By Marie Berberea, TRADOCJuly 25, 2014
FORT SILL, Okla. (July 25, 2014) -- Under Secretary of the Army Brad Carson visited here, Tuesday, to talk with Maj. Gen. John Rossi about his new command here and about the future of the Army, and the Fires Center of Excellence's role in it.
"It's a critically important mission for us as we come out of [Operations] Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and so it was a great chance to talk to him about his plans here," said Carson.
He also came to see how the unaccompanied children mission ran by the Department of Health and Human Services, known as HHS, was being handled.
"I think HHS is showing a great degree of professionalism and the contractors they have are doing so as well. It looks like the children are being very well taken care of, in the finest traditions of America," said Carson.
He said Department of Defense officials are looking at ways to meet the mission to house unaccompanied children across the country, and no long-term decisions have been set in Fort Sill's part of that.
He added that planned renovations for the building housing the children will not be inhibited.
Carson also came to see how Fort Sill was taking on the responsibility of eradicating sexual harassment and sexual assault in the ranks.
"It's an important mission for the secretary of the Army and the chief of staff of the Army to see what we could do better, what best practices we could take to other installations as well," he explained.
He spoke with post sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates and was pleased with their morale and expertise.
Carson also saw several projects on Fort Sill, to include the new Freedom Elementary School and the Indian Agency Cemetery, near Henry Post Army Airfield.
Carson is a registered tribal member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and was instrumental in helping the Army work with those in charge of the cemetery, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places Feb. 4.
"It's going to balance both the Army's need for continued use of the airfield, as well as the Comanche's longstanding interest in using that as a ceremonial ground and a place to honor their dead," said Carson.
Carson said while sequestration is looming, he is cautiously optimistic Congress will listen to the needs of the Army and sustain at least 450,000 personnel for the Army of 2025.
"If they don't abate sequestration in some way the Army will go to 420,000 people - 20,000 to 30,000 less than chief has said is essential to meet the obligations of the national military strategy. We don't want to see sequestration continue to take its hold, and we hope Congress offers us some relief from it."
Carson said the Army is constantly being restructured as the requirements of the country change. As division artillery has returned he said engineer battalions will also be added to brigade combat teams in the future.
"Everything needs to be more lethal, more agile, more mobile. We have to be able to project power from the United States as we take forces out of Europe and out of Asia and bring them back to garrison here. We have to be prepared to deal with everything from major state adversaries, to hybrid threats like Hezbollah or Hamas now pose to Israel, to irregular forces like the Taliban, or even more disorganized than that. So we have to be prepared to fight across the entire spectrum of conflict, in every place in the world that the country might need us."
Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, former post commanding general, announced at the last Fires Seminar that post ranges here were being operationally tested for the use of high powered lasers, microwaves and electromagnetically-propelled projectiles.
Carson said the Fires Center of Excellence is the perfect place for the Army to find more effective ways to fight the enemy.
"I definitely see it as a mission for Fort Sill," he said. "The problem with air and missile defense today, is each missile is millions of dollars, if not multi-millions of dollars, trying to take down targets that are just a few hundreds of dollars, or a few thousands of dollars. And so, we have to change that imbalance in cost. Directed energy weapons, electric weapons, electric fires is a way to address that question. It's reusable, inexpensive and can put the balance of cost back in the Army."
He said field artillery and air defense artillery are critically important to the Army's mission, especially as defense pivots toward the Pacific.
"[As] we talk about reconfiguring the Army for the next 20 to 30 years, fires will be a very important part of that and the intellectual work that will underpin all the materiel decisions we make, the personnel changes, how we configure the Army will all be done right here, at Fort Sill under the Fires Center of Excellence."