WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), questioned witnesses at a SASC hearing to receive testimony on the Department of the Army Posture Hearing.
Witnesses included Dr. Mark Esper, Secretary of the Army, and General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army.
Inhofe: Unfortunately, the Army missed our recruiting goals in both fiscal year '18 and '19, coming up short about 9,500 — this committee authorized in fiscal year '19. Let's start with General Milley. What's your assessment of the most critical manning shortfalls facing the Army as we begin to try to meet our blueprint here. What would come to your mind as the most critical?
Milley: We did miss the shortfall. I would add that we did recruit and assess 70,000 soldiers into the United States Army, which is a ten year high. Which, in combination, is more soldiers than in the British and Canadian armies combined. So that's significant, I think. In terms of the shortages going forward, what we’re asking for this budget is a modest growth increase of 2,000, which I think Sen. Reed mentioned in his opening statement. We knew we had a very significant and high objective on the last year’s recruiting and we've made a variety of changes inside recruiting command to include the commander. We're focusing on 22 significant cities throughout the United States. We're looking at where the store fronts are, we're looking at redoing the advertising campaign and there's a variety of other initiatives. We're on glide-path right now and we're very confident that we will meet the recruiting and assessment missions this year
Inhofe: What do you think, Secretary?
Esper: Senator, I agree. Last summer we actually turned up the standards, we raised the quality standards because quality is more important than quantity. And we need to do that, we need to raise the quality and we need to continue to bring more in each year because we need to fully man the units that exists, we need to put capabilities back into the units that we lost over the years, such as Electronic Warfare (EW) and we need to add new capabilities to our units such as cyber. This is all consistent with the vision of where we want to go and the vision that we outline says we definitely need to be above 500,000 soldiers by 2028.
Inhofe: That's good. What we don't want to do, we've emphasized and you have emphasized in the past, that we don't want to lower our standards in order to increase. That's not happening now and it's not going to happen.
You addressed this, this goal, General Milley, of 66 percent. You probably don't want to get into any detail on that but would you repeat what you said in your opening statement. I think you said in the year 2022 what's going to happen?
Milley: We think, by our projections, if things in the international environment remain at a constant and we continue to get steady budgets at the rates we're getting, we assess that we'll be at the highest levels of readiness with two-thirds, 66 percent in the regular Army and 33 percent in the Guard and Reserve sometime in 2022. Which is significant. When I became the Chief of Staff three and a half years ago, we had three brigades at the highest level of readiness. Today, we have, roughly speaking as of Decembers reports, you’re looking at about 28. So, that's a significant increase. We have yet to achieve that 66 percent. We are essentially, right now, somewhere around the high-water marks of pre-911. If we're serious about Russia, China and what's in the NDS with North Korea, Iran and violent extremist and terrorist organizations, our assessment is of those 58 brigades, 66 percent in the regular Army, 33 percent in the Guard and Reserve. We'll achieve that in '22.
Inhofe: Okay. Before we run out of time, I do want to get a comment from each one of you on the budget. You know, we went through a period of starvation the last five years, between 2010 and 2015. Actually reducing in constant dollars the amount of money that came into our military. We are now paying for that. Even with the budget increases that we saw in '18, '19 and what we’re proposing for '20, it still doesn't put us where we need to be. When you go back to this book, we’re talking about an increase for that five year period of somewhere between three and five percent above inflation and even the $750 doesn't reach that, it would have to be somewhere around $757 I think it would be. So, I would like to have each one of you comment as to where we are and do you think that's a figure that's going to be adequate to take care of the needs that we have in our assessment?
Esper: Mr. Chairman, you summed it up well. The needs will always exceed the means. But, we think if Congress passes this budget we will continue on a good trajectory with regards to restoring readiness and modernizing the Army — that's really the key thing right now.
Milley: I concur with the Secretary and as you well know, Chairman, it's all related to the amount of risks we are willing to take relative to the tasks — it's all about risk.
Inhofe: We understand that. Senator Reed.