June 25, 2010 - Remarks at The 150th Birthday of the U.S. Army Signal Corps
July 1, 2010
There's a lot of energy in this room tonight.
I've been a Chief of Staff of a Division and a Chief of Staff of a Corps, and those are the second most thankless jobs I've ever had. When I was the Chief of Staff of the First Cavalry Division, we were fielding MSE [mobile subscriber equipment], and Marilyn Quagliotti was the signal battalion Commander. And we'd be out of comms, and I'd call Marilyn in and she'd be grumpy. I'd say, "Marilyn, what's going on'" Marilyn would launch into this very technical discussion of all the problems that we were having. And I'd say, "Stop." I'd ask, "Chief talk, Chief no talk'" And she'd say, "Chief no talk." I'd say, "Come back when Chief can talk." That's kind of how it is with me. But anyway, Happy Birthday.
You only turn 150 once so people have come up to me all night and said thanks for coming back. Come on, 150 is a big deal. It's great for me to be down here and it's also just a great opportunity for me to thank the Signal Community for everything you do for our Army-especially because if this Chief can't talk, we're in big trouble.
So I'm fresh out of Army birthday week, and you noticed I'm a tea and cake type. As I was preparing for tonight, I was wondering: Well, 150 years old. What are the branches of the Army that came in before the Signal Corps' I had my guys go back and look it up. Now, this is an Army participation drill here, alright' What do you think the first branch to come into the Army was' On June 14, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized the formation of ten companies of Infantry. And that was it. That was the Army. Now they thought about it for two days and then they realized that these infantry guys eat alot, need clothes, need guns, need to get paid, and need a place to sleep. So what do you think the second [set of] Corps branches of the Army were' Quartermaster. Adjutant General, right' Someone's got to do the paperwork. Finance: Somebody's got to pay the troops. Engineers: Someone's got to build the place to sleep. So there's your first five. Now it took them until the end of the year to realize they needed Artillery. And we should remember that. The Artillery came in in November of 1775, and this probably won't surprise most of you: it took them 18 months to realize they needed Cavalry. Or it may have been that they needed to afford the horses. I don't know which is which. But Cavalry was the next branch to come in and you know how those Armor guys are' They didn't like the 1940s so they trace their legacy back to the Cavalry.
Then it's kind of quiet for a while. But you can imagine those canons and everything in Artillery. They start breaking down. So, they figured they needed an Ordnance Corps to fix those canons. So in 1812, the Ordnance branch came on. Whoo! That's kind of how we feel about it too. And so that was the eighth branch. And, the Signal Corps rolls in in 1860 as the ninth branch in the Army. Now you can think that took awhile, but when I looked at that, I realized it took 85 years for the Infantry to realize they needed to talk to the rest of the Army. (Laughter).
Anyway, that's just a little Army history for you. And it reminds me of a story. There's a story about this Cavalry Major and this Infantry General and this Signal Sergeant Major. And they're all in this prisoner of war camp. And the Commandant comes in one day and says, "I've got real bad news for you." He said, "Tomorrow at dawn, you're all going to face the firing squad, but I'm here to grant you your last wish." So, he goes to the Cavalry Major and he asks, "Major, what's your last request'" The Cavalry Major responds: "I'd like to have my last dinner by candlelight with a beautiful woman." The Commandant says, "It will be done." He then goes to the Infantry General who sucks himself up to his full height of 5 feet 9, and he says, "I would like to address the troops one more time." The Commandant says, "It will be done." And then he goes up to that crusty old Signal Sergeant Major, and says, "Sergeant Major, what's your last request' He says, "I'd like to be shot an hour before the General starts talking." (Laughter). So, I hope you don't feel that way when I'm done here.
I do some evening speeches, and have discovered that no one remembers what you say, so you've got to have a couple of jokes. So I had the guys out scrambling for these Signal jokes. I got this one from the Secretary of Defense:
So, I was in Baghdad and I just got there. I really wanted the folks there to know that I was on my game and that I was someone to be reckoned with, right. So, I'm in my office and no pictures on the wall-just a big place in a marble palace. And I see a Signal Soldier standing outside my door, and I was kind of like: Hm, I want to make sure that he knows that I'm the new guy [in charge]. So I pick up the phone, and as he's walking in I say, "Yes Mr. President. Of course, Mr. President. Well thank you very much, Mr. President. You know I'll do my best. All right, Mr. President. Thank you very much." I hung up the phone. I looked at the Soldier and said, "What can I do for you, Soldier'" He says, "Sir, I'm here to hook up your phone." (Laughter).
And he is another one of my favorite Signal jokes: One Soldier has a message from the General to the Signal Battalion Commander. It's been a tough day on the CPX [Command Post Exercise], the comms just aren't working. So the Soldier rushes in and says, "Sir, I have a message from the General." The Battalion Commander tells the Soldier: "Well read it to me Soldier, I'm busy." The Soldier asks, "Sir, are you sure you want me to read it to you'" "Absolutely. Read it to me." So the Soldier takes out the message, and he looks at it, and he says, "You are without a doubt the most idiotic, lame-brained officer ever to command a battalion in the United States Army." The Battalion Commander looks at him, thought for a minute and said, "Get that decoded immediately!" (Laughter).
Anyway, I had a great day at the [Signal Corps] museum looking around. We've talked about Albert Myer and the fact that Fort Myer is named after him. There's the monument to him right down the street from my house. There's also another monument down at the end of Lee Avenue, marking the first flight. As I looked at the accomplishments in the Signal branch, I'm just overwhelmed because no other branch in the Army can say that they not only spawned another branch of the Army, but also spawned another branch of the service-with the Aviation and Air Force. And, no other branch of the Army can say that they won not one, not two, but three Oscars. And I have one [Oscar] in the hallway right outside my office. And I'm not giving it back. (Laughter).
And, the Weather Bureau-you've spawned another government agency. Not bad. I mean, as I look at all this, it says to me that you are our innovators and always have been. As I look at the future-and I'm going to talk about that in a second-we need innovators because the technology that you all are working with is turning faster then we can keep up with. So, your talent as innovators is going to be called on for awhile.
Now, the jokes aside, let me just talk to you for a couple of minutes about your Army because we've been through some tough times. We've been at war for nine years. We're at war with a global extremist network that attacked us on our soil. You've been there and you've fought them, and you know that they're not going to quit, they're not going to give up, and they're not going to go away. This is a long-term ideological struggle and so we are going to be at this for awhile.
In the first two months after I became the Chief [of Staff of the Army]-as part of my efforts to go around the Army in 2007 to get a sense of how things were going-I went to talk to a group of [military] spouses at the Community Center. Some of the spouses were Drill Sergeant spouses and they were saying, "My husband is back, but he's going to work at 3:00 in the morning, and coming home at 8:00 at night. He's working seven days a week." Another spouse on the other side of the table said, "Yeah, but he's home." With that exchange-we recognized that the families of the Army were really stressed and the whole force was stressed. So, I wrestled with how to find the words to describe the Army because-at the same time-I was hearing that the Army was "broken," "hollow," and "not ready." And that just flat wasn't true.
So I came up with a term that the Army was "out of balance"-that we're so weighed down by current demands that we can't do the things that we know we need to do to sustain this force over the long haul and to restore the flexibility to do something else besides Iraq and Afghanistan. We put ourselves on a plan in 2007 to get back in balance by the end of next year. And after three years of this-and with the drawdown in Iraq and with the completion of our growth-I'm finally seeing how this actually can come out. We can actually bring the Army to a point where we're deploying one year out, two years back. We need that. Believe me. We just completed a recent study that tells us what we intuitively knew: that it takes 24 to 36 months to recover from a one year combat deployment. It just does. None of us are supermen and women, and the human mind and body wasn't meant to deal with repeated combat deployments continuously. So, we are well-positioned to meet our goals for 70% of the Army by the end of '11. The rest of the Army will catch up in '12. We have to do that.
To get out of the position of being out of balance, we had to do four things. We had to Sustain our Soldiers and Families. We had to continue to Prepare Soldiers for success in the current conflict. We had to Reset them effectively when they returned. And then we had to continue to Transform for an uncertain future. We are making good progress in all those areas.
We have been deploying 150,000 Soldiers over and back to Iraq and Afghanistan, and-at the same time-we have been undergoing the largest organizational transformation of the Army since World War II. We have converted all 300-plus brigades in the Army to modular organizations. That's a huge change. I think we're probably at about 290 right now. We'll finish the rest in the next couple of years.
We're also undergoing the largest restationing of the Army. You all are lucky that you're not affected by any of this BRAC stuff. But, we've got 380,000 Soldiers, Families, and Civilians who are moving. Most of them are moving in the next 18 months. We have four four-star headquarters and seven two- and three-star headquarters that are moving in the next 18 months. We're putting the whole Army on cell phones, and I'll send you the wiring diagram when we're done. (Laughter).
... So we will be a fundamentally different Army than we were in 2001 by the end of 2011. And we will have done in seven years what normally takes 20 or 30 years to do. And it's a better Army-a much better force for the challenges we'll face in the 21st Century.
Let me talk about how we see those challenges. As I said, we're at war. It's a long-term ideological struggle. We're going to be at it for awhile. And as we look at the trends that we're up against around the globe, those trends seem more likely to us to exacerbate those conditions rather than make them better. What am I talking about' Globalization. Up until a year or so ago, globalization was bringing prosperity around the world. But it was unevenly distributed. If you think about continents like South America and Africa, and places like the Middle East and Southeast Asia, you see "have" and "have not" societies. Where the "have" societies are benefiting from the benefits of globalization and the "have nots" aren't. The populations of those "have not" countries are much more susceptible to recruiting by terrorist organizations.
Technology is another double-edged sword. The same technology that's bringing knowledge to anyone with a computer is being used by terrorists to export terror around the globe.
Demographics are going in the wrong direction. We have studies that show the populations in some of these developing countries will double in the next decade. Can you imagine the population of Pakistan-which is already 170 million-doubling in the next decade' Can you imagine the problems that will present an already strapped government'
The population of the world is increasingly moving to cities. We have studies that show that 60% of the world will live in the cities by 2030. Those of you who have operated in the slums of Sadr City in Baghdad where you have a 3 x 5 kilometer area where 2 million people live-that says a lot for the place we have to operate. The other thing about demographics is that the middle classes in both China and India are already larger than the population in the United States. That's a lot of two-car families and that's a lot of demand for resources.
The two things [trends] that worry me most are (1) weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorist organizations, and (2) safe havens-countries or parts of countries where the local government can't or won't deny their countries to terrorists. We saw this in Yemen on Christmas and we see it in Western Pakistan.
So, as we look to the future, we think we're in an era of what we call persistent conflict-a period of protracted confrontation among states, non-states, and individual actors who are increasingly willing to use violence to accomplish their political and ideological objectives. Unfortunately, that's what our country and the world is faced with for the next decade or so. You all and the Army and all the Armed Forces are on the front lines.
So, as we look at that, we also have to ask ourselves, "What's war going to be like'" It would be easy to say well it's going to be like Iraq or it's going to be like Afghanistan. But Afghanistan is not like Iraq, and Iraq's not like other things. So, we look at what happened in Southern Lebanon in 2006. In this case, you have a non-state actor-Hezbollah-operating inside a state-Lebanon-supported by two other states-Syria and Iran-and fighting yet another state-Israel. This non-state actor has the instruments of state power. They start the war with 13,000 rockets and missiles-and not just the small rockets they shoot at our bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the large missiles they shot at Israeli cities. They have unmanned aerial vehicles. They use improvised explosive devices to channelize the attacking Israeli Army forces into kill zones where they fired state-of-the art anti-tank guided missiles at them. (Forty percent of the Israeli causalities came from those anti-tank guided missiles.) They have secure cell phones for communications and secure computers. They have a cruise missile and they hit an Israeli ship in the Mediterranean Sea. And they shoot down an Israeli helicopter with a state-of-the art surface-to-air missile. This is a non-state actor. That's a different ballgame.
As we look at that challenge, we look to build an Army that can conduct full-spectrum operations-an Army that is a versatile mix of tailorable and networked organizations that are operating on a rotational cycle. We have to do this to sustain the efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have to build a capability to hedge against the unexpected and we have to do both of those things at a tempo that's sustainable for this all volunteer force. And that's the Army that we're setting out to build.
Now for you all, go back to the word "network" because as we look at what this Army needs and the qualities this Army needs to have-the Army needs to be versatile and it needs to be agile. Those are two qualities that the network brings.
I was at a dinner speech someplace in Washington, and someone asked me this question: "General, in the '80s, the Army had the big five. It was Apache, Blackhawk, Abrams, Bradley, and Patriot. What's the big five of the 21st Century'" I thought about it for a minute and I responded, "You know, I think it's the network all by itself." If you think about it, no matter where you are in the spectrum of conflict, you need to know where you are. You need to know where your buddy is. You need to know where your enemy is. And if you shoot at them, you need to hit them. The network empowers all those things.
And so you, as our innovators, are going to be on the forefront of moving this Army into the 21st Century. So, as I close here tonight, I want to thank you all for what you do and for what you bring to this Army, and to let you know that we're not going to move in the direction that this Army needs to go without folks like you innovating and moving us forward. So, thank you very much for what you do.