Thursday, March 03, 2011

Budget Provides Funds to Balance Army, Casey Says

By C. Todd Lopez
Army News Service

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2011 – For years the Army's chief of staff has said his service was "out of balance,” but he believes next year’s budget request will keep it on the road to recovery after 10 years of war.

During testimony yesterday before the House Armed Services Committee, Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. told lawmakers the fiscal 2012 Army budget submission marks a "transition point" between restoring balance to the force and sustaining that balance.

"This budget enables us to sustain the balance that we have restored into this great Army," Casey said, adding that "sustaining that balance is critical because this war is not over."

Casey was joined by Army Secretary John M. McHugh on Capitol Hill to detail and explain the Army’s portion of President Barack Obama’s proposed defense budget to Congress. The Army base budget request for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 is $144.9 billion, an increase of just $1.5 billion over the fiscal 2011 request. The Army also requested an additional $71.1 billion for the overseas contingency operations budget, which funds operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Army's budget proposal includes a 1.5 percent pay raise for soldiers, a 3.1 percent increase in housing allowance, and a 3.4 percent increase in subsistence allowance.

"After a decade of very hard work, we have a force that is the right size, that is organized in versatile, modular formations on a predictable rotational cycle, and that has sufficient time at home to begin training for the full range of missions and to recover from a decade of war," Casey told lawmakers.

The Army's recent growth and the drawdown in Iraq, Casey said, have enabled the service to improve soldiers’ dwell time -- the time they spend at home, training and with their families -- between deployments.

"This is a critical component of sustaining an all-volunteer force in a protracted conflict," he said. "For the better part of five years we were returning soldiers to combat after only one year at home. We knew that was not sustainable and have been working to bring dwell to two years at home as quickly as possible."

Now, the general said, the Army has reached that goal. "Given what we know about the projected demands, our active units who deploy after the first of October will deploy with an expectation of having two years at home when they return," he said, adding that Guard and reserve units should expect to have four years at home when they return.

"We've worked very hard to get to this point, and it's a significant accomplishment," Casey said, noting the Army will continue to work to eventually provide a three-year dwell time to active units.

The Army will complete its organizational transformation this year, Casey said, and will finish the modular conversion of all but "a handful" of the service's 300 brigades and finish rebalancing about 150,000 soldiers out of Cold War-era specialties to skills more relevant to today's conflicts.

McHugh told legislators about the Army's successes in working to meet the deadline to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of the year, transitioning the mission there to the State Department.

"As we continue to drawdown our forces to meet the Dec. 31, 2011, deadline, we've already closed or transferred over 80 percent of the bases we maintained to the Iraqi authorities," McHugh said. "We've reduced the number of U.S. personnel by over 75,000, and we've redeployed some 26,000 back to other operations."

McHugh said that following a trip to Iraq he was able to confirm the immense size of the Army’s drawdown operation there, and also that morale was high among soldiers "as they continue to advise and assist and train Iraqis to support that still burgeoning democracy."

Along with the drawdown in Iraq, McHugh said the Army has surged an additional 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan to help defeat the al-Qaida terrorist network and the Taliban insurgency.

"The surge enabled our soldiers and our Afghan partners to seize multiple sanctuaries in the traditional insurgent heartland of southern Afghanistan," the secretary said.

U.S. forces have trained some 109,000 Afghan soldiers and 41,000 Afghan national police, McHugh said.

The secretary also told lawmakers the Army must have the right equipment to maintain an edge over America's enemies, now and in the future.

"Our FY12 budget request is critical to achieving this goal by supporting the extraordinary strides we made in the Army’s state-of-the-art network, tactical wheeled vehicle and combat vehicle modernization programs," he said.

For the network, McHugh said, the Army is asking for $974 million to cover procurement and $298 million for research for the WINT-T network, which will "become the cornerstone of our battlefield communications systems."

Also, he said, the Army is seeking $1.5 billion for tactical-wheeled-vehicle modernization and $1.4 billion for the Army's combat vehicle modernization strategy -- including $884 million for the Ground Combat Vehicle and $156 million for modernization of the Stryker, Bradley and Abrams programs.

The secretary also told the committee about Army energy initiatives, including the establishment of a senior energy council, the appointment of a senior energy executive, the creation of an energy security office, and adoption of a comprehensive strategy for energy security.

"We're developing more efficient generators, and power distribution platforms, factoring in fuel costs as a part of equipment modernization, and developing a net-zero approach to holistically address our installations' energy, water and waste needs," McHugh said.

The secretary also said the Army has commissioned a panel to review the service's acquisition systems from "cradle to grave."

"We're currently reviewing the panel's insightful report and we'll use it as a guide over the next two years to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Army's acquisition process," he said.

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