The hard-won experience the Army gained over the past decade in Iraq and Afghanistan will help the service adapt to the new security environment of the upcoming decades, said Ashton Carter, deputy secretary of defense.
Carter noted that the Army has played a key role in the U.S.'s wars over the past decade, and today, of the roughly 68,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan, about 60,000 are soldiers, Carter said, speaking at the Sustaining Member Luncheon on Wednesday, Oct. 24 at the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition.
“Now, those lessons learned, that new capability built, those leaders forged, that habit of adaptation comprise an enormous asset for this country going forward. And we're lucky for that, because we find ourselves at a moment of great transition for national defense.”
The Army will have “a major role in each of the tenets” of the new defense strategy adopted at the end of last year, Carter said. Those will include capturing lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, such as leadership skills, counterinsurgency, integrating intelligence and operations,
“and above all, adaptability,” Carter said. The pivot to Asia also will deeply involve the Army, especially in security cooperation with the militaries of the region, which are dominated by land forces, he said.
The Army also will “protect the future” by maintaining a commitment to new technologies, even in tough budget times, including cyber technologies, networking, mobility, unmanned vehicles, space and special operations, he said.
On the personnel side, the Army will focus strongly on veterans' health issues, and also on helping veterans transition out of the Army and into civilian life, whether to study, get a job or start a business, Carter said.
“It's a moment of opportunity. The question is, what kind of Army do we want? The answer is, powerful and adaptive,” he said. “The Army has a rich history from which to draw to make that adaptation.”