VCSA's remarks at AUSA Hot Topic Army Aviation

By U.S. ArmyMay 5, 2016

I figured it had to be a slow day in D.C. to get this many people up at this time in the morning so good on you, great to have you all here. General Sullivan, as always, it's great to be in the midst of your company as well as that of General Hamm, General Cody, General Wagner, other distinguished guests, and certainly to all of our Association of the United States Army team that consistently pulls together this great team on behalf of important issues for our Army. These forums are important in bringing together communities of interest on topics relevant to building our future force. As most of you may know, I am an infantryman by trade, but every Infantryman with any experience . . . particularly in combat . . . holds his Aviation brothers and sisters in reverent respect and admiration because we know that your courage and indomitable expertise gets us to battle, pulls us out when we're mission complete . . . or God forbid when we are most in need . . . you guard our flanks and rain steel on our enemies to ensure we never face a fair fight. And I would ask you to join me in a round of applause for all of our Aviators who represent exactly what I just spoke about. But to put it in perspective, for that, we will overlook the flight suits, bad haircuts, and yes even the non-standard sunglasses that characterize our Aviation corps . . . and that is really just jealousy because in the Infantry we can't get away with wearing that stuff . . . though we'll continue to subscribe to the image of you flying above us in all the worst environmental conditions, pointing down, with the insightful reminder that it sucks to be a grunt sometimes . . . but only sometimes.

In October I spoke to the AUSA hot topic focused on Army medicine, and I spoke about our Army's premier weapons system, the American Soldier, specifically, I told the story of our Soldier of the Year, Sergeant Thomas Block, an Army Ranger. Sergeant Block survived horrendous injuries in 2012 when a suicide bomber in southern Afghanistan blew himself up a few meters from Sergeant Block's Ranger squad. It sent him flying 35 feet through the air, shattered the right side of his face, collapsed his left lung, and badly damaged his legs. I told this story about how quickly a medic reacted to the situation, and how a surgeon eventually saved his life, but none of this would have been possible if the Medevac aircraft had not reached his location -- a remote and dangerous village in Southern Afghanistan -- in about 10 minutes from the injury and courageously landed at the point of injury to get him out. While rarely publically heralded for their daily role in our success in Iraq and Afghanistan and frankly all around the globe, Aviators have been and will continue to be integral in every success we will achieve.

As we wind down from 13 plus years of war we all hoped that the world environment would cooperate and stabilize. The reality is that there is no peace dividend. The world has changed and it requires the United States Army to remain globally engaged, while at the same time operating with a smaller budget and force structure in a world that is as dangerous as I have seen during my 3 plus decades of service. While our force gets smaller, including reducing Combat Aviation Brigades in our active component, our commitments remain significant. In 2013 we had 6 Combat Aviation Brigades committed to operational missions, and in 2015 . . . you guessed it, we have 6 Combat Aviation Brigades slated for commitment around the globe . . . the same amount of work, with a smaller pool to draw from. Yet, our Army, this Team of Teams, continues to give way together to protect our Nation, just as it has for 239 years.

But we face a very real, very near-term threat to our effectiveness as a force--a law called Sequestration, and I'll take this opportunity to thank AUSA for their herculean efforts to educate the American public and Congress on the devastating effects of this legislation on our military. During the 2013 round of sequestration we had under 10% of our Force trained and ready for global contingencies, down to a low at one point of two BCTs trained and ready for global commitment. We brought that number back up to just over 30% today after 18 months of relentless efforts by our Commanders and Leaders across our great Army, but we had to mortgage our near and mid-term modernization to do so, and we will not restore balance across personnel, readiness, and modernization for several more years as a result of this last round of sequestration. If we go another round of sequestration the impact on size, readiness, and modernization will be felt for a decade and potentially put the lives of Soldiers at risk and push our All Volunteer force to a breaking point. So I ask all of you to remain engaged with our political leaders to pave a path forward that eliminates the impact of sequestration on our military.

The drawdown and budget challenge forced us to relook our entire aviation fleet and strategy. The reality of our constrained budget required many difficult decisions. Our optimal way forward is outlined in the Aviation Restructure Initiative. These cut backs were not something we chose, but in order to maximize the capability and capacity of our total force and protect our critical modernization programs such as Future Vertical Lift, the Improved Turbine Engine Program, and the UH60L Digital upgrades, crafting the Aviation Restructure Initiative was necessary. By divesting three aging aviation platforms, we can keep our newest, most modern capability more ready now, and afford critical modernization efforts as we move toward this uncertain future.

While the fiscal environment is difficult, I want to emphasize to our tactical leaders, that we will get through these lean times. We have been here before. Many of us here today lived through a drawdown of 100,000 Soldiers a year for three consecutive years following Desert Storm in the early 1990s. In fact, General Sullivan led us through that historic period. 10 years later in 2001 and 2003 we proved ourselves exponentially superior to our adversaries when we had to fight . . . retaining land power dominance in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a Company and Battalion leader in this era, I never really noticed that we had restricted access to vehicles due to fuel or maintenance constraints. I just thought walking 12 miles to the range or back home from the Drop Zone was tough training and good team building. Just remember I spell knowledge with an N. We treated the Combat Training Centers--NTC and JRTC--like it was going to war . . . and we knocked ourselves silly fighting each other. We will take a similar stance in the future where our CTCs will be our premier readiness and leader development laboratories . . . and we will protect the CTCs if sequestration returns. We will lead our great Soldiers and great Army through this season of change. Frankly, we are better off today, because we enter this era of uncertainty with a globally engaged Army and the deepest bench of combat experienced leaders we have ever had . . . so I remain confident in our path forward; confident in the innovative leaders like those who lead our Aviation formations across the total force.

Repetition in the Aviation trade is critical and budget cuts coupled with reduced reps during some of our current deployments, impact our readiness. So I challenge you to use the resources we do have to craft innovative training and maintain our edge by leveraging the excellence currently residing in our Aviation force. We have expanded our simulated and virtual training tools, and I am happy to see a panel today dedicated to Game-based Training. This is a great example of the innovation we must optimize to maintain our capabilities overmatch in an era of reduced funding.

This conference focuses on the Future of Army Aviation, and I want to describe to you how the Army Senior Leadership sees our future. How many of you have read the Army Operating Concept? Okay, it's a bad sign that there are more suits than there are uniforms with their hands up. If you have not, that is your reading assignment for the week. It is an easy read, written by an Armor Officer for the Infantryman -- so surely Aviators will find it inherently comprehensible. Trust me there are very few multi-syllable words, like comprehensible, in the document. The Army Operating Concept guides our future force development by identifying first order capabilities, providing the intellectual foundation for our learning . . . and for applying what we learned as we build the future force.

The Army Operating Concept is titled Win in a Complex World. Similar to AirLand Battle of the early 1980s --Fight Outnumbered and Win--it's focused on winning, only the Army Operating Concept spans the tactical to strategic levels of war, and recognizes that we do not necessarily have to fight to achieve strategic success--consistent with the Sun Tsu adage "The Supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting." Though to be an effective global deterrent, we must sustain incomparable joint and combined arms maneuver capacity. Again quoting Sun Tzu "Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win." As a globally engaged force, we will sustain readiness to conduct global operations across the spectrum of conflict in order to shape and prevent war.

To win in a complex world, we must think of 4 multiples: provide the Joint Force Commanders and our National Leaders with multiple options, integrate the efforts of multiple partners, operate across multiple domains, and present our enemies with multiple dilemmas simultaneously. Future Army forces will support joint force freedom of action through the projection of power from land across the maritime, air, space, and cyberspace domains. We will fight dispersed . . . but with the mobility to concentrate rapidly at a decisive point. Future vertical lift will allow forces to accomplish this -- operate across wide areas while maintaining mutual support. The Improved Turbine Engine will make legacy aircraft effective by dramatically increasing range and the ability to fly in high, hot conditions. Manned-unmanned teaming advances will increase combat effectiveness, expand our terrain coverage, and reduce risk to our Soldiers and our formations.

As we project presence around the globe it's important that future aviation innovation enables greater range, greater fuel efficiency, and reliability in order to reduce logistics demand and allow aircraft to operate from austere locations alongside our ground forces. The Army's ability to put a relatively small, fully-capable force on the ground and still retain a disproportionate strategic impact gives Combatant Commanders expanded options.

The Army provides foundational capabilities to the joint, interagency, and international forces, and interoperability is fundamental to all new technologies. We are seeking technologies that improve our mission command by providing relevant information to leaders at the lowest possible levels, and are also interoperable with joint, interagency partners, and multinational allies. Our partners and allies are participating in future Force 2025 Maneuvers and looking to us to lead. We cannot afford to . . . nor will we work alone across this increasingly unstable globe.

Finally, it is important to remember in the current operational environment technologies are easily copied or countered, and what gives the United States Army a differential advantage over its adversaries is our skilled Soldiers and well-trained teams who optimize effective technologies to achieve mission success. It's all about the Soldier. Any technology that advances the way the Army recruits, educates, trains, and develops leaders and Soldiers is a priority.

Wrapping up I will leave you with a few guiding thoughts. First, we have been here before and these challenges are something we can overcome with positive, innovative Leaders of Character at every echelon. Second, we are the greatest Army in the World, and the greatest Land-Power-Aviation Force by a long shot. We are committed to remaining the best for years to come--and we'll do so as a Team, a Total Force, partnered with the great patriots serving in industry and government, many of whom were Soldiers and Aviators in their former lives.

So I look forward to your questions, God Bless you all, Army Strong!