The revolution will not be televised
Will not be televised
Will not be televised
Will not be televised
The revolution will be no re-run, brothers
The revolution will be live
While the above stanza, drawn from the Gil Scott-Heron song The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, may appear at first glance to have nothing to do with the Army, a closer examination of the challenges we face reveals a more subtle connection. Between domestic issues and political challenges at home and a global pandemic and ascendant peers abroad, the Army must fundamentally change how it operates to thrive and win in these uncertain times.
Changes in the margins are not enough; what’s needed is a revolution in military affairs. And before an international audience of friends, partners and competitors alike, this next revolution in military affairs will be televised (sorry, Gil), and it will be live.
For revolutionary change to catch fire, it is first necessary to define the desired condition we seek. For example, to effectively compete and win on tomorrow’s battlefield, the U.S. Army Futures Command was established in 2018 with the mission of developing how future Army organizations will fight and with what new technologies to ensure rapid delivery of warfighting capabilities anywhere on the globe.
Though Futures Command is a necessary agent for revolutionary change, it alone is insufficient. To achieve revolutionary change beyond the margins, the Army needs a command focused entirely on the power of our people; a command that not only defines who we are as an Army but, importantly, who we need to be to effectively compete on tomorrow’s battlefield.
As a concept, revolutions in military affairs usually conjure thoughts of “offset strategies,” new or emerging domains (space, cyber, etc.), technological innovations and the “big ideas” of operating concepts. Though these concepts are bound more and more to modernization strategies, what remains enduring is the need for the right people to implement these changes.
When the Army moved to the all-volunteer force in the post-Vietnam era, its recruitment strategy was informed by a single thought of one of the chief architects of change in the Army, Gen. William DePuy, who famously asked, “Who can get the job done?” We, like DePuy before us, must continue to find those “who can get the job done.”
To do this, Army leaders must be more selective. The Army will retain a vital position in the life of our nation only if we preserve the competitive advantage our people provide. The 19th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, once described the “4-plus-1” threats to America as China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and violent extremism. I would add to that number the potential loss of talented Army people. Any vision of a future force that fails to consider this “threat” as it relates to its people will not succeed. Our vision then must not only contemplate who the Army retains but, importantly, who is selected in the first place.
Army leaders must be inclusive, communicative and ready for the challenges facing the service and the nation. These leaders also must remain focused, skilled in the art and science of combat arms and wholly wedded to the idea that an army underwrites the aims of the nation. In short, our leaders will be steeped in the knowledge that ours is a values-based profession requiring specific characteristics of its members. The attitude must be, “If this is you, then great—all others need not apply.” This is revolutionary.
Soldiers Make the Difference
What of the men and women our leaders will lead? They too must be specially selected, given opportunities to thrive, advanced and remunerated fairly, and recruited solely based on their ability to demonstrate desired characteristics. They become the seed corn for the revolution by reminding us that soldiers, not equipment, make the critical difference. The right people, highly trained and working as a team, will accomplish the mission with the equipment available. As we say in the Army, “The best equipment in the world cannot compensate for a lack of the right people.” We must ensure that only the best are afforded the privilege to serve, but in an organization attractive to and rewarding of their talent.
The Army of the future must be ready to deploy, fight and win decisively. The Army Modernization Strategy will ensure that soldiers have the right equipment to compete across all domains. However, defining who we are and who we need to be is becoming increasingly more important than how or with what we fight.
Scott-Heron spoke of change and upheaval. He was prescient in that he saw revolutionary change and was able to articulate the challenges of his environment. The Army must be equally prescient as its leaders and soldiers begin the revolution from an industrial-based Army to a future-focused and ready force.
Our people are and must remain our asymmetrical advantage. As Scott-Heron might say, “Power to the people!”
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Lt. Gen. Xavier Brunson is commanding general of I Corps and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Previously, he commanded the 7th Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He entered active duty in 1990 and has commanded at multiple levels in both conventional and special operations forces in combat. He holds two master’s degrees, one in human resources development and the other in national security and policy.