Odierno seeks more efficient Army readiness

Monday - 10/10/2011, 2:52pm EDT

Gen. Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff

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By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

The Army refers to itself as the strength of the nation.

But the Army is stretched thin after a decade of warfighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It must recapitalize its equipment, much of which is worn out. Plus, the Army faces a reduction in force from Congressional budget cutters.

Taking on those daunting challenges is the Army's new chief of staff, Gen. Raymond Ordierno.

He joined the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris from the Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington, D.C. to discuss the Army's many competing priorities.

Odierno, who previously served as the commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq and oversaw the disestablishment of the Joint Forces Command, described the general state of readiness and the Army's command structure.

Odierno said the Army's three priorities are:

  • Continuing to provide trained, ready forces for Iraq and Afghanistan,
  • Developing forces and capabillities needed for the future,
  • Sustaining a high-quality all volunteer force.
Overall the Army's state of readiness is "good," Odierno said.

"But what we do now is get people ready as they deploy ... So the forces, when they leave, are the most ready forces around," he added. "We still have some gaps because the wars we've had — those who are just coming back and are ready to go to other contingencies or might be called to other places — they're not as ready."

Odierno said the goal is to turn the process around more quickly and make sure troops are "ready all the time."

"So when somebody calls, we can send as many forces as necessary to meet the needs," he said.

The painstaking process is called Army command generation, the rotation of forces through cycles.

The shift to a brigade structure about five years ago, Odierno said, has pushed the Army closer to its deployment goal of "reducing tension on the force." DoD's former guidance required at least two years at home for every year deployed.

But in August, Army Secretary John McHugh announced new nine-month standard deployments would be fully implemented by April 2012.

Odierno acknowledged the Army hasn't yet met that goal, but has gotten closer.

"We're not there yet, but it's always our goal," Odierno said.

He said he works closely with — and for — McHugh, the army's civilian leader.

"The strength of our government is our civilian oversight," Odierno said. "We kind of sometimes don't pay enough attention to that. We just take it for granted here. But it's an incredibly important thing."

More from the AUSA conference.