By C. Todd Lopez
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 17, 2010 – Soldiers should find themselves spending twice as much time at home station as they do deployed by 2011, the Army’s vice chief of staff said on Capitol Hill yesterday.
“2011 is definitely a transition year for the U.S. Army — that is a year we see ourselves getting back into balance,” Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli said. “We define balance as 12 months deployed, 24 months or greater at home. That’s the interim goal for us in 2011.”
The general told the House Armed Forces Committee readiness subcommittee that the larger part of the Army likely will reach that goal next year, but soldiers in some specialties, such as aviation, might reach it later.
Chiarelli was on Capitol Hill to discuss the Army’s $107.3-billion fiscal 2011 base and overseas contingency operations budget request for operations and maintenance.
Lawmakers asked the four vice service chiefs in attendance at the hearing about the increasing cost of weapons purchases. Chiarelli said the Army now is looking at weapons systems in “portfolios” to get a clearer picture of where it may be paying for things it might not need.
“If you take any single system and look at it individually, you can make a pretty strong argument that it is required,” he said. “But if you take and look at them in a portfolio of common systems — example: precision munitions — you will find that there are probably systems that we … made precision that don’t need to be precision, or don’t need to be at the numbers that we’ve bought them at.”
The general cited a 155 mm cannon round that might cost $650. Adding precision technology to that round could increase its cost, over its lifetime, to about $78,000.
The time has come to “look at these systems in a portfolio and see where we might not be able to find efficiency,” he said.
The general also discussed the numbers of mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles soldiers have for training purposes, efforts to ensure there are plenty of MRAPs going to Afghanistan, and plans to reset the MRAP after it no longer is needed in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
“We have over 500 MRAPs that are in the training base today,” the general said. “And, at the same time, we are trying to do a balance [with] what is needed downrange. We don’t have any yet that have come out of Iraq that have not been needed in Afghanistan — even the larger models.”
The general said the Army is “a little nervous” about the number of MRAPs in the United States for training versus being used operationally, but that the Army has been able so far to pull this off. He said MRAP training simulators, such as at Camp Shelby, Miss., are a partial solution. He also said the Army is working to get more MRAPs to meet its needs.
Also, he said, when MRAPs no longer are needed for Iraq and Afghanistan, they will become part of the Army inventory.
“MRAP vehicles will in fact be moved into our formations,” he said. “We have over 3,000 MRAP vehicles that will be part of our [table of organization and equipment], particularly in combat service and combat service support brigades. And we will be establishing a number of sets of MRAPs that will be available for units that go into an environment that requires the MRAP vehicle. We do plan to reset them — and that started the process that we are starting at Red River now.”
The Army initiated a pilot program to make Red River Army Depot in Texas the source of repair for three of the Army’s MRAP variants. This year there will be 53 MRAPs in the program.
“That is going to significantly improve the maintenance and reset of MRAPs coming back,” Chiarelli said.
The general also told legislators he expects the Army to be in reset mode for up to three years after leaving Iraq and Afghanistan.
(C. Todd Lopez writes for Army News Service.)