June 10, 2010 - AUSA ILW Breakfast remarks as delivered by SecArmy
June 14, 2010
AUSA ILW Breakfast
Remarks, As Delivered
(3,255 words / ~29 minutes)
Crystal City Marriot, Crystal City, VA
June 10, 2010
GEN Sullivan, thank you for your kind introduction and for your 36 years of service to our nation and your leadership as the President of AUSA.
You're truly one of the Army's best advocates.
I would also like to thank the Honorable Less Brownlee, Representative Kilpatrick, for attending today... GEN Casey and GEN Chiarelli, GEN Dunwoody - I'm pleased to see you here too...and my thanks to GEN (Retired) Lou Wagner, AUSA senior fellow, for attending today as well.
Finally, most importantly, I want to thank CACI, International and their representative, Dr. Jack London, for sponsoring this morning's breakfast ... and I also like to thank the other AUSA members in the audience - many of whom have also served in uniform - thank you all for supporting the American Soldier, their Families and our exceptional Army civilians.
For 17 years, the Institute of Land Warfare has provided the analyses and studies that frame discussion and debate on some of the Army's most pressing issues.
And, needless to say, it's a fool's errand to attempt to follow in the footsteps of so many distinguished speakers - leaders who have engaged and challenged the Army, the defense industry and Congress through this series.
As many of you in the room can attest, legendary speeches by Army leaders is a well-established convention - a convention - I suspect - that will remain remarkably unaugmented at the closure of this morning's session... but whatever the endstate, I'm honored to have these few moments with you.
Since late last September, September 21st to be precise, I've been travelling throughout the Army visiting our deployed forces, training installations and depot activities. I've tried to focus simply on how things work, asking if they work well, if we can improve them and yes, trying to judge what is truly broken.
Through all of this, here is the good news - for all our challenges - America's Army continues to be the best-trained, best-led, best equipped force in our history and is unquestionably the preeminent land power on the earth today.
As you know, at this very moment, our Army is:
Fighting in close combat in Iraq and Afghanistan---an Army at constant war for the last nine years;
It's combating terrorism and bringing stability from the Horn of Africa to the Philippines;
It's disrupting and denying terror sanctuaries in Central America;
Defeating the drug trade and insurgency in Colombia;
Providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief here at home in the Gulf coast and abroad as we recently saw in Haiti;
And performing full spectrum missions around the world to defend freedom and relieve human suffering.
But as you know too, this is a force that is stressed - two fronts of war, nearly a decade of a force that is out of balance, afforded insufficient dwell times...and on and on...
We've seen the impact...escalating incidences of drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence on the rise, record numbers of suicides and more.
It deeply troubles us...and we are responding with a wide range of programs...but in spite of all that, this isn't the challenge I came to talk to you about today...
Instead, I'd like to chat a bit about one of the things that has happened in the recent past at least in part as a result of our attempt to address these critical problems associated now with some nine years of war...
The slide you see depicts some of the changes that have taken place in our force over the last 9 years.
Notice that we've shifted capabilities and force structure to support the fights in Afghanistan and Iraq in keeping with our primary mission. We've further integrated our enormously capable reserve forces. And we've reduced some capabilities and enhanced others. But in that process, there have been inevitable trade-offs.
And the question we now need to ask ourselves - the question we must judge is simply:
Is this the road to future success... is this how we best serve both the nation we are charged to defend and prepare those who step forward in pursuit of that vital mission...
The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton, my close friend and esteemed former colleague - is one of the Army's most passionate advocates of Professional Military Education.
Chairman Skelton, is something of a historian. He believes strongly that military leaders simply have to have a good appreciation for history and education - and only those who read and understand the military art can successfully lead our soldiers on future battlefields under unforeseen conditions and circumstances.
Without fail, during a typical office call, after all the pleasantries, Chairman Skelton has a tendency to lean forward and peer into the eyes of the visiting officer while asking: Aca,!aEURcdo you know who Colonel Henry Bouquet was and what he did at the battle of Bushy Run'
Those officers who do their homework - and those who don't - soon learn that in July 1763, during the French and Indian War, Colonel Henry Bouquet was in command of 500 British soldiers who were ordered to march from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to relieve Fort
Pitt, near what is now known as Harrison City, Pennsylvania. At the time, Fort Pitt was reportedly under siege by a local Indian force and the fate of its inhabitants was unknown...Bouquet's mission was simple: retake the fort.
As the British column approached Bushy Run Station near Edge Hill, they were attacked and quickly surrounded by a superior Indian force-the British managed to hold their ground until after sunset, when the attacking force withdrew. That evening Bouquet ordered his men to construct a hasty redoubt on Edge Hill. It was a typical tactic, hardly surprising at the time, but Bouquet decided to do something else: he improvised his defense by ordering his soldiers to allow the Indians to breach the perimeter as they pressed the fight toward the British.
By feigning weakness, Bouquet quickly drew the enemy into his hastily established perimeter and decisively defeated them by attacking the invaders from within his own position...essentially surrounding the numerically superior Indian force. The tactic quickly broke the Indian attack and with his remaining force, COL Bouquet reestablished British control of Fort Pitt.
In the face of incredible odds, COL Bouquet innovated - and his innovation made the difference between success and failure that day.
Now, I don't have the original source documents, but I suspect that many of COL Bouquet's contemporaries spoke about his choice of locations for the redoubt, and pondered the unregimented that significant risk is inherent when, in so doing, we markedly denigrate our ability to train the next generation of creative leaders...
leaders who will need to operate comfortably in uncertainty and the proverbial fog of war...
You are all also aware that, after many fits and starts, the Secretary of Defense cancelled the Future Combat Systems (FCS) program. During the life of that program we spent on the order of 17 billion dollars trying to foresee the future and equip the Army for the then predicted challenges....
On the other hand, a few weeks ago I had the honor of attending the graduation ceremonies at West Point. On the field that day were more than 1,000 cadets...our Army's future leaders. In their 4 years at West Point, we had spent some $205,000 to train and educate each cadet on the field that day.
In other words, the entire class I watched graduate, a class that will undoubtedly include future general officers, a combatant commander or two, perhaps a future Chief of Staff and more than a few COL Bouquets... cost this nation a fraction of that $17 billion - about 1% as much to be more precise.
Which is the better value' $17 billion to predict a future we largely got wrong' Or some 1% of that amount to field more than 1000 future Army leaders - Army thinkers...
Now don't get me wrong, I'm now saying we don't need to modernize. I'm not suggesting a revival of the now infamous procurement holidays of the 1990's.
The Army must, the Army will take every step, make every investment to ensure our forces are the best equipped, most lethal force on earth... I have no interest in creating a so-called fair fight.
But what I am saying, from my observations as the Secretary, the Army's success on any future battlefield, against an unknown enemy or threat will not be answered solely by technology, a new weapon system or platform. Instead, it's highly likely our future success, much as in the past, will rest largely on the tenacity and ability of the individual Soldier and leader - to innovate - to adapt...wherever the battle...whatever the face of the enemy...
When you strip away everything else, since 1775, one thing has remained constant: The foundation of our Army's success has been built on the individual Soldier. And across 235 years, the Generating Force has been and remains the key component of the equation that ensures the primacy of the individual, through recruiting, retention, training and education. Its mission is to ensure the Soldier is outfitted with the best equipment, that the Soldier receives the best support and medical care - that the Soldier's family is cared for. It's an institution that is simply an irreplaceable ingredient in our success...and it's an institution, that for all of its relevance, at this moment in time is in jeopardy...
After almost nine years of war -- the fact is our institutional ability to produce that Soldier of the future has started to fray. Our ability to supply trained and ready forces for the current fight while taking care of our Soldiers and preparing for an uncertain future is being severely tested.
And as such, isn't it time to ask ourselves an important question: Is the generating force of today properly structured - properly balanced to produce and support the agile, adaptive and creative Soldiers and leaders so integral to the success of both today's and tomorrow's future mission'
Historically, the Generating Force was optimized to produce a large, highly-trained, conventional force replete with advanced weapons systems of the era. More recently, it was designed to defeat a Soviet invasion in a winner-take-all battle that would, at most, last a few weeks.
If we examine the battlefields of the past decade, however, we see a much different picture... Today's enemy neither depends on nor defends a homeland - no central populations and infrastructure to tie down and dictate its defensive postures... This new foe finds its inspiration in centuries past and molds its tactics from the lessons learned through daily contact with Coalition Forces...
For all our tendencies to cast these fighters as ideologically moribund warriors, mired in a lifestyle of an age long past, the truth is - this is a highly decentralized, impressively adaptive, creative, agile and deadly enemy who is underestimated at great peril and derided at great cost. Most of all, this is an enemy who, a mere 25 years ago, was from a military's perspective, totally unrecognized and fully unanticipated...Our highly CENTRALIZED institutions must find a way to be just as adaptive, creative and agile today and in the future while instilling those attributes in our Soldiers and leaders... or we put our forces at risk.
Think about it, in the year 2000, the combined military and intelligence budget the United States of America was well over $300 billion a year, a significant portion of which was expended to asses tomorrow - who our enemy might be... where the fight would take place... and what would that fight look like' And yet, literally a month before 9/11, the Department of Defense was seriously contemplating reducing force structure to pay for modern weapons systems such as improved space and missile defenses.
No one predicted that by 2003 we would be waging a two-front ground war in Afghanistan and Iraq...
Our operational forces have changed dramatically over the course of the last 9 years, driven by the imperative of daily contact with an adaptive foe in a highly complex environment, while the
Generating Force for a variety of reasons has adapted more slowly. Largely through the tremendous efforts and tireless dedication of our Soldiers, Civilians, Army contractors and their families, the generating force has managed to stay on top. Still, how much longer can we lean upon the sacrifice of so few'
Put another way, this current imbalance between the Generating and Operational Force should be a source of great concern
Please understand, I understand this challenge is hardly new - Army senior leaders have attempted to confront this conundrum since 9/11and America's entry into the Aca,!aEURclong war.
Since 2001, Army Chiefs of Staff, Secretaries, and other Senior Leaders have endeavored to transform the generating force and re-establish its vitality. Over that time, we've conducted studies, established offices and task forces to address the issues of institutional adaptation; we've worked to reform our business practices by means of internal initiatives and external requirements issued from within our own ranks and from the Department of Defense as well as the Congress.
And yet, for a variety of reasons, these well-meaning initiatives have, at best, met with uneven success. Because of a focus on operational forces, frequent changes in leadership or the sheer energy and institutional focus devoted to prevailing in two theaters of war, the generating force has encountered much and overcome more... Indeed, given these formidable circumstances, what the generating force has been able to achieve is pretty remarkable. But we simply can't continue to ask and expect so much from that which we have recently devoted so little...
Now I recognize this isn't a challenge that will be met easily. After years of recent reform effort, we still struggle to align our institutions, processes and practices with ARFORGEN, a modular, brigade-centric operating force, and the realities of combat with an adaptive enemy.
But regardless of how difficult the challenge may be, we must re-energize our efforts to transform the Generating Force and create the foundation to best ensure tomorrow's success; A foundation that consists of flexible institutions and processes that can adapt as our strategic environment changes, whomever the enemy, whatever the year...
As we now look to transform the Generating Force to produce leaders and innovators of tomorrow, we will need to conduct an in-depth review of our personnel system. We will need to look hard at our personnel policies and begin a transformation of our current practice of Aca,!aEURcmanaging people to one that - manages talent - both uniformed and civilian. This should include recruiting, training, educating and assigning our leaders in a way that best prepares and provides them with the skills they will need to thrive in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.
Earlier this year, General Stan McChrystal was shown this slide that attempted to describe the complexity of the American military strategy in Afghanistan. When he saw it, GEN McChrystal was reported to have said -- "Once we understand the slide, we will win the war."
My staff has since shown me similar looking slides describing the Generating Force in all its gory complexity, along with diagrams of key Army processes. These charts remind me of a diagram I once sketched out as I tried to determine how to renovate a 180 year old home I'd purchased in beautiful downtown Pierrepont Manor.
From the exterior, the house had great curb appeal, but its innards, its foundation, were a different story: ancient plumbing, outdated electrical outlets, out-of-code wiring, cracks in the foundation, dry rot in the basement. I couldn't just focus on the part of the house that could be seen; I had to deal with the innards - the guts that held it together. In a similar vein today, we need to deal with the innards and foundation of our Army. We have to understand the diagrams and ask ourselves, is this the best way'
Where do we start' Where do we place our limited resources to make the greatest impact'
If history has taught us anything, it should be that the individual, thinking Soldier finds the breach, crafts the solution, discovers the enemy's vulnerability. More importantly, only the individual Soldier can safeguard the helpless villagers in the face of an enemy's brutality. No technology in the world can equal that Soldier as our most effective combat multiplier.
Through effectively honing the ingenuity, audacity and education of our future leaders, we can better ensure we prevail in the next conflict... much as with COL Bouquet and the challenge at Bushy Ridge.
If we really take a hard look at history - as Chairman Skelton constantly urges -we should understand the fog and friction of war will never truly be lifted solely by technology...the next battlefield evolution of Blue Force Tracker or Force 21.
And we know one more thing, too: We can best overcome this limitation by carefully and deliberately crafting a Generating Force that is able to train, prepare and support our Soldiers to cope with and overcome this inescapable fact. Just as we've worked to achieve a balance in Boots-on-the-ground: dwell time for our deploying forces and a balance between tooth and tail, we need to have an optimal balance of capabilities within our Generating Force.
This is not simply a question of numbers going up or down.
Rather, it's a matter of understanding what our Generating Force does today and what it will need to do in the future. It's about seeing the institution clearly, understanding the value of what it produces and prioritizing our efforts. We must look at the house in its entirety - its plumbing, the landscape, its electrical. It's about getting the foundation right....all that, in the face of an unpredictable future.
Yoggi Berra put it pretty well that, Aca,!aEURcIt's tough to make predictions - especially about the future. But, barring the ability to peer into a crystal ball, we can - we should strive to strengthen the institutions and processes that produce the individual Soldier for our Army. In other words, we need to ensure that the foundation of our Army - "The Generating Force" is up to that challenge.