Q: Shifting gears a little bit, I was at an acquisitions conference last month and [Lt. Gen. Joseph Yakovac Jr.,] said, I'm quoting him here, the Army would be in a world of trouble if it didn't receive supplemental [funding bills], and that planning in the [Program Objective Memorandum] was predicated on the supplementals.Read the whole darn thing if you want some good insight into how the Army's leadership sees the long-term challenges and opportunities in front of it. There's a lot of policy wonkish stuff in this interview, so it's not for the faint of heart. But if you want to dig beneath the surface of today's headlines about the war in Iraq, the draft, and defense procurement, this interview is essential reading.
How much longer do you expect the Army to get these supplementals and what happens after that ends?
A: First of all the supplementals are not designed to pay for our war-related efforts. A good example, when I arrived here, we had less than 500 up-armored Humvees in the entire Army because the way the Army was structured, we saw the Humvee being associated with MPs and Scouts. We've had a demand in theater for 10 times that many and we're filling that demand, but that was not something inside the program, nor should it be something inside the program. Supplemental funding is providing for the force protection that's directly related to the war effort.
The level of operational tempo that we have is being paid for with the supplemental. The increased consumption of repair parts and ammunition are all being funded by the supplemental. But the issue is that, from a strategic perspective, we have a war to fight and we're receiving increased dollars. I call that the window of opportunity — these dollars that we're receiving. And we have an Army to transform. So what is important to understand and I think what really is the extraordinary window that we have here is that we can combine these two. Combine this momentum - the momentum from the focus that war gives us, the funding that we're getting from the war, and our transformational effort. So as we go through the POM, and you can imagine these being different fiscal years, we don't know how long this will go long or how long supplemental funding will continue to support our wartime effort. But it makes sense to us to leverage the momentum and the additional funding we have so that where we go forward to a transformed force for the 21st Century.
We should not think about these as two separate efforts. In other words, Transformation should parallel what we're doing and we shouldn't be resetting our forces back the way they were. We should be resetting them forward. It's a two-for. It's two birds with one stone. It's good for the taxpayer and it's good for the Army and it's good for the nation and what we're doing.
So I don't quite agree exactly with what perhaps either Gen. Yakovak said or the way you interpreted what he said. I think that the rate at which we're transforming has a lot to do with the degree to which we are operating. The demand that the war has on us gives us an opportunity for us to leverage that momentum, to help us transform faster.
If we did not have the war or we did not have this supplemental funding, or if the war wasn't there to focus us and we didn't have the funding associated with it, Transformation would take much, much longer. So we're attempting to accelerate our transformation to get ourselves postured properly for the future as early as we possibly can. And quite frankly, it's a strategy that is paying off for us.
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Q: The conventional wisdom holds that in Vietnam, the third tour broke the back of the NCO corps. When NCOs were asked to go back a third tour, those who were still alive, that sort of crushed the NCO corps and it took until the 1980s to really rebuild it again.
Right now, you've got troops coming back from rotation. Some of them aren't even back home with their families for a year and they're being asked to turn around and go back out for another year. I spoke to an officer two days ago who had recently returned from a deployment. He's at a post where there's a unit deploying now. He's not going with it, but he told me flat out that he thought this was breaking the Army.
I talked to, frankly, a Bush appointee in the Pentagon who told me we're breaking the Army.
How long can the Army keep this pace up before it breaks?
A: First of all, I don't like to make comparisons with Vietnam because I don't think there is a direct analogy. But I think the point is that we have to be very concerned and very cognizant of what the short, medium and long-range impacts of this level of operation are. And I'll go back and tell you that it goes right back into the discussion we've already had about growing the Army and about how important it is to grow an increased number of deployable elements. Because as you grow and have available to you more deployable elements, you can increase the dwell time.
We're working very hard to look for the point in time in which we can do two things. One of them is increase the dwell time between deployments, and the second thing is to look at the earliest possible opportunity to reduce the length of deployments that we have. All of us understand that a year is a lot to ask of people in combat and all of us would like to see us go to either nine months or six months or something in between.
We're looking very hard at how we can do that. But we have to continue to operate. We don't have choices on that. So everything we're doing and why the speed of this transformation is so important is because it directly answers the question and relieves the stress.
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