The U.S. Army must transition from a strategic environment focused on well-funded, near-term capabilities to one focused on fiscally-constrained, long-term capabilities, according to Gen. Robert Cone, Commanding General, United States Army Training and Doctrine Command.
Cone, who spoke during the Association of the United States Army’s Winter Symposium and Exposition, outlined the variety of ways in which the Army must transition for the future environment.
“At the end of the day, the Army will do what others cannot,” Cone said. He went on to explain that if the Army loses this ability to overwhelmingly win conflicts, its ability to shape and prevent conflicts will greatly diminish.
“It is dangerous to undertake combat operations without a fully-developed set of capabilities, reflecting air, land, and sea,” he said. “We invite miscalculations if we do not fully develop the full range of our joint capabilities going into the future.”
The Army of the past 12 years, Cone said, has been well-resourced and focused on deployment and near-term readiness. This is going to change and have a “very serious negative impact on retention,” he added.
In order to successfully navigate the travails of this transition, the new Army must focus on future investment, balance near-term and long-term readiness, focus on leader development, capture and integrate the right lessons from the battlefield, and develop and test new ideas within the confines of a limited budget.
According to Cone, TRADOC’s role in all this should be on supporting the current fight, insuring long-term readiness, transitioning the Army to the future, and stewarding professional foundation.
“We can make this a positive period in our time if we go back and focus on training and leader development,” Cone said. “We must invest in the future today because it’s too late when we try to adapt on the fly.”
The future threats that the army must adapt to, Cone explained, include the growing role and power of non-state actors, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the collapse or destabilization of states, and the expanding role of the cyber front.
In order to address this future environment, Cone emphasized the need for improved technology and training.
Cone called for technology that is smaller, simpler, and more user-friendly.
“I don’t understand why everything I buy and bring into my house got smaller and less complicated but everything I use for Army training is bigger and more complicated,” he said. “We need to get to an ‘ipad-approach’ to things—things that are more intuitive.”
He also emphasized the need for equipment that is easily upgraded, in order to retain it for longer use and save money. Increasing and maintaining compatibility of technology with allies is also essential, Cone added, as it makes information sharing easier.
“As technology evolves we don’t want to buy a piece of equipment that cannot be upgraded or cannot be upgraded without significant cost,” Cone said.
Also integral to this transition is the Army’s investment in Science and Technology (S&T), the general said. He explained that the Army’s S&T investments must focus on addressing weapons-of-mass destruction-related scenarios, improving soldier situational awareness and communications, enhancing lethality and accuracy, reducing the lifecycle costs of future capabilities and the expense of consumables, improving individual team training, and treating traumatic brain injuries. Cone outlined how these goals should be addressed in a three tier agenda dividing them into near-term, mid-term, and long-term projects.
In regards to the weapons-of-mass-destruction training issue, Cone believes that such future scenarios—such as a collapsed North Korean regime that results in loose nuclear weapons—will involve the use of conventional forces. Therefore, not only should specialists train on and be prepared for these scenarios but conventional forces as well.
Cone also addressed “the human endeavor” which he described as the Army’s “biggest area of innovation.” According to Cone, the biggest lessons the Army has learned in this aspect “involve language, culture, and tribal dynamics.” We don’t want to lose our competences in this “human domain” and the “commonality with soft forces” that have arisen from it, he added.