Ongoing wars won't slow Army transformation, Casey says

Despite being mired in conflict, the Army remains committed to transforming from a Cold War-era force, general says.

The Army’s push to transform its forces to deal with the complexities of modern warfare continues despite the strains of ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a senior Defense Department official.

In fact, the current battles in the Middle East are likely harbingers of what the Army faces in the years ahead, said Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff. Army forces must become much more agile, detecting and adapting to new threats as they arise.

The challenge is to make the shift as the Army’s presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is about to surpass the combined time of forces spent in active duty in World Wars I and II and Korea.

“We are suffering from the cumulative effects of eight and a half years of war, and it’s going to take a while to work through that. [But] at the end of the 2011 fiscal year, we will be a transformed force,” said Casey Jr., speaking at a meeting of the Northern Virginia chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association today.

As part of that effort, the Army has established organizations dedicated to new-school skills, such as civil affairs, psychology and modular operations.

The Army also is learning to deter hybrid threats, such as those with a cyber component. “We have to build capabilities to hedge against the unexpected,” he said. “Versatility must replace conventional. We need [situational awareness], and network capabilities are a huge part of that versatility.”

The pace of change, as seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, is adding to the pressure on the Army’s transformation initiatives. “The complexity is only increasing,” Casey said. “We’re going to be at this for a while, and the character of conflict is evolving. The bottom line is, we’re doing okay, but we’re not out of the woods yet. We have to continue to refine our views – we’re in a period of fundamental and continuous change.”

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