Secretary of the Army remarks to the National Press Club

By U.S. ArmyFebruary 14, 2020


Good afternoon, National Press Club! Thank you for inviting me today to join you for lunch. It is fantastic to be here. Any time I can get out of the Pentagon, it is healthy for my mind and spirit.

I can appreciate the intense pressure, tight timelines, and the currency of information, that journalists live by. No doubt, the DC beat is the crucible of your profession. This is a busy city. In fact, this is a busy country. Progress and innovation are in America's DNA. Americans are an extremely busy people. Therefore, each day, time becomes a math problem. Your work ensures that the Army story becomes part of that daily equation.

Your work serves as one of the touchpoints between the military and the public, highlighting the opportunities the Army holds for America's youth. Coverage continues to convey the important work of our deployed forces, engaging violent extremists on a daily bases, Iraq and Afghanistan in particular, now totaling two decades of continued combat operations in each. Written works preserve our Army and our Nation's legacy, cataloging conflict, and the subsequent, ensuing peace. Your work helps us preserve the accounts of our heroes and mourn our fallen, by face and by name and ultimately holds us accountable. It is because of a free press, the Nation knows that our men and women are the last line of defense for the freedoms they enjoy.

Finally, I can commiserate with only being as good as your last story…. with that in mind, let's get started. Some people resist change because they focus on what they are going to lose instead of what they are going to gain. So today, I am would like to highlight where the Army is in the midst of its transformational change structurally and what we are gaining through our modernization investments.

When the National Defense Strategy was published in 2018, it put the Defense Department on a new path, pulling us out of a singular focus on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in the Middle East and expanding our priorities towards near-peer competitors such as Russia and China, and rogue regimes such as North Korea and Iran. What we quickly realized was that major changes were needed and that if we did not rapidly modernize, we would lose overmatch and deterrence within the next ten years. Ultimately, we could risk losing the next war.

So we changed. We changed our priorities to three clear and distinct categories- Readiness, Modernization, and Reform. We changed our readiness focus to include deploying any Army unit rapidly, when and where needed across the globe, which we are calling strategic readiness, and changed the metrics to achieve it. We changed the way in which we aligned and managed our budget, putting every dollar against our priorities. And we've made clear that people are the foundation of these three priorities and in all that we do. The Army has- and always will be- a people organization.

The FY21 budget of $178B will ensure that Army will remain the most lethal ground fighting force in the world, now and in the future fight. We treat taxpayer dollars like we treat our ammunition… every bullet counts and is aimed against a target. Today I would like to provide an update on two main topics, which are the Army's approach to strategic competition and our investment portfolio and returns.


First, on competition: The Army plays a key role in building relationships with Allies and partners worldwide, which has direct impacts on near-peer competitors. We are operating in Europe, in Africa, in the Middle East, and in the INDO-Pacific region. We are a persistent presence, with formations in these strategic regions, totaling over 180,000 Soldiers committed to 140 countries with our Allies and Partners in order to achieve national objectives. We are 60% of combatant commanders' requirements world-wide, yet our budget has remained flat for the past three years. Army operations are providing a huge dividend from our portion of the DOD budget, making the Army the most dynamic force and sound investment in the arsenal.

There is no other service that is more relevant than the US Army. In the INDO-Pacific and anywhere else, we are partnered where and with whom it matters most on land, where people live. There is no one else that has the staying power and the consistency for deterrence than the US Army … no one on earth. The sun never sets on the US Army.

Having the Army routinely in the region, partnered with militaries, influences conditions on the ground and ultimately, serves as a deterrent by creating dilemmas for potential adversaries. Our presence and influence in the region strengthens America's position to conduct global commerce, builds confidence with investors, and enables America to compete economically.

The Army's persistent presence, standing shoulder to shoulder with our Allies and partners, changes the calculus in our adversaries' decision-making process. Our security cooperation pairs with other armies that are often the most prestigious institutions and are foundational to that country's identity, pivotal to professional civ-mil relations, and have leaders with significant influence. For example, in the INDO-Pacific region, over seventy percent of CHODs are army officers. This is why the US Army engages with armies every day, and as a people business, we build relationships from the ground up. Efforts span from training partner forces, to military student exchanges, foreign military sales and security cooperation, and dedicated seats at the United States' prestigious senior war colleges.

When the Army sells equipment, countries don't just get a box of goods, some bolts, and a bill. Countries get a program, a strong relationship and a steadfast partner they can rely on. Countries receive training from experts, reliable and modern weapons, assistance developing doctrine, and a proven supply chain of support. For example, the Army has close partnerships with Poland and Lithuania where we habitually train together every year for multiple weeks, in the defense of their sovereign nations. Another example, Thailand purchased sixty Strykers, and the Army is helping the Thai Army stand up their first Stryker units. The first wave of Strykers were featured in the Kings' coronation parade, and were so well- liked, that another hundred have been ordered. Our Army is helping the Philippines train seventy-two Infantry battalions as they upgrade their equipment and evolve their doctrine.

The US Army is a force of choice and committed to remaining so. We build our partners up, rather than manipulate them. To be able to compete in today's environment, we have to be present, and show our commitment. This is why we are emphasizing strategic readiness and adjusting our force posture so that we can deploy trained and ready forces into the right place and at the right time. The Army's ability to rapidly mobilize, deploy, and sustain combat forces- or Strategic Readiness- gives us the advantage over threats and potential adversaries. Strategic Readiness will validate our new concepts, exercising new formations, and provide an understanding of the logistical framework needed to sustain our forces.

We will remain operationally dynamic, fast, and lethal. Take for example, this year on New Year's Eve, we deployed Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, cold-start, no-notice, to conduct an emergency deployment. These Soldiers were at New Year's Eve gatherings with their families, and within hours were on a plane. Within days, thirty-five hundred Soldiers were on the ground, nine time zones away, weapons ready to go, in the Middle East. The speed in which we can project power is unprecedented and we are using exercises such as Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise, or EDRE for short, getting more repetitions, and therefore increasing our speed. We deployed one thousand, three hundred Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division on a no-notice EDRE and within days were alongside their Polish counterparts.

In terms of leveraging exercises to hone our skills, in FY20, the Army is allocating funding for the DEFENDER exercises in Europe, where we will push a division-size unit of twenty-thousand troops and draw on thirteen-thousand pieces of equipment, to be ready to support contingency operations and respond to any crises.

Additionally, exercises in the Indo-Pacific will further test and demonstrate our power projection through the Pacific Pathways, with our Allies and partners. The FY21 exercises, expanding in the Indo-Pacific, with $300M from Operations and Maintenance devoted towards these strategic exercises with troops operating in countries like Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Palau.

Our regionally aligned Security Force Assistance Brigades or SFABs, with their advise and assist capability, continue to prove their worth as an economy of force. Little else sends a message like boots on the ground, standing side-by-side partner forces. The Army's goal for FY21 is 6 regionally aligned, fully manned, trained and equipped SFABs.


Another element of competition and deterrence is having a highly lethal, combat credible force. This is why we established six modernization investment priorities and restructured the Army enterprise with the establishment of Army Futures Command, which brought all of the stakeholders of the modernization continuum together and reduced the span time in decision-making. This change has taken years off the acquisitions process and gave us a laser focus on modernizing for the future. The complexity of the battlefield of the future requires that we transform our forty-five year old fleet into new equipment portfolios in our formations today, so that we stay relevant, retain overmatch, and allow us win decisively in the next war.

Large-scale modernization takes time and patience. We have continued to prioritize the Army budget towards our 6 modernization priorities and 31 signature systems, ranging from new squad-level weapons, aircraft, and hypersonic missiles. Prototypes that began development in FY18/19 are maturing, with real capability landing in FY21/22. In this fiscal year, there will be an increase of test shots, capability demonstrations, and validation of the prototypes.

This will all be tied together with Cloud technology and the Cloud will be the foundation for the entire modernization endeavor. Because of the Cloud's importance, we are investing $800M over the next five fiscal years into Cloud Architecture and will migrate other forms of data.

We are increasing our investments across the modernization portfolios, increasing by $2.2B in FY20 to FY21, a 26% increase. With stable budgets and prioritized requirements, we have signaled to industry that we are committed to our modernization efforts. The demand for Army forces, paired against a flat budget, has forced tough fiscal decisions. So, in order to finance our modernization ambitions, we implemented reform. To build and maintain readiness, continue transformational modernization, and support real-world operations, the Army conducted in-depth program reviews, now known as "night-courts" for the last two years. In PB21, we have identified an additional 80 programs for elimination or reduction and generated $7.4B in savings for investment in Army and OSD priorities.

I would like to highlight some of our investments out of the 31 systems.

Long Range Precision Fires is our number one modernization priority. In FY21, we are investing over $800M in hypersonics alone to support accelerated development, flight-testing, and initial unit fielding and training in order to deliver our first hypersonics-capable operational unit, ready to deploy by FY23.

With regards to Future Vertical Lift (FVL), our Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA), the Blackhawk replacement: demonstrations have multiple competitors with numerous flight hours logged already; one hundred and sixty hours and over seventy hours respectively. Industry is meeting us at the table, and in this case, the companies are investing four to one. FARA, short for Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, is the successor of the Kiowa. My teammate, the Chief of Staff of the Army, and the most senior aviator in the Army, GEN James McConville, likes to say we are flying before we are buying. We will down select to two competitors on both the FLRAA and FARA next month. Again, pretty exciting time as our disciplined approach towards modernization investments are moving towards real capability that we, the customer, can see, touch and test.

For Soldier's individual kit, we are developing the Integrated Visual Augmentation System or IVAS, with Microsoft -- which is our heads up display system that will serve as the nerve center for the integrated Squad combat system, simply put, linking multiple shooters with multiple sensors and multiple C2 nodes. This allows the Soldier to understand the threat picture in real-time during day or nighttime operations, and reduces computation time from minutes down to seconds. Speed and quality decision making increases our Soldiers' survivability and lethality.

The Army's transformational modernization efforts continue to build on consistent priorities and a ruthlessly aligned budget. We are committed to our six modernization priorities and 31 signature systems, which will be the next generation of weaponry for the U.S. Army to win decisively in the future fight. When pairing with Industry, setbacks, prototype shortcomings and failure are an inevitable part of innovation. However, when failure occurs, we are committed to making critical decisions early in the process and use the knowledge gained towards capability success.

This is the case with our Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle or OMFV, which is the Bradley replacement vehicle. This is a capability the Army requires. We are taking our lessons learned in terms of requirements, cost sharing, and Industry-informed timelines and therefore have adjusted the OMFV acquisitions strategy.

The Army is incredibly busy responding to a wide-array of contingencies. We respond to natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, and humanitarian crises. This is in addition to our current operations, with twenty-seven thousand five hundred Soldiers deployed to the Middle East; ten thousand of our men and women in Afghanistan alone. Due to an increase for demand of forces, the Army will stay on trajectory of modest growth to 492k by FY26 for the active duty component.


In closing, the Army remains steadfast in its priorities and have aligned our investments and budget against the same. People are the foundation across all of our efforts. I would like to wrap up the formal remarks here and take questions from the audience. I know better than to filibuster journalists, you guys buy ink by the barrel. Again, thank you for having me and I look forward to our discussion.