Jan. 20, 2015-- VCSA's remarks at Caraboa Luncheon

By U.S. ArmyJanuary 22, 2015

It is indeed an honor to join the distinguished members of the herd here today and it is a honor to give back to this prestigious organization . . . this herd delivers way above its numbers for our military--and provides a veritable stampede of support! I will tell you to please keep it coming, because we are going to need it for the next couple of decades at least. We are counting on you to mobilize your teammates to ensure that we can continue to deliver. So the invitation to speak here today--I have to apologize to General Ham for somebody who worked for him as a Colonel, you would think I could be more responsive. I think this is like the sixth time that he has tried to get me in here and so although my rank may have changed my responsiveness has not. Thanks for your persistence. This provides me a great opportunity to catch up on what this team is all about . . . and what I discovered is that the military order of the Carabao is an organization with an incredibly proud heritage, honoring our Army that fought in the Philippine War, when the United States Army first found itself serving for an extended time, far from home in order to honor a commitment to a foreign people. The Philippines was our country's first extended overseas campaign, our first successful jungle guerrilla war, and it led to a better life for the Filipino people, and a long-running United States commitment to a part of the world that remains vital to our national security, and one we continue to honor today.

But more so, I think this organization represents what motivates so many of us to Serve, and to continue serving. The indescribable camaraderie among fellow Patriots who have suffered together in a combat environment . . . far from the comforts of home. Perhaps that is part of the reason the caribao was chosen as the name for this organization. The carabao, as you all know so well . . . is an animal that only experiences true joy when immersed to the nostrils in a mud wallow . . . or standing still in a downpour of rain . . . kinda reminds me of some of my happier days at Fort Benning, or other swamps around the globe, and surely I was more content suffering with my comrades in the incessant heat and humidity of the swamps . . . than I am today in the Pentagon's air conditioning. So thanks for what you do, for what you represent, and for inviting me for at least today to be a full Carabao member of the herd.

I do want to share a bit with you about what's going on in our Army from my position as the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, with all six months of experience underneath my belt. I'll start by emphasizing that despite all of the bad news about sequestration and downsizing, we are today the most experienced, most well-trained, most heroically-led, and ready force in the world. And we need to be, because the world we live in is as dangerous as I have seen at least in my 34 years of service in the Army. We are operating in a budget constrained environment, where sequestration remains the law of the land, and sequestration, to be quite frank, is just a horrible way to do business. What we need is predictability in our budget, so we can deliver well-trained forces to bring stability and deterrence to the growing instability around the globe. Today the Army is about 503,000 strong in the Active component, down from 570,000 in 2011, and on a course to be at 490,000 by end of this fiscal year, and on a directed path toward 450,000 by FY 18. We can see clearly now that optimistic assumptions in the Quadrennial Defense Review and the Strategic Choice and Management Review, more popularly known as the SCMR, led the President to direct the Army to shrink to that number of 450,000. We forecasted that the commitment to Iraq was over and that we could safely withdraw most of our ground forces from Europe. Right now we have 9 of 10 Active Divisions committed around the globe. The fact is, there is no peace dividend, and thus the Chief of Staff of our Army is advocating to decelerate our force drawdown. From our interaction with Congress, I am cautiously optimistic that there is increased commitment to protect the military from sequestration's effects, but at least for the foreseeable future, we remain in a fiscally constrained environment . . . in the midst of a very unstable world.

Our greatest fear about sequestration's effects, to speak quite plainly, is its debilitating impact on readiness. During 2013 we were forced to cut 7 Combat Training Center rotations and fell to a point of only having 2 Brigade Combat Teams fully trained and ready for global contingencies. While we certainly have painful lessons from that round of budget cuts, it is impossible to mitigate the erosion that sequestration will have on the past 18 months of hard-earned readiness gains. So I know you will join us in engaging our newly elected members in Congress to remove the impact of these drastic cuts to our military.

Despite the ominous threat of sequestration, it is still a great time to be a member of the United States military! We remain focused on maintaining readiness across the force, and one area we have made great progress is the work we are doing on integrating women into all MOSs (Military Occupational Specialty for those of you who aren't in the Army anymore). This initiative will impact readiness tremendously by allowing women to serve in previously restricted units, positions, and occupations. Overall, this will provide our commanders a wider pool to select and train Soldiers--regardless of gender. In an era when only 23% of the American population is eligible for military service because of health, obesity, or a criminal record, it is important that we draw from every citizen who can meet the standards and serve as a leader of character.

The Army is leading the way in this effort. Our Training and Doctrine Command has worked with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in developing physical performance tests that predict a Soldier's ability to perform the physical demands of all of our Military Occupational Specialties. This does more than just open MOSs to women, it identifies the right Soldiers for each specialty and contributes to fewer training injuries. In the past two years, we have opened to women six previously closed MOSs and over 55,000 positions across the Army. The goal remains through a standards-based process to open all of our closed occupations, units and positions no later than January 1, 2016.

While we sustain a laser focus on the near-term readiness of our force, we're also looking at our future readiness . . . and in October we published the Army Operating Concept. The AOC is the guiding vision for how we see the Army operating over the next few decades, and it's focused on winning at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war. If you want to know the plan for how we will shape the Army of the future, this is a very accessible document--about 30 pages long, and unlike most Army doctrine, its written in clear language, and available on Training and Doctrine Command's website. I know H.R. McMaster spoke to the group in October and he likely discussed the Army Operating Concept, far more articulately and intellectually, then I can possible bring to bear, but I do want to give you an update and a bit of my perspective.

We are in the early process of transitioning the concept into doctrine, organization, training, and guidance for material acquisition. We recognize the complex operational environment, and that it is changing at an accelerating pace, thus essential to this concept that we exemplify mission command, at every echelon in our Army and continue to develop innovative and adaptable leaders. Mission command must be interoperable in a joint, interagency, and multinational environment, because . . . let's face it . . . there's a major crisis anywhere in the world, the United States Army is called to lead and integrate the response, be it an invasion of Eastern Europe, Ebola in Africa, or an earthquake in Haiti . . . we'll depend upon a diverse team of multinational and multi-agency partners to deliver mission success. Further, given the distributed nature of our globally responsive force, we must provide situational awareness and understanding of commander's intent to the squad leader operating alone and unafraid in the middle of Africa . . . and scores of other countries around the globe about 148 as of this morning.

The second foundational tenet of the Army Operating Concept is Leader Development. Our leaders are the connective tissue between mission command and our Soldiers executing on the ground and they must thrive through initiative and adaptability in an environment where their actions have strategic impact. I like to use the example of a young military police Second Lieutenant in the 1st Infantry Division, who in 2014 deployed 20 of her Soldiers to Uganda for a month to train Ugandans on community policing. She went forward with no Company headquarters, no Battalion headquarters, no Brigade headquarters -- in fact only a small liaison cell attached to Special Operations Command Africa. This is how operations in the future for a distributive Army will look. When the Chief of Staff of the Army was in Eastern Europe last year checking on our troops deployed in response to Russian aggression in the region, the President of a nameless nation, whose name I will protect, told the Chief that having one United States Soldier on the ground was more powerful than having a squadron of F-16s; needless to say that brought pure music to the Chief's ears I think it's a powerful and telling statement, because troops on the ground demonstrates commitment . . . and we must prepare our Soldiers tactically, operationally and yes strategically to excel in any environment and perform any task at any echoleon in order to deliver wins for the nation.

The third foundational tenet of the Army Operating Concept is that the Army is built on a foundation of the Army Profession. Our Soldiers represent the ethics, values and principles of our constitution no matter where they are, and we trust them, because of their rigorous training to instinctively make the critical shoot or don't shoot decisions under any conditions. Ours is the only Profession empowered to take life in an offensive scenario, so everything we do must reflect the core values of our profession. And if any of you have not seen American Sniper . . . I recommend it to you. This war footage dramatically portrays the tough scenarios our Soldiers face routinely around the globe . . . and how our training prepares them to perform.

We are now in the process of applying the twenty Army Warfighting Challenges that are defined in the Army Operating Concept to design training that builds leaders, and tests our equipment, doctrine, and organizational structure. We will do this through exercises including the Network Integration Exercise and Joint Operational Access Exercises. One of these Warfighting Challenges is to develop agile, an adaptive, and innovative Army. Just this past week, I joined Dave Perkins and our TRADOC Team at the Army innovation symposium, a forum that gathered a brain trust of innovators from business, academia, the military, and our partner nations to identify obstacles and come up with recommendations on building the essential innovative force of the future. In this forum, I challenged us to recognize that innovation is not about how large the organization . . . or how large the budget, but about the culture you create and how well we lead. Army innovation is how we will retain our capability overmatch despite a shrinking budget, while operating in a complex world. Our adversaries are closing the technology gap. This is certainly true and they will sustain asymmetric tactics, as they have for the past decade plus, but what they cannot do is out-think us, and they cannot match our deep bench of leaders at every level -- combat experienced, educated, and adaptable -- the best in the world, and our surest insurance policy in this dangerous environment. Our leaders are and will continue to be our decisive advantage.

The final topic I'll share is my passionate commitment to preserving our All-Volunteer Army . . . through a program called Soldier for Life. Soldier For Life is a mindset that we aim to build in every Soldier, because we want them all to have the commitment and pride shared by all of you in the Order of the Carabao. Over the next three years we will transition over 350,000 Soldiers back into communities across the United States Imagine the power of 350,000 Carabaos spread across our nation . . . yes, I know that is a bit frightening for some. Soldier For Life was originally created by GEN Odierno to help Soldiers transition back to the civilian world . . . but it has become so much more than that. Soldier for life is a mindset that we build in our people from the day they enter the military until the day they join Saint Peter at the pearly gate. If we care for our Soldiers, Veterans and their families, and treat them right, then they will be the ambassadors in every community, in every zip code across our country . . . sustaining, promoting, and (yes) strengthening our All Volunteer Army . . . an Army that today, tomorrow and for a thousands of tomorrows. . . will remain the Strength of our Nation.

Thank you for listening, God Bless all of you for all that you do for our military, and I invite your questions.