The top civilian official in charge of the U.S. army says the force can respond to any crisis, even though about half of its ready capability is already deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.
The Secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey, disputed claims by some members of Congress and others that the army is over stressed by the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the small deployment in Kosovo.
"We have the capability, to answer it straightforward, to surge to any crisis that the president may ask us to do it," he said.
Secretary Harvey was answering a question about the army's ability to back up U.S. demands on Iran with force if necessary, but he declined to discuss any Iran military option specifically.
He says the current modernization and reorganization of the U.S. army and its reserve and National Guard components will result in 70 Brigade Combat Teams available for deployment worldwide. Each team consists of about 3,500 soldiers, including commanders and support units.
The army secretary says even with between 18 and 20 Brigade Combat Teams currently deployed, and many others in various stages of rest, re-training and re-equipping, he has a substantial force he can draw on in any crisis, indeed a force the same size as the current army deployment.
"If you have, in today's world, 18-20 Brigade Combat Teams deployed, we can surge, with the Army Force Generation Model, another 18-20 Brigade Combat Teams," he added.
Secretary Harvey also acknowledged that the current plan for a total of 70 Brigade Combat Teams is seven fewer than the plan presented to Congress just four months ago, but he said it is still an increase over current capabilities. He says the change is a result of a year-long examination of U.S. defense strategy and operations called the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which is due to be published early next month.
"We're coming out of the QDR. Out of the QDR this force structure, we think, is appropriate to the threat," he noted.
Secretary Harvey says 40 percent of the new U.S. army force structure will be in reserve and National Guard units, reinforcing their role as an integral part of the U.S. military. The deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan rely heavily on Guard and reserve forces. Secretary Harvey says those troops, who are part-time soldiers, can expect to spend one out of every six years deployed, while active combat troops will be deployed one out of every three years.