Leaders Relay Dark Prospects At AUSA's Annual Meeting [Army]
(Army Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) What could not be carried out against the U.S. Army on the desert plains of Iraq or the snowy mountaintops of Afghanistan in 12 years of war is being accomplished now. Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard could not do it. The Taliban and al Qaeda could not do it. Sunni insurgents and radical Shia clerics tried and failed. What no foreign enemy could force on the battlefield is being done by our own national politics: degrading the Army's combat might. That is being done by strangling the Army's appropriations with sequestration, aided by the wholesale budget chaos that has dogged defense funding for years.
During his keynote remarks at the 2013 AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition, Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh said, "The last time that the Army had a budget in place at the start of the fiscal year, you couldn't have read about it on your iPad. Why not? The iPad wouldn't be released for another three years." (The first iPad was released in 2010.)
The Annual Meeting was held in Washington, D.C., October 21-23. It drew more than 28,000 registered guests.
The federal government shutdown ended a few days before the Annual Meeting started, symbolizing a cycle of political brinkmanship leveraging the budget and national debt processes. Another round in the ongoing bout could play out in January, as funding and deficit issues were only kicked down the road to tamp down the wildfire of October's pressing financial issues while again holding out hope for a greater budget fix.
At the Annual Meeting, Army leaders said the effects of sequestration and a broken budget process on the Army have been the dismantling of readiness; a break of faith with soldiers, families and civilian employees; a tremendous equipment reset backlog; less maintenance; fewer soldiers in the ranks; and severely reduced training. Overall, they said, the current and future funding impact could squander the most capable land force in the world.
Highlights of Army leaders' comments made during the Annual Meeting's press conferences, forums, panels and addresses include:
- Army Chief of StaffGEN Raymond T. Odierno made the astonishing announcement that only two Army brigade combat teams (BCTs) are considered fully combat capable because of manpower, equipment or training shortfalls due to the budget. Both are in the 82nd Airborne Division as part of the global response force. He added that other BCTs now deploying to Afghanistan are not considered fully combat capable because they are staffed and trained primarily for their deployment mission-the advise-and-assist mission to support the transition to Afghan security control. The Army plans to have seven BCTs trained and fully equipped by June 2014, he said. Shortfalls caused by sequestration are being made up by readiness and modernization funds, and this has caused the readiness gap. The Chief of Staffcalled the situation an "extreme tiered readiness model."
- GEN Robert W. Cone, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, said the Army's goal is to transition from "an Army of execution to an Army of preparation" to shape the Army of 2020, tailoring capabilities and requirements to the evolving strategic situation faced by the United States. GEN Cone recommended that DoD and the Army institutionalize "adaptive mechanisms" initiated for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan such as the Asymmetric Warfare Group, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization and the Rapid Equipping Force.
- GEN Daniel B. Allyn, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, said as the budget gets tighter, the Army can put only one regionally aligned BCT through a decisive action training rotation this year. "The vision for regional alignment would have us train every unit to decisive action capability. That may not be possible in our current fiscal environment, so we [may] train them to their assigned mission and not to full capacity. We may have to take that approach with our regionally aligned forces in the near term," he said. The plan is to put the 4th BCT, 1st Infantry Division, through a decisive action training rotation because the 4th BCT will replace the 1st Division's 2nd BCT as the regionally aligned BCT for Africa this year. Decisions still to be made about the current budget will determine whether the Army can increase the number of BCTs going through decisive action training rotations to seven.
- The Army will establish a new Resiliency Directorate under the Army G-1 to evolve resiliency concepts into tangible actions that commanders can take while making a cultural shifttoward resiliency throughout the Army in the long term.
- The Army has lost about 10 percent of its civilian medical professionals- physicians, nurses and technicians-because of their concerns about furloughs and future budgets.
In his address at the Annual Meeting's opening ceremony, Secretary McHugh detailed the Army's financial issues:
"There are a number of topics that I should touch upon today, but it's really impossible to begin without discussing the government shutdown, sequestration, the Budget Control Act; in short, the general state of the Army's fiscal house," he began.
"The Army-and in fact, the entire Department of Defense- knew full well that at some point, as then-Secretary [of Defense Robert M.] Gates stated, the gusher was going to be turned off. We knew that our budget fortunes, just as they had done in every post-conflict period in our nation's history, were likely to be reversed. But at that same time, we also had-or we thought we had-the opportunity, the time, to get it right. Unfortunately, on that last point, it turns out we were wrong.
"In some ways ... the way we have managed what most would agree is an unmanageable situation has really caused us, in part, to become victims of our own success. How did we get to that position? It was also Secretary Gates who challenged us-well, he directed us, really-to find and to cut $100 billion in spending over five years and then to use those efficiencies-to use those cuts-to reinvest in other, higherpriority programs. And we did that. ... We set ourselves on a new course, one of more efficient operations, one of wiser investments. And we continued on that path of responsible and prudent reductions under Secretary [of Defense Leon E.] Panetta, establishing for ourselves a glide path that, if properly executed, would better ensure that we would not jeopardize current operations or, equally important, longerterm readiness.
"And, of course, then something happened," he said. "Something happened called sequestration. Something that Secretary Panetta observed 'was so bad, no one in their right mind would let it happen.' Well, apparently the right minds were out of town that day. It did happen.
"We are making every possible adjustment in these random, across-the-board reductions; adjustments that have helped us better prioritize our most pressing needs. But-I want to be very frank here-for all of our efforts, for all of the hard work that everyone has put forward, the current and the ongoing fiscal realities have extracted a great cost, not just in financial terms, but cost in real-world programs, real-world preparedness and real-world manpower."
He warned, "I wish I could promise ... that better days lie ahead. Sadly, truthfully, I just can't. The indiscriminate nature of sequestration has already forced significant declines in readiness, and I know you've heard about it. I've heard from commanders who tell me that Humvees, Bradleys and tanks are sitting idle because of a lack of funds for driving, training and fires. Soldiers aren't getting properly qualified on their M4s unless they are preparing to deploy. Soldiers who don't get to shoot? Don't get to train? It really does bring back those pictures of World War I with recruits working out with broom handles and sticks because they didn't have the real weapons to train with.
"And there's more. Just weeks ago, the [Deputy Chief of Staff] G-4, LTG Ray[mond V.] Mason, warned Congress of the growing inventory of equipment in need of repair from the ravages of war in Afghanistan: 800 vehicles, 2,000 weapons, 32 helicopters, some 10,000 pieces of communication gear, unrepaired and unavailable. Sequestration cost the Army $1.7 billion for reset just in fiscal year [FY] 2013. So what did we do? Well, we pushed most of those projects into this year, FY 2014. And now, here we are, nearly a month into FY 2014 and still lacking sufficient funds and people to carry out fully this critical work. In short, we were forced to rob Peter to pay Paul; and then Paul got furloughed."
He said, "For 25 of the 49 months I've been Secretary of the Army-more than half the time I've been here-the Army has been funded not by set budgets but by continuing resolutions. In fact, there hasn't been a full year's appropriation adopted on time for us since 2007. And continuing resolutions, while far better than the alternatives of shutdowns and no funding, are simply not a substitute for actual appropriations. They're designed to be stopgap measures; all they do is allow the government to keep functioning, or perhaps disfunctioning, as it were.
"Regardless of how large or how small the Army and its budget become, I promise you ... we will do everything we possibly can to maintain balance, to ensure an adequate and an appropriate mix of manpower, training and equipment. Through it all, we will remain globally responsive, we will remain regionally engaged, and we will provide combatant commanders with versatile and well-trained forces both for ongoing and contingency operations. And we will do that even while making modifications to structure, organization and processes. We happen to believe that a smaller-but well-equipped and highly trained-Army is better able to meet contingencies than a large force without sufficient training, without modern equipment, or without the people to use it. We will constantly endeavor to chart the wisest path; but I want to tell you, in this unreasonably constrained fiscal environment, even the wise path will be treacherous," Secretary McHugh concluded.
Throughout the course of the Annual Meeting, Army leaders also fought back against the assertion by some in Congress and a knot of defense analysts that land forces themselves are outmoded. Those who argue against landpower say that advanced technology enabling air and sea weapons systems can carry the whole national defense and ground forces can be jettisoned to pay for that technology, thereby relegating ground force involvement to the pages of history.
History, however, is the greatest argument against those assertions, according to the final speaker of the 2013 Annual Meeting. Former Secretary Gates said in his acceptance speech for the George C. Marshall Medal, AUSA's highest award, that history must influence the decisions of policymakers.
"Today, the tide of war is passing-or so we are told-and the country's attention for much of the citizenry, the media and for many elected officials, has largely shifted elsewhere. It's too easy to forget that there are still tens of thousands of troops serving in Afghanistan, too easy to forget the tremendous sacrifices that led to the security progress of recent years. As we transition from a decade dominated by Afghanistan and Iraq, it is necessary to think anew about the role, size and the capabilities of the U.S. military," Gates said.
He noted that defense "experts" vowed that the U.S. military would "never again try to fight a full-scale insurgency" following the Vietnam War, and that we now hear the same claim again. "Those who now assert we will only fight certain kinds of wars in the future forget history and the reality that our enemies always have a vote, as do future presidents. The further reality is that our record since Vietnam in predicting where the United States will be militarily engaged next, just six months out, is perfect. ... We've never once gotten it right.
"It is always fashionable among military thinkers and armchair strategists regularly to proclaim a new age of warfare," Gates added. "One such prognosticator wrote that modern wars will, and I quote, 'be decided by navies and air forces ... while ground forces assume the subordinate role.' That was written on September 21, 1941. Similar views are being expressed today. When it comes to predicting future conflicts-what kinds of fights there will be and what capabilities will be needed-we need more humility, more open minds, less certitude and more familiarity with history."
Gates said, "Further, remarkable advances in precision munitions, sensors, information, satellite technology and more can make us overly enamored with the ability of technology to transform the traditional laws and limits of war. ... War has become for too many-among the American public, as well as defense experts, members of Congress and executive branch officials-a kind of arcade video game or action movie-bloodless, painless and odorless. In reality, war is inevitably tragic, inefficient and uncertain. Military leaders- and especially senior civilian officials-should be skeptical of systems analysis, computer models, game theories or doctrines that suggest otherwise."
Gates advised that these leaders should be skeptical of "notions of future conflict that aspire to upend the immutable principles of war: where the enemy is killed, but our troops, and innocent civilians, are spared; where wars are confidently predicted to be short; and where adversaries can be cowed, shocked or awed into submission instead of being tracked down, hilltop by hilltop, house by house, block by bloody block."
GEN Odierno said simply that the concept behind trading ground forces for technology is "naive." He delivered the keynote address at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Luncheon on the second day of the Annual Meeting.
"For much of the last two years, we've been heavily focused on the budget-we've had no other choice. We've had to grapple with unprecedented fiscal uncertainty," he said.
"There are many who are concerned about the role of the Army in the future. The bottom line is that the Army always has played, and always will play, a significant role in our Joint Force. We can't afford to stand still, and now is not the time to take our eye offthe ball. Whatever the size of our budget, whatever the size of any future Army, our political leaders and the American people expect our soldiers to be ready for the next security challenge. Therefore, over the next two years, we will move out on implementing the institutional reforms necessary to ensure the soldiers of today are prepared to fight and win tomorrow."
GEN Odierno continued, "The Army will remain the most highly trained and professional all-volunteer land force in the world, uniquely organized with the capability and capacity to provide expeditionary and decisive landpower to the Joint Force, ready and capable to perform across the spectrum of conflict and across the range of military operations to prevent conflict, shape the current and future security environment, and, if necessary, win in support of our national security objectives. We will do that if we are needed today, but also against emerging threats of the future. To accomplish this vision, we will focus on five strategic priorities for the future: developing adaptive Army leaders for a complex world; building a globally responsive and regionally engaged Army; providing a ready and modern Army; strengthening our commitment to our Army profession; and, last but not least, sustaining the premier all-volunteer Army.
"As we come out of Afghanistan, or as we continue to reduce our presence in Afghanistan, we will expand our regional alignment of forces across the force," he said. "Our brigades will cycle through a regional alignment rotation under combatant command support and control. In doing so, we will reinforce the notion of gaining local and regional knowledge, build the readiness of our forces, and most importantly, build the readiness of our allies. We will meet the needs of our combatant commanders to prevent conflict and shape their environment and, when necessary, will be available to fight and win decisively anywhere in the world," he said.
"Essential to any army's success will be our readiness and our modernization," GEN Odierno continued. "We must invest both time and resources organizing, training and equipping the force to rapidly deploy, fight, sustain itself and win against complex state and nonstate adversaries in austere environments and in rugged terrain. We will rebuild the Army's combined arms maneuver and wide-area security capabilities by reinvesting in our combat training centers, the best centers of their kind in the world. The combat training centers will once again become the centerpiece of training our brigade combat teams and support units for decisive action. We will reinvigorate home station training using live, virtual and constructive capabilities that provide tough, realistic scenarios to build soldier, leader and unit competency over time. We will also capitalize upon multi-echelon, joint and multinational command post exercises, staffrides, simulations and Mission Command training program events to build regionally capable joint forces land component commands and joint task forces," GEN Odierno said.
"Our modernization programs will remain centered on ensuring that the American soldier remains the most discriminately lethal force on the battlefield. We will prioritize the procurement of proven technologies that enhance soldier and unit lethality, their survivability, their mobility, and network functionality, and improve our premier ground and air combat system. Science and technology investments will seek to maximize the potential of emerging game-changing technologies. It is imperative that we prepare Army units for emerging missions in space, cyberspace, missile defense, counter-WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and WMD-elimination missions," he said.
"Our overwhelming success as an Army has led many to believe that our nation's best young men and women will always be willing to serve. However, we must be mindful that we must always have the ability to recruit and retain the best, and this is directly linked to how we honor the service and sacrifice of our soldiers, our veterans, our retirees, our wounded warriors and their families. We are extremely grateful for the high-quality care and compensation our nation has shown to our Army over the last decade; however, compensation costs remain at historic highs and are going even higher. Currently, 46 percent of the Army budget is dedicated to compensation, and today that figure is projected to increase to 80 percent by 2023. As we go forward, we must develop compensation packages that reduce future costs but at the same time recognize our soldiers and their families for their commitment and sacrifice. We must make choices that preserve the high quality of our force but allow the all-volunteer Army to remain affordable," GEN Odierno advised.
Gates, continuing his Marshall Dinner speech that ended the 2013 Annual Meeting, said, "What I now regard as the biggest threat to U.S. national security [is] the political dysfunction within the few square miles of Washington, D.C., encompassing the White House and Capitol Hill. American politics has always been a shrill and ugly business going back to the Founding Fathers. But as a result of a number of polarizing trends, we now have lost the ability to execute even the most basic functions of government.
"I don't need to explain to this audience the damaging consequences of sequestration. There may be a more stupid way to cut the budget, but I can't think of one. My worry is that the White House, Congress and the general public will not grasp the consequences of massive and mindless defense cuts because of sequestration in the form of cancelled training, deferred maintenance, delayed modernization, and the massive loss of experienced young officers and NCOs, until it's far too late."
Gates concluded with this advice: "I have steadfastly supported 'soft' power-diplomacy and development- but we must never forget the ultimate guarantee against the success of aggressors, dictators and terrorists in the 21st century, as in the 20th, is hard power-the size, the strength and global reach of the United States military."
Opposite page, clockwise: AUSA President GEN Gordon R. Sullivan, U.S. Army retired, makes introductory remarks at the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition opening ceremony; Army Chief of StaffGEN Raymond T. Odierno delivers the keynote address at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Luncheon; Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh speaks at the opening ceremony; the AUSA seal hangs above the meeting's entryway; and soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) perform during the opening ceremony. Left: Industry partner displays line one of the exhibit halls in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
Right and lower right: Soldiers from the Old Guard perform at the opening ceremony to honor the Army's contributions to the nation throughout American history. Below: The U.S. Army Color Guard presents the colors to begin the opening ceremony.
AUSA 2013 award recipients, clockwise from top left: GEN Louis C. Wagner Jr., U.S. Army retired, GEN Creighton W. Abrams Medal; CSM Andrew Mc- Fowler, U.S. Army retired, SMA William G. Bainbridge Medal; BG Richard S. Miller, U.S. Army National Guard retired, LTG Raymond S. McLain Medal; former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, George Catlett Marshall Medal; COL David A. Beckner, U.S. Army retired, MG Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Medal; and CSM W. Douglas Gibbens, U.S. Army Reserve retired, MG James Earl Rudder Medal.
Attendees listen to remarks during the Institute of Land Warfare (ILW) Contemporary Military Forum "Building the Army's Cyber Forces ... Globally Responsive, Regionally Engaged." ILW offered nine forums during the Annual Meeting. AUSA also presented four family forums during the meeting.
Exhibits at the 2013 Annual Meeting, clockwise from left: the ScanEagle-A unmanned aerial vehicle; the U.S. Army display; and the Avenger Multi-Mission Launcher.
Exhibits at the 2013 Annual Meeting, clockwise from right: the Raider variant, V-280 Valor helicopter; an entrant in the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle competition; and a soldier examining a sniper rifle.
Above, the George Catlett Marshall Medal presentation (leftto right): Thomas W. Rabaut, deputy chairman of the AUSA Council of Trustees; former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates; and AUSA President GEN Gordon R. Sullivan, U.S. Army retired. Left: Medal of Honor recipient (and former Army captain) William D. Swenson, who attended the 2013 Annual Meeting.
By Dennis Steele
(c) 2013 Association of the United States Army
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