Fort Bliss welcomes chief of staff of U.S. Army

Gen. Odierno talks sexual assault, forced budget cuts

EL PASO, Texas - Fort Bliss welcomed it's highest-profile visitor since President Barack Obama on Friday.

Gen. Raymond Odierno, the U.S. Army chief of staff, was on post this week to celebrate with the 63rd class of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.

More than 600 men and women received scrolls commemorating the past year of work. It was a diverse class with newly minted sergeant majors coming from throughout the United States and from abroad.

While it was a festive occasion, the issues at hand in the military were not forgotten. Odierno highlighted sexual assault cases that have dominated headlines in recent months.

"These are insider threats we must eradicate," said Odierno.

In the past, he's referred to the sexual assault issue as being as dangerous as IEDs. On this day, he compared the growing number of cases to the military's issue with drugs during the post-Vietnam War era. Speaking at a news conference with members of the media, he said it's something that hasn't always been the main focal point of the Army.

"I don't want to say we were ignoring this problem, but in the last 12 years, we've spent so much time deploying, coming back, deploying, coming back and deploying that I think we lost the ball on some of this," said Odierno. "We got a little off-center. We're now bringing it back on center."

Recent Senate bills have proposed taking the command structure out of the picture when reporting sexual harassment or assault. It's a plan he's been adamantly against. According to Odierno, it takes them out of important decisions and lessens their influence among their troops. He said the problem wouldn't disappear quickly, but with real conversations and personal training, it was a fixable problem.

The general also talked about the effects of sequestration. Forced budget cuts have caused a belt-tightening mentality, but he said there were other issues at hand.

"We need a budget passed," said Odierno. "You know, since 2010 we've been under 15 continuing resolutions. What that means is Congress hasn't passed a budget, so the numbers don't reflect the money we need."

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