National Press Club

Chief of Staff Odierno says Army must be ready to perform its mission

January 7, 2014 | By Joseph Sparks |

U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno at National Press Club Luncheon, Jan. 7, 2014.

U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno at National Press Club Luncheon, Jan. 7, 2014.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

The Army must be ready to perform its mission, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said at a National Press Club Luncheon. After a brief opening statement at the event on Jan. 7, he answered questions about the future of the Army and addressed the many challenges it faces.

Odierno praised the valor of the soldiers, saying he was “extremely proud to represent the men and women of the United States Army.”

The reduction in forces from Iraq and Afghanistan will be a significant change in 2014, he said. Just a few years ago, the Army had 250,000 soldiers in these areas, “so we will be in a process of transitioning,” Odierno said. The final numbers will be affected by the bilateral security agreement currently being negotiated with Afghanistan.

When asked about Iraq, Odierno said the country was left in a place where it could move forward, but internal security issues have caused the situation to devolve to a “concerning” level. “It is disappointing to all of us to see the deterioration of security inside Iraq,” he said.

In the context of questions about China and potential cyber attacks, Odierno said cyber defense is important, but he would not single out any one country. The U.S. must understand how to protect its systems, financial infrastructure and networks, and how cyber defense will impact future warfare. The Army is modernizing its cyber command to meet these challenges, according to him.

Odierno expressed concern that sequestration could affect readiness. The Army needs the resources to train and modernize, and the troops to perform its mission, he said. Regardless of the funding levels, the Army would perform its mission to the best of its ability, Odierno said.

Sexual assault is a long-term issue that can affect readiness, and must be dealt with, Odierno said. The culture must change to make it clear that sexual assault and harassment is not acceptable. He wants to keep prosecutions within the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and said officers who do not follow the code should be held accountable.

One reason that sexual assault is a concern is that the Army must create an environment of trust, Odierno said. “We must have complete trust in each other," he said. “For us to be successful, we must trust the person on our right and on our left. It doesn’t matter if is a male or female. It doesn’t matter the color of your skin. It doesn’t matter your religion. We have to be able to trust each other.”

Odierno said that the Army needs the best talent and must create an atmosphere that maximizes potential. This theme was implied throughout the talk, making it clear that the Army Chief of Staff is working to achieve that goal.