ARLINGTON, Va. — Instead of delaying transformation, the global war on terror has forced the Army’s hand on personnel and equipment issues, compelling Army leadership to change on a reduced timetable, said Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker.
“This war, as unfortunate as war always is, provides momentum and focus and resources to transform that you might not have outside of this,” Schoomaker said. “And what we are able to do, as we rotate forces, as we reset them, is this momentum and focus allows us to reset them for the future, not reset them as they were in the past. And so this has given us a great forcing function to allow us to do it.”
“While we are engaged in combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, we are also transforming the force,” Schoomaker said. “I often compare this to tuning a car engine while the engine is running, which is not only a complex task, but, as you know, it could be dangerous as well.”
The Army is able to do that on the extra money supplied by the $25 billion supplemental passed by Congress.
“Now, because we’re under different authorities here, we can grow the Army in excess of [the authorized end-strength of 482,400] using supplemental funding without having to encumber our program,” he said. “And we can grow it bigger, which we are.”
There are more than 1 million soldiers across all Army components, with 276,000 deployed to 120 countries.
The Army also has accelerated getting soldiers out of the delayed entry program and off to boot camp, which could have a negative impact on next year’s recruiting numbers.
Transformations in the force, from equipment to manning the force, “are some of the most significant changes in our Army that we have made since World War II.”
Changes include the creation of the 10 new combat units that will be lighter, more agile and more rapidly deployable called Brigade Combat Teams (Units of Action), or BCT(UA). In 2006, the Army and Pentagon leadership will determine if the number needs to be boosted to 15 new units.
And the Army is working to stabilize the force, providing a “more cohesive and combat-ready formations, more stability and a more predictable lifestyle for our soldiers and their families, more agile and tailorable units, more high-demand units and skills and more commonality across the entire Army,” he said.
The Army has been tasked to grow its forces by 30,000 soldiers in the active component over the next three years, an effort that will be paid for through supplemental dollars that Congress will have to approve each year.
“I can give it to you in terms of what it would cost us across the program per year to increase. If we magically put 30,000 soldiers into the Army today, it would cost us about $3.6 billion per year,” he said.
Through the addition, supposed to be temporary right now, “we can do what we need to do,” Schoomaker said. “We can build the right kinds of units in the right components and in the right numbers with the capabilities we need.”