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Army gains in readiness are just the beginning, chief of staff says

By Sean Kimmons | Army News Service | Jan. 17, 2019

ARLINGTON, Virginia —
Full manning at operational units, fewer non-deployable Soldiers, and a boost in training across the Army are all on the horizon to ensure the force is ready to fight, the Army's top officer said Jan. 16.

Despite decades of sustained conflict and reduced defense spending, the Army has mostly recovered from depleted levels of readiness, said Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley.

"We haven't dug completely out of that hole, but we are on the mend," Milley said in a speech as part of the Association of the U.S. Army's breakfast series.

This fiscal year, there are plans to fill all operational units -- those under the Army Forces Command or based in Europe and the Pacific -- to 100 percent of their authorized strength and to 105 percent by the end of next year.

The rate of non-deployable Soldiers, which was at 15 percent in 2015 when Milley started his current position, has been cut in half to about 6 to 7 percent.

"We anticipate achieving our goal of 5 percent nondeployables by the end of this fiscal year, putting thousands of Soldiers back into our formations ready to deploy," he said.

On the training side, the Army started last year an extended one-station unit training pilot to lengthen training for new infantry Soldiers from 14 to 22 weeks.

Early reports have already shown a significant reduction in attrition and injuries as well as improvements in land navigation, marksmanship, and other basic infantry skills, Milley noted.

Similar adjustments are expected to be seen in other branches, particularly armor and combat engineers, as Army leaders broaden the scope of extended One Station Unit Training, or OSUT, over the next few years, he said.

This year, rotations to combat training centers will increase from 19 to 20 compared to last year while the Army prepares to execute 32 rotations next year.

Army leaders have also recently slashed more than 85 training requirements -- primarily annual computer-based training -- to help commanders concentrate on other priorities.

A synthetic training environment, which integrates virtual, constructive and gaming environments into a single platform, is set to come online this year to provide a variety of scenarios to home-station training, Milley added.

While readiness remains the Army's top priority, he said modernization efforts will also continue.

Milley and Army Secretary Mark T. Esper published last year the Army's vision to chart the way forward to 2028.

Shaping the future Army will heavily revolve around its new concept of multi-domain operations, which leaders expect Soldiers will have to conduct in high-intensity conflict.

"The Army must be ready. It must be ready now and in the future," the general said about current operations and modernizing for the future. "We have to do both to confront the challenging operational environment that we find ourselves in."

Army leaders are also in the midst of reforming the Army to ensure the highest priority activities receive the resources they need.

One such priority is long-range precision fires, which has degraded over the past several years of counterinsurgency operations while adversaries have improved their capability.

"In order to have maneuver, and we're supposed to be a maneuver Army, you have to have mass fires," Milley said. "We're recapturing it."

Along with its other priorities, Milley said the Army will continue to work "extremely hard" to modernize and maintain readiness across the force.

"The truth is, we are just beginning. We are just scratching the surface," he said. "This is really a process we have to continue to press on and I believe that we have set conditions for success in the future, but we have not yet achieved success."