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Gen. George Casey

U.S. Army Chief of Staff

Jun. 14, 2010 - 03:45AM   |  
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Within a year of assuming the U.S. Army's top job, Gen. George Casey put his stamp on the service's sense of mission, enshrining counterinsurgency as a principal job.

The February 2008 publication of the doctrine of full-spectrum operations raised stability operations - including training local security forces - to the level of the traditional offensive and defensive missions. But Casey, who was the senior coalition commander in Iraq from June 2004 to February 2007, is also preparing his service to fight enemies who mix conventional and irregular and criminal threats, "much like you saw with Hizbollah in Lebanon in the summer of 2006," he says.

His latest challenge? Complying with Defense Secretary Robert Gates' order to find several billion dollars in savings over the next few years.

Q. What's the status of the Army's effort to move to a flexible brigade structure?

A. We'll be 98 percent done with that by the end of '11, and so we have an opportunity to take a step back now. Over the next eight to 12 months, what we're going to do is take a hard look at where we got, assess it against the lessons that we continue to learn from the current fight.

The intellectual work that underpinned the modularization, the rebalancing of the Army back in 2004, was good work, but it was done in 2002 and 2003, and we know a lot more about what we think the future is going to be like now, and then we're going to adapt.

Q. Where is the Army going to find the billions of dollars in savings ordered by Gates?

A. We have been working since about early '08 to adopt an enterprise management approach. I started sending brigadier generals to business school - University of North Carolina - in February 2008 to start building a center of mass of folks that could understand that, as senior leaders of the Army, we need to involve ourselves in the big management decisions of the Army.

We are starting to get some traction on this to the point where you may have heard that Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff of the Army, is running what we call "portfolio reviews," and where he gets all of the like silos inside a particular area - precision fires is the first one that he did - and he looks across all silos to make sure we're getting the most value for our money. And what you see is, God bless him, the way we're organized, everybody is beavering away inside those silos, and they're doing their darnedest to do the best for their silos without looking left or right. I mean, that's kind of, unfortunately, the nature of our business.

So we've got a lot of work to do on that. We're going to look at training. We're going to look at our people cost, and we're looking across all of the different enterprises of the Army. So it's not just going to be about systems and people.

And we're also doing a big redesign of our total Army analysis process. I don't know if you all are familiar with that, but that is the process that we use to develop our force structure, and as I said, for us, it is about end strength and force structure. And, you know, nobody's fault, but there are no real good models to model counterinsurgency operations. The models that we have are designed to model major war, and so we've got to go back and work our way through that.

Q. Do you already have an idea what it is you're going to axe?

A. Not entirely, but, as I said, you have to drive down the requirements, and you have to get after the redundancies. This little drill we did on precision weapons - basically, when we got through it, we recouped about $400 million in the near term and I think about $4.5 billion over the fiscal year defense plan on NLOS-LC [missiles] and buying fewer quantities of other precision munitions, and we still have, you know, great capability.

Q. You have talked about finding redundancies with the Air Force and the Navy. What about the Marine Corps?

A. In fact, we have Marine Corps staff talks on Wednesdays, and these are actually fairly productive.

Last year, we talked about some work on the future ground system, and we're going to continue those discussions. You know, we're both working our way through. The MRAPs [mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles], I think, are going to be with us for a while, and so we're incorporating those into our force. We have to look at the next-generation systems, the things that we have there's a lot of commonality.

But when it comes down to vehicles, they need something that can swim, and we don't necessarily need that. So those are the kind of things we work back and forth.

Q. So you get things like the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, which might be OK for you and might be too heavy for them. Would it be possible to build to their standard and just buy more of them and bring the cost down that way?

A. Maybe. It depends. You know, we're actively looking for things we're doing that might be redundant, and then we can do them together.

Q. Why is the replacement of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle the top priority, and why is the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) to be so heavy?

A. The Ground Combat Vehicle is going to be the first vehicle designed to operate in the environments that we're operating in today, particularly in an improvised explosive device environment. None of the vehicles that we have now, except possibly the MRAPs, are designed for that, and so we are fixing and doing our best to modify the Bradley, the Abrams tank, the Stryker. They started back in the late '60s and early '70s, and they have been great, but as we built out the Bradley, it's at the limits of size, weight and power.

We're not talking about buying a system for next week. This thing is going to take about seven years to get on the street, and I wish we could have done it faster. We're designing a vehicle for the latter part of the 21st century, and I think it will be a great investment and a replacement for the forces that we already have.

If you ask me, "Is the Bradley good enough for the current threats," I say, "Yeah. For about the next 10 years, it probably is." But beyond that, we don't think so.

Q. But you don't even have many Bradleys deployed in today's wars. At 50 to 70 tons, is the GCV going to be too heavy to be useful?

A. Those are preliminary efforts. The request for proposals is just out. It's not even back yet.

Look, we've had these discussions. We pulled in a bunch of sergeants and commanders and everybody from Iraq and Afghanistan to kind of help us out on this stuff, and, you know, one of the things that they'll tell you, we stopped using tanks and Bradleys on the streets of Baghdad just because of the size. And so, you know, we have to work the trade-offs between protection and size.

And I keep saying, you know, guys keep coming in and telling me the same thing, and I keep saying, "Look, man, an MRAP is, you know, about 23 tons, and you're telling me this is going to be 70 tons, which is the same as an Abrams. Surely we can get a level of protection between that - that is closer to the MRAP than it is the M1." But, again, we're at the beginning of the process. We haven't even done the analysis of alternatives yet.

Q. On intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, have you nailed down a dividing line between the Army and Air Force?

A. We generally agree that the Air Force has the strategic level, no question. The Army has the tactical level, no question. It was the theater level, the operational level that we were stepping on each other's toes, and so we had the staff put together, work on a concept of operations to do that.

And we just finished. They finished it up. They haven't quite brought it to the two chiefs yet, but at the staff talks last week, we said we wanted to see it here before the end of the month.

Q. Have any acquisition efforts emerged from troop requests?

A. Honestly, from the big troop gatherings, I don't get much. I get more from sergeants major. You know, they have a particular thing that they're working on.

From the troops, I mostly get, you know, they want to have two guns instead of just one.

The uniform was one that I got a lot of feedback on, and, again, I thought we moved out, but we moved too slowly.

Turrets on M-ATVs all-terrain vehicles, that was another issue that came up, and actually, the soldiers brought it up, and the company jumped on it quickly and had it fixed, back out in the field. I mean, those are kind of the good news stories that people don't hear too much about.

The reduced weight armor for the guys operating out in eastern Afghanistan, the guys that are climbing the hills - another thing that took too long to get going. You know, they talk about these plate carriers. I was out visiting them, and they said, "We need plate carriers."

A plate carrier is what I wore in Iraq for, you know, three years, 32 months, and I assumed that they were available to the whole force. I thought someone had just ordered it. And then I bored into it when I came back, and, boy, there's this big bureaucracy that had it all tied up, and so we pushed it through.

Q. What are your priorities in the next year?

A. The first priority is embedding the enterprise approach in the institutions and the structure of the Army, and the undersecretary of the Army has really taken the bit in the teeth here. And again, we've been working on this enterprise approach since 2008, and I think we're going to, by the first part of next year, redo the documents governing the structure of the headquarters and the major commands to align them up with this approach and to basically institutionalize that.

The second most important thing that I'm working on with Gen. Martin Dempsey is the revision of our Capstone Doctrine and our Training Doctrine. We published them in 2008.

-- By Defense News staff.

Service Profile

2010 budget: $143.4 billion, not counting supplemental funding.

Troops: 1,030,620.

Active: 560,870.

Reserve: 207,750.

National Guard: 362,000.

Source: Defense News research.

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