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SEN. LEVIN: (Gavels.) Good morning, everybody. Today, Secretary Geren and General Casey will testify before the committee on the plans and programs of the United States Army as part of our review of the fiscal 2010 annual budget and overseas contingency operations request.
Gentlemen, we --
MR. : (Off mike) -- (pull up a chair ?).
SEN. LEVIN: No -- we're sorry for that.
Gentlemen, we're thankful to you for your dedicated service to our country. We're grateful to your families for their support of your service. The committee deeply appreciates the service of the men and women of the Army and their families, who've given so much of themselves to this nation and for this nation, and particularly in a time of war. And please convey that to the men and women in the Army, if you would, for us.
We also note the presence of several non-commissioned officers behind our witnesses, and we look forward to your introducing them.
I am going to put the balance of my statement in the record, because we have votes at 10:00 this morning, and so that means that we have even less time than usual. And now I'll call on Senator McCain.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I'll also ask that my statement be made a part of the record, in the interest of time.
I'd just like to say, Secretary Geren, I commend you for your long and distinguished career and your service to the country. And General Casey, you and I have had policy differences on occasion; I'd like to take this opportunity to recognize your years of devoted service and sacrifices made by your family.
I hope -- I know we're going to discuss a list of failed development programs. It's delayed modernization efforts and cost taxpayers billions of dollars. And I hope our witnesses will discuss the lessons learned from the aborted acquisition programs like the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter and Future Combat Systems.
I look forward to hearing -- addressing -- on the personnel side, the Army is facing a budgetary shortfall of some $2 billion, having met authorized recruiting and retention targets years ahead of schedule -- which is, by the way, a great success story.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd ask that my complete statement be made part of the record.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator McCain.
SEC. GEREN: Mr. Chairman, Senator McCain and members of the committee, it's truly a privilege for General Casey and me to appear before you and discuss our United States Army.
The partnership between the Army and the Congress goes back to the -- actually, a year before our country even began. And it's a partnership that has certainly served our soldiers and their families well.
We've provided the committee the full posture statement, and I ask that it be included in the record.
SEN. LEVIN: It will be.
SEC. GEREN: Mr. Chairman, the president's budget for FY 2010 is before the Congress, and it recommends $142 billion for the Army. The Army budget is mostly about people, and the operations and maintenance to support them. Our personnel and O&M accounts make up two-thirds of the Army budget, reflecting General Abrams' axiom that people are not in the Army, people are the Army.
Our Army -- soldiers, families and civilians -- our Army is stretched by this long war, but remains the best led, best trained, best equipped force we've ever fielded, and this committee's ongoing support has a lot to do with that.
The non-commissioned officers are the backbone of this great Army, and we've designated 2009 as the year of the non-commissioned officer. At the front of every Army mission you will find a non- commissioned officer. NCOs lead the way in education, training, discipline, and they are empowered and entrusted like no other non- commissioned officer in any army in the world today.
We have three great Army NCOs here with us today, and I'd like to introduce them to the committee:
Sergeant Aaron Oz (sp), from northern Minnesota. Sergeant Oz is a light-wheeled vehicle mechanic and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and he's currently assigned to the Old Guard.
Sergeant Joe Vilashanti (sp), from Cincinnati, Ohio. He's an infantryman who graduated top of his class at AIT in sniper school, and was serving as a sniper in Afghanistan when he was shot through both knees and his stomach. He is an above-the-knee amputee. He's still on active duty, and he's eager to continue to serve our country in the United States Army.
Sergeant First Class Sherman Wilds (sp), of Crocket Mills, Tennessee. He's a decorated infantryman in the Old Guard, with tours to the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr. Chairman, I'd also like to recognize former NCO, who serves on this committee, Senator Akaka. This year, we honor all NCOs, past and present.
And this afternoon at 5:00 we're going to have a parade at Fort Myer, at Whipple Field at 5:00, in which we're honoring all members of Congress who are former NCOs. And we, once again, extend an invitation to all members of this committee to join us there. It's going to be a great occasion. We're going to recognize their great service.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Secretary.
Gentlemen, you honor us by your presence. And thank you for your fabulous service to this country. We will pass along to Senator Akaka your greetings as well. But I think we will just give you a round of applause for everything that you do.
SEC. GEREN: Mr. Chairman, currently the Army has over 710,000 soldiers serving on active duty, with 243,000 deployed in 80 countries around the world. And we have 258,000 Army civilians working at home and abroad to support them.
Our National Guard and Reserves continue to shoulder a heavy load for our nation. Since 9/11, we have activated over 400,000 Reservists and Guardsmen in support of OIF and OEF. And our citizen soldiers continue to answer the call here at home for domestic emergencies. We're truly one Army. Our Army National Guard and Reserves are transitioning from a strategic reserve to an operational force, and I'd like to talk about some of the progress we've made in that regard.
In 2001 we spent $1 billion on National Guard equipment. We're now spending $4 billion a year, and that continues under this budget. As a result, we anticipate that the last Huey helicopter, the venerable work horse from the Vietnam era, will leave Guard service by the end of this year. At that time, the Guard will have 40 light- utility helicopters and over 800 Black Hawks.
The famous deuce-and-a-half truck will soon follow the Huey out of the Guard.
I'm pleased to report that this hurricane season will be the first since 2004 in which the Guard has the equipment to meet its mission and will not have to borrow for the active or reserve components to meet those needs.
We also have made good progress in implementing the recommendations of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves. Of the 19 Army-led implementation plans, 14 are completed, among them and most importantly ensuring that units are provided with notice of selection, for mobilization, two years out and with orders in hand no later than six months out.
Furthermore we're working with OSD to improve the transparency of procurement funding for the Guard and Reserve. Soldiers are our most valuable assets. The strength of our soldiers depends upon the strength of their families. And that support is a top priority in this budget.
From FY '07 to '09, with your support, we've more than doubled support for our family programs. In this FY '10 budget, we have $1.7 billion in family support in the base budget.
Responding to the direction we've received, from Army families, we've provided full-time personnel to family readiness groups, down to the battalion level, lending a helping hand to our volunteer spouses, who carry such a heavy load during this era of multiple deployments.
We're providing reduced-and-no-cost child care for families of deployed soldiers and families with special-needs children. The budget maintains SRM at a level that will ensure that we provide our soldiers and their families a quality of life equal to the quality of their service.
And this budget continues improvement in the care of our wounded, ill and injured soldiers, including additional medical personnel and infrastructure and support for family members. And we thank this committee for its leadership in that regard.
And we initiated programs to better diagnose and treat the invisible wounds of this war: post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. And with congressional leadership, we're investing unprecedented amounts in brain injury research.
The '10 budget also will help us move towards a seamless transition, from the Department of Defense to the Veterans Affairs, for those wounded, ill and injured soldiers who choose to return to private life.
After seven-plus years of war with an all-volunteer force, we are in uncharted waters. Our soldiers and families are carrying a heavy burden for our nation.
We're working to reverse the tragic rise in soldier suicides. It is a top priority throughout our Army, with the vice chief of staff of the Army leading our efforts.
We've partnered with the National Institute of Mental Health on a five-year, $50-million study to incorporate their world-renowned expertise in mental health research into our suicide prevention efforts. And we are educating literally every soldier in our Army about suicide risk, identification and intervention.
Every NCO knows how to recognize the symptoms of heat stroke and knows what to do about it. Our goal is for every soldier to be able to identify the signs of a possible suicide and know what to do about it as well.
We've also launched new initiatives to attack the problem of sexual assault and harassment. And as we work to prevent sexual assault and harassment, we're working to become the nation's best in the investigation and prosecution of this crime. We've used the HQE authority you've given us to hire national experts to work with our investigators and our prosecutors. We want to be the nation's model for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of sexual assault.
To meet the health-care needs of a growing force, MEDCOM has increased behavioral health care providers by 40 percent since 2007, and we'll continue to grow that under this budget.
In theater, we've increased the number of behavioral health providers at fixed sites, and we're providing support to dispersed troops with mobile teams. However, even with these increases, we do not have the mental health providers that we need, reflecting the shortage in the country as a whole, and we continue to work with the Congress to address this shortage.
But whether the problem is post-traumatic stress, suicidal ideation, the trauma of sexual assault or any mental or emotional health issue, the perception of stigma remains a barrier to care in our Army, and we're working to eliminate that barrier.
We've instituted major reforms in our contracting and acquisition processes while continuing to provide equipment and support to our soldiers. We've stood up a two-star Army Contracting Command, with enhanced training and career opportunities for contracting officers. Last year you authorized five new contracting general officer positions, and we thank you for that -- provides us the opportunity to grow the bench in that regard. We're adding this year 600-plus military billets and over a thousand civilian billets to our contracting workforce, so that we can provide the oversight that our contracting requires.
Being a good steward is more than just money. Our goal is to lead the department and the entire federal government in protecting the environment and saving energy. Our energy security strategy reduces energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by using innovative technologies. Currently, we generate over 19,000 kilowatts of energy from non-fossil fuel sources. We have solar projects at 29 locations on installations. We're planning for a 500-megawatt solar project at Fort Irwin, which would be the largest in the country, compared to what exists today.
Over at Fort Myer, you can see in operation some of the 4,000 electric cars we're in the process of acquiring -- cars and light trucks. We plan to invest over 54 billion (dollars) in green buildings by 2012, and I'm pleased to report that we are on track to finish BRAC in 2011.
And in 2008 nearly 300,000 men and women either joined or reenlisted in the United States Army. They're volunteer soldiers with volunteer families. They're proud of what they do, and they're proud of who they are.
In summary, Mr. Chairman, we're a busy, stretched and stressed Army, with soldiers, civilians and Army families doing the extraordinary as ordinary every day.
For the past seven-and-a-half years I've watched soldiers go off to war, and I've watched families stand with them, and I've watched this Congress stand with the Army every step of the way.
Mr. Chairman and members of this committee, thank you for your support of soldiers and their families, and for the resources and support you provide every year.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Secretary, thank you for that wonderful statement. Thank you for your great service.
GEN. CASEY: Mr. Chairman, thank you. Senator McCain and members of the committee, nice to be here with you today.
But before I talk about the 2010 budget and the progress we've made in the last year, I'd like to introduce someone who represents another important group of our Army family. And seated directly behind me is Kristen Fenty. And her husband, Joe Fenty, was killed in Afghanistan three years ago. And since then she has served on a panel, an advisory panel for me, so that we can improve our services to our surviving spouses. And she's done that while managing her 3- year-old daughter, Lauren, who is quite a handful.
So, Kristen, thank you very much for what you have done.
SEN. LEVIN: (We ?) join you in your admiration. Thank you for being with us. (Applause.)
GEN. CASEY: And while we're making introductions, Senator Akaka has joined us. We paid tribute to NCOs, current and former, and you came just about two minutes late to hear the applause. So it's -- but there was a lot of applause for you and them. Thank you, Danny.
GEN. CASEY: There's a great picture of Sergeant Akaka with his hat rakishly placed on the back of his head back in Hawaii, at a long time ago.
SEN. LEVIN: He's still rakish. (Laughter.)
GEN. CASEY: (Laughs.)
Chairman, last year, I think you'll recall, in my testimony I said that the Army was out of balance, that we were so weighed down by current commitments that we couldn't do the things we know we need to do to sustain this all-volunteer force and to provide the strategic flexibility to do other things.
I can tell you that we have made progress over the last year in putting ourselves back in balance, but we're not out of the woods yet.
I also told you last year that we centered our plan to put ourselves back in balance on four imperatives. We felt we had to sustain our soldiers and families, the most critical part of our force. We had to continue to prepare soldiers for success in the current conflict. We had to reset them effectively when they returned, and we had to continue to transform for an uncertain future.
Now let me just give you some data points here on our six major objectives, to give you some indication of how we're doing them to get back in balance.
First, our first objective was to finish our growth, and the administration directed in January of 2007 that we increase the size of the Army by 74,000. Originally we were going to do that by 2012, and with the secretary of Defense's help, we advanced that to 2010.
As of this month, all of our components, active, Guard and Reserve, have met the end-strength targets that were originally set for 2012. So that gives us a big lift.
One of the reasons it gives us a lift is because it allows us to begin coming off of stop-loss this year. And several months ago the secretary of Defense announced the plan where the Reserve component would begin deploying units without stop-loss in August; the National Guard in September; and the active force in January of 2010. This puts us on track to achieve our goal of being able to deploy our modular formations without stop-loss by 2011.
The second key objective was to increase the time our soldiers spend at home. And I will tell you that in -- after two years in this job, I am more and more convinced that this is the single most important element of putting ourselves back in balance. It's important from several perspectives.
One is so that the soldiers have time to recover from these repeated combat deployments. What we're seeing across the force are the cumulative effect of repeated deployments.
Second, it gives them a more stable preparation time for their next mission. When you're only home for a year, you're barely -- have time to take your leave before you're preparing to go back again. And third, it gives soldiers time to begin training for other things, to do things beyond the irregular-warfare training that they're doing for Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now, I will tell you that back in 2007 I didn't think we would quite get to one year out, two years back by 2011. With the president's drawdown plan, if it's executed as has been laid out, we will actually do a little better than that. And so I am quite hopeful that if we execute that plan we will make a big difference here in putting ourselves back in balance.
The third element of balance is moving away from our Cold War formation. And in -- we are 85 percent finished converting the -- all of the brigades in the Army to modular formations. And that's -- there will be some 300 brigades that will be -- will be converted by 2011.
The other element of moving away from Cold War formations is rebalancing. And we have moved about 8 -- almost 90,000 soldiers from skills that were more relevant in the Cold War to skills more needed today. For example, since 2003 we have stood down about 200 tank companies, artillery batteries and air-defense batteries, and we have stood up a corresponding number of military police companies, engineer companies, civil-affairs companies and special-forces companies. That's been a huge transformation for us.
Fourth, we are moving to put the whole Army on a rotational cycle much like the Air Force -- I'm sorry, the Navy and the Marine Corps have been on for some time.
And we're doing this so that we can provide a sustained flow of trained and ready forces to combatant commanders and to do that on a predictable cycle for soldiers and families. And we will be in that position by 2011.
Fifth, as the secretary said, we're about halfway through our rebasing effort. And between BRAC, global reposturing and the growth of our new formations, we will move about 380,000 soldiers, families and civilians between now and the end of 2011. With the funding that we've been provided, we're on track to do that. And the construction on our installations will greatly improve the quality of life for our soldiers and families.
And lastly, Mr. Chairman, is our goal to restore strategic flexibility. And as we increase the time that our soldiers spend at home, we can increase the time that they devote to training for other things. And we will gradually rekindle the conventional skills that have atrophied here over the past several years.
So, bottom line, we've made progress but we're not out of the woods yet. The next 12 to 18 months will continue to be difficult because we will actually increase the number of -- total number of forces we have deployed before we start coming down as we start moving forces out of Iraq. So, progress; not out of the woods yet.
Now if I could just say a few words about each of the imperatives and how the budgets help here.
First of all, sustaining our people. This budget contains money for housing, barracks, child care, youth centers, warrior transition units and operational facilities, critically important to providing our soldiers and families an adequate quality of life. It also includes more than $1.7 billion for soldier and family programs.
And that's important -- very important to us because I can tell you, just having returned from visits to installations in the United States over the last six or seven weeks, that the families remain the most stretched part of the force. And they are -- I mean, God bless them, they are driving on with a stiff upper lip, but it's very raw under the surface. And we're asking them to do an awful lot, and so we're paying an awful lot of attention to our family program.
On the prepare side, probably the most significant element that we've done in the last year was the fielding of about 10,000 MRAPs into Iraq and Afghanistan. And these systems have made a difference. When you talk to the soldiers, they'll tell you, well, they're a little hard to drive sometimes offroad, but anyone who's been in one when an IED blew up in it and has survived is a big -- is a huge supporter of it.
Third, on reset, there's $11 billion in the base and the OCO parts of this budget for reset. And it's critical because we're building -- consuming our readiness as fast as we build it. And that money is essential to our ability to continue to deploy ready forces.
And lastly, Mr. Chairman, transform. And we believe that we are in, and will continue to be in, an era of persistent conflict. And I believe that in that era we need land forces that can, one, prevail in a protracted global counterinsurgency, two, to engage with others, to build capacity for them to deny their countries to terrorists; three, to provide support to civil authorities at both home and abroad; and four, to deter and defeat hybrid threats and hostile state actors.
And we're building an Army to do that. It's an Army that is based on a versatile mix of tailorable organizations, and it's organized on a rotational cycle so we can provide a steady stream of trained and ready forces to combatant commanders and hedge against the unexpected. And the budget before you today has put us on a path to do that.
I'd like to close with a story about a noncommissioned officer, because, as the secretary said, our noncommissioned officers are providing the glue that's holding this force together at a difficult period. And we're recognizing -- recognizing them over the course of this year.
But in April of 2007 in Baghdad, Staff Sergeant Christopher Waiters was riding in a Stryker, and he was on a patrol, when the Bradley in front of him was struck by an improvised explosive device. And the Bradley burst into flame.
Sergeant Waiters realized that there were soldiers still on the Bradley, and he fought his way across a hundred yards to the Bradley, pulled out two of the soldiers, took them back to his Stryker and gave them medical care. They told him that there was another soldier still on the Bradley. He went back across the open area to the Bradley, went inside as the ammunition was beginning to cook off, found the soldier, but the soldier was already dead. He went back to his Bradley (sic), grabbed a body bag, and returned and recovered the fallen soldier.
That's the type of noncommissioned officers we have in our Army today, Senators, and it's an Army that you can be very proud of. So thank you very much for your attention, and we look forward to taking your questions.
SEN. LEVIN: We are truly proud of them. Thank you for that reminiscence.
Let's try six-minute rounds, because we got, again, couple votes coming up we expect.
First I want to talk to you, Mr. Secretary, about the planning assumptions for future force requirements in Afghanistan, because we've got such serious challenges there: we got lack of clarity about future allied contributions; we've got uncertainties about the pace and success of further development of the Afghan national security forces.
What are the current planning assumptions for the future requirements of U.S. forces in Afghanistan?
SEC. GEREN: Mr. Chairman, I'd like also to ask General Casey to join me in this response.
The planning assumptions that we have, based on the drawdown that is projected in Iraq and based on the growth of forces in Afghanistan -- we are -- we believe that, from the Army perspective, we will be able to continue to meet the demand from theater.
We will see, over the course of the next several months, the actual number of soldiers, who will be deployed, will go up, not go down. It won't be till several months from now where we'll actually start seeing any reduction in the demand on our forces.
But with our current mix of soldiers and with this 1 to 1.3 ratio of deployment to dwell, we can provide about 19 BCTs on a steady-state basis going forward. That's the max that we're able to deliver, under these circumstances. I'd like General Casey to add to that.
SEN. LEVIN: And what's the total number of personnel in 19 approximately?
SEC. GEREN: 19 BCTs?
About 3,500 soldiers per BCT, a little more for a Stryker brigade.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you.
General, do you want to add anything to that?
GEN. CASEY: No. I'd just -- Senator, I mean, the administration laid out the strategy there. And I think we've provided sufficient forces to accomplish that strategy and train the Iraqi, I'm sorry, the Afghan security forces to gradually assume the mission. And it's just going to take some time.
SEN. LEVIN: At the posture hearing last week here, Admiral Mullen said that he wants to get more access to helicopters for the fight in Afghanistan. He indicated that buying more helicopters was not the solution. Secretary Gates pointed out that the challenge, with respect to the availability of more helicopters, is related to personnel, more pilots, more mechanics.
General, what is the problem of getting more support, helicopter support, for operations in Afghanistan?
GEN. CASEY: I think you know that as a part of the troop buildup there, in Afghanistan, now we have added a second combat aviation brigade. And it is already on the ground there and begun flying missions. And so they needed another combat aviation brigade.
SEN. LEVIN: All the requirements for helicopters are going to be met.
GEN. CASEY: Now they will be, with the new combat aviation brigade.
SEN. LEVIN: All right.
Now, General, I want to ask you about Future Combat Systems and Army modernization but specifically about the Future Combat Systems program, including the cancellation of manned ground vehicle.
Secretary Gates made this decision, he said, because he concluded that the design of FCS ground vehicles would be inadequate, in light of the vehicle survivability lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He acknowledged that the modernization program is essential. He intends to reevaluate the Army's requirements and has committed to protect the resources that are needed and that will be protected or fenced in some way.
He -- I also note that the fiscal year 2010 Army budget request includes $100 million for a new start to the manned ground vehicle program but not under the Future Combat Systems structure.
First of all, General, did you support secretary of Defense's decision on this matter?
GEN. CASEY: Chairman, I supported it. I did not agree with it. And --
SEN. LEVIN: And why did you not agree with it?
GEN. CASEY: The fundamental point of disagreement between the secretary of Defense and myself was that, as you just said, he believed that we had not sufficiently accommodated the lessons of the current fight into a redesign of the Manned Ground Vehicle. I believe we have, and one of the points that we talked with the secretary about was, you know, the original design of the vehicle.
And I -- we need to be upfront with this. When we started designing the Future Combat Systems program, it was designed to fight conventional wars. We thought conventional war would be fought in the 21st century. That's clearly changed. But the original design was a flat-bottom vehicle that was 18 inches off the ground, and that was clearly not survivable in this environment, and so we built a V-shaped hull kit and we added onto the vehicle the capability to raise it and lower it, so that you could get it on an airplane, but still, if you needed to get some space off the ground, you could raise it and operate in an IED environment. And there were several things like that that we had incorporated into the system.
But when it came down to the end of it, I could not convince the secretary that we had done enough, and so he directed that we halt the Future Combat Systems program, cancel the Manned Ground Vehicle program and develop, from a blank sheet of paper, a new design. And we have already begun building a new design, and we have directed that the vehicle should be fielded in five to seven years, which tells us that, one, we're certainly going to learn from what we've got out of the current fight, but we're also going to learn from the technologies that we have developed as part of the Future Combat Systems program, because we know where vehicle technology is, because we pushed that envelope to get it there. And so the combination of those things, I believe, will allow us to meet that objective.
SEN. LEVIN: And is it your understanding that there is a commitment to protect the resources which are necessary for a new competitively based program?
GEN. CASEY: The secretary has said that publicly several times. I think --
SEN. LEVIN: And to you personally?
GEN. CASEY: And to me personally.
SEN. LEVIN: Secretary, did you want to add anything to that?
SEN. GEREN: Only thing -- yesterday the new undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Dr. Carter, reemphasized the commitment to the Army modernization program, and Dr. Gates has emphasized inside the department and outside the department that it will remain one of his top priorities.
SEN. LEVIN: Including the ground vehicle portion?
SEN. GEREN: Yes, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Senator McCain.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank the witnesses.
Just to follow up what Senator Levin was asking General Casey, what became of great concern to many of us was the cost overruns associated with the Future Combat Systems. General, I mean, as I recall, it went from, like, $90 billion to $120 billion. It's important -- it was a 45 percent cost overrun before we got the first piece of equipment.
Now, it may be the best and it may needed to be lifted up, but at those kinds of cost overruns, we can't afford -- we won't be buying many of them.
Did -- didn't that concern you at some point in this acquisition process, that you have a 45-percent cost overrun?
GEN. CASEY: It absolutely did, Senator. In fact, over the last six months -- six or eight months -- we went through a complete relook of every part of the program. And the cost overruns that you speak about were largely generated by us increasing the requirements.
SEN. MCCAIN: And in all due respect, General, if we keep generating changes that result in 45-percent cost overruns, one, it's either bad planning, or two, bad management of the program, and three, at some point becomes not affordable.
GEN. CASEY: I agree with you. And the third thing it could be, Senator, is that we're adapting to what we're learning in the current fight. And that's the challenge.
And frankly, we had a program that had been drawn out over a decade, and technology is changing so fast. We've been at war for seven years. We had to learn things from what we were doing. So I -- we are treating this, Senator, as an opportunity to clean up the management aspects of the program as well. And as I said, we're focusing on a five-to-seven-year production of this manned ground vehicle, and I think that will cause us to be more efficient in our management of the program.
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, I -- again, I don't mean to be too repetitive, but hopefully, with legislation we're passing, and with new leadership in the Pentagon -- certainly at the acquisition level -- and both at Secretary Geren's level and the secretary of Defense's level, we've got to get these costs under control -- particularly in light of, as I read the base budget, it's a 4-percent increase over 2009, but obviously personnel is a 12-percent increase, but other Army accounts actually decrease from 2009 levels.
I think you pointed that out: procurement decreases by almost 5 percent; RDT&E decreases by almost 13 percent, MILCON by 15 percent. I guess my point is, if you've got a decrease in procurement and an increase in costs of 45 percent, somewhere along the line you're on a collision course, and -- which is either going to make it unaffordable or not in the sufficient numbers that you deem necessary to start with. I'd be glad to listen to both General Casey and Secretary Geren.
SEC. GEREN: Let me just make one point. I -- we recognized a few years ago that we did not have the personnel, either military or civilian, in the contracting and acquisition workforce within the Army. You look at what we did in the '90s. When we shrunk the Army about 40 percent, we shrunk the contracting and acquisition force more than that.
When we started seeing our acquisition and contracting budgets going up, both the logistical support contracts as well as modernization, we did not have the personnel within the Army to adequately support that. We lost many of our outstanding officers, as well as civilians, to the private sector. We didn't offer the career opportunities that we needed and we -- a couple of years ago, we did the Gansler Commission, and he did an in-depth look at our acquisition and contracting. And with the help of this committee, we've added five contracting general officers. We're adding literally thousands of people in our contracting and acquisition, and we're enhancing the training. We're trying to provide career opportunities that keep the people in the Army and don't have them go outside.
So we're rebuilding a depleted acquisition and contracting workforce. We're going to be in a better position going forward to properly oversee it and manage these programs. And we look forward to working within the new legislation that I understand you all likely will --
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, again, I want to emphasize, if you decrease procurement funding by 5 percent, and you continue to have cost overruns, then we are on an unsustainable course. And I hope that we can work together to address that. General Casey, the --
SEC. GEREN: I just -- Senator, I just --
SEN. MCCAIN: Go ahead.
SEC. GEREN: I agree with you. I agree with you. And we have to do better in managing our acquisition program, and we're committed to doing that.
SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you. And I'm sorry to belabor the point, but I really believe that it's -- if we are -- if you look at the submitted budgets, there are going to be decreases in actual procurement over a period of time, and it makes these cost overruns, which are bad, even worse.
General Casey, press reports last month indicate that units arriving in Iraq were diverted to Afghanistan after only a few weeks. I think we're very aware of the different conditions that prevail in Afghanistan as opposed to Iraq. Are the units that are deploying to Afghanistan receiving the training that's tailored to the mission there? Does it concern you?
GEN. CASEY: By and large, yes, Senator. And there's two groups. One -- and this is the vast preponderance of the -- of the soldiers going to Afghanistan. They find out they're going before they leave the United States, and so they have time to train on Afghanistan skills before they go.
There's a much smaller group -- and this is in the low thousands, around one or two thousand, I believe -- that have actually been in Iraq, and have had to move to Afghanistan. Those have been primarily engineer units, units that aren't necessarily out conducting counterinsurgency operations. They're more in a supporting role. And so I am comfortable that we are giving our soldiers the training that they need to make the transition from Iraq to Afghanistan.
SEN. MCCAIN: So the ones that are experiencing this rapid transition, given the nature of their mission, it's not -- it's not a big problem?
GEN. CASEY: I do not see it as a big problem, Senator.
SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator McCain.
The votes are now expected to begin at 10:30. And by the way, the acquisition reform legislation that Senator McCain referred to we are actually now scheduling a conference for, as Senator McCain, I hope all the members of the committee know, for 4:30 this afternoon -- hope to get a bill approved and before the Senate and the House in the next two days. Thank you.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (ID-CT): Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Secretary, General, thanks for your continuing service.
Secretary Geren, you said today that the Army is busy, stretched and stressed, and I agree with you. And I know you and I both agree that the Army is doing an extraordinary job for our country in two active wars and a lot more.
And General Casey, you said this morning that the Army is still out of balance. We made some progress in the last year, but it remains out of balance. And I want to -- and that dwell time, which is -- increasing dwell time, you said, is the single most important element in putting ourselves back in balance. And I agree with you on that too.
Am I right, General Casey, that on several occasions over the last several months you've said that you could not foresee a significant increase in dwell time -- that is, the time that our Army soldiers can be home, at base, retraining, et cetera -- because of the increased call for deployments over that period of time?
GEN. CASEY: That's true. What I say is that a dwell is a function of supply and demand.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Right.
GEN. CASEY: We had to finish our growth, and the demand has to come down.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Right. And your goal for the Army for dwell time would be what?
GEN. CASEY: My short-term goal in -- for '11 is one year out, two years back.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Right.
GEN. CASEY: I would like to ultimately get the Army to a point where it was one year out, three years back for the active force, and one year out, five years back for the Guard and Reserve.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay. So by the fiscal year beginning October 1st, 2010, which would be fiscal year '11, you'd like to see us get to one year out, two years back. Is that right?
GEN. CASEY: That's correct, Senator.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay. And what are the numbers now, just to have it on the record? What's the dwell time now?
GEN. CASEY: Right now we're -- for the active force, we're sitting right between 1 to 1.5 --
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Right.
GEN. CASEY: -- and a little less.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay. So we're well below.
And am I correct that we expect for the rest of this year to have to increase deployments? In other words, the path we're on in Iraq and Afghanistan together will -- the net effect will be an increase in deployments out for the remainder of this year.
GEN. CASEY: Correct, Senator, by about 10,000, before we start to come down.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay, and that's a significant number. So in that sense, there will be more pressure on dwell time, from now until the end of the year, just because of the supply and demand that you talked about.
As I understand it, incidentally to say something very briefly, I think you're so right when you see dwell time as a key, because it is so clear that you and we are trying our best and, I think, doing better at the quality of life, of the people in our Army and their families, housing, benefits, et cetera, et cetera.
But if the supply of the Army is less than the demand for the Army, then this critical factor of how long our soldiers are going to be home simply can't go up, from a military point of view of retraining, et cetera, rest and of course for the human element of being with their families.
Now, I understand that we're in a very unusual moment here, which is that because recruitment is going so well, and reenlistments are so high, that though the authorized end strength of the Army is 547,000- plus, we actually have an Army now that's about 549,000.
Is that correct?
GEN. CASEY: It is. And actually Senator for this year '09 that we're in for a few more months, it's actually 532,000.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah, it's 532,000 authorized, plus the waiver of about 3 percent. So it takes us up to 547. But we've got more than that now. And if I understand it correctly, unless we do something about that, in the supplemental, you're going to be under a very odd pressure here where as the demand goes up, because of the increasing deployments, you're actually going to have to come back to the 547 and therefore attrite, so that the supply is even less.
Am I understanding that correctly?
GEN. CASEY: You are, Senator, but that's a fairly natural function that goes on, all year long, as people come and go across the Army.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay.
So I'm working with some members of the committee. We've got a bipartisan group on offering an amendment which would basically bring the authorized end strength up to 547,400, but then leaving the 2 percent waiver that the secretary has, to basically enable from now until the end of September, this fiscal year -- this costs about $400 million -- for the secretary to give you some latitude, not to have to attrite people, in that period of time.
In your personal military judgment, would that be of assistance to the Army?
GEN. CASEY: It would be, Senator. We actually have the authorities. we just need the money.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: The money, exactly right, and that's what I'm going to try to do.
And let me take it to the next step, which is the fiscal year 2010 budget. I noticed that your vice chief, General Chiarelli, testified at a hearing, I believe, at Senator Bayh's subcommittee, that in fact the Army is actually 30,000 below the numbers we've been talking about, because of wounded warriors and all the rest, and that he felt the Army needed 30,000 more, during the coming fiscal year, to fulfill its responsibilities and hopefully take some pressure off of the dwell time.
Do you agree?
GEN. CASEY: It certainly would be easier if we had a temporary increase in end strength that was funded to get us through the next 12 to 18 months that we -- that I've said is a critical period. What I do not -- am not ready to sign up for just yet is whether we need to increase the Army -- the active Army beyond 547,000, because with an active Army of that size plus the Guard and Reserve, that's 1.1 million folks. And if the demand comes down, we should be able to provide the country a sustainable capability at appropriate deployment ratios at 1.1 million.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: So let me just understand, and then my time's up -- which is you're saying you could use 30,000 extra but you would see it as temporary.
GEN.CASEY: It would have to be temporary. And I will tell you, I have discussed this with the secretary of Defense over the past months, and we have decided not to go forward with that. But as we continue to watch how units are manned as they go out the door, if I feel the need to readdress that with them, I will.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I hope that we will give you that authority and that flexibility in our Department of Defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2010. Thanks, General.
Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Lieberman.
We are going to try to work through these votes somehow or other.
SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R-OK): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to go back -- we spent quite a bit of time on FCS. In this, you know, there are some differing opinions sitting at this table. I'd like to pursue another line of questioning on it.
And first of all, I have the map of the United States showing the states that would be economically impacted by terminating the FCS. And Oklahoma's way down, so it's nothing parochial about this -- about my concern.
There is this concern, though. I have been on here for quite some time, on both the Senate and the House Armed Services Committee. General Shinseki said, back in 2000 -- I'm going to read this quote. Talking about the FCS, he said, "This is the most significant effort to change the Army in a hundred years. Our aim is not a single platform swap-out, but a systemic change in full integration of multidimensional capabilities -- space, air, sea, land. Not since the beginning of the last century has such a comprehensive transformation been attempted."
Then General Schoomaker said -- and this is five years later -- he said -- he was talking about one specific element of the FCS, a non-line-of-sight cannon, the NLOS cannon -- he said, "The NLOS cannon is the lead element of our platforms with the FCS, the non-line-of- sight cannon, that we can bring forward because we know we need to help and shape the future."
And we're talking about the older -- in fact, if there's time, I'm going to go back and talk a little bit about the Bradley and the Abrams, too. But the Paladin is probably the oldest relic that we have of all the systems that are in there, and for that reason, there's been a lot of effort to try to get that upgraded.
The Paladin was 19th -- the chassis, I think, was 1963. There have been several PIMs since then. It has been upgraded, needs to be upgraded.
But in the meantime, there has to come a time when the studying is over and we actually get into a new system, and that's what the two generals were talking about. And it just seems to me that when we -- we go along, we make decisions, we finally are going to upgrade, and then we want to go back and study longer, it just -- it's -- there has to be a time when all this fun is over.
And I think that's one of the reasons that in the last Defense authorization bill we have some language in there that says that we're going to pursue the FCS, and then, specifically, it says that in the event that the -- on the Paladin, it would -- on NLOS cannon, to terminate that would require a legislative change, language change.
So what would be your intent if we were to meet, the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee -- what was going to happen if they don't change the law?
GEN. CASEY: Senator, you're exactly right. We're quite cognizant of Section 216 of the 2003 NDA, and we are working with the Department of Defense and intend to come to Congress and basically figure out a way through this.
SEN. INHOFE: Yeah.
SEN. GEREN: I will tell you -- and for all the members, it -- the FCS program, it was not terminated. It was the manned ground vehicle portion of the program that was terminated.
Everything else is going -- continues to go forward. And so there is an impression that we've, quote, "wasted a lot of money." But the technology that we've developed is going to empower all of the Army brigade combat teams, and not just the original 15 that we've had -- gone out there. So the rest of the program is going to continue to go forward. It will be restructured.
Now, and I -- so we fully recognize that we need to come to you here with a proposal here to figure out how we get past the law on the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon, and we're --
SEN. INHOFE: Well, and I understand that, but the restructuring and the changing around -- at some point, we have to get to the point where we are going to go forward with something, get it done and have these kids in the field out there with something that's better than prospective opponents might have.
I mean, as we all know, right now there are five countries that make a better Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon -- including South Africa -- than we have. So I'm just -- I'm just saying that in this process, of course, the president makes the recommendation on the budget, the secretary of Defense decides where this should go, and then it gets down to you guys trying to make this happen. But the other process is we have a committee here; there's a committee over at the House, and they may disagree with some of the things that are said.
Let me quickly mention one other thing. When we had Secretary Gates before this committee last week, we talked about the -- there had been, so-called, a gag order at one point. And then he made it very clear that he was -- did not -- he was wanting to -- accepting the fact that the chiefs would come forward with a list of unfunded mandates -- or, I'm sorry, a list of unfunded priorities. And so we're waiting for those unfunded priorities right now. Do you have those yet for the United States Army, the unfunded priorities?
GEN. CASEY: I do, and I have signed the letter back to Congressman McHugh here. And I'll be happy to provide you a copy of that.
SEN. INHOFE: Okay. That's good. Thank you.
And Secretary Geren, you and I served together in the House. I think you were -- when did you leave the House?
SEC. GEREN: 1997.
SEN. INHOFE: Okay, well, then you were there during the time in 1994 when you and I sat on the House Armed Services Committee and heard some testimony that in 10 more years we wouldn't need to have ground troops any more. And I think none of us were -- took that too seriously. But the point is still there, that we try to anticipate what our needs are going to be in the future, and we try to do a good job. And no matter how many smart generals and advisers we have, we're going to guess wrong and we're going to -- so we don't really know 10 years from now -- when you start preparing right now for something in the future, it's 10 years before it becomes a reality.
Have you thought about that, either one of you, and what we might be -- have you pretty much fixed in your own minds what our needs are going to be 10 years in the future?
SEC. GEREN: In the period of time that I've either been involved in or watching public policy carefully, I've learned that the most important lesson is a lesson of humility, as far as our ability to predict the future. We have consistently not gotten it right. And when we look at the Army and try to figure out how we properly position the Army going forward, we need to be humble about our ability to predict the future. And we've got many examples in recent history to remind us of how bad we are at predicting the future.
And that's why we believe that this full spectrum of capability is our goal.
The term is thrown around loosely and I think misunderstood by some. Some people hear when we say full spectrum; they think we're talking about concentrating on the high end of the conflict spectrum.
Our new policy commits us to being able to do offensive operations and defensive operations and stability operations. We want to truly be in a position to operate across the full spectrum and I think that's the only way that we can be properly prepared for whatever.
SEN. INHOFE: Yeah. My time has expired. But I would say this not just the Army, this is -- all services have the same problem and I know the attitude of what's happening right now with the F-22 and some of the other things are a greater concern. It just seems to me that at some point we're going to have to look into the future and say that perhaps it's going to require a larger percentage of our budget and we're going to be down close to three percent at the end of this budget cycle.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Senator. Senator Reed?
SENATOR JACK REED (D-RI): Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. First, Secretary Geren, let me commend you for your extraordinary service to the Army. I think you have set the standard as far as service secretary in terms of your integrity and your commitment and your devotion to the men and women of the Army. So thank you very, very much, sir.
SEC. GEREN: Thank you, Senator.
SEN. REED: General Casey, you have significant responsibilities to provide the appropriate manpower for the COCOMs, combat commanders. One of the issues is, particularly the shortage and you alluded to it before, combat engineer units for road-clearing operations, both in Iraq and in Afghanistan, particularly as we build up.
What do you and General Dempsey and others are doing to transform units that may be not technical engineering units into those that are capable of doing these missions, because they become sort of the critical enablers?
GEN. CASEY: You're exactly right, Senator, in fact, when I spoke earlier, I talked to tank companies converting to engineer companies and we have had a concerted effort to increase the number of these enablers that are particularly effective in the stability operations aspects of our doctrine.
Just for example, in 2003, we had 171 construction companies. By 2011, we'll have 212 and you have similar increases in military police, civil affairs, psychological operations. We're very attentive to making sure that we have the capabilities to execute the doctrine and not just having the doctrine.
SEN. REED: Do you have confidence that the pace from your statistics, you've begun to make this transformation? Is it is fast enough? Because I think we've traveled, I think, many of my colleagues have traveled recently out to both Iraq and Afghanistan and these are the critical assets that both commanders need, one to go down and one to go up. We have a window in Afghanistan of perhaps 18 months to two years to turn this tactical operational situation around.
Do you think you're at the fastest possible pace to get these units in the field?
GEN. CASEY: I think we all would like to go faster, but with the conversions of the units, the conversions to modular organizations, the rebasing and the continued deployment of 140,000 to 150,000 folks every year, I don't see how we could do it much faster than we're doing it now.
And I do believe that to the best of my knowledge, we have covered the engineer requirements in Afghanistan with the forces we have now.
SEN. REED: Let me ask you another aspect of this whole issue of personnel which you're responsible for is that, again, given the changing missions in both theaters, Iraq and Afghanistan, there's going to be the requirement for individual small training teams, not BCTs, but small groups of trainers.
Are you preparing for this increased demand, particularly in Iraq, two, selecting individuals, men and women who are well qualified and not just technically, but also in terms of operating in the culture and small units? Is there going to be a problem effectively supplying these trainers? Because that becomes the great force multiplier for us as we get the Iraqi forces and the Afghan forces truly in the fight.
GEN. CASEY: We've seen -- I've seen an interesting change here over time. When we first started the transition team mission back in late 2004, early 2005, we, the conventional forces, weren't really skilled in operating with indigenous forces. And so we've grown in that knowledge over time and now what we're seeing in both Iraq and Afghanistan is the desire by the commanders to use brigade combat teams as the nucleus of the training effort and we are augmenting them with additional trainers so that that brigade commander can partner with military, police and border forces in their sector and provide trainers with each of them.
This allows them to provide the security and logistics support for the teams.
So it's a transition that's going on right now.
I just the visited the fort of the 82nd who was down in Fort Pope doing their training. They are the brigade that is going to Afghanistan to take on the training mission in the south, and with the commanders there, I asked them, is there something additional we should be doing to help you learn how to train these indigenous forces and one of the battalion commanders raised his hand and looked at me and said, general, that's what we've been doing for the last three years.
So the skills are up in the conventional force and I think that's extremely positive.
SEN. REED: How does this work in Iraq as you pull out brigade combat teams, you no longer have that brigade structure and you will have embedded training teams that won't be operating with their brigade, they'll be with Iraqi brigades? That's a different sort of species.
GEN. CASEY: You're right, Senator. As the draw down comes, it will be a mix of units that have external teams and then units that have their own teams and that will gradually evolve down to the six advise and assist brigades that will be remaining in 2010 and they'll be organized as I said --
SEN. REED: One other question, this is just reflecting decades ago, the incentive structures for the very best people to go into this training billets versus, you know, BCT, a battalion. You and the Secretary have to make sure that you are properly incentivizing, properly recognizing, properly rewarding. That wasn't done, I think, in the mid to late '60s when the advisors, particularly in Vietnam were sort of not given the credit nor the support and the advancement, which was necessary to get the very best people in there.
GEN. CASEY: We very much agree. Last year, I allowed key developmental credit for units, for officers serving on transition teams and this year we began selecting people from the battalion command lists to command transition teams, and so we're committed to making sure the quality gets there.
SEN. REED: Thank you very much. Thank you.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Reed. Senator Chambliss?
SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and the gentleman as always, thanks for your service.
Pete, I mentioned to you before the hearing, I don't know whether this may be your last hearing or not, but I hope we have an opportunity to brag on you even more, but I just can't overstate the value of the service that you have rendered to your country during your years in Congress, as well as at the Pentagon and you and I were good friends in our House days and I've always admired and respected you, but never more so than now because you have made great sacrifices, your family has made great sacrifices to serve your country and we thank you for that.
SEC. GEREN: Thank you, Senator.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Gentlemen, as I understand it, you have come to an agreement with the Air Force concerning the Joint Cargo Aircraft program to reduce the overall quantity of aircraft from 78 to 38. This decision also make it's a single service mission, as opposed to a joint program.
As I understand it, there is still a strong need for an aircraft that can close that last tactical mile, so I'm concerned about this decision. As I understand it, the Sherpa is an aging aircraft that lacks the capabilities required to operate in Afghanistan, and additionally, we're still utilizing private contractors in Afghanistan to fly our troops from forward operating base to forward operating base.
These facts seem to be at odds with the decision, and I wonder if you can explain what led to this decision and how the Army will be supported by this new course of action with respect to this decrease in numbers?
SEC. GEREN: Let me speak to the numbers and then the chief can talk to the roles and missions issue.
When the Secretary made the decision to go to 38 aircraft, joint cargo aircraft, he explained what he was attempting to do there is replace the Sherpas and he has told since then that the number, the right number is somewhere or he's open to consider whether the right number is somewhere between 38 and 78 and he wants to look at the Air Force, look at the proper mix of C-130s and joint cargo aircraft going forward and see if there is a way to better utilize the inventory of C-130s in this mission, recognizing that there will be parts of this mission, subsets of this mission that the C-130s can't meet because of their ability to access certain runways.
So the number is 38 at this point, but the Secretary has left open the door to reconsider that issue after we've done a better job of looking at the potential contribution of the C-130 to that mission as far as the roles and missions, I'd ask the chief to speak to that.
GEN. CASEY: Senator, I've been working with the last two chiefs of staff of the Air Force and basically what I told them is it's not my core competency to fly fixed-wing cargo aircraft. I needed the capability. I needed the last tactical mile that you talked about in your opening statement. And so I said when you're ready to take this program, it makes more sense for the Air Force to have this than it does for the Army and General Schwartz and I reached an agreement in principle a couple of months ago and so we agreed to go forward.
Now, we have not worked out the modalities of how that will happen and we have a team that involves Craig McKinley, the director of the Guard bureau, they're helping us work through the details of this.
We've been directed in the budget to have a report back to the Department by the end of this month and we'll do that.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Well, I'm told by Army aviation assets are being used about five times their peacetime operational tempo and that we've flown nearly three million flight hours since the beginning of OIF and OEF and we've done that by putting a lot of pressure on our rotary wing assets, particularly the CH-47 and that's very expensive and probably not nearly as efficient as that joint cargo aircraft would be.
So as you go through this, we look forward to working with both of you, as well as the SECDEF on that particular issue.
Secretary Geren, you talked about the issue of suicide in your opening statement and this is rightfully so, number one issue on the minds of folks in your position and others. Are you seeing any common thread or causal relationship between the rise in suicides in the Army today?
SEC. GEREN: We are looking for patterns in the suicide, the increase in number of suicides. What we're finding as far as the immediately contributing factors to the decision to commit suicide, the factors that lead to that tend to be the same factors you see outside of the military. The number one factor is a shattered personal relationship, loss of spouse, loss of loved one, divorce, and the second is some type of workplace humiliation, disappointment, serious financial problem and you have the occasional -- medical problem. But by and large, the precipitating event we find that it's the same inside the military as outside the military.
We've seen the group that commits suicide more than any other. It's younger than 25. It's male. It's white. The majority use a weapon, a rifle or a pistol. And we're working with the National Institute of Mental Health to see if there are some patterns there that we haven't been able to spot. But I think it's unquestionably true that the stress that the force is under puts relationships under stress, leads to increased divorce rates.
The studies that are produced for the chief and me every month, we look at the divorce rates. We look at other indicators of stress on the families.
So we've got families under stress, soldiers under stress. The pressure that everybody in the Army is under, certainly, contributes to that stress.
We found that as far as the deployment history, about one-third of the people that commit suicide have never deployed. One-third commit suicide during a deployment and then one-third commit suicide who are back from a deployment.
We found that the soldiers who've deployed more often, the suicide rate actually goes down. It appears that they develop a resiliency and it's multiple deployments that some might suspect aren't a direct contributor to a higher incident of suicide.
We're also looking at all the different waiver categories to see if there's any sort of trends or patterns there, but General Chiarelli is leading this effort. We're looking across the many different people in our Army that are part of the suicide prevention efforts, chaplains, it's mental health providers, it's psychiatrists, as well as the individual soldiers and the small group leaders.
Our big focus on suicide prevention is to try to take it down to the grassroots and we're undertaking a change teach, we had a stand down in February and March we're doing a change teach over the course of the summer and we're giving literally every single soldier in the Army has to participate. It's required; has to participate in the suicide prevention training. But your first question -- there are patterns there, but there's no patterns that we've seen that have led to any breakthrough. We're hopeful that this partnership with NIMH will allow us to see some patterns there and discover something about suicide prevention that has escaped us so far.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Well, I know both of you are going to continue to work hard on this issue. As you know, we've developed a great working relationship on other issues, other health care issues in Augusta at Fort Gordon with Eisenhower. The VA and the Medical College of Georgia, this may be another way that you can use that model to try to incorporate some private sector physicians in helping us deal with this issue, too.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Chambliss. We now have a quorum, so we're going to be able to consider a list of 2,425 pending military nominations; all of these nominations have been before the committee the required length of time.
Is there a motion to favorably report these 2,425 military nominations? Is there a second? All in favor say aye. Any oppose, nays. The motion carries. Thank you all.
SENATOR MARK UDALL (D-CO): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, gentlemen. Thank you for your service to the country and I also wanted to note to Ms. Bennett, her work is an inspiration. Thank you for what you do.
I have a number of Colorado-specific questions that I'd like to ask, but first, I'd like to make a comment. You're both aware that Colorado Springs has been counting on another BCT at Fort Carson as part of the Grow the Army Initiative and I know the stationing plan hasn't been finalized yet, but I want to note for the record that costs have been incurred in anticipation of the new BCT, both on the part of the community and Fort Carson itself, and I don't have the precise dollar figures just yet, but it seems to me that for a community that's been supportive of the Army, we need to give some thought to those investments already made. I just wanted to note that for the record.
If I might -- I'd like to move my first question. You both are familiar with the Pinon Canyon maneuver site, which is an important training asset for Fort Carson, other installations and Guard and Reserve units from service branches across the country. Secretary Geren, I know you took the time to come out to Fort Carson recently.
As you both know when the expansion of the existing site was first revealed in '06 and then formally proposed in '07, the plan was quickly rejected by the ranchers and land owners in the area. Opposition has only grown over the intervening years and I think as you know, the governors agreed to sign legislation restricting state lands for any expansion use and the Army has also scaled back its original proposal and also agreed that eminent domain authority will not be used. Moreover for two years running, the Congress has prohibited the use of funds for Pinon Canyon expansion and the military construction appropriations bill and while that has not closed the book on potential expansion, it has limited the Army's ability to conduct an environmental impact statement in furtherance of the acquisition plan.
So given all these developments, gentlemen, I have a series of questions and then I'll let you answer them. What is the purpose of an EIS in the case of Pinon Canyon? What would you expect in the EIS to uncover that we don't already know about the underlying purpose for potential expansion, particularly on the question of whether this particular acreage offers unique advantages for training that are already not met at Fort Carson or other facilities around the country?
And can you also reconfirm that the Army only intends to proceed on the basis of willing sellers or lease arrangements and will not use eminent domain? I know it's a series of questions, Mr. Secretary.
SEC. GEREN: Let me start with the last one first. We have committed. We only want to work with willing sellers. We will not use eminent domain. You did make a number of points. I know the governor is considering signing legislation that would block the sale, use of any state lands. I would hope that wouldn't happen, but that would be unfortunate.
We got off on the wrong foot with the land owners in the Pinon Canyon area and I acknowledge that. I'd like us to be able to punch the reset button and start over. The expansion of Pinon Canyon is important to us long-term, the original number in excess of 400,000 acres, I think, we no longer consider that as a goal or even desirable. We're talking about a number considerably less than that.
The GAO has recently looked at our methodology in assessing what our training needs and they have, at least, preliminarily validated that. But Pinon Canyon long-term, we would like to grow it. The exact number of acres still remains to be determined, heavily influenced by the number of willing sellers or leasers that would be willing to come forward. But the Army has a great, long, rich history with the state of Colorado, worked together. You all have been full partners in the growth at Fort Carson and the points you made for the record about the BCT issue. I'm very cognizant of the investment that the community is making there and very mindful of that.
What I'd like to see us take a pause and do a better job of listening to the land owners and see if we can't figure out a way to move ahead in a win-win fashion. The development of Pinon Canyon properly done could bring some economic development to part of the state that is economically depressed. We see an opportunity to make a contribution in that regard.
Fort Carson -- when you look at the training range available to it, it does not meet our doctrinal requirements and there are many other installations that fall in that same category, but that means that brigades at Fort Carson often have to travel elsewhere and that's expensive in order to accomplish that training.
We have decided to hold off on doing an EIS. We use OM money for EIS, not --(inaudible) -- money, but in an effort to just demonstrate our commitment to cooperate with the spirit of the congressional interest, as well as the landowners. We're holding off on moving ahead on an EIS, and we want to work together with the state on this. We'd like to work together with the state government, most importantly, respect the wishes of the landowners.
Mr. Easton, who has recently left and was our assistant secretary, had devoted considerable time in there to try to repair some of the damage that was done, I think, the way we started out. But it's part of our long-term plan. But we want to be a good neighbor. We want to have this willingly embraced by the land owners; that's the only way it works long-term and, Senator; we'd like to continue to work with you. I appreciate the leadership you've shown on it as have many other members of your delegation and I think we can make this work, but it's going to require some time and we're going to have to do some good listening in order to bring it off.
SEN. UDALL: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. If I might, general, move to another question about Fort Carson. As you know, the 4th ID is in the process of moving up to Colorado; we're really excited about that opportunity.
We've seen over the past several decades the critical role that the Army aviation function plays in military operations, provides a range of combat multipliers, everything from airborne attacks to aero- medical evacuation. The 4th ID already has an Apache battalion, but the remainder of their aviation brigade is not slotted to join the rest of the division at Fort Carson.
So I have a few questions about that situation I'd like to direct to you.
Are there plans to add an aviation brigade to the 4th ID in the near future? In the interim, what are the Army's plans for providing the 4th ID with aviation assets for training and combat operations? And will the lack of an aviation brigade interfere with the 4th ID's ability to rapidly deploy with aircraft and crew that have trained with the division?
GEN. CASEY: Senator, a couple of things. First of all, we've designed, I mentioned modular organizations in my opening statement and our aviation brigades are a sign to support three to five brigades, and while there will not likely be an aviation brigade move to Fort Carson. If the division deploys and the mission called for it, they would have an aviation brigade to provide them the support they needed.
With respect to training, the battalion that has just arrived back there from Korea will provide some training support for their rotations and then for other additional needs, particularly at the combat training centers, they will be supported by aircraft from other aviation units around the country.
So their aviation needs will be met, but probably not an aviation brigade at Fort Carson.
SEN. UDALL: I see my time has expired, but I'd also make a final note, the Hass (sp) facility which is up in the mountains in Colorado and we'll continue to work with you to see if we can't get some birds permanently assigned to that site, the training opportunities there are so similar to what we face in Afghanistan, in particular, that we'd like to be able to even do more there.
So thank you for your attention to that opportunity as well.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Udall. Senator Collins.
SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Geren, first, let me join in the praise of my colleagues for your service. We do appreciate your outstanding service. As Secretary of the Army, I fear this may be your last time before our committee and I want you to know that I join my colleagues in saluting your service.
SEC. GEREN: Thank you very much, Senator.
SEN. COLLINS: General Casey, I want to associate myself with the line of questioning of Senator Lieberman. It's my understanding that there are currently about 20,000 troops that are unavailable due to injuries and wounds for combat operations, and very troubling, it's my understanding that that is a record number of troops since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began. First of all, is my number correct that it's approximately 20,000?
GEN. CASEY: Your numbers are correct.
SEN. COLLINS: Furthermore, we're ramping up deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as Senator Lieberman has pointed out before we began the draw downs. That puts a great deal of pressure on our troops for the next ten months and I'm particularly concerned about whether we're going to be able to increase well time, which is of great concern to all of us.
I'm also concerned that the situation in Iraq may not go as well as we hope and thus the schedule for moving troops out of Iraq, which is key to our ability to deploy more troops to Afghanistan may not be realized.
What would be the impact on the National Guard, in particular, if we continue to have a large number of troops sidelined because of wounds and injuries, plus we see setbacks in Iraq that make it less likely that we can redeploy troops as quickly as hoped?
GEN. CASEY: Senator, I'll comment on a couple of the questions there. The impact on the National Guard directly of a large number of non-deployable soldiers is not significant and not direct. There will be individuals who won't be able to go to their units, but it is not a significant impact.
If the Iraq draw down is not executed as it has been programmed, we would not get to the level of dwell, which I feel is both necessary and appropriate for a force that will, at that time, have been at war for eight years. And so we would not meet our targets of one year out, two years back for the active force, one year out, four years back for the Guard and Reserve if we didn't execute that plan.
I would say that Secretary Gates has left the door open to go back and reconsider building those three brigades that were left out -- that we will not build now, if the situation in the future looks like that that was not a good decision.
And so the door is open for us to go back and to do that and as I mentioned in response to Senator Lieberman's question. We watch the deploying units all the time. We watch the strengths and everything that they go out and I will tell you, we are, because of the non- deployables, we are having difficulty getting all of our units out at a minimum of 90 percent, which is where we want to be. We've had a handful that have gone out less than that over the last several years.
So that's not a good position to be in and that's the personnel situation you're highlighting.
SEN. COLLINS: That's my concern. Thank you.
General Casey, are you involved in establishing the metrics for measuring the effectiveness of the administration's new policy for Afghanistan?
GEN. CASEY: I am not directly involved in developing them. We will review them as they're prepared in the tank with the Joint Chiefs.
SEN. COLLINS: Do you know who is involved in establishing those? This is an issue I've raised at previous hearings and we're still waiting for a response from the administration's policy.
GEN. CASEY: I do not know which department of the government has been charged to develop those.
SEN. COLLINS: What do you think would be valuable metrics for measuring the success of the administration's new approach in Afghanistan?
GEN. CASEY: It's interesting. Having been involved in this in another job, there's two approaches, one, it is the handful, five to seven really big things that need to happen.
SEN. COLLINS: Such as a decrease in violence?
GEN. CASEY: Decrease in violence. Elections. Growth of the army, growth of the police, those kinds of things. But it's the political side that's very difficult to measure and that's where the progress has to be made for both Iraq and Afghanistan to succeed.
So finding the right political metrics has always been something that we wrestled with, elections, reconciliation agreements, those kinds of things, I think, are big ticket items that we should pay attention to.
The other approach is to develop a laundry list of 100 things and I found that is not necessarily as useful as focusing on a few big things.
SEN. COLLINS: Secretary Geren, do you have any guidance for us on what we should look for to evaluate the effectiveness of the new strategy for Afghanistan?
SEC. GEREN: Senator, I really don't have anything to add to what General Casey has said.
SEN. COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Collins. Senator Webb?
SENATOR JIM WEBB (D-VA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Geren, I'd also like to add my thanks to you for the job that you've done and wish you well. I'd like to particularly express my appreciation for the answer you gave earlier about the indicators on suicides.
I've spent a good bit of time as a committee counsel on the House side on the Veterans Committee early on when we were examining issues of Post-Traumatic Stress with respect to the Vietnam War, and I would submit that, you know, whatever patterns we're seeing in this issue, they do boil down to stress and personal stress is extenuated by the stress of the force and that suicides are only one part of this examination, but the long-term emotional well being of people who've served is a critical factor in how we're using our people and those are, in many cases, are situations that you're not going to see manifested in the present day time, but we saw them very clearly when we're doing the early work on Post-Traumatic Stress.
I have a great deal of concern about that as you know and General Casey, as you know, from the conversations that you and I have had over the past couple of years.
Your comments about dwell time being of your utmost concern. I recall the conversation that you and I had more than two years ago when you called me to tell me that the Army was going to 15-month deployments with 12 months at home, which I think is a .75 dwell time ratio and you will recall that I expressed my strongest concern about that, as someone who had grown up in the military as did you and watched my father go through multiple deployments, someone who had served in Vietnam when the Marine Corps tour was 13 months and someone who has had a son and a son-in-law deploy as enlisted Marines in extended tours in Iraq.
And I now, on the one hand, and I've said this to the Secretary of Defense last week and Admiral Mullen, I'm very encouraged about programs that are in place to treat those who are experiencing emotional difficulties and the removal of stigma in the active forces and that sort of thing, but I'm still concerned about measures that should be taken and could be taken to prevent these sorts of situations, which was the basis, really, of my conversation with you two years ago. It was the reason that I introduced the dwell time amendment twice in '07, that if we are going to put greater discipline into, say, the procurement process has become a big focus, maybe we should be putting the same sort of discipline in our combatant commanders' request for troops, that they're certainly, one of the parameters in terms of troop availability or in terms of how we use troops is the stewardship that we all should feel about length of deployments versus time back here, all these things that you were talking about at the beginning, which I was talking about on the Senate floor a couple of years ago.
So what do you think about that?
GEN. CASEY: Senator, I couldn't agree more, in fact, one of the points of discussion that I hope to have in the Quadrennial Defense Review is whether or not we need to move toward a capabilities-based strategy -- war plan base strategy, because as I said, we're organizing the Army on a rotational cycle so that we can provide a sustained level of capabilities to combatant commanders, but at a sustainable deployment cycle.
SEN. WEBB: Well, certainly, the rotational cycles should be on the table when we're talking about the number of troops that should be deployed, you know, it's something that you and I were discussing --
GEN. CASEY: Absolutely.
SEN. WEBB: You were saying, in your defense, I will say, you were saying, you have to feed the strategy when you went to the --
GEN. CASEY: Fifteen months.
SEN. WEBB: Fifteen month or 12 months. You had to feed the strategy. It's your obligation to find the troops to feed the strategy. General Petraeus comes and testifies and I asked him about the dwell time thing and he said, well, I just state my requirements and, you know, there was sort of a disconnect in the middle and it would seem to me that, particularly in this transitional period, we ought to be taking a pretty tough look at the well being of the force as a component in terms of how we're using them to deploy in Afghanistan.
GEN. CASEY: I agree with you, and I'm not articulating it well, I don't think, but once you have a range of force in the bins for the rotational cycle, that's what's available to the country and it's available at a sustainable deployment cycle for the families and the soldiers and it's a strategy that's constrained by means, which all strategies should be rather than strategy driving requirements.
SEN. WEBB: I think you and I -- we're rushing to agree on this, at the same time, the difficulty, really, is that there seems to be such a deference to a combat commander and yet there should be, you know, something of a deference, but there seems to be such a deference when they say I need 30,000 troops rather than where this decision is now being made, saying, wait a minute, you know, this is going to be going on for a long time and how are we going to protect the health and our long-term sustainability in terms of feeding these troops.
GEN. CASEY: And we are beginning to have those kinds of discussions in the tank.
SEN. WEBB: Good. I'm very glad to hear that. I want to give you the opportunity to clarify one statistic since it was a question that you were responding to with Senator Lieberman. I think he cut you off in mid-sentence when you said you have a lot of units that 1.5 to 1, dwell time ratio right now. Army-wide with the troops actually deployed, what is the ratio in dwell time right now?
GEN. CASEY: We're between 1.3 and 1.5 is the average --
SEN. WEBB: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Webb.
SENATOR DANIEL AKAKA (D-HI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I want to add my welcome to Secretary Geren and General Casey, and again, I want to add my thank you to you for your great service to our country and distinguished service to our country.
I also want to thank all of our men and women in the service for their service to our country and their sacrifices and also their families, which is so important to their quality of service and I'd also like to send my -- (inaudible) -- to all the present, as well as the past NCOs and as we celebrate the NCO year of 2009.
I'm particularly interested in mental health care in DOD, in the service. Last week in his testimony before this committee, Secretary Gates discussed the shortage of mental health care providers across the DOD, and particularly, for DOD facilities in rural areas like we have in the state of Hawaii. To address this issue, he recommended expanding the DOD medical education program to include mental health care providers who can provide frontline mental health care support.
Secretary Geren and General Casey, how would you assess the current level of health care providers in the Army personnel? And can you offer what plans may be in any expansion?
SEC. GEREN: Dr. Gates has talked about innovative programs to try to bring more mental health professionals into the services, and I wholeheartedly endorse that. We see in the Army what you see in the private sector that it's generally an under-resourced capability. It's made more acute for the Army because so many of our installations are in rural areas, as you know.
When you look at the mental health support for soldiers and families, you have the active duty Army. You've got Army civilians, but then we also rely very heavily on the TRICARE network in order to provide support around our installations.
Our installations, most Army installations are in areas that are a good distance from any large metropolitan area. The exceptions around here are Fort Belvoir, but you look in Hawaii, you look at Fort Sill, you look at Fort Bragg, you look across the Army, Fort Irwin, Barstow, California, generally areas that are underserved by mental health professionals as far as the TRICARE network.
So we have got to expand our vision on how we bring mental health professionals into the Army, and we're using the capabilities that you've all given us, be it critical skills, retention bonus, loan forgiveness or mental health education. We're using the tools that we currently have in the toolkit that I think Dr. Gates is very much on the right track.
We're going to have to look at innovative ways to provide incentives for people to pursue extended education in the mental health area, along with incentives for them to provide those capabilities to the Army, either in uniform or as Army civilians. But every year I've been in the Army, we have laid out what our goals are in that regard. We put resources against it. We've used all the different programs, including a new pilot that we started to try to bring non-citizens, legal aliens that are non-citizens that are health care providers, bring them into the Army as well.
So we've got some work to do in order to come up with an approach that meets the needs. We're not there yet and I think Dr. Gates' approach is excellent.
GEN. CASEY: Can I tell you about something we're doing internally, Senator, I think that's going to help us here? This summer we will kick off what we call the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program and it's a program designed to build resilience in to all of our soldiers and to bring mental fitness to the level that we now give to physical fitness, and as a part of that program, we will train master resilient trainers. We've had, for years, master fitness trainers and teach you how to do pushups, but these resilience trainers will actually be able to -- will be in our units and they'll be able to help the soldiers and the leaders craft programs to deal with mental fitness.
And I'm actually going tomorrow to the University of Pennsylvania where we have our first group of sergeants going through the training to become resilience trainers.
The other aspect of the program is we will have a self-diagnostic test, that a soldier will take at different parts -- times in his career and it will give them some preliminary feedback in how they're doing and then it will link them to self-help modules that they can use to enhance their performance.
We will -- we already have what we call battle mind training that we give at varying times in the deployment cycle and we will be introducing the comprehensive mental fitness into all of our professional development mental schools.
So we're trying to come at this from a preventive approach, not just trying to fix things after they go awry.
SEN. AKAKA: Mr. Chairman, let me finish with this. Last week, I met with General Ray Mason, who is the commanding general of U.S. Army Hawaii. Among things we discussed was a suicide intervention program called ACE, A-C-E and I was very encouraged to hear what he had to say about the program where soldiers in A, asked their fellow soldiers how they're doing. C, care about the soldier and escort the soldier to a source of additional help if needed and he said every soldier has this to do with his buddies and said that the third, escort, the soldier to a source of additional help was the most difficult part of the ACE program and that, he said, in some cases, was to take his buddy to a place where he can get help.
And they found that this has been working well and this sounds like a great buddy system to use as part of a broader suicide prevention program and I just wanted to mention this as a program that they're using in Hawaii.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Akaka. Senator Hagan.
SENATOR KAY HAGAN (D-NC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And following up on Senator Akaka's question and Senator Webb's on suicide, I know that it was just last week in Baghdad when we lost a number of soldiers in a horrific incident at Camp Liberty and one man killed was Commander Charles Springle from Wilmington, North Carolina, who was actually, I believe, a clinical social worker there, 52 years old. And obviously, we've got concerns on the soldiers and the stress level and whatever is happening in their daily lives back home.
But what about the actual mental health professionals that you need to have staffed overseas in theater? Is that an area that you are -- you feel comfortable about? I mean, I cannot imagine that you have enough psychiatrists or mental health professionals.
SEC. GEREN: We are increasing the numbers of mental health professionals in theater, both at fixed locations and also mobile teams that can go out to disperse soldiers. The divisions now all have a psychiatrist. Every brigade has a behavioral health care professional that works with the commander of those brigades and over the last two years, we've increased mental health professionals close to 40 percent. But providing that kind of -- delivering those services in theater, obviously, has some operational challenges, but we are pushing more and more of those services forward.
The chief can offer a personal perspective on what he's --
GEN. CASEY: The only other thing I'd add to that, Senator, as part of that ongoing investigation, the commander has asked the question, do we have enough? And so as part of his overall investigation into this incident as you referred to, he's looking at whether we actually need to put more over there and if we need to put more over there, we will.
SEN. HAGAN: What are you doing to be sure a situation like that doesn't happen again?
GEN. CASEY: That is being studied and the lessons learned from that will be distributed widely throughout the Army, but there are several ongoing investigations that will inform us about what happened. It was a tragic incident.
SEN. HAGAN: Tragic. I know that Brigadier General Gary Cheek as director of the warrior care and transition for the Department of Army has done an admirable job in overseeing our wounded warrior programs throughout the Army, and being from North Carolina, I do want to point out that at Fort Bragg, 35 percent of our wounded warriors will not be reintegrated into their combatant units and I noticed in your presentation, you were talking about the warrior care and transition, and, obviously, the goal is to provide world-class care for our wounded, ill and injured warriors through properly resourced warrior transition units, enabling these soldiers to remain in our Army or transition to meaningful civilian employment consistent with their desires and abilities.
My question is: Do you think that the comprehensive transition units or plans in place within the warrior transition units are doing an effective job in instructing and equipping our wounded warriors with additional skills necessary either to reclassify their active duty status or to transition into civilian life?
SEC. GEREN: Well, this approach, our comprehensive transition plan is an area of heavy emphasis for us and it is an initiative that builds around the goals and aspirations of the individual soldier and it is our intent to assess that soldier's needs, identify where that soldier wants to go and provide the type of training and preparation for moving through the VA to the private sector that will enable that soldier to accomplish his or her goals.
This is a fairly new program for us. When we first stood up the warrior transition units, we really didn't have a comprehensive approach to that type of future planning for the soldier and I feel good about it. I travel around to the posts and always meet with the WTU soldiers without any cadre present and I always ask them about that. I ask them how are we doing as far as helping you with your professional development and providing new opportunities for meaningful job training in the service and educational opportunities as you move out.
I've gotten some suggestions that perhaps we need to look at tuition assistance, the caps on tuition assistance in some cases, limit their ability to take the kind of courses that they feel they need in order to transition out, so we're looking at that. But it's the work in progress and, again, I tell those warriors in transition, I said, you've got two jobs, one is to meet your own needs, to heal and move on, but the other is to help us make these warrior transition units, which is a relatively new undertaking for the Army. It's a little more than two years old, help us make those work for soldiers and they continue to provide us feedback that have helped us to modify our approach.
We've got the cadre -- over 3,000 soldiers that work in those warrior transition units. We're working to provide them the right kind of training. It's a new mission for them. This is not something that was extant in the Army before we developed this approach to outpatient care.
So it's a work in progress. We continue to get feedback to see how we modify it to make it better, but I think, by and large, we're making progress in that regard. But we're also working as hard as we can to provide those soldiers also an opportunity to continue on active duty and working to make accommodations to enable them to continue on active duty in spite of whatever type of disability that has come from either their illness or their wound.
SEN. HAGAN: I had an opportunity to meet with several soldiers from Fort Bragg about two weeks ago and all four of them had been wounded severely, but they had all remained on active duty and that's exactly what they wanted to do.
A follow up question on that is, what do you think accounts for the varying discipline rates in the warrior transition units?
SEC. GEREN: I beg your pardon?
SEN. HAGAN: The discipline rates. There's been a lot of publicity recently on the high rates of discipline within those units.
SEC. GEREN: We've looked at that issue, and as you know, there were some soldiers at Fort Bragg that expressed concern that they felt that the discipline was being used inappropriately, perhaps unreasonably and I went down there right after we learned of that and met with those soldiers and I've asked General Cheek and General Schoomaker to look across the entire warrior transition system to see if -- felt that there was a problem in that regard and our assessment at this stage is that the leadership in those warrior transition units are exercising their authorities appropriately and taking into consideration the medical condition of the soldiers.
It's a question of a commander exercising judgment in every case, but any time we have a situation arise where someone feels that they have been treated unfairly, we look into that, but at the present time, we have not found a pattern there that would suggest that we have a problem.
Commanders exercise their discretion and discipline, both inside and outside the warrior transition units and we give considerable deference to commanders to make those types of decisions. We have not been able to find any indication that there has been an abuse of that discretion that would suggest that we need to change the way we're currently doing it, but we watch it very closely and it's part of the education process for our soldiers that assume leadership positions in those warrior transition units.
SEN. HAGAN: Thank you. I, too, want to thank both of you for your commitment and service and I certainly do appreciate it.
Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Hagan. Thank you. Somehow or other, we avoided the two votes; we're not sure what's going on on the floor, but it worked out better for us. In any event, we thank you both. We thank the troops behind you, their families and the troops that we will stand behind wherever they are in this world.
Thank you both.
SEC. GEREN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.