You're in the Army for Now
After visiting troops in Afghanistan and South Korea in late September, Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey, responsible for manning, equipping, and training American soldiers, spoke with U.S. News's Anna Mulrine about the state of the military.
On strains on the force. There is a great demand on the Army right now. You cannot deny it. I use re-enlistment rate as the indicator of whether or not the force can absorb or tolerate or work within that stressed environment. As long as 2 out of every 3 soldiers re-enlist, as long as the re-enlistment rates of deployed units is higher than the norm-if a person in a voluntary organization decides to stay in, it says, I can tolerate the stress.... But there is a point, I think, where if you don't have enough time at home it's going to make a difference. The indicators are that we haven't reached that point yet. But it is a concern.
On use of the National Guard. We have consciously decided to convert the National Guard and Reserves of the Army into what was formerly, we called it a strategic reserve-to be used very sparingly-into an operational force .... And the National Guard, by the way, is pleased that we've done that, because they're going to be fully manned, fully trained, fully equipped, which was never the case.
On tensions over expanding the Army's budget. The decision not to submit the budget was a joint decision ... because we were working closely with the office of the secretary of defense to jointly understand what the Army's needs were. Coming in from the '90s, we were underfunded for many, many years. That's a fact. We're trying to make up for that. Also because of the operations tempo that we're going through .... We started meeting on this in April. We decided we have a problem and we're going to go down to talk to the secretary of defense and work on this jointly. It was not done in a confrontational manner. It was ... "Hey, the Army's got a problem because the demands on the Army are very, very high." We needed to come to an agreement on what the right level for the Army is, and we made the case that the current fiscal guideline wasn't sufficient. These things are still ongoing.
On extended deployments. All of those soldiers have volunteered to serve this country .... Soldiers know that ... their tours may be extended. That's not to minimize how tough that is, what a challenge that is for families. We in the Army are very understanding of that. It's a major inconvenience and we realize that, but we are a nation at war.
This story appears in the October 16, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.