VCSA Speech to AUSA Resolutions Committee
October 15, 2008
Thank you for inviting me to speak to such a distinguished group. No doubt you've heard there's a new Vice Chief of Staff hanging around. I keep hearing it - and I keep looking around.
Okay... I can probably use that one for about a week.
The reality is that I'm extremely humbled by the opportunity and trust offered by this office.
Yet I'm learning the hardest thing to do is to break away and get some exercise - which gives me time to think. At least I know I'll get two hours- maybe more - to think during Sunday's 10 miler!
I replaced one of the best leaders this Army has ever produced. General Dick Cody is a force of nature - and he, by will alone - tackled some of the biggest challenges this Army has ever encountered. He did it with the confidence of an Attack Pilot - and the skill of a true strategic thinker.
Fortunately, or unfortunately - depending on your view - I've spent 2 tours in Iraq and 17 months serving as the SMA to the SECDEF. So I'll be blunt - I've probably only touched on about two thirds of the areas the Vice oversees. In some ways I feel like I'm watching a painting emerge one brushstroke - or one powerpoint presentation at a time.
Over time those brushstrokes start to complement each other - and a picture emerges: In this case - the Institutional Army. This morning I'm going to let the staff give you their standard pitch within the construct of the Chief's imperatives. From my position as the new Vice, I feel it important to give you a feel for what I'm thinking 60 days into the job.
I've got three concepts I've been thinking about that I think are important to the Army, our Government, and our Nation.
First though - It is important to put those observations into context. There are a few global trends or observations that are having an incredible impact on our soldiers, their families, and our Nation.
Now - these trends are not new. In fact many of you in this room predicted them almost a decade ago - yet today they are revealing themselves in incredible ways.
The first is Population Growth.
You can see its effects everyday. The rate of growth is multiplying at an alarming rate. The second and third order effects are touching us all. Not only the increasing level of urbanization - but also creating global climate changes, and scarcity of critical resources.
As a young Armor officer, I was instructed that Armor Formations should bypass built-up areas - cities - and at all cost large urban areas. Yet as a division commander, I was told to go ahead and occupy a city of about 7.5 million people, 276 square miles... kind of like Chicago today.
Oh, how war has changed.
The second 'manifesting trend' is the global impact of Information Technologies.
It is redefining our global operating environment. The connectivity of virtual terrain is accelerating the rate of change - and it's equally accelerating the rate of decision-making needed to keep pace with those very changes.
That Virtual Terrain has become a new operating domain - one that needs to be seriously addressed if we are to adapt to the emerging strategic environment. I would submit to you that we have not adjusted our process to the 24 hour news network cycle. They are like the Bears that must be fed news. If you don't feed them, they will find food somewhere else for sure.
We have not faced the reality that every soldier we employ - and every savvy terrorist we encounter -- has a cell phone capable of taking a picture - or video for that matter - and can transmit it half way around the world in a matter of seconds. Think of the iReport on CNN.
The final 'trend' is the rise of extremism - both state and non-state which has figured out how to manipulate the disenfranchised populations, or the virtual communities for detestable reasons.
At the center of these global trends stand our nation's guardians: The Soldies - who act on behalf of the nation to defend our way of life.
They have adapted at an unprecedented rate from an Army extremely comfortable and happy to 'close with and destroy the enemy' -- to an Army that can organize and apply all the elements of national power.
Who can simultaneously think in terms of offense, defense, and stability. Huba Wass de Czega calls operational art 'a skill: taking an unstructured problem and giving it enough structure so that planning can lead to useful action.' - our youngest leaders have developed an ability to apply the operational art to the complexity of modern wars.
Many of us wish we could return to the days when armies fought - and others were responsible for fixing what we broke. Those days are gone forever. War has changed and can no longer be neatly placed on a spectrum running from low to high intensity.
General Charles Krulak - back in 1999 - gave us quite possibly the best metaphor for truly appreciating the complexity of the doctrinal balance of offense, defense, and stability - what we call: Full Spectrum Operations - in what he called the 'three block war'.
It is not irregular war, it is not a major confrontation - it is the realistic probability of conflict that involves elements of many forms of contact - kinetic to non-kinetic.
So from my position as the Vice - and as a former commander in the field - what do I see as three vital strategic goals that ultimately support the Soldiers - that continue to provide our COCOMs the forces they need - that bring the force 'back into balance - and that ultimately set conditions for the 'Vice After Next' to fulfill our charter from the nation'
Institutional Adaptation to Persistent Engagement
The first, I believe, is the adaptation of the Generating force to the reality of persistent engagement.
We have to - as the Army - adapt the process, adapt the culture, adapt the policies, and adapt the people to support the fight we are in now, and prepare for an era of engagement in support of the National Security Strategy.
The question is how we organize the generating force against ARFORGEN to increase operational effectiveness. How do we better align the gears of the equipping, personnel, and training to not only provide the forces that are needed - but also provide the necessary recovery period for our soldiers and their families.
Questions start to emerge.
From a Force Structure perspective - are we truly configured for persistent engagement -- Where conflict is an unfortunate outcome of improper engagement - or a lack of engagement'
Here is an interesting analysis from RAND - if you look at the number of troops forward deployed you'd see that up until OIF/OEF, there has been relatively equal growth in the support structure of the Army in proportion to forces deployed. Yet... today, we are instead cutting into that very support structure - which you could identify as the bulk of the generational force -- to maintain an Army in the field.
Doable - definitely doable in the short-run - but the cost/benefit decreases as you start to eventually lose proficiency of the generating force and start to drive the entire force 'out of balance'.
Do we continue to 'manage' shortages' Or do we acknowledge that even with the growth of the Army to 1.1 million by 2011 - and if our assumptions are in perfect alignment with the strategic environment - that we will still be asking our soldiers to deploy during a twenty year career an average of six or seven times. Possibly more if you are part of our CS and CSS formations.
When we look at Force Structure - are we looking at how we support a BCT centric world'
Do we look at 'life-cycles' of certain types of units' Do we create temporary TO&E's that support the creation of SECFORs, Advisory Missions, and Personal Security Detachments - that increase the topline, but have an event-driven life-cycle contingent to the accomplishment of desired objectives'
How do we optimize the competencies developed in the operating force to the generating force' The level of innovation and creativity is breathtaking. Take a quick glance at the virtual discussions on sites such as Companycommand.com and you'll see what I'm talking about.
How does Seven years of war - and possibly more -- change the equation'
Which brings me to another point - Human Capital.
We have an incredibly efficient 'legacy' system that by virtue of the manning shortages, has evolved into an 'equity based system' rather than a 'talent based system'.
We have to force ourselves out of the 'status quo - out of the box we've created - to a system that looks outside the 'traditional' selection system to inject a higher sense of 'quality' into pivotal leadership roles.
We've harnessed and cultivated an incredible level of agility in our junior leaders that is simply breathtaking. Their depth of experience in many instances far outweighs any senior military officer sitting in a position of authority today. There are probably young leaders - weathered and hardened by experience - who are more than ready than their senior officers for positions of command. Think of Creighton Abrams in World War II - a Combat Command Commander 10 years after he was commissioned.
There are probably weathered troopers who have evolved later in life who could take on positions not normally suited to their age. Think 'Vinegar Joe' Stillwell - where at age 59, he led 100 soldiers over 140 miles through the Burmese jungle to the safety of India.
We have compartmentalized career tracks to the point that we've lost the concept of 'generalist' - and don't push the 'talent' into positions for which the Army, and by virtue the Nation, has a greater need.
We have become pretty lopsided in our approach to holding leaders in position during deployments - which was the right decision at the time - weighting the main effort - before we recognized and then adopted the reality of the long war - we are almost too late in realizing that we may have cut the heart out of the intellectual center of the Army.
We have to look at ways to maximize the cross-fertilization between the generating and operating force to make the Army as a whole stronger in the end.
I would even go so far as to question - seriously question - at what level can we rotate individual augmentees' I know that creates tensions. Yet, when you really get down to it, above the BCT level - there is little value in unit rotations to overall campaign plan momentum in today's environment.
Remember, it is persistent conflict - a subset of being persistently engaged in a long war.
We have to recognize that the 'mission-type-order' culture of the Operating Force is ramming smack-dab against the Macdonald-ization of the Generating Force.
The Industrial Based POM Process.
The second 'strategic problem' is probably bigger than all of us in this room.
Secretary Gates mentioned it in a speech earlier this week at the National Defense University:
"The simple reality of our strategic context is that operational needs are outstripping our current resourcing process. An incredibly fossilized systems approach built during the cold war at the height of the industrial age has now become an anchor dragging down the rapid/adaptive requirements needed for the informational age."
The POM is driving strategy rather than the strategy driving the POM - the accelerated rate of change no longer recognizes a six to twelve year process.
And as a result, we've had to bypass our own procurement systems in an effort to maintain operational parity.
Yet we can look inside our own nation and see commercial businesses that can turn from idea and R&D straight to production in weeks and months. Our 'business process' output is grounded in a years and decades horizon.
The brutal truth is everyone knows the cumbersome and inefficient nature of the process - yet the problem is so big, so ingrained into the very nature of our government's programming and budgeting - that no one wants to tackle it head on.
So instead - we work around the very system we are supposed to use in an effort to maintain a comparative advantage. And by that very act - of having to work around our own systems - the decaying methodology of an industrial age process must be modified or replaced.
I can give you numerous examples of where we have had to work around our own system to get something needed in a timely manner to the field:
The MRAP. FRAG-Kits. Command Post of the Future. TIGR. ISR. Just a few that I've been involved in - required by the sheer momentum and velocity of the evolving battlefield -- have had to buck a 12 year projection, a 6 year FYDP, go against the sage advice of the Council of you-name-it, to get something to the Soldiers in the field in a timely manner.
To further the SECDEFs comments:
"how do we institutionalize procurement of such capabilities - and the ability to get them fielded quickly' Why did we have to go outside the normal bureaucratic process to develop counter-IED technologies, to build MRAPs, and to quickly expand our ISR capability' In short, why did we have to bypass existing institutions and procedures to get the capabilities we need to protect our troops and pursue the wars we are in'"
Take it to the extreme - think of what would happen if our adversaries had to operate within a similar cycle. What if the Explosively Formed Penetrator - the EFP - which is an extremely lethal improvised explosive device that is literally a poor-mans HEAT round -- had to live the POM cycle'
Aca,!Ac validated requirements process,
Aca,!Ac a capabilities assessment, a competitive acquisition process,
Aca,!Ac untold number of testing agencies to ensure interoperability,
Aca,!Ac maybe- maybe not through an accelerated CDRT and AR2B process,
Aca,!Ac councils of collective accountability,
Aca,!Ac maybe a decision point in the ACP somewhere for fielding instructions,
Somewhere, about 8-9 years, we would need to start getting it into the POM cycle.
Aca,!Ac It would have to first get through TAA.
Aca,!Ac Someone would have to start talking to Congress at some point.
Aca,!Ac Where to make them' Whose district' Could we get the congressional funding'
Aca,!Ac News articles would start to appear where some staffer would rail about the ridiculous claims the PM is touting about the EFP
Aca,!Ac The company that bid on the EFP contract would site cost plus overruns
Somewhere... 12-15 years down the road, and EFP would make it into the inventory.
Sorry - the world has changed, the strategic environment has shifted. What next.
My point is this: the POM process was an incredible invention that has inculcated itself into the very fabric of how the Military, Congress, the Defense Industry do business. Yet it is based in an industrial process being surpassed by the accelerated rate of change.
We need a Blue Ribbon - BRAC-like commission, independent in its approach yet entirely inclusive, armed with the capability to actually CHANGE the system to adapt to the new strategic environment - to and information based POM.//
National Investment in the All Volunteer Force
Last point - I believe the All Volunteer Force is a National Treasure.
It has shown its incredible resilience -- yet I am concerned with the demands placed on it.
We live in a time where we are asking the 'ordinary' American who has chosen to serve, to be 'extraordinary' - yet we barely recognize it.
We hear it in the political rhetoric everyday - almost to the point where it has become white noise on the backdrop of America. Yet behind the rhetoric there is more symbolism than there is substance. And everyday the fight goes on, and the sacrifices continue.
What concerns me... worries me... is the level of investment by the nation in those who have - and are serving. There is an obliviousness that has formed across the Nation that is comfortable not really understanding they are leaving the fate of the nation to a little less than half of 1 percent of the nation's populace.
There is an obliviousness towards the strain and sacrifice military families are dealing with day in and day out - year after year - deployment after deployment.
In the military communities throughout this nation there are spouses and children deathly afraid to answer an unforeseen knock on the door for fear the knock may forever change their life.
We are balancing operational demands against an arbitrary Force Cap that is directly impacting the critical decision-makers who ultimately make the call on whether this National Treasure blossoms - I'm talking about the families.
We are telegraphing to the families an incredible expectation: expect six to seven deployments over your twenty years.
Is this the right message to send' Are we creating another form of Hollow' Hollow Souls'
We have to elevate the discourse to the national level. The All Volunteer Force is not a Price Tag - it's a National Treasure. Some emphatically state we are spending way too much on the All Volunteer Force - I would emphatically respond that we are NOT spending enough.
The investment in the All Volunteer Force is an investment in national security. We have to do this better.
And you know... one other thing - We have to educate the nation on the horrible idea of conscription in an era of Persistent Engagement. These information based conflicts demand soldiers and leaders who are motivated and clearly understand their actions can have a resounding effects at the strategic level. //
So those are three emerging strategic themes that I believe address the emerging global context. Force us into strategic 'balance'. And set the conditions for the next Vice's successor.
Each touch and feed off the other - mutually supportive - converging at the margins. Presenting challenges in the Policy arena, the bureaucratic process, and the organizational culture -- with the ultimate objective of making sure our soldiers - the heartbeat of our nation - are prepared to fight and win along the entire spectrum of conflict.
Thank you for your time. Questions'