The Army’s chief of staff said the force will focus more in the future on supporting combatant commanders around the world, especially in the Pacific.
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno answered questions about the future of the Army, June 20, 2012, at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C.
Odierno sat down with Foreign Affairs editor Gideon Rose to follow up on a commentary he authored regarding transition in the Army. The general said the Army needs to understand the current strategic environment.
“The strategic environment is changing, it’s becoming more complex, and the solutions to the strategic environment are constantly changing,” Odierno said. “And so we have to think about how we’re going to change with them.”
The general cited the necessity of creating a force prepared for situations beyond the Middle East.
“We’ve taken them [Soldiers] to conduct missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places,” Odierno said. “So one of the first priorities I have is making sure that they remain now dedicated to the Pacific region as we shift our emphasis.”
Throughout the 2000s, the Army grew to meet the demands of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, Odierno said. Now, it must adjust once again.
“As we look to the future, as I mentioned, we have to look at the strategic environment,” he said. “And what I worry about is we have to maintain a balanced portfolio within the Department of Defense in order to deal with the great uncertainty that is out there.”
Odierno also addressed the topic of sequestration as a “forcing function” established by Congress to achieve agreement on deficit reduction. The general said the effects of sequestration would be devastating to leader development and could cause the Army to fall on contracts.
“If I just look at the parameters of the bill which says every line item in the Department of Defense budget will take a 10-to-12-to-15-percent cut across the board, [that] creates all kinds of chaos within our system,” he said.
Should the Joint Select Committee on Budget Reduction fail to find an effective way to slash $1.2 trillion from the national deficit, or pass alternate legislation, money from government programs will be sequestered. The bulk of those funds will be taken from the military. The Army is already cutting $487 billion from its budget.
Odierno said the Army would have to re-evaluate defense strategy if sequestration took place. This reevaluation would require a reduction in troops, and a combined reduction of the active and reserve components.
“I think it would put us beyond the fringes of what I consider to be acceptable risk, for us to be able to respond to this broad variety of threats,” Odierno said. “So, to me, I think it’s dangerous.”
The general said Americans should be mindful that people around the world pay attention to the actions of the United States, and that decisions, or lack of decisions on the part of American lawmakers, could heavily influence global opinion of the United States.
“If we continue to be perceived as being in a political deadlock where we’re not getting much done, I think that might be interpreted in some cases as being weak,” Odierno said. “And I think we have to be careful about that.”