In his final press conference before retiring, top Army Gen. Ray Odierno warned America may soon lose its place as a world leader if current economic policies continue.
“The last four years I’ve seen deadlock,” Odierno, who serves as chief of staff for the Army, told reporters Wednesday. “In my opinion we’ve held the military hostage because of the arguments were having in the rest of the government. How we solve the problem of spending.”
A major point of contention is military spending, the subject of a congressional sequester that demands across the board cuts. Odierno said the shrinking funds have directly affected training, readiness and modernization.
“I guess the point I’m trying to make is, it’s getting to the point now where I think we should be careful,” he warned. “We’re at the point of potentially degrading ourselves to where it will be really difficult for us to meet our requirements.”
The financial crisis of 2008 brought renewed scrutiny to government spending. Since 2010 the defense budget has steadily decreased.
“Whether we like it or not … we have to lead in many places around the world,” Odierno argued. “We have to have the capabilities to do that, and I worry in the years ahead, if we don’t solve this problem we won’t have that capacity.”
The issues facing the country aren’t going anywhere either. Odierno argues the military faces Russian aggression, China investing more in its armed forces, Iraq, ISIS and Iran among other global issues.
“We are increasing requirements on our military while decreasing resources,” Odierno said. “This is of great concern to me personally.”
“Many of the problems I listed will be persistent and will not be solved overnight,” he also noted. “We need the money for us to train.”
There is some good news though. Odierno notes the military has been innovating and adapting to better meet the challenges of the future.
“We significantly increased our investment in cyber,” he said. “We developed and implemented a new total force policy.”
The armed forces are changing to be the military of the future. Odierno, noting the military should look for talent, is also open to women fulfilling traditionally male roles so long as they can meet the requirements.
“If you meet the standard, then you should be able to go,” Odierno argued. “We haven’t made any final decision on [female] infantry … but I think those are coming very shortly.”
“The feedback I got from these women are how prepared they are,” he added. “Frankly that’s what we want from our soldiers.”
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