Dr. Stacie Pettyjohn: I'm Dr. Stacie Pettyjohn, the Director of the Defense program at the Center for New American Security. I'm thrilled to have with me today in person in our hybrid virtual CNAS fireside with fire the Honorable Christine Wormuth, the Secretary of the Army. Christine, welcome. Thanks for being here.
Hon. Christine Wormuth: Delighted to be here, Stacie, thank you.
SP: So we have a lot of topics that we're interested in covering today - in particular looking at the Secretary’s objectives for the Army moving into the next year.
Before we get into the substance though, just a couple administrative notes. You, as the audience, are welcome to ask questions. I'm going to try to intersperse questions as we go along that might be follow-ons to ones that I'm intending to ask so please go ahead and insert them in the chat box at the bottom of your website, but be sure to identify yourself. We don't take anonymous questions. This is a public discussion that's going to be recorded. We'll place it on our website after the fact so you can watch it again if you want.
So with that, we're going to dive into the questions and start talking about the future of the
Army and your objectives. You just issued a message to the force. Could you provide an overview of the six objectives that you identified?
CW: Sure, Stacie. First of all, the Army's top three priorities are people, readiness and modernization - and that's what I view as our foundation, but in thinking
more specifically what I'd like to try to help the Army accomplish over the next few years -
I thought it would be useful to define six objectives sort of that we can work towards. The first one, and a very important one for me is making sure that we put the Army on what I call a
sustainable strategic path. As you know well, we are coming out of 20 years of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism and are really pivoting to deal with a very different set of challenges with China as our pacing challenge. So for the Army our objective is to make
sure that we can field the kind of multi-domain operation capable units that we need with the kinds of new weapon systems that we need in a sustainable way to make sure that we're ready to do our part as part of the joint force.
My second priority relates to that, which is really helping the Army transform to be more data centric. You know, for us people are the cornerstone of the Army, but as we look to the future battlefield we really need to be much more comfortable with data. We need to be using data being able to share data with the other services. We've got to be able to protect our data, protect our networks in a very contested environment, and we have a lot of work to do in that
We also need to be able, speaking of adaptation, we need to be able to adapt to climate change - both in terms of making sure that we are training to new extreme weather environments but also making sure that our installations are as energy efficient as they can possibly be, making sure that the kinds of vehicles that we're bringing in are ideally electric wherever possible. And on that note I have to say today we are also releasing the Army climate strategy which I think is a terrific document and it's going to be a great blueprint for us in terms of looking at how we're
going to make sure that the Army is contributing to the goal of reducing greenhouse gasses.
So, those are sort of three objectives that are really looking at the future of the Army and where we're going. My next three objectives are really about people. The fourth one is really looking at how do we create a positive command climate at scale? You know, the terrible murder of Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood was a searing event really for the Army and
brought very much needed attention on the challenge of sexual harassment and sexual assault and frankly other harmful behaviors - whether it's domestic violence, suicide, racism, extremism….so we really need to figure out how we take all of the changes
that we've made at Fort Hood, which are numerous and have been, I think, very positive and scale that up across the whole Army; I can talk more about that later if you're interested.
And then my fifth objective relates to that which is really getting after how do we reduce these harmful behaviors. Take suicide for example. We continue to really struggle with the suicide rate in the Army, and we have just got to find ways to solve that problem as much as we possibly can.
And then the last objective is really looking at how do we, you know, we are everyone talks
about the all-volunteer force - really we're the all-recruited force as are the other services. When you look at the demographics in our country and you look at the declining propensity to serve, there are some real challenges I think in terms of recruiting people into the Army and some of that relates also frankly to the command climate and how command climate is perceived by American families and their kids. So I think we have a lot of work to do in terms of making sure that we are able to bring the best into the Army and that we're able to retain the best folks in the Army. So having kind of a strategic approach to that is my sixth objective and one that I think is really important to making sure that we can continue to bring in the best and
brightest in the next five to ten years.
SP: Absolutely critical. Those are wide-ranging objectives. I think we'll try to get into each one of them with a little bit more detail and go through some questions.
I like how you phrase a sustainable path forward for the Army in terms of thinking about modernization and the types of missions it’s going to be prioritizing. You can see right now how the Army is pulled in different directions with the crisis that's going on in Ukraine. There have been a large number of soldiers that have deployed or redeployed within Europe as a part of
our effort to deter Russian aggression and reassure our allies at the same…. and the Army is obviously central in Europe. It's critical to deterrence there. In the Pacific it's a little bit different. The Army plays a really incredibly important role, but it's more of a supporting one and it's a different type of force that might be required for each of these different theaters. So how are you going about finding a way of acquiring the different capabilities that you need which might be dissimilar for Europe and for the Indo-Pacific which has been identified as the priority?
CW: We've been doing a lot of work looking at exactly that over the last six to seven months. You know, certainly it's been a big focus for me since coming in to be Secretary of the Army. What we're really finding is frankly…. I mean a) I think the Army has to be ready to
do what the President needs in either of those theaters. You know, we need to be able to contribute to be what I like to call the backbone of joint operations in the Indo-Pacific, and we also need to be, you know, the tip of the spear in Europe and to be the
supported service, if you will, in a European conflict if there were ever to
be one. But a lot of the of the formations and capabilities that are needed in either of those theaters are actually common. You know, we're going to need infantry, we're going to need Strykers, we're going to need armor… I mean, obviously a European conflict would be,
much more armor heavy than the role of armor in the Indo-Pacific. But, take air and missile defense - those capabilities are going to be critical in either one of those theaters. Similarly, our focus on the network, you know, which gets to the data centric Army - that's going to be a critical set of capabilities in either theater. We have designed these multi-domain task forces which are, sort of our new flagship MDO capable formations. They have applications in either of t hose theaters. They might use different weapon systems, for example the MDTF that is in the Pacific because of the distances there would probably, you would see more use of the long-range hypersonic weapon. Whereas, for example, an MDTF in Europe might be using more the PRISM system for example. So certainly there are capabilities and particular formations that are much more unique to either one of those theaters but there's a lot of commonality. And as we look to building the POM each year part of what we're doing is really trying to find
that balance that's the sustainable part about how do we make sure we have what we need within the resources that we have available.
SP: That makes sense. There certainly is overlap - I didn't mean to suggest that you require totally different forces. There is a bit of a tension though in the Army as in the midst of complete modernization right now - an overhaul of the entire force which has been delayed for some time. Previously they had identified 35 priorities which is a lot, but the Army does provide a lot, and part of this is how you end up racking and stacking these modernization priorities going forward. So I was wondering if you, since a lot of these are supposed to be coming to fruition and actually be fielding prototypes in the next fiscal year, are you thinking about rearranging the priorities? Do you think you're going to end up having to cut some of them to be budget constrained to fit within the resources that you have? What's your vision of the modernization?
CW: Sure. Before I tackle that I would say, one of the big challenge we have, as we try to tackle that challenge is the incredible amount of uncertainty that we have around the budget situation right now. And again, this is a problem for the entire department - not just the Army, but the fact that, we don't have an FY22 appropriation, the fact that we're in a CR and now we'll have another CR until mid-March, even as we start thinking about the FY 24 FYDP, so the lack of certainty makes it harder to even tackle the kind of challenge that you're bringing. I really hope that the folks on Capitol Hill are able to come to an agreement because we could really use that
stability and certainty. What I’ve said, and I said this at my speech at AUSA in the fall, is we are going to have to make some hard choices and everything is on the table. I think what's, when I look at our modernization program, the Army has not transformed in the way that we're trying to do right now in 40 years. Many of our enduring systems are the big five from the
80s. So we really have to find a way to move forward with the six modernization portfolios that we have - air and missile defense, long range fires, network, soldier lethality and next generation vehicles. The challenge is how do we do that within our budget while we're also needing to take care of soldiers, families, reinvest in our infrastructure. And I do think looking into the out years of our program we may have to make some adjustments. Certainly, my goal is to try to keep the momentum going in our modernization program because I think it is so critical to getting us on that sustainable strategic path, but we're going to be looking carefully
at every one of our sort of premier modernization programs, how it's doing in performance, how affordable it, is, you know is it going to be as we scale up…. I mean we are delivering prototypes for a number of the programs. We have to look at, can you go from prototype to a program of record and what is the affordability involved in that? So we're
looking very carefully at all of those issues even as we're also having to again do a lot of reinvestment in our infrastructure, which is really important not just for power projection but for
the quality of life for our soldiers and their families.
SP: There are a lot of things that need to be done and that have been deferred for a long time, and it's very hard with so much uncertainty, as you pointed out. It seems like we face enough challenges as a nation in thinking about how we prepare for our defense, but then when we have self-inflicted wounds that we continually handicap ourselves going forward with, continuing resolutions and no predictability it just makes it even harder.
So, I have two follow-ups on this one from an audience….there were a couple of audience questions about a specific program and then I had one on the prototype that I wanted to ask you. So the first one from Rich and Jeremy, and they both were looking at FARA in particular. I was on a panel yesterday at CSIS with Todd Harrison who picked that to be a program that was up for potentially getting axed in the next budget. They had questions that were more about
the actual form of FARA. Does it need to be manned? Could it be unmanned? Or do you think it is a program that potentially could be substituted or replaced by a combination of other capabilities whether in other domains like space combined with ground fires, unmanned unattended sensors…. things like that? So, thinking about FARA, what are your views on it?
CW: Yeah. We were just in some briefings yesterday on FARA actually, and I think
my sense is looking at the program right now, I don't think we're at a point, we're not at a point from a technology standpoint where fully unmanned I think is….we're not quite ready to go there I think, frankly just in terms of the feasibility of it. Now an important part of the FARA ecosystem is what we call air launched effects, and so those are obviously unmanned small platforms that are a really important part of the FARA program. The helicopter itself is envisioned now to be manned, and again I think we're some distance away from being able to go to fully unmanned. Perhaps that's something farther out in the future that we could look at. I am certainly very mindful of the Air Force's experience with Predator and there was a lot of resistance in the early days from the fighter pilot community to the idea of Predator. We know now that's been a huge success story. So my mind is open, but I think you have to look at sort of what the technology can support at this point in time.
SP: That certainly makes sense because you don't want to get ahead of yourself or set yourself up for program failure and cost overruns if the technology is not mature yet….
CW: ….and just that you know the complexity again when we think about you know the contested environment that we know we would be facing, whether in the Pacific or Europe, we think about all of the information that's going to be coming into the platform….I think again given where we are with AI and all of that it's not clear to me that we're ready to go to a place where….I think you still need that human basically in the loop to be able to absorb and process
the amount of information in the short amount of time that you would have.
SP: I mean, that's certainly been an important and consistent refrain from the Department in terms of having a human in the loop and figuring out those ways of teaming with unmanned systems which offers a lot of promise. And the Army's done successfully with other programs already.
So my second question was about overcoming the Valley of Death, the so-called. We have a Project on the unfinished business in defense innovation really looking at how we speed up
acquisition, sort of the process, and going from prototype to actual full-scale production. And the Army seemed to have one of the success stories with IVAS - that was one of the first examples where we've seen tapping into a commercial technology that already exists, adapting it for the military and for a different environment but it ended up being delayed. So I was wondering
what had happened with IVAS? Is there something that you've learned about it that you're going to take forward as you look to tap more into the commercial sector and draw on what is already
CW: Yeah, IVAS is alive and well despite the fact that there have been some delays in our schedule. Microsoft has worked extremely well and very closely with us. I had the opportunity a few months ago to try out IVAS for myself, and really the challenge we're facing right now is a little bit in the visualization of the headset and kind of the resolution quality of the imaging. And that's really kind of what the delay is about, but Microsoft has been working very closely with us and I think is very committed to, seeing if we can work through these problems. So I'm eager to see the results of the next test that comes out, but I think the kind of experience we've had with IVAS, , both with an excellent private sector partner, with the kind of soldier touch points that we've had and getting a lot of feedback from soldiers as we go in this kind of iterative process has worked well for us.
And I think, you have remember the sort of early satellite phones from the 1980s that wealthy people had in their cars. They were big and clunky, and you know now we have iphones. It took us some time to get there so I think the first iteration of IVAS may not be quite as streamlined as we want it to be ultimately, but it's the alpha version and we need to start there.
SP: No, that makes sense and having that you know that iterative learning process that's continually going on with operators paired up with the technologists and making sure that
they're working in lockstep seems to be something that is critically important and where some other not quite programs but efforts in this area have failed in terms of not
having that tightly coupling.
I have another question coming in from the audience that's broadly about modernization so I'll
throw it out here from Jessica. It’s with respect to Futures Command which was a new part of the Army that was established in the last few years, four years, 2018 I think?
CW: You would know better than I!
SP: Jessica was just asking, do you see the commands role changing? Do you plan to announce a new commander soon since General Murray retired?
CW: Great questions. We are certainly eager to have a nominee for Futures Command
because of course we'd like to see the next commanding General take over down in Austin. Lieutenant General Jim Richardson is doing a fantastic job. He was one of the Deputy Commanding Generals. He's really been sort of our troop leader on Project Convergence which has been our campaign of experimentation. So General Richardson is the acting commander right now at Futures Command and is doing a great job. We're not envisioning any
major changes to Futures Command right now. I mean, again we are in this transformative period with our modernization efforts overall. Organizationally, we have Futures Command and the cross-functional teams that are critical to those programs working of course with the PEOs and AS(ALT) at headquarters - all of those parties work together to sort of
bring forward the Army modernization program, and I think generally those organizations are
working well together. By virtue of sort of how AFC was stood up, the cross-functional teams are there to work on development efforts before they become programs of record so over time, years from now we may well get to a point where we'll do some tweaking of AFC because we may not need all the cross-functional teams that we have now. We may need new cross-functional teams to work on new areas so I think I can envision making some changes potentially down the road but right now I think we have to kind of keep the momentum going.
SP: So, in terms of keeping the momentum going and one of the factors you identified as being so important to winning and future war fighting is becoming a more data centric force. I mean, it's important for just even the management of the force but in terms of the operational necessity is there as well so that's going to require a lot of different changes - it's not just technical and hardware or software - probably processes that need to change, could become automated instead of the manual versions that we have now - and then personnel, this could have ripple on effects for who you're trying to recruit and retain and bring into the force. Which one of
those aspects do you think presents the greatest obstacle to you and how are you planning on tackling and moving the Army towards becoming more data centric?
CW: I think it's hard to choose from among the different pieces of becoming more data centric. It's hard to select which one is the greatest challenge. First, I think we have to sort of make a cultural mindset shift, if you will, in terms of how we think about data.
I have said on occasion that data will be the new ammunition on the future battlefield. I think the Army has to get much more comfortable with data. We have to be able
to share data much more seamlessly amongst ourselves but also again with the other services. One of the things we've been doing at Project Convergence is looking at how we do that data sharing and we've talked about creating data fabric - I like to call it really more of a data quilt - because the idea is you're taking data from multiple different sources that don't all have the same standards and how do you sort of knit them together so that you can leverage the power of that data….but we're also in a situation where we've thought about protecting
systems and networks instead of thinking….we probably should be thinking about protecting the data inside of those systems and networks and that gets to the whole issue of cloud computing. So I think there's just a tremendous amount of work that has to be done there. And part of it is also looking at our own networks in the Army, which we have multiple different systems - many of them are very dated and we don't have the luxury of being able to start from a clean slate so it's how do we make, bring all of our existing networks into the future? So there's a huge amount of challenge but we have a terrific Chief Information Officer and we've put out recently a digital transformation strategy to try to help guide our efforts in that area.
SP: Excellent. You actually answered one of the questions that an audience member had, Mike, about how you're going to try to link up the different data sources - I like the quilt comparison.
CW: AFC is still talking data fabric but to me it seems like a quilt.
SP: I can see the different patches from different places - it's very intuitive so that's good.
Speaking about data and your experiments down at AFC with Project Convergence hat has
been really sort of pushing the envelope I think in terms of what the joint force has been doing and putting software and different folks who are responsible for that actually on the test field with the military operators and really integrating it. Can you talk a little bit about how Project Convergence fits into you becoming a data centric force?
CW: Sure. I would say again assuming we're able to get a budget and get out of the continuing resolution business we will have a Project Convergence 22 next year in the fall, and I hope that we'll be able to bring more folks from the Hill, more folks from the press and think tanks to see in person what we're doing. Covid has made that a little bit challenging and now the CR may be making that a little bit challenging but I hope that by next October we'll be we'll be able to bring more people to see for themselves what we've been doing through Project Convergence. Really what we're trying to do is….. I think this year we had seven or eight [six] different sort of use cases which were really sort of different operational challenges that we are trying to solve that are, you know, connected to the kinds of A2AD challenges that we could envision in Europe or in the Indo-Pacific, and a lot of them of course, you know, revolve around data in some way whether it's again, how can we connect an F-35 to a system on the ground and share data, whether it's about trying to get what we call a single pane of glass where commanders are able to see everything all at once….something that we are continuing to work on but have not
yet achieved. So Project Convergence for us is really the kind of campaign of experimentation
where really the other services have come in and participated pretty robustly with us as well
to try to look at all of those different kind of data issues and see which kinds of systems and AI
algorithms are going to be most helpful in terms of helping us connect sensors to shooters, for example.
SP: Excellent. It's truly impressive and very interesting to watch the Army be pushing the edge on this and has been doing a great job in terms of actually demonstrating and figuring out how these different systems can work together and what you can do.
I want to get to your other objectives - especially since you released, the Army released your climate strategy today which I believe had three main lines of effort. Could you just identify what
those are and speak a little bit about each one?
CW: Sure. The first line of effort is really looking at installations - you know, how can we both make sure that our installations are as energy efficient and resilient to climate change as possible? And the Army frankly has been I think in the lead on this for some time even if perhaps it's gone through periods of being less vocal in advertising what it's doing, but you can go to any number of major Army installations in the country and you will see fields of solar panels, for example. We've been participating in the lead green building standards program for a very long time, and a lot of what we're doing in the installations line of effort is trying to make sure that we are really maximizing our efforts to be energy efficient - looking
at water consumption, looking at using alternative sources, trying to reduce energy consumption
wherever possible…. and then also frankly trying to make sure that we're building our installations or renovating our installations with climate change in mind - whether you we have a lot of installations in the south and southwest where it's dry and you have all sorts of you know challenges with drought and wildfires. We have a lot of more coastal - places kind of in the south where hurricanes and tornadoes are issues. So as we renovate the infrastructure there we're really looking at how do we build in resiliency.
The second line of effort is acquisitions and logistics. And you know here I would say one of the things that we're doing is really trying to go a hybrid or go electric wherever we can in terms of vehicles. So for example our goal is to be, is to have all of our light duty non-tactical vehicles be
fully electric by 2027 which would be a terrific thing to be able to accomplish. We're looking at where, obviously you know we can't have all of our combat vehicles be electric, but we're looking a lot at you know where can we have hybrids where possible and that can have some real operational advantages as well - where our vehicles are have lower signatures and aren't making as much noise for example. So those are some examples in acquisition.
And then the last line of effort is really looking at training, which again speaks to you know as the climate changes and as extreme weather and extreme temperatures be more common,
making sure that our soldiers are able to train and operate in those environments. Take the arctic, for example, obviously as the ice caps melt the arctic is becoming much more of
an environment for the shipping channels opening up and we are looking at making sure that we are doing more training and that our soldiers have the kinds of equipment they need to be able
to operate effectively in the arctic or in, other areas in the Indo-Pacific where they might be in cold mountainous terrain, for example.
SP: That's very helpful. It's really nice to have the illustrations and elaboration on each of those lines of effort. I feel like oftentimes when climate is invoked in the context of the defense department that it's hard for people to understand specifically how that trickles down and
what that means and what it would affect. So, that's good.
I have a follow-on from that, slightly related, from Bill, who is asking about your plans for the
Army's research lab - for example will it play more of a role in issues like climate change?
CW: Yeah. We have tremendous research labs in a number of different places. Right now my biggest exposure to a lot of the research, the work of the research labs has been in two areas which are only I would say one of them is kind of climate adjacent. One, we've been actually doing a tremendous amount looking at pandemics and vaccines and things like that. So for example we have an Army research program that's looking at developing a pan-corona virus vaccine, for example, and there's a lot of interest in that obviously as we continue to see you know more and more variants. And due to climate change and the fact that more and more kind of the geography you know is getting warmer and warmer so animal vectors, insect vectors are sort of - their reach is expanding which makes the potential for future pandemics more likely. That work is important. The other thing we've been doing with our research labs is really leveraging them heavily for our experimentation work - much more looking at operational challenges. So the JSIL [JOINT SYSTEMS INTEGRATION LAB] laboratory up at Aberdeen has been a major place where we've been collaborating with other services - again, looking at how do we share data and solve some of these really hard technology problems around some of the operational challenges we face.
SP: On the data point…. so I'm going to cross your objectives here and bring a few of them together…with the data and the different services - this is one of the areas that it presents a challenge because the requirements for each service are very different. The Army has so many people in so many different locations - you know, the Navy and the Air Force have fewer numbers of ships and aircraft and this creates different demands in terms of what type of technology you need. How do you, do you have confidence that the Army and the different departments are going to be able to work out these differences and figure out how to share
data going forward that we're not going to end up with department siloed data networks?
CW: You know, I would say we're trying very hard to solve that problem frankly. And that's really where the J6 comes in to play frankly. You know, the joint warfighting concept puts a lot of emphasis on information advantage and you know undergirding that whole idea we can only have information advantage if we're able to share data and it's not siloed. So, I think
through the joint warfighting concept, through the work of the J6 to try to set common data standards - I think ultimately we will get there. It's in all of the services, it's in the joint force’s interest to do that. It continues to be a bit of a journey but I think all of the services understand that we have to get there.
SP: Absolutely, yeah. It's very important and it's hard - one of the things my colleague Chris Doherty has written about in his report on information and command he was arguing that information superiority is going to be a hard thing to achieve in the future but we have to also, we have to strive for degradation dominance so that we build network architectures that
are resilient and….
CW: ….degrade gracefully…
SP: Exactly….instead of very brittle ones.
So, let's turn to a little bit more of your personnel objectives. Can you talk about your plans for
how you will foster a positive command climate?
CW: Sure. I like to say, this has to come from the top down and the bottom up. From
the top down I think, fundamentally setting a positive command climate. Leaders are an important part of that, and I think when you see leaders at the battalion level, at the brigade level placing an emphasis on command climate, on taking care of soldiers and families you have much better outcomes. An important thing I think we're doing there very tangibly to get that leadership is we are selecting our leaders for battalion and brigade command in a different way than the Army has in the past. We are now, instead of just using sort of the paper OER personnel file we are doing a four day interview process that runs all of the potential battalion
commanders or brigade commanders through a series of sort of cognitive tests, group sort of team dynamic activities, a writing test, of course a physical fitness test because we're the Army and we have to be trained, discipline and fit, and the whole four day event there's an interview with an organizational psychologist and it culminates in a double-blind panel interview. So it's really a robust 360 degree assessment, and what we're finding is coming out of that we are able to see perhaps where there are candidates who are not ready for command and may have some holes in their swing that they need to address. I think by virtue of those assessment programs, which we're also using to select our sergeant majors, we're using them to select our acquisition leaders, are helping us screen out for toxic leadership in a way that we haven't been
able to do in the past. I think that will help us a lot from the top down perspective.
The bottom up, particularly when it comes to reducing harmful behaviors, I think it really, our ability to do that is much more at kind of the squad level which is why we have this
philosophy of this is my squad where you care about your teammates in your squad, you get to know them, you get to know how things are going in their family life - that's something you know where our sergeants play a key role and I think you really have to kind of build that positive command climate from both directions to be able to really have an inclusive environment to
know our soldiers, to have our soldiers feel supported so that if there's something going on they feel like they have someone to turn to who can help them.
SP: That's great. You covered all this ground and some topics that Kate Kuzminski wanted me to ask you about. You've already hit on them so that's fabulous.
CW: I mean I think it will be, don't get me wrong we are not going to create a positive command climate across the entire Army and reduce harmful behaviors to the degree that we want to overnight. This is something we're going to have to keep working on year after year and not lose focus on. I think that's, there's a tendency in organizations to get into what I call the cycle of crisis and complacency where you know you have a crisis like Fort Hood, you put a lot of attention on it and then two years later some other set of problems has come your
way and you can lose focus. I think we're going to have to be disciplined to keep the focus there, but it's really, really important.
SP: Implementation is obviously going to take a while. It is really critical. It also, I imagine, has to involve changing some norms, culture a little bit in some areas and just sort of, and that also is something that is not, can't happen overnight because it is embodied in every individual person.
Hugo had a question that sort of follows up on this which is about how is the Army dealing with diversity equity and inclusion?
CW: Yeah. There we have a sort of I would say a multi-pronged effort. Again, the command assessment programs are what we are seeing coming out of that - we have more women and people of color being selected for battalion level command for example than we did three
years ago before we started this program. I think some of that is because we're doing part of the training for that. For the panelists, it is training around unconscious bias. You know, the fact that we have a double-blind interview situation obviously can help us do that kind of screening. So that's one area where we are getting after that. We have a diversity equity and inclusion
strategy as part of our overall people strategy. One of the things we started doing a couple of years ago is we have a series of listening sessions called your voice matters where we have
some of one of my principal advisors Dr. Anselm Beach is my DEI advisor, and he goes out all across the Army to conduct these kinds of listening sessions. We take that feedback and try to bring it back into our programming around people and how we're doing talent management. So we are…. and again fundamentally part of this is my squad philosophy is making sure that you have a safe and inclusive environment for your soldiers. People are going to perform better if they feel safe and included in their workspace and workforce, and that's a lot of what this is my squad is about as well.
SP: That makes sense. This would be related to my last question about this on this topic which is you've referred to the challenges with the Army has faced with respect to sexual harassment and assault. One of the big outstanding issues and questions is whether these allegations remain within the chain of command or whether they are dealt with outside of it. Do you think that the Army can develop a positive command climate if they maintain the chain of command for these problems?
CW: Well after quite a bit of consideration and deliberation in Congress this year they have….basically new legislation has emerged that is going to take those kinds of crimes out of the chain of command. We are actually in the process right now of standing up a new office of special trial counsel that will report directly to me as the Secretary of the Army. The
other services are doing the same. We have existing, specially trained prosecutors who report to the judge advocate general. Those will move out from the TJAG's office into this new office of special trial council. So on the accountability side we are undertaking a significant reform that we hope will give people more trust in the system and lead to more reporting of these kinds of problems. I think that's an important development, a very important development. But I also believe that really where we need to focus is on the prevention side. We put a lot of focus on responding when a harassment incident or an assault happens, taking care of the victim, holding the perpetrator accountable. There’s much more work to be done on the prevention side and so another thing that we are undertaking is trying to develop a prevention workforce that actually focuses on helping prevent not just sexual harassment and assault but the full range of harmful behaviors. As part of that I think we're going to be looking at how we're organized in the headquarters to support that because right now you know we have a variety of different prevention programs that are in different part of the headquarters Army staff. It’s hard to see the full range of programs that we have and whether they're adequately resourced so I think we may also in the future make some organizational changes that I hope will allow us to become more effective at preventing harmful behaviors in the first place.
SP: That makes sense.
Let's turn to recruitment and retention which is obviously critically important to everything. What sort of changes do you envision in this area? What do you think needs to be done to be able to attract the talent that the Army needs and to keep them in?
CW: I think we need to do a number of things. One thing we're doing already that I think is going to be very helpful is we have started what's called the talent marketplace. If you joined the Army 20 years ago no one really asked you what you wanted to, what your MOS needed to be or where you wanted to be stationed, which assignment you wanted… you didn't get asked. We now have much more of a marketplace where people can express their preferences on where they'd like to be stationed, what kinds of jobs they'd like to be considered for, and as a result of doing that we are seeing most people get somewhere in their top three to seven choices. So that I think from a retention standpoint,bboth from recruiting people and being able to say to people you will have more choice in agency in your time in the Army, but it's also helping us with retention. The other issue I think we really need to look hard at, particularly with declining propensity to serve, is are we really reaching out to every possible American that might want to serve in the Army and are we communicating what the Army offers to young Americans in the most effective way? I think you know with 9/11, 20 years behind us now, that was obviously when many Americans joined the services as a result of the terrible attack on our country, but for young Americans now that's a distant memory. We have kids who weren't even born when 9/11 happened so we have to I think better articulate what is the value proposition for joining the Army? I think that is something that we need to put some more work into, but it also frankly connects back to that command climate and reducing harmful behaviors. I mean, the bottom line is Vanessa Guillen's death and whether it was what happened at Fort Hood or whether it's people reading articles about another suicide in the Army or in another service I think that gives young Americans and their families pause, understandably. So I think getting after those issues isn't just important for the health of the Army but it's also important for the health of the future Army in that we need to be able to recruit people in the years to come, and we need to be able to assure American families that the Army is going to take care of their sons and daughters.
SP: Absolutely. You can see how the different objectives work together and are self
reinforcing and supporting.
A couple, we have about 15 minutes left so keep the questions coming in if you have them. There are a bunch that I haven't gotten to yet. I wanted to ask a little bit about the Covid vaccination effort since you've started the separation process for soldiers who are refusing to get vaccinated. How do you think this is going? Do you expect that they're going to be a
lot of soldiers that end up separating or that this is going to cause more people to fall in line?
CW: Fundamentally, this is a good news story. You know, someone said to me not too long
ago you know to get the Army of 1.2 million people, to get 97% of that Army to do something is a pretty amazing achievement, and that's about where we are right now with the active duty Army for example - about 97% of the force is vaccinated. And we have similarly for the
Guard and Reserves - those rates have come up, you know, into the the low 80s if I'm
not mistaken. So, you know, and it's really important, Stacie, from a readiness health and safety standpoint. You know, we need people to be vaccinated. We need them to be vaccinated to be able to be deployed. I get an email anytime a soldier or Army civilian dies of any cause in the U.S Army and starting this summer I really started seeing a notable increase in emails that
were identifying the cause of death as Covid, and in most cases, almost all cases those people dying from Covid were unvaccinated. So I feel really strongly that this is something that we need to do for the force and for the health of our Army families and soldiers. We absolutely have a process for exemptions. First of all, all of our leaders have been given a lot of information so that they're able to answer questions that soldiers might have or that families might have about
the safety of the vaccine, for example, and we do have a process that you can file for either a religious or a medical exemption, and you will not be separated from the Army if you have not taken the vaccine but you have, for example, a medical exemption. There is going to be a fairly small number of people who do not seek exemptions or are not granted exemptions and will be separated from the Army. That number I think is going to be small, and I think as people are faced with the prospect of actually being asked to leave the Army some of them I think are going to take the vaccine who might not have otherwise but we will see I think some small number of soldiers be separated.
SP: I didn't realize it was 97%. That is very….
CW: …..it’s very high.
SP: I know that the guard has been lagging and there are some other parts of the total force that are not as high. There were actually a couple of questions about the guard from Steve and
Mike. They were asking a bit about whether the guard is being called on to do too many things
with respect to Covid in different states, sometimes going down to the border, they were in the capital, they've been employed in a, really frequently in a number of varied roles. Do you think that they're going to be, need to be any adjustments to the guard or reserve components to take into account the strain of their frequent use or whether that is going to decline in the future?
CW: Yeah, 2021 was a phenomenal year for the National Guard. I mean, they just did an incredible number of things for our country - whether it was responding to natural disasters, providing security at the capitol like you mentioned - they were a huge part of the Covid response and still are. We've got medical teams, for example, deployed in states around the country augmenting some of these hospitals that are overwhelmed - in addition to some of the overseas deployments that the guard regularly is a part of. I think, you know, we are
paying very close attention to how heavily the guard is being used. We do not want to overuse the guard. I talk with General Hokanson, the Chief of the [National] Guard Bureau, [Lt. Gen.] Dan Jensen, the Army [National] Guard Director, regularly so that we try to keep a close eye on readiness and their OP tempo. My sense is that right now we have not overused the guard in any dramatic way, but we are watching that carefully because that is possible. We have to think about recruiting from the guard, into the guard and reserve as well, and, you know, something we're seeing now for example is we are retaining pretty effectively in the active Army right now but traditionally a source of, an important source of new soldiers for the Army reserves are
folks coming out of the active Army and so the fact that we're retaining more than we normally do in the active Army is having implications for the Army reserves. So we do need to keep an eye on their OP tempo because we don't want to overwork them - particularly when they need to also be available obviously to governors for state duty.
SP: They've been doing just a tremendous amount. It's kind of shocking. You don't realize it until you take stock of everywhere that they're active and what's going on - it's not just deploying to the middle east or Europe anymore.
A question from Ryan regarding the Army's modernization priorities, how will the new PPBE [Planning, Programing, Budgeting, and Execution] Commission by congress affect or improve the Army's ability to procure equipment?
CW: Yeah. Well I have not been following the new commission carefully, but certainly I know from other experience with the PPBE system that it is complicated and not particularly agile when you think about the kinds of things, you know, how fast we need to be able to adapt and transform now. So I think anything the commission could do that would help the department be able to be more agile, to be able to develop systems more quickly, to have the authorities to
move more quickly, to have the authorities frankly to you know move money around inside of the department's budget more easily that would be very welcome.
SP: There's a lot of hope resting I think on this commission. I think it is a wonderful thing and something that should definitely be pursued and explored, but we need to keep going right now too and make the best with what we have and the authorities that you already have.
So one more budget question and then we have a couple of questions about the Pacific, in particular, that I'll try to get to even though we're running short on time.
So for FY23, I know this is still up in the air and there's a lot of uncertainty with the continuing resolution for FY22, do you expect more cuts to the Army budget in the next fiscal year? If you do expect more cuts, do you think these are going to come out of modernization or capacity of force size?
CW: Well as you know we don't know at this point what the FY23 top line is going to be for the department. I think the amount of activity that the Army has undertaken in the last year speaks for itself. We were a critical part of the evacuation from Afghanistan. We were the backbone of Operation Allie Welcome. We're doing a lot of the deploying for deterrence purposes in Europe now, and I think Secretary Austin and Deputy Secretary Hicks know just how important the Army is, and I know that they are vocal advocates for the department to get the resources that we need to be able to implement the forthcoming national defense strategy. I think if you look at, you know, Congress's behavior around the budget in the last cycle, even though we don't have a final [FY]22 appropriation, both the House and Senate felt that the department needed more
resources. So I am optimistic that we will get the resources that we need and be able to
tackle things like reduced purchasing power and things like that which is a real thing for us right
Now. And again, you know, once we know what our budget is General McConville and I will work very hard to make sure that we have that sort of sustainable strategic five-year budget that gets the Army where it needs to go.
SP: Yeah, inflation is the other variable here that is just moving around a good bit and certainly
puts stress on the budgets that you have and increase the cost to military personnel, in particular, but across the board so that is challenging.
All right. Let's turn to the Pacific. So I have a question from Jay who was wondering whether
the Army was leveraging anything from the Marine Corps force design, for example, sea control with shore based weapons, in its multi-domain operations and multi-domain task force for the Pacific. And that sort of dovetails with a question I wanted to ask where you do see that there is potentially, at least on the surface, some overlap between the Army's vision with the multi-domain task force in the Pacific and what the Marine Corps is trying to do with its littoral
regiments and the EABO [Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations] concept - a lot of different acronyms. Do you see these as being complementary or are there differences that don't necessarily strike a casual observer?
CW: I think they are complementary, but i think there are also some differences. And obviously I'm much more familiar with the Army's multi-domain task force than with the Marine littoral regiment, but you know both concepts envision using long-range fires - whether it's in an anti-ship capacity or against you know fixed targets on land. And so there I think they're similar. I think they're sufficient targets. As I like to say that, we probably have plenty to do for all of the services in the Indo-Pacific in that regard. A part of the multi-domain task force that I think that isn't talked about as much that I think is different from what the Marines are envisioning is our multi-domain effects battalion where we're really looking at how can we…. I mean, some of that is about doing sort of intelligence or reconnaissance, collecting information on potential targets to be able to inform targeting if we got into a conflict, and also bringing non-kinetic effects. So that's, you know, the long-range fires batteries as part of the MDTF are a really important piece but that multi-domain effects battalion is also a really important piece.
SP: That's a good point. Everybody tends to focus on the pointy end of the spear with the missiles but cyberspace, electronic warfare and just different types of operations matter a lot too, and figuring out what you want to hit with those missiles is….
CW: …. Anything we can do to increase that window of indications and warnings which is something that the multi-domain effects battalion can help us with is really important - it's not
just the pointy end of the spear, as you said.
SP: Yeah, no. We're not going to succeed if we just focus on the back end of the kill chain. We need to think about the whole process. So there was one question here, and I'm losing who it was from - oh, Tony was asking about the MDTF in the Pacific. Do you envision or can you imagine training with Japan and Taiwan in the first island chain in exercises?
CW: Certainly I can potentially envision it with Japan. It's remarkable to look at Japan and how it's thinking about the role of its self-defense forces has evolved over the last 10 years - it's come a long way. I think obviously with our one China policy we're very careful about what kinds of military engagements we have with Taiwan. So, you know, there I think with Taiwan we're
really focused on making sure that they have the capabilities they need to
defend themselves, and I would see us working with the MDTF with Japan first.
SP: Yeah, that seems like the safer bet, the more likely bet in the near term.
So the last few years….. this is the last question and we'll wrap things up….the Army has spent a good bit of resources and effort on rebuilding its readiness and ensuring that the force is prepared for whatever it might be called on to do, and now we're starting to see these
deployments to Europe, in particular, where they're drawing on the Army and there are potentially more soldiers that are mobilized and prepared to deploy should they be called on. Do you foresee these deployments having a significant impact on Army readiness?
CW: Well, I think it's really too soon to tell, Stacie. A good number of the forces are coming out of the 82nd Airborne- which are our highest readiness forces - that's what they train to do and be ready to do. We're using them in the way that we envision. So we'll see if the, 3000 or so forces that are going over to Poland and Germany [and Romania] now wind up staying for a longer period of time I think we'll have to look at the impacts on readiness, but that's, we can't really speculate now on sort of how long they're going to be there. What I will say is looking at other experiences, you know looking at this summer, for example, when we did the Operation Allies Welcome where we housed all of the Afghans coming out of Afghanistan -
that was fairly troop intensive for us for a period of time and we were monitoring very carefully
the readiness of those units. And in some cases what we did is, you know, we found guard and reserve units who were able to come and fill in so that the active units could get back to their normal training. I think that's the kind of active management of readiness that we try to do day in, day out through forces command.
SP: This has been an absolute pleasure. I want to thank the audience for tuning in
for such great questions. I want to thank Secretary Wormuth. I'm looking forward to seeing the
progress you make towards realizing your objectives over the next coming years. Thank you.
CW: Thank you, great to see you!