Oct. 25, 2010 -- AUSA Keynote Remarks
October 27, 2010
Well, I know I'm in trouble. I can't dance. I can't sing. I'm not sure how you follow that act, but I have to be honest with you, you're in a little bit of trouble as well. By way of full disclosure, I am an unabashedly recovering politician. For every one of the last forty years, I've always been involved in a campaign at one part or another. For a recovering politician to have a microphone and a relatively captive audience is like putting a full moon in front of a wear wolf - it gets pretty ugly. But I don't want to abuse the honor and the privilege that you've provided me here today.
Gordon - General Sullivan, let me thank you for your kind introduction, but more importantly for the great leadership that you bring to this great organization. I could really get myself in trouble and begin to introduce to you all of the Army leadership - uniform and civilian-that are here. I'm not sure who's back at home answering the phones, but it's a very clear expression of the deep respect and deep gratitude that we have to all of you and what you do through your efforts in AUSA to support our great men and women in uniform, their families, and of course our civilian employees as well - all part of the Army family. It's a great chance for me, and I appreciate it. I am also pleased to have a chance to speak to you for what really is the first time as the Secretary of the Army. I was here last year. I'd been in office about twenty seven and a half minutes. I hadn't even had my first powerpoint presentation, so that tells you how little experience I had. But after a year on the job, you won't be surprised to hear I've had a powerpoint presentation or two. I can assure you this year's convention experience for me is going to be much much different than last year. There's another thing as well. As a kid from Watertown NY, I am particularly excited about (Applause). I am particularly excited about what we all recognize as the culmination of this annual gathering, the Marshall Dinner, and there's a very special reason for that, particularly the opportunity to be here as your keynote speaker.
It's a bit of a vindication for my hometown. Some of you may not be aware that in 1939, General Hugh Drum, for whom that great Army post near Watertown NY is named - home of the 10th Mountain Division's claim to glory (applause). Hugh Drum was expected to be named the next Army Chief of Staff following the retirement of Malin Craig, but President Roosevelt apparently had other ideas. He picked this obscure General by the name of George Marshall. I don't want you to think we're bitter. We're not. I think it worked out pretty well, Marshall got a dinner; Drum got a Fort, and the world's been a better place. That's a pretty good deal. The point of all this is that this has been an amazing year for the United States Army, and if I may, for me personally as well. With politics, Washington can be a rough town, and you tend to get a bit cynical. But if anything can restore your faith, trust and hope in this great experiment that is the United States of America, it is the men and women of the United States Army. (Applause)
For them, as you know well, duty, honor, country, as General Douglas MacArthur said so famously in his address at West Point, are a "rallying point to build courage where courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn." In my brief time as Secretary, I have seen up close these brave young men and women tested under the stress of some nine years of conflict in two theaters of war. I've seen their courage. I've had the honor of awarding their valor and stood humbly and sadly by them as they wept at the loss of a fallen comrade. Of course, much of what America at large has seemed to lose sight of is the depth and the breadth of the service of the America Soldier. You know all the statistics: 1.1 million people plus some 300,000 civilian employees. That's a community that's larger than nine of the united states. Yet those who wear that Soldier's uniform, active duty, guard and reserve, represent less than one half of one percent of our Nation's total population. You know too, they are deployed in some 80 countries with some missions that are even more complex than war. Often it is bringing hope, from the flood ravaged plains of Pakistan to Haiti's shores, to New Orleans' coast. They are out there making a difference. And after all these years, I continue to be awestruck by the willingness of these brave men and women to stand in harm's way, to defend our way of life and to selflessly serve without fanfare or complaint. George Marshall, you remember him from earlier' He's the guy that stole Hugh Drum's job, remember' George Marshall wrote that morale is a state of mind; it is steadfastness, and courage and hope. It is confidence and zeal and loyalty. It is elan, esprit de corps. It is determination.
I believe that we need to follow that example. Amongst the senior leadership, many of us, if not most of whom have joined you here this morning, believe collectively we have a solemn responsibility to build that morale - from ensuring troops in the field have the best training equipment and leadership; that their families have care and support back home; that we take care of our wounded and fallen in a manner befitting their service and sacrifice, and that we, as an organization are as efficient and as adaptable as that American Soldier.
When I spoke here last year, I noted that even with all my years on the House Armed Services Committee, I had much to learn. But I promised you then that I'd expend the necessary energy and commitment to ensure that we'd make every effort to improve the professional quality of service and quality of life for our extraordinary Soldiers. Throughout the course of the past year, I've been traveling across the Army, meeting with its leaders, Soldiers and civilians, people of our commands and components. I've been working to learn firsthand the challenges our Army faces and the opportunities for change. And guess what' I found a project. Now for those of you who attended this year's ILW breakfast, or who thumbed through the glossy Greenbook, that project won't surprise you much. But either way, I hope this effort will lead to a better Army, will lead to our serving those great men and women even more effectively. Let me talk about it just a little bit.
Over the course of the past nine years, the operational army, the tip of the spear, has changed dramatically. The need for that change has been driven by a fundamental reality: daily contact with a decentralized, adaptive, creative, and very very deadly enemy. But the institutional Army, what we call the generative force-- which prepares, trains, educates and supports our forces for the current and future fights-- looks pretty much the same as it did structurally since the early to mid 1970's. That means we are using a model to build both the Army of today and the future that was developed by people drinking Tang. They drove a Volkswagen Beetle, and I mean the original $2,000 model, and they watched Apollo moon landings on tv, most likely in black and white. That's not to say the Army, and particularly the Air Force, has not lent itself to innovation and progress. It has. And in fact, I think, as we look at what has happened over the last nine years in Afghanistan and Iraq, we can understand the generating force has performed magnificently, even while burdened with an outdated construct. There have been efforts to change in the past. The Army's seen significant structural changes: Marshall's reorganization of the War Department in 1942; Operation Steadfast at the end of the Vietnam War, which realigned our institutions and built an all volunteer force for a post Cold War confrontation. But these models really don't address the challenges of what I call the new paradigm - that America's enemies are no longer solely defined by nations or contained by borders, because they're not.
The operational Army continues to morph each and every day, sometimes each and every hour. Our combat formations quickly adapt to changes in terrain, and mission, and the enemy they face. I believe the institutions and processes we have to help those forces do better, need to change as well. Out generating force must not only be an engine of change, but be designed for change in and of itself; an entity that's ideas, innovation and a determination bring the best services, equipment, training and leaders to our service members and their families. Institutions, all institutions, just have a historical tendency to evolve slowly, if at all. That's especially true when you don't give them the construct and structure to make those changes. But let's not make any mistake about it, at least in my opinion, motivation is soon to come. And it's going to come in the form of a harsh reality. Even before Secretary Gates spoke of what he called "America's difficult economic circumstances"; even before he warned us of as he put it "the gusher has been turned off, and it will stay off for a good period of time'; I felt the need to begin a process of finding how our Army can do things smaller, smarter, cheaper and better.
At my direction, the Undersecretary of the Army, my partner, my friend, seated in the front row, Dr. Joe Westphal, and the distinguished Vice Chief of Staff, General Pete Chiarolli have begun spearheading what we're calling Capability Portfolio Reviews that already show great promise in bringing better discipline to our programs; better evaluating and realigning our requirements with the reality of today and where we think tomorrow is going. By February, I expect this process will provide an overarching detailed analysis and provide all of us recommendations to revalidate, to modify or terminate those requirements. And when we do that, we'll ensure responsible and necessary Departmental priorities for investment, research, development and acquisition to include force structure and training across every one of those Portfolios. Along with the Chief, General George Casey, we've commissioned a review of our acquisition processes and stood up a short term task force to analyze costs, establish credible benchmarks, and help us better understand not only where our money goes, but also what we're getting in return for it. I want to be very clear. Struggling to bring fiscal discipline to military institutions has been tried before, you might not be surprised to hear. In fact, its efforts are as old as the history and the criticisms that attend it. "The ancients had a pretty great advantage over us", Napoleon once complained, "in that their armies were not trailed by a second army of pen pushers." Of course, upon his elevation to Emperor, I suspect Napoleon reevaluated his appreciation of pen pushers. But criticisms notwithstanding, institutional change is not merely about pinching pennies or pushing pens. And efficiencies are not simply about improving the bottom line. They're about doing things better, doing them smarter and taking full advantage of the progress, technology, knowledge, and experience that we have available to us. And in this Army, those are almost unlimited resources. And efficiencies are too about being as responsible as possible to the taxpayers who sacrifice - who fund us. All of you are much too young to remember, but I recall Bob Dylan once sang, you don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing, and the times, they are a-changing. These days, these times, we're going to make sacrifices and change the way we do business. It won't be easy, but you know what, that's okay. In fact, it's more than okay; it's a good thing. In the military, a strong economy is not solely about individual prosperity, as important as that is. It's also about our national security - that's what we do. So the question is, where do we start'
Well, I've got a Task Force that's been burrowing away and will provide a full report within ninety days. But in the meantime, I've asked for and have been receiving updates on their progress, and I think we're on the right track. We can build a foundation that will not only identify savings, but manage strategic risks, maximize flexibility, and posture us even more effectively for the future. I've said many times that good policy, particularly in the United States Army, starts with people. Like there can be no Navy without ships, nor an Air Force without planes, we can't have an Army without our people. Our efforts, all our efforts, must start with them, with training, and education, the things that create our greatest hedge against future threats; that hedge adaptive, innovative, thinking enlisted Soldiers, Officers and NCO's - folks who will make a difference. That edge will be provided with family programs that ensure a quality all volunteer force like we have built today, and will continue into the future, regardless of our budget issues. It will begin as well with leaders who recognize the need for change and who are not just comfortable within it, but understand it, even welcome it, and operate effectively.
I don't want to put anybody on the spot, but I've been partnering in the early days of this effort with General Ann Dunwoody, also seated down here in our front row. She was the Army's first Four Star female as you know. The thing that really stands her apart is what she's done as Commanding General at Army Material Command. She leads an organization as you know that is breathtaking in scope: over 70,000 employees, an annual budget of $49 billion dollars; and she manages about $92 billion dollars in contracts to support 1.34 million pieces of equipment; and a work load that's three times what it was during the Vietnam conflict. She's a busy lady. Now you would think with all that, General Dunwoody would have just about enough on her plate. But she knows, as I do, that part of her mission - her duty - is to become more efficient and more effective as budgets decline and belts tighten. She put it this way: "If we don't, then we'll lose force structure or risk modernization." You know what' She's absolutely right. Granted AMC is an organization that's massive in structure and complex in its mission, but we're asking ourselves, and General Dunwoody and her lead is asking, how big do we really need to be in order to do what really matters' That is, become effective.
AMC has a headquarters of 1,215, and when you're talking about an organization with a 49 billion dollar budget, that doesn't sound excessive. But General Electric, as Ann knows, is three times AMC's size, managing an enterprise that is 156 billion dollars. Their headquarter staff - 1215 like AMC' No. It's less than half of that. I suspect this is true of many of our headquarters. Now I want to be cautious, and I want to urge caution, because we can't make one to one comparisons to the private sector. The private sector can do all kinds of things, like just in time inventory strategies, over-reliance on sole or single source vendors, etc. etc. Those kinds of things don't really lend themselves necessarily to the procurement of weapons and vehicles and body armor and such and such. But we can learn. We can learn from the private sector without replicating. And we can change, and I believe we have to, and I believe we will. As General Dunwoody said it so well, "It will never become business as usual because we have Soldiers who are still in harm's way. Soldiers who are making sacrifices." She put it, "We are an Army at war. You can either wring your hands or roll up your sleeves." Now all of us must roll up our sleeves.
In the months ahead, I want to be talking to all of you, and listening to you as well as we're looking for these ways to change, to innovate, to do a better job for the taxpayer, but most importantly for our Soldiers, civilians, for our Army family members. And I know... I know it won't be easy. I know it's been tried before. And I know too, if it is successful, if we start that process g that leads to something down the road, it will be a long time before any transformation is complete. And I'll likely be long gone, well figuratively, but I hope not literally. But that's how important the mission is, to create a new foundation for this Army, seek innovative approaches to problems old and new, and relook and rethink everything we do, everything we put into practice and into motion. And why do I bring all of this up' Because simply, I need your help; I want your leadership; I want your partnership in helping to make this Army...our Army... your Army... better.
Now, some of you may have heard this story before, and if you have, I apologize. It's a story Ronald Reagan used to tell a bit about a loveable old senior fellow who didn't do much with his life anymore except one thing; he loved to ride motorcycles. He loved nothing more than getting his old helmet and putting on his leather jacket and getting on that old motorcycle and riding down the highway. Well, he was doing that one day, as he had so many times in the past, and he was getting chilled. So he had a brilliant idea; he pulled off the side of the road, unbuttoned his leather jacket and put it on backwards. He buttoned it up the back, and that served as a barrier against the wind. He hopped back on, drove down the highway and was pretty pleased with himself because that was working pretty well. But he forgot that by having the jacket on backwards, he couldn't maneuver as well as he could before. Sadly he didn't make a curve and hit a tree. A crowd gathered around him, and before long a police officer walked up and elbowed his way in. He looked at that poor fellow lying at the base of the tree and asked, what happened here' One the bystanders said, we're not really sure, but by the time we got his head back on straight, he was dead. There's a moral to that story. The moral is: good intentions can go bad.
But I want to assure you I come to this initiative with the best of intentions, and I look forward to working with you on it. Now, not all of my first year has been spent looking at spreadsheets. I've had some remarkable opportunities in a relatively brief period to time. For example, last month the President asked Veterans Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki, also by the way, former Army Chief of Staff, in case some of you didn't know that. We went to Seoul Korea to be the official representatives to that Nation's celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Liberation of Seoul. As you saw on the screen, this year marks that 60th time of remembrance. A time of remembering what many have called the Forgotten War. A conflict where American Soldiers not long removed from the victories of World War II fought, as General Colin Powel said in his tribute to the GI, just as bravely as any other predecessors. But for whom, as he put it, no triumphant receptions awaited them at home. I know a few of those Korean War Vets are here today as part of AUSA's recognition of this anniversary, and I'd like to ask you to join me in recognizing a few of the notables amongst them. Robert Bob Phillips, Pussan Perimeter, Silver Star Recipient 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, World War II and Korea; MSC Ezra Phil Burke, Task Force Smith Medic; and SFC Ronald Rosser, awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic actions in Korea as part of the 38th Infantry. Let's give these three heroes the triumphant reception they deserve so well. (Applause).
Gentlemen, thank you for being here, but more importantly, thank you for your sacrifices and support of freedom. I can speak personally, having seen the gratitude of the Korean people. For what you and your comrades did on those far away shores is remembered and appreciated with every breath of freedom that they take.
A few weeks ago, I also had the chance to spend some time with Maureen and Phillip Miller, the parents of our fallen hero, Staff Sergeant Rob Miller, our nation's most recent Medal of Honor recipient. Some 150 insurgents pinned down Staff Sergeant Miller and his patrol. Despite a hail of bullets and rocket-propelled grenades, Rob Miller, the Green Beret, fired back, tossed grenades, and continued to advance, providing cover to his colleagues who scrambled for safety and waited for reinforcements. His actions that day saved the lives of 22 people - seven Americans and 15 Afghans. In the time I spent with SSG Miller's family and friends, including seven siblings, I learned he was someone we would all like to know...someone we could call a friend, and obviously as he showed with his life, someone that could always be counted upon. He lived his tragically shortened life to the fullest, and he died making a difference.
Across the generations, from Korea to Afghanistan, Vietnam to Iraq, to the 175 campaigns fought by this Army throughout our nations' history, they have made a difference. It is an honor for all of us from AUSA to the Pentagon, to every man and woman who's ever endeavored on behalf of this great Army, to have that brief chance to join them and support their efforts in making a difference. That's what AUSA does. God Bless you for what you do. God Bless the United States of America. Thank you.