of our force, and allows us to leverage the tremendous talent resident in our ranks. 

            As I have testified over the last several months, it's important for the Army to execute the fiscal year '13 budget as planned.  It reflects the highest priorities of the Army in support of the new defense strategic guidance and allows the Army to meet contingency requirements, take care of soldiers and families and achieve balance between end strength, readiness and modernization. 

            Our approach to the current and future budget cycles remains -- will remain strategy-based and fiscally prudent.  So thank you for allowing me to give this opening statement.  I welcome your questions. 

            STAFF:  First question, Lita. 

            Q:  General, Lolita Baldor with AP.  One quick question and then a broader one.  You mentioned the women who are just starting with this -- it's not a pilot program -- but I understand that there had been some discussion or some initial discussion about Rangers.  Can you talk a little bit about what that -- 

            GEN. ODIERNO:  Well, yeah.  I mean, this is a progressive way forward.  So first what we're doing is we're doing -- in nine brigade combat teams, we're opening up the occupational specialties that currently women serve in, down to infantry and armor battalions.  And we will run this for several months.  And my guess is, based on my experience in Iraq and what I've seen in Afghanistan, we'll then move forward with a more permanent solution inside of the Army probably sometime this fall. 

            The next step is we have to continue to attempt to look at do we open up infantry and armor MOSs to females.  And that's the next step. So what we've done is -- we're really now in collecting information, and we're setting a course forward on how we might take a look at this. 

            And so that's what I've asked General Bob Cohen (ph), the training and doctrine commander, and Major General Bob Brown (sp), the commander of the -- (inaudible) -- start taking a look at this and provide us recommendations how we might move forward.  There's been no decisions made.  What we want to do do is bring information up to the secretary and I so we can take a look at it and decide the way forward on how we want to progress in potentially opening up these positions.   

            Q:  General -- (inaudible) -- does that depend on how you see things go over the next several months with what's happening now or is that independent of --  

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