His words echoed former defense secretary Robert M. Gates, who told West Point cadets in February: “After the major Afghan troop deployments end in 2014, how do we keep you and those five or ten years older than you in our Army?” One of Gates’s answers was the need to attack “the institutional and bureaucratic constipation of Big Army, and rethink the way it deals with the outstanding young leaders in its lower and middle ranks.”
What Gates said he feared was, “Men and women in the prime of their professional lives, who may have been responsible for the lives of scores or hundreds of troops, or millions of dollars in assistance, or engaging in reconciling warring tribes . . . they may find themselves in a cube all day reformatting power point slides, preparing quarterly training briefs, or assigned an ever-expanding array of clerical duties. The consequences of this terrify me.”
For Odierno, his top priorities are “to first review leadership development and [second] how we’re going to do leadership development.” That requires looking “at new ways [to], broaden their horizons so they are able to better react” and “better prepared for the world situations” in which they will be placed, he told the senators.
“The future battlefield will be populated with hybrid threats — combinations of regular, irregular, terrorist, and criminal groups,” Odierno wrote in a pre-hearing questionnaire from the committee. “We must train and educate our leaders and units to understand and prevail against hybrid threats.” He explained that approach required “both combined arms maneuver and wide area security,” the latter including counterinsurgency operations.
There would still be training in basic military fundamentals, understanding weapons systems and their execution. Leaders must be able to execute with lethality, he said, “but they also must understand the environment they’re going to operate in is going to be very different, and they have to be able to adapt and adjust.”
“We must have a highly professional education system that educates future leaders on the hard-earned lessons of this past decade so we don’t repeat the mistakes of post-Vietnam, of thinking these kinds of operations are behind us,” he wrote in answers to the committee.
Lessons from the wars of the past decade — counterinsurgency, counterterrorism and stability operations — are already being bundled up in programs that institutionalize Army capabilities in elements the Army has termed “Irregular Warfare.” To establish and train troops in these areas the Army has created a series of institutional units, which Odierno described in his written answers to the committee.