Versatile soldiers key to Army’s future success 

8/1/2010 

The secretary of the Army said after being engaged in two land wars for almost a decade the service’s ability to produce “that versatile soldier is starting to fray,” and it was taking steps to address this challenge.

Speaking June 10 at the Association of the United States Army’s Institute of Land Warfare Breakfast in suburban Washington, John McHugh said he was recently struck by the comparison of what the Army spent on the Future Combat Systems (about $17 billion) versus its investment in the Military Academy’s 2010 graduating class of about 1,000 cadets – “about 1 percent” of that.

“I don’t say we don’t need to modernize,” but the “Army’s success on future battlefields will be assured by the creativity and agility” of its leaders.

McHugh, acknowledging a letter from Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, to Gen. George W. Casey Jr., chief of staff, that expressed his concerns about the generating force, said it was time “for a holistic approach” in reviewing the generating force, including the personnel system.

“This is hardly a new challenge” and “it is not going to be easy” to align the generating force with the Army Force Generation Model and the brigade-centric operational force.

At the same time, the Army is confronting the challenges of trying to extend dwell time between deployments and work on issues – suicide, alcohol and drug abuse and domestic violence – brought on by the continued high operating tempo in fighting two land wars.

“We have to be energized” in reviewing the needs of the generating force.

Looking back to 2000, he said defense planners were not focusing on what became today’s threat. Instead, they were looking at missile defense rather than an adaptive enemy that was not defending a homeland, operates in a highly decentralized environment and is driven by an ideology that was thousands of years old.

“The thinking soldier finds the breech.” Adding, “making an agile, flexible leader – that’s what a good Army does.”

McHugh cited an example of a British officer in the French and Indian War doing just that at the Battle of Bushy Run on his way to recapturing Fort Pitt.

“Army leaders and Army thinkers are equally as important as a new weapons system.”

In answer to a question, McHugh said, “We have begun the process” of reviewing overhead and how to cut it and shift those funds to operational needs as outlined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a recent speech in Abilene, Kan.  “We’re excited about it because we can keep the money.”

Gates was looking for about $100 billion in savings over the next five years.

CACI, an Association of the United States Army sustaining member, sponsored the breakfast.