Secretary of the Army remarks to the Brookings Institution

By U.S. ArmyJanuary 10, 2020


Mike, thanks so much for extending the invite and welcoming me to Brookings. Washington is a war of ideas and I am especially looking forward to the discussion portion of today.

The US must maintain overmatch against our adversaries and the Army is foundation to the Joint Force's success in the INDO-PACOM area of responsibility. Our modernization focus -- how we fight, what we fight with, and who we are--is in part, driven by our new challenges and potential adversaries. We remain ironclad to the Army priorities, Readiness, Modernization and Reform. Our budget and investments remain aligned to our priorities. This alignment will increase lethality and the ability to be operationally dynamic.

In this era of Great Power Competition, China will emerge as America's strategic threat. Over 60 percent of the world's GDP flows through the Straits of Malacca and China is increasingly militarizing these global commons. In order to commoditize life for its 1.1 billion people, China is increasingly relying on its Belt and Road Initiative. Having the US Army in the region, with modernized weaponry, nested alongside our counterparts, changes the calculus and creates dilemmas for potential adversaries. Furthermore, having the US Army in the region strengthens America's position to conduct global commerce, build confidence with investors, and compete economically.

The Army has traditionally focused its efforts towards Europe given that Russia is a land-based threat. Seven decades of partnership in Europe have set the conditions for strong militaries and strong partner that are capable of countering threats from abroad. We will continue to provide deterrence and shaping operations in concert with our Allies and partners in Europe. While many people think of the Army as primarily having a role in Europe - and we are doing many great things to bolster our capabilities in Europe - the Army is much more than tanks and Bradleys. We serve as the operational, command and control, advise and assist, long range precision fires and effects, and the logistical backbone of our current and future military operations. The US Army, in essence, is engaging in warfare by other means.

As we learned during World War II, the adversary's goals and the tyranny of geography will require the Army to operate on two fronts, both in Europe and the Pacific. At first blush, it is easy to assume based on land mass and water ways that INDO-PACOM would be predominately a sister service endeavor. However, it will be the Army on the ground, partnered with militaries, influencing the people and serving as the ultimate deterrent. Pairing with our allies and partners, continuous presence, and shared equipment, will enable military strength to overcome economic strangleholds, promote good global commons, and offer an alternative to the adversary's narrative.

People don't live on the water, air or in space. Long before conditions escalate to war, there will be a battle of ideas. This is warfare by other means and decisions will occur in the heart of the people. We must be present to offer an alternative. Churchill once remarked quote there is only one thing worse than fighting with our allies and that is fighting without them.

In this competition space, our forces will require a change in behavior and patience. We must be engaged in constant competition versus a episodic engagement strategy. We are playing, as Simon Sinek would argue, an infinite game across several areas of responsibility. To engage with a finite mindset, would have the army measuring the wrong metrics, playing by a different set of rules for a different game.

The military has had a boxers' mentality to conflict. Go in, fast hands, and deliver a devastating punch in the first round. Fast, lethal, and gone. Our approach to competition with potential adversaries however, such as Russia and China, will feel more like a soccer match instead of one round in the ring. Endurance, strong partnerships, and patience will be the necessary mix. Presence does not have to lead to conflict. If we wait until there is conflict, we are already too late.

Right now, during the compete phase, the Army is refining our approach to improve our strategic readiness. We will accomplish readiness through strengthening our partners, and advising and assisting with our regionally aligned Security Force Assistance Brigades, knowns as SFABs, which will deploy in FY21. Our Multi-Domain Task Forces, with deployments in FY21 and in FY22 will build partnerships. We seek to increase Foreign Military Sales, International Military Education and Training, and more repetitions for multi-national exercises. Shared equipment, shared training, and a shared understanding is the end state.

The Army is reinvigorating our presence and disposition in the Pacific.

Strategic Context

History has shown the Army has always had a role in the Pacific -- Just a quick glance back to McArthur and WWII demonstrates the propensity for an adversarial land and resource grab in the region and the subsequent challenges the tyranny of distance presents.

The Indo-Pacific region is strategically important to the United States for many reasons:

We are an INDO-PACIFIC country

The world's 4 most populous countries and 3 largest economies are located in the region.

6 of the 10 largest Armies in the world are located here.

The U.S. maintains 5 bi-lateral treaties in this region, all critical for our national security and prosperity.

Forces in the region reinforce the American alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative. In order to be competitive and gain an advantage, we must have a continuous presence. In order to maintain overmatch and prevent conflict in the region, the U.S. Army must be postured in the region for the intensifying competition and if required, to win in conflict.

The Army's Role in the Pacific -- Persistent Presence

There is an ongoing fight for influence in the region, for which access and our presence are critical. Partners matter. But the type of partner is paramount. China uses coercive economics and many partner with them out of necessity. And in this, lies a great deal of vulnerability. The Army partnership comes with it modern and interoperable equipment, training on a continuous basis and a commitment should deterrence fail, a present partner and the world's best fighting force. China may be a partner of coercion, but the US Army, is the partner of choice.

The Army is uniquely suited to provide persistent presence and show commitment. Ships sail through shared waters and planes fly overhead. These are integral parts of the fight. But nothing comes close to the affect boots on the ground, standing shoulder to shoulder with our counterparts, huddled over plans or walking through jungles together. This presence reinforces the United States' enduring commitment to our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.

For example, in 2020 the Army is sending forces on 5-month long extended rotations to Thailand, the Philippines, and even Papua New Guinea.

We are not only providing persistent presence in coordination with our Allies and partners, we are also expanding the scope, duration, scale, and locations of our training and exercises with our partners to push into new areas.

The Army's National Guard State Partnership Program ties states to 78 different countries around the world that have routine and consistent touch points with each other. US forces engage with 22 countries in EUCOM and 12 in INDO-PACOM on a habitual basis.

Armies are the Center of Gravity

In many countries throughout the region, Armies are the largest and most influential military service, making the US Army the logical partner of the services. Our Army-to-Army partnerships build valuable relationships for the DOD at large. These are more than simply steadfast partners. These are the key decision makers and influencers in their respective countries. Furthermore, shared equipment builds interoperability, and makes operating together easier while creating strategic depth.

Our operations in the Indo-Pacific include traditional training with Army Forces

Helping Thailand stand up their new Stryker units as their new Stryker vehicles, 15 in fact, are arriving right now.

Philippines asked for help in training 72 Infantry battalions as they upgrade their equipment and evolve their doctrine.

Accelerated Approach to MDO

While we continue to do traditional security cooperation, we are also employing new capabilities and using the Indo-Pacific as grounds to test our new concept, known as Multi-Domain Operations or MDO.

If conflict with a great power competitor occurred, the United States would be unable to easily bomb strategic locations and safely flow forces in. Seeking to regain overmatch and a solution for converging all domains, MDO creates an asymmetrical advantage. MDO sets the conditions in theater, while opening a window for the Joint Force.

In FY18, just months after the National Defense Strategy was published reorienting our focus towards great power competition with China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, we conducted our first experiments with the Multi-Domain Task Force and Intelligence, Information, Cyber, Electronic Warfare and Space Units, known as I2CEWS.

In FY19 we tested MDO concepts leveraging exercises such as Exercise Orient Shield with Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces operating in the East China Sea. With its headquarters in Japan, the Task Force elements were distributed across the Senkaku Islands.

Pacific Pathways tested our ability to use a hub and spoke model, deploying task forces to single locations for a longer period of time and executing dynamic force employment to spoke locations. We deployed a company from a hub location in the Philippines to Palau, returning after thirty-seven years. We are reinvigorating historic relationships through our partner forces.

In FY20 we plan to conduct Defender 2020 incorporating Long Range Precision Fires and Long Range Precision Effects.

By FY21 the Army will position a Multi-Domain Task Force in INDO-PACOM, and deploy a second one in FY22.

This is inspiring our closest allies and partners to invest more in building similar capabilities -- ex. Japan, Thailand, Singapore all are developing MDO-like concepts in concert with us.

It also provides the opportunity to stretch the limits of logistics and learn how to employ new capabilities in different operational environments.

Exercise in new locations to experiment with distributed logistics concepts

Develop methodology for employing long-range precision fires or hypersonics in this region.


The US Army, on contentious ground, creates a continuous dilemma for potential adversaries and changes the calculus in their decision-making cycle. We remain steadfast in our commitment to the Army priorities, and our budget and investments are aligned against the same. Forces such as regionally aligned SFABs and the MDTFs generate options for commanders ranging from influence to direct contact. Furthermore, MDO creates strong and integrated partners in the region.

The US must maintain overmatch against our adversaries and the Army is foundational to the Joint Force's success in the INDO-PACOM AOR. Thank you Mike for having me, I am a big fan of your work, and looking forward to our discussion.