AUSA: 60 Years as a Voice for the Army Support for the Soldier

Article excerpt

As I sat down to compose this 2010 Green Book article for our ARMY Magazine, I took the time to reflect on my association with our Army and also on the past, present and future of the Association of the United States Army's engagement with our Army - an engagement that has spanned 60 years. As the Army shaped and molded my development and growth as a young officer and even through retirement, I remain pleased to have been a member of our Army in both active and retired ranks. Last year we honored the Army's NCO Corps - we still do that daily with the realization that the greatness of our Army is the strength, character and professionalism of the Corps today and in years past. Our Army is still able to proclaim "Army Strong" because of the dedication, competence and leadership of our NCOs.

I see that strength reflected in our volunteer leadership in our 123 chapters in which we have NCOs, officers, Army civilians, Army retirees, citizens and neighbors engaged in leading and growing our chapter activities and programs to reinforce that we are the Voice for the Army - Support for the Soldier. We continue to maintain the focus senior Army leaders had some 60 years ago on the need for an Army association to tell the Army story and be an advocate for the Army.

Our founding in Washington, D.C., by these senior leaders coincided incidentally with the start of the Korean War - a war that found the Army unprepared, underresourced, poorly staffed and structured, and poorly equipped and trained as the nation's Army. The seeds that were sown to cause this situation came in the aftermath of World War II and the advent of the Atomic Age, when political leaders believed large land forces were no longer needed. The recovering and rebounding economy was the focus - along with the fascination with aerial technology and atomic weapons that were to deter future aggression or war. As a resuit, the land forces suffered from a decrease in size, aging equipment and lack of operational funding for training and readiness.

Today, 60 years later, we have an Army strong in its 10th year of continual combat in two distinct theaters. The Army's global commitment includes more than 230,000 soldiers deployed in nearly 80 countries and along our borders. We have an economy that is recovering from a recession, a national unemployment challenge and an awareness of the growing federal deficit. Also compared to some 60 years ago, we have a fully recruited volunteer force of quality young men and women; well trained and developed combat leaders; and a Total Army with an Army National Guard and Army Reserve that are both our operational reserve and part of the Army engaged daily.

The Army annual budget at its base level is about $140 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2010 and may see some growth in the next fiscal year. We have FY 2010 defense spending at 4.7 percent of the GDP, a new sustained high mark. Yet we find ourselves also dependent on additional wartime funding of some $120 billion to keep the tempo up and running to fight the nation's wars and other missions we see our Army doing today.

We may find ourselves at a historical inflection point over the next year when the economy, the midterm elections and the long duration of the wars affect public opinion and support for our soldiers and their mission. I can say from my travels and experience, however, that support from the public and communities around the nation is as high as ever. Part of that comes from the good work our AUSA chapters and volunteer leadership have ongoing in our local programs and grassroots activities. Thanks for your energy and passion here in supporting our troops and families.

Army Chief of Staff GEN George W. Casey Jr.'s vision of bringing the force into balance is critical at this stage of our history as an Army and for the war effort. We cannot allow any diminution of political or budget support for our Army in the near or distant future. …