"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I join you in welcoming our witnesses here today.
"Secretary McHugh and General Odierno, I commend you both for your distinguished careers and your leadership of an Army in the midst of organizational change. I would also like to express my deep gratitude for the service and sacrifice of our soldiers, who are, today, risking themselves on our behalf.
"Your mission is more challenging today than it has been since the late 1970s. Twenty-three Army brigades are currently conducting combat and training operations in Afghanistan and thousands more soldiers are deployed around the globe. At home, the Army is beginning to execute a plan to decrease end-strength, realign force structure to meet new threats, sustain recently developed capabilities, and regenerate skill sets that have been necessarily idle since the invasion of Iraq. Your job is to do all of these things simultaneously. And with fewer resources.
"Against that backdrop, the Army must find ways to operate more efficiently and effectively. To respond to current requirements in Afghanistan, the Army is modifying brigades to create and deploy specialized training teams. To address future challenges, the Army has proposed aligning brigades with the Combatant Commands. The Committee will be interested to know the Army's plans for both.
"When we look across the globe today at the various challenges we are confronting, what is most clear is that the world continues to surprise us. Al-Qaeda has become increasingly decentralized but no less deadly, with affiliates seeking safe haven in places like Yemen, the Horn of Africa, and the Trans-Sahel. In Afghanistan, despite the progress that our troops are making, we are at an impasse with President Karzai on the negotiation of a strategic partnership agreement. Our relationship with Pakistan remains fraught by a series of setbacks, arising from their continued support of the Haqqani Network.
"In Iraq, Prime Minister Maliki continues to centralize power while the threat posed by Al-Qaeda appears to be growing. The Iranian regime continues working to subvert Iraq and other countries in the region. Its threats to regional stability would expand exponentially if the Iranian regime were to acquire nuclear weapons capability. Finally, in Syria, after a year of bloodshed, the crisis has reached a decisive moment. Bashar Al-Assad appears to be accelerating his fight, and doing so with the full support of Russia, China, and Iran.
"In view of instability in these strategically important regions, and admitting our historically poor track record of forecasting the need for a large conventional force, I reiterate my concerns about the scope and speed of our end-strength drawdown. Limiting our strategic flexibility is unwise, especially in the current environment.
"General Odierno, I look forward to hearing your views on the strategic implications of drawing down to an active-duty force of 490,000 and your vision for an Army that does not become merely a smaller version of its previous self, but reorganizes for future threats.
"Secretary McHugh, inside the DC Beltway, we sometimes lose sight of the reality that how we fight may be more important than what we fight with. It is vital that the Army maximize its Operations and Maintenance funding to support training, especially now that more soldiers are returning to the garrison environment. The "hollow force' that followed past conflicts can only be avoided if training is fully resourced in conjunction with the personnel and equipment accounts.
"In the area of acquisition management, we are all well aware of the Army's past challenges. As you finalize equipping and modernization strategies, I urge you to look carefully at recent history. Over the last decade, the Army embarked on a series of developmental programs that because of unrealistic requirements, unanticipated costs, or poor contracting strategy had to be de-scoped, re-baselined, or cancelled outright. Mr. Secretary, implementing the recommendations of your recent Army-wide acquisition review is a good start to addressing these issues. We are interested to learn what further actions you will take to improve the Army's procurement track record and requirements process. The Committee will also be attentive to large programs still in the earliest phases of development to ensure they conform to the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act and avoid mistakes of the past.
"Despite the challenges of budget constraints and the ongoing contingency operations that stress the force, our soldiers continue to perform magnificently around the globe. They and their families are a credit to our nation. I thank the witnesses and look forward to their testimony.
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman."