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Gen. Odierno concurred.

“Complexity of the world is changing by the minute. A lot of it has to do with how quickly information is proliferated around the world. It has an impact on many different nations, especially those that don’t have confidence in their governments,” the Army chief of staff said.

“So what’s happening is you’re finding that we have to be prepared to react to many small-scale potential contingencies, and so by aligning ourselves with combatant commands, it gives them more capability capacity and the ability to respond quicker.”

‘A test case’

Col. Learmont, the British exchange officer, said most of the missions will consist of training, not operational, tasks. But “if their combatant commander does require something that falls into the operational bandwagon, then we have the facilities to react to that with the approval of the secretary of defense and the Joint Staff,” he added.

Gen. Odierno said U.S. soldiers could be involved in direct-action operations but noted that their main purpose is to help host nations develop capabilities to handle their own issues, whether it’s terrorism or local conflicts.

There is no shortage of conflict in Africa, what with Islamic extremists increasing their activities in North Africa, ongoing instability in Libya, militant uprisings in oil-rich Nigeria and a civil conflict in the Republic of Congo.

As the smallest of the U.S. geographic combatant commands, U.S. Africa Command, or Africom, has had no shortage of resource demands.

“I picked what I thought is an area that is growing in importance and that we have the opportunity to shape it now to prevent conflict later. So that’s why we chose Africa first as a test case,” Gen. Odierno said. “In Africom, it will give us the opportunity to provide a range of capabilities that are needed, from very small to a bit larger, so I think for us, it’s a great test for the concept to see if it works.”

Gen. Odierno envisions the Regionally Aligned Forces concept to involve the total Army force, including the Reserve, the National Guard and all military occupational specialties, including intelligence, logistics, network support and engineering, and will be broadened to include the U.S. Special Operations Command.

“As we continue to now progress into our new strategy, we think there are a lot of links that will enable conventional forces to provide support to Special Operations Command as they continue to do counterterrorism and other missions around the world,” he said. “So we are working very closely with them to develop the criteria that would allow us then to align forces to support them as they conduct their worldwide missions.”

With regard to a smaller defense budget, Gen. Odierno said, the new concept is an “efficient and optimal use of our resources that will help us to provide security.”

“We’ll learn as we go. We have to figure out specifically how it’ll be funded, but we’ll work our way through that as we go,” he said.