Good Morning everyone and thank you for the opportunity to speak here today. A special welcome to Senator Stabenow and Congressmen Levin. Heartfelt thanks to each of you and to our entire United States Congress for all of your work, including the funding and the authorities to jumpstart this effort in 2016, critical to supporting our Soldiers in Europe and around the world.
Thank you as well to Major General Dave Bassett and the Program Executive Office-Ground Combat Systems for putting this together and for hosting. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to get out of the Pentagon and Washington D.C… for at least a few hours… to address the team responsible for equipping the warfighter with the most advanced equipment possible. This is important work, and I am happy to be with you.
We have already heard a great deal about the specifications, capabilities and streamlined processes that brought us here. Therefore, I would like to keep my remarks short and highlight three things. First, I'll describe the strategic environment and why it makes today so important. Second, I want to highlight this rollout…. an extraordinary success story… as an example of what is possible when government, military and industry leaders unite as a team.
And finally I want to reinforce the reason we do this… namely our Soldiers….the Warfighters… who are serving and sacrificing on our behalf each and every day around the globe.
It is important to remember that we are a Nation at war right now, and our Army remains globally engaged. Today, over 8,000 Soldiers are in Afghanistan, providing enabling support to an emerging force fighting a persistent insurgent threat. Nearly 5,000 more are in the Middle East supporting the fight against ISIL, a ruthless enemy intent on destabilizing the region and the globe. Over 33,000 are assigned or allocated to Europe to assure our Allies and deter a potentially grave threat to freedom. And nearly 80,000 are assigned to PACOM, including over 20,000 on the Korean peninsula, prepared to respond tonight with our ROK allies. All told… over 183,000 Soldiers support geographic combatant commanders in over 140 locations.
That... ladies and gentlemen… is a busy Army… and the scope and scale demands innovative leaders capable of making tough decisions so that we can sustain this relentless pace.
It also demands teamwork and the best technologies available so that we maintain overmatch against future adversaries.
We in the Army have thought long and hard about the future, looking at recent conflicts and those of potential adversaries, and we assess that battlefields of tomorrow will be extraordinarily complex, multi-domain environments. Future operations will take place concurrently in the air and on the ground, increasingly in urban settings, integrating capabilities from the domains of sea, space and cyberspace. These operations will require Leaders of Character capable of commanding agile, distributed formations against an elusive and often ambiguous threat. This environment will place a premium on unmanned systems, lethal technologies, and rapid maneuver… capabilities this Stryker system exemplifies.
It is important to remember the genesis of this event. Back in 2015, after Russia invaded Ukraine, Army leaders in Europe identified a capability gap that threatened our forces in theater.
The Russians, it turns out, had upgraded and fielded significant capability while we were engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan and, in the face of prospective conflict, U.S. Army leaders realized that existing Stryker weaponry placed our force at risk.
The urgent operational needs statement submitted in March 2015 resulted in a directed Stryker lethality requirement….one that included an accelerated acquisition effort to integrate a 30 millimeter cannon on Stryker Infantry Vehicles. Today… 19 short months later…. we rollout the first prototype, and all indicators are that this upgrade….one that increases the range and lethality of the Stryker to support dismounted troops….all with minimal impact to the vehicle's basic capabilities….that is… maneuvering Soldiers into combat….is right on target. But this is just the beginning. Very soon….beginning May 2018… we will start fielding these upgraded Strykers to Colonel Pat Ellis' 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Europe.
We accomplished this through leadership and teamwork. Thanks to the great work of Major General Bassett's team at PEO-Ground Combat Systems and Mr Whited's at General Dynamics, today a concept is being delivered in near record time. This is clearly what is possible when government civilian, military and industry leaders work together. And what made it possible?
It was a combination of leadership, expertise and communication. General Dynamics-Land Systems is not new to the Stryker program. They have been a part of it since the vehicle's very inception in 1999. Moreover, they know how to rapidly field complex systems to the warfighter. Back in 2011 they fielded Strykers with Double V-Hulls to Afghanistan 15 months after OSD approval, and they have demonstrated again their proficiency today. The leadership and expertise they bring to the table… one based on years of experience with the Stryker and solving complex engineering puzzles… was critical to the upgrade's success.
We in the Army truly appreciate the partnership that you have provided throughout the life of the Stryker program, and we thank you for your efforts.
But that is only part of the story. PEO-GCS and their team of program managers played a fundamental role as well, serving as the connective tissue between the operational force and industry, to ensure General Dynamics' engineers understood our Soldier's requirements. Any program manager will tell you that product development is a painful, arduous process. Hardly anything goes according to plan. But, through constant communication, effective results are possible, and that is what we witnessed with the Stryker lethality upgrades. This effort…powered by streamlined process… shows what is possible when clear articulation of operational needs are combined with industry responsiveness. The flash-to-bang on this project reflects favorably on what we must do to stay ahead of adaptive adversaries.
All of this is great but what does it mean for our Soldier's on the ground?
For the Soldiers of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment… a unit engaged across Europe….and a force that will be in the thick of the fight in the event of Russian aggression…. it means a lot. You see, this past year the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment… assigned to European Command and forward stationed in Germany… conducted combined, joint operations to assure our Allies and deter our adversaries in twelve countries…all while guarding NATO's eastern flank.
In April, 2nd Squadron completed a Decisive Action rotation in Hohenfels as part of a multinational brigade combat team. In May, 3rd Squadron was in the Baltics and Poland, conducting combined live fire exercises. A battery from the Field Artillery Squadron…with less than 96 hours notice… road marched over 1000 kilometers across three countries to conduct live fires in Poland. And the Engineer Squadron participated in exercises in Moldova, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria. Later that month most of the Regiment executed Exercise Saber Strike in Estonia… road marching 2400 kilometers…across five countries… participating in a 25 nation combined, joint exercise that tested and improved NATO interoperability throughout Eastern Europe. And in June they participated in Exercise Anakonda 16 in Poland… one of the largest Joint and Combined NATO training events in Europe in years. All the while, 1st Squadron was deployed to the Sinai peninsula in Egypt… returning home in August. The future promises more of the same. 2CR will execute at least six major exercises across Europe throughout this year.
The scope, scale and pace of events in Europe… for one single regiment… is significant, but what I just described highlights the reason today is so important. We know that everything we do is being watched… whether from capitals in Asia or in Europe…. and Stryker Lethality….will increase our force capability at a critical time and send another strong signal… to allies and adversaries… of our unwavering commitment. Looking ahead, it is imperative that we provide our Soldiers on the ground the most advanced technologies and capabilities possible to ensure their readiness… so that, when called upon, they can fight and win our Nation's wars.
I made a point before today's event to reach out to Colonel Pat Ellis, Commander of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment to get his take on what this project means to him and his Soldiers. Expectedly, his focus is on his Soldiers and what the new technology would mean for them. He told me, "the primary weapon system for 2CR remains the 108 squads that climb out the back of each and every Stryker, and this new capability will better enable those squads to accomplish their mission… on the ground."
I think that pretty well sums it up and that is why all this matters ladies and gentlemen… because…at the end of the day… it is about supporting our Soldiers on the ground… those men and women…willing to perform any mission… sacrificing up to and including their lives… if duty demands… for each and every one of us.
Thank you to everyone involved in this noble endeavor… for all you have done and all you will do… to make our Soldiers and our Army stronger. I look forward to continuing our work…shoulder-to-shoulder….together.
God Bless you, and Army Strong.