TRADOC commander discusses challenges, way ahead at AUSA
January 10, 2014
KILLEEN, Texas (Jan. 10, 2014) -- A smaller Army cannot be a hollow Army and training will need to adapt to fit fiscal constraints while maintaining readiness to meet future needs, Gen. Robert Cone, commander, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, told members of the Fort Hood-Central Texas chapter of the Association of the United States Army here during the organization's first membership meeting of 2014, Jan. 6.
"If we have to shrink the Army, we're going to shrink the Army, but it will be a balanced Army, in terms of its readiness, in terms of its people, in terms of its training," Cone said.
Cone, who served as commanding general for III Corps and Fort Hood before assuming the helm at TRADOC in April 2011, spoke about the challenges facing the Army, the need to communicate the importance of Strategic Land Power and some glimmers of hope for the Army of the future during his remarks to the AUSA members.
He addressed the cuts from sequestration and last year's government shutdown that forced the Army to reduce training.
"When we make cuts, you don't cut the things you want to cut," he said. "You cut the things you have to cut."
For a place like Fort Hood, that meant cutting training, the general said.
The easiest place to get money, he said, was to shutdown training.
"I did it because I had to do it," Cone said. "We didn't have a lot of flexibility."
Cuts and budgetary belt-tightening have left the Army in a state of tiered readiness now to keep the units rotating down range at a high level, but the rest of the Army's readiness will slow down considerably, the general said.
"Readiness is going to suffer across the board," Cone said.
The TRADOC commander said he hopes to see that turn around with the recent budget deal as the Department of Defense will regain $6 billion and, "the vast majority of that $6 billion is going to go against readiness," Cone said, noting that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno has decided to put it back against the readiness bill.
"I think you're going to see a significant improvement in the number of units that get to go to the National Training Center (at Fort Irwin, Calif.) and the amount of home station training," Cone said.
TRADOC is the advocate and responsible for most of the training simulation support devices at places like Fort Hood. With cuts to live training, TRADOC has been able to put money back into virtual, constructive and gaming training. There is an upside to the slowdown in live training, Cone said, adding that now there is more time for leader development.
"Take advantage of the opportunity that this training is slowing down and build the relationship with your subordinates in terms of getting to know them," he said.
The Army will continue to shrink, but will be more capable for the operational environment for the future, Cone said, noting that headquarters elements will be on the bubble as the force keeps more combat power.
Cone said he believes the final force strength after cuts will be somewhere between 420,000 and 450,000.
"The challenge, ultimately, is going to come down to we must have a balanced Army," he said.
As the Army changes and evolves, Cone said the big idea is Strategic Land Power and putting the focus on holding the ground.
The importance of fighting on the ground is one of the lessons learned from recent conflicts as the focus turned to air and sea power. The discussion needs to turn to the importance of land power and what land power can do, the TRADOC commander said.
"War is a fundamentally human endeavor," he said, adding that humans live and operate on the ground. "It will change its form and technology is secondary to human will."
Aligning forces regionally is one approach to addressing the human element in combat under Strategic Land Power. Soldiers will be well-versed in the language, culture and people of their assigned region.
The Army needs to have the capability to change a regime, Cone added.
The last 12 years, focus has been on dealing with the challenges faced every day in combat, with that conflict drawing down, leaders can now look beyond that to science and technology, Cone said.
Odierno has tasked TRADOC with looking to scientists and those develop technologies to see how the Army can become more lethal, more mobile and more deployable while maintaining a high degree of force protection.
Cone has been asked to broaden the Network Integration Exercise to involve more of the Army at places like Fort Hood.
"Everybody needs to start thinking about the future as our time in Afghanistan comes to an end," Cone said.
Moving forward, there is hope, Cone said, despite challenges.
"At the end of the day, we're going to be alright," he said. "No matter what happens, we're going to be alright."