WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2009 – The Army must structure itself to face a future of persistent conflict as it takes on a long-term ideological struggle against terrorism and militant extremists, the service’s top officer said today.

“We are at war with a terrorist extremist element that attacked us on our soil,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. told an audience at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference here. “They’re not going to quit, they’re not going to give up, and they’re not going to go away.”

Tomorrow marks the eighth anniversary of the day the United States and its allies responded to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Casey described how he feels the Army will fight in the future and what needs to happen to “balance” the force.

The Army must be more agile, sustainable, lethal and skilled enough to operate under a wide range of conditions. Also, it must finish its transition into a more versatile force, leaving behind the Cold War mentality of the past, Casey said.

“We’re talking about skills more relevant to the 21st century,” he said. “All of these qualities, I believe, are the qualities of a balanced army, and they’re the qualities that will drive our modernization efforts in the coming years.”

These are goals the Army has been working to meet for the past eight years. The force has grown by more than 100,000 part-time and active-duty soldiers and has realigned many units in Europe and Korea to the United States. Also, the Army continues its work to add additional brigade combat teams to its force.

“We have to sustain commitment, we have to hedge against the unexpected, and we have to do both at a tempo that is sustainable and predictable to this all-volunteer force,” the general said. “We’ve been at this eight years, and as I look ahead we’re going to be at something like this for a decade or so more. If we’re going to do that with a volunteer force, we have to do that with something that’s sustainable.”

So far, 90 percent of this transformation has taken effect, giving the modularized brigades more tools and enhanced capabilities to meet the challenges of counterinsurgency operations. The Army is moving in the right direction with the addition of Stryker armored vehicles, mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles and other “enablers,” such as unmanned aerial vehicles, Casey said.

Modularization has been “hugely successful” so far, he said. And as the Army continues to learn more about persistent conflicts, it’ll continue to adjust accordingly.

“It’s not enough for us to look broadly at the security environment, but we have to look at the character of conflict in that environment,” the general said. “I believe it will be fundamentally different than the kinds of wars I grew up training to fight. And we have to adapt ourselves to meet those challenges.”

Soldiers and their families have been stretched thin since 9/11, Casey said, and increasing time at home between deployments and emphasizing mental fitness also are necessary for future success. A larger force gives the Army the flexibility to allow that much-needed rest soldiers and their families have asked for, he said.

The Army’s goal is to establish a rotation that gives active-duty soldiers two years at home and National Guard and reserve troops four years at home following a year-long deployment, he said.

“It’s clear to me that the most important element to getting ourselves back in balance is to improve dwell,” he said. “We have made some progress with that with the drawdown in Iraq, but looking us in the face are the decisions yet to be made about Afghanistan.

“We are making good progress, and while we are not out of the woods yet, we are better positioned to accept some increased demands now than we were two years ago,” he continued. “I’m very pleased with the progress we have made as an Army, and I will continue to move along those lines.”

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