Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The six things on General Casey’s mind

Here my CNAS colleague William Shields reports on his recent breakfast with Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff: General Casey pointedly kept his focus narrow. He remarked at one point that looking ahead to distant dates like 2040 is "almost not helpful because of the rate of technological change," and that "we’re going to ...

AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel/Pool
AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel/Pool
AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel/Pool

Here my CNAS colleague William Shields reports on his recent breakfast with Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff:

General Casey pointedly kept his focus narrow. He remarked at one point that looking ahead to distant dates like 2040 is "almost not helpful because of the rate of technological change," and that "we're going to be doing something else in 3 to 5 years that no one is thinking about."  Instead, speaking at the AUSA Institute of Land Warfare Breakfast, he focused on the near future, specifically the Program Objective Memorandum (POM) 2012-2017 effort.  The bulk of his presentation was on the six things he is focusing on in 2010:

Restore balance to the Army: Casey discussed the need to return to the one year out, two years back rotation as OIF draws down. Continue to prepare soldiers for success in both theaters: Casey here focused on the not insignificant task of managing the withdrawal of materiel from Iraq, redeploying some to Afghanistan, all while maintaining the gains made in Iraq over the past three years. Maintain focus on sustaining soldiers, families, and civilians: He acknowledged the toll taken by the increase in the number of suicides among soldiers and the Army's nascent programs, such as the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, to address the issue. Establish an integrated system for Army business operations:  The general hinted at a future tightening of appropriations in the wake of OIF winding down which the Army will need more effective management systems to handle, saying "we have to get better value for our money."  This will involve improving the equipment requirement process, and managing modular, rotational deployment in a more institutional, less ad-hoc manner. Leadership Development: Casey here emphasized the need to improve civilian development processes. Refine the Army of the 21st century:  With the conversion to a modular force scheduled for completion in 2011, the forthcoming task for the Army will be to "tie up loose ends," particularly in finding the balance between light and heavy units.

Here my CNAS colleague William Shields reports on his recent breakfast with Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff:

General Casey pointedly kept his focus narrow. He remarked at one point that looking ahead to distant dates like 2040 is "almost not helpful because of the rate of technological change," and that "we’re going to be doing something else in 3 to 5 years that no one is thinking about."  Instead, speaking at the AUSA Institute of Land Warfare Breakfast, he focused on the near future, specifically the Program Objective Memorandum (POM) 2012-2017 effort.  The bulk of his presentation was on the six things he is focusing on in 2010:

  • Restore balance to the Army: Casey discussed the need to return to the one year out, two years back rotation as OIF draws down.
  • Continue to prepare soldiers for success in both theaters: Casey here focused on the not insignificant task of managing the withdrawal of materiel from Iraq, redeploying some to Afghanistan, all while maintaining the gains made in Iraq over the past three years.
  • Maintain focus on sustaining soldiers, families, and civilians: He acknowledged the toll taken by the increase in the number of suicides among soldiers and the Army’s nascent programs, such as the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, to address the issue.
  • Establish an integrated system for Army business operations:  The general hinted at a future tightening of appropriations in the wake of OIF winding down which the Army will need more effective management systems to handle, saying "we have to get better value for our money."  This will involve improving the equipment requirement process, and managing modular, rotational deployment in a more institutional, less ad-hoc manner.
  • Leadership Development: Casey here emphasized the need to improve civilian development processes.
  • Refine the Army of the 21st century:  With the conversion to a modular force scheduled for completion in 2011, the forthcoming task for the Army will be to "tie up loose ends," particularly in finding the balance between light and heavy units.

Gen. Casey wound up the talk with a somewhat cagey response to a question on the more near-term QDR release, allowing that he was "pleased" with the outcome of both the QDR and the FY2011 budget, and that there was general continuity between FY2010, FY2011, and the QDR. 

Tom comment: Sure thing, send a postcard when you get the balance right between light and heavy. I think it’s a worthwhile task but impossible to complete. Both sides have unique skills and we never know which we will need of each, when we’ll need it, and how much we’ll need. So, like Marshall in 1940, what you should do is ensure you have a training cadre in place, with the right ideas guiding them. 

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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