By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 21, 2011 – The United States must ensure the Army remains “our national force of decisive action” for the security of the nation, President Barack Obama’s choice to be the next Army chief of staff said during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
If the Senate confirms the nomination, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno would succeed Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, whom Obama has nominated to succeed Navy Adm. Mike Mullen as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Odierno, a 1976 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., is commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command.
Over the past decade, the Army has reinvented itself while facing one of the most difficult combat environments imaginable, Odierno said.
“Our leaders at every level have displayed unparalleled ingenuity, flexibility and adaptability,” he said. “Our soldiers have displayed mental and physical toughness and courage under fire. They have transformed the Army into the most versatile, agile, rapidly deployable and sustainable strategic land force in the world today.”
America faces numerous threats in a world going through historic change, the general told the committee. “We face a multitude of security challenges, such as transnational and regional terrorism in places like Yemen, Somalia, North Africa and Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas,” he said. “We have uncertainty surrounding the Arab Spring and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and we face the challenges of rising powers.”
U.S. financial problems undergird any response, Odierno told the senators.
“I know that, if confirmed, we will face some very difficult resource decisions within the Department of Defense, and as we determine those essential characteristics and capabilities which we need in our joint force to meet our future security challenges,” Odierno said. “I pledge that I will work with everyone to make sure we come up with the right answer and mitigate the risk associated with such.”
Odierno warned the senators not to draw down the Army too fast. Historically, he said, U.S. officials have cut the force too fast and too much. America has not been particularly good at predicting threats or attacks, he added.
“As we make difficult resource decisions,” Odierno said, “we must be thoughtful in understanding the risk we incur to our nation's future security.”
The Army’s priority is providing trained and ready forces to prevail in Iraq and Afghanistan, the general told the panel, but the force needs to do more, such as providing troops in South Korea and Special Forces personnel to work with local people in Africa or South America.
“To do this, we must sustain our all-volunteer Army today and in the future, providing depth and versatility to the joint force,” Odierno said. “An Army that is more efficient in its employment provides greater flexibility for national security decision-makers in defense of our interests at home and abroad.”
But the Army absolutely comes down to soldiers and their families, the general said.
“It’s their dedication and sacrifice that has earned the respect and confidence of the American people as they continue to put their lives in harm’s way for our nation’s security,” he said.