Complex – no other word describes the situation" of a resurgent Russia meddling in Ukraine, an immigration crisis unseen since World War II, and the rise of Islamic extremism globally, the commanding general of Army Materiel Command told AUSA chapter leaders at a special dinner honoring their volunteer efforts.
Gen. Dennis Via, speaking before the official opening of AUSA’s 61st Annual Meeting and Exposition at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, said that in this unstable and unpredictable world, the Army still needs to shape the operational environment.
"Readiness is why we [AMC] exist," he said.
Via cited the Army’s modernization of its prepositioned stocks because that work "provides the Army with strategic reach."
He also said that it is growing its prepositioned stocks in Europe in response to the Russian move from battalion to brigade sets.
"There’s something reassuring having an M1A2 tank" in a time of crisis, Via said.
He added nine-month rotations by U.S. units to theater and falling on equipment already there reassures European allies of continued American commitment.
In response to the Islamic State’s rise in Syria and Iraq, AMC is re-establishing logistics capabilities in Iraq, Via said, adding foreign military sales provide a "tremendous opportunity for our industry" partners.
As examples of this, he mentioned $971 billion in Abrams tank sales in Africa, $7.3 billion in sales of Patriot missile defense systems in the Middle East, and about $500 million in sales of Black Hawk helicopters in the U.S. Northern Command area of responsibility.
These sales "represent a win, win, win," he said.
At the same, Via said AMC is spending $1.5 billion in capital improvements on its arsenals and depots.
The 288 public-private partnerships such as the one with Anniston Army Depot and General Dynamics in Alabama "are keeping our lines running."
AMC is also looking at ways to reduce the weight soldiers carry – from batteries to developing better protection from concussion.
Longer-term research in its laboratories are examining new types of personal protection uniforms and the possibility of communicating "by thought alone."
"Sustaining the soldier remains a challenge in austere environments, and AMC is looking at the viability of driverless vehicles to help in this area," he said.
Via said these days of tight budgets – with pay and hiring freezes and government shutdowns – have been difficult for the command’s 65,000 soldiers and civilians and 60,000 to 80,000 contractors, but AMC is looking for new ways to build the next generation of scientists, engineers and technicians to take the Army into the future.
He specifically cited the command’s robust intern program.