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Seven Questions for Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA Ret., AUSA President and CEO

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

1. What was AUSA’s greatest accomplishment in 2014?
We did three important things to help the Army. First, we sounded the clarion call for a trained and ready Total Army, now and in the future. Second, we led the charge to kill sequestration, stop downsizing the Defense Department and build a balanced joint force. Third, we reinforced Army’s messages regarding not only an inability to execute the defense strategy, should sequestration remain, but also the cost in lives and spilled blood of being unprepared.

2. What are some major issues facing the Army in the next year?
There is a lot at stake for the Army in 2015. The threat of full sequestration returns—something that would reduce an already-too-small budget. That would leave the Army with a bunch of bad options when trying to pay for readiness, training, education, operations, some modernization, and soldier and family programs.

3. How can AUSA and its members influence Congress in the sequestration battle?
For more than two years, the association and I have been explaining the debilitating effect sequestration is having on the military. We have sent letters to the Hill, and I have provided testimony before key congressional committees urging Congress to remove the specter of sequestration from defense funding. We reminded the congressional leadership that if sequestration is allowed to continue, the nation will be left with its smallest ground force since 1940—incapable of carrying out our defense strategy.

4. What are some of AUSA’s goals in supporting soldiers’ families in 2015?
AUSA Family Readiness prides itself in supporting Army families through four pillars of support: education, information, advocacy and outreach. Our goals for 2015 include increasing that outreach and connecting with families where they live. We plan on taking our Family Forums on the road and will pilot two such off-site events in 2015. We will work with local AUSA chapters to empower them to continue the follow-on support in issues that many of these forums will identify. Most importantly, we will involve currently serving Army family members in discussions around the issues that affect them.

5. In the ongoing struggle of budget cuts, the Army plans to reduce the number of soldiers even more in 2015. How will that affect the military’s readiness and presence abroad?
The soldier is the essence of the Army. The Army is the nation’s foundational force for the joint force, providing responsiveness, capacity and capability, distance-unique functions that only the Army can provide, and executive agent responsibilities. Without sufficient soldiers to meet requirements, the Army’s credibility, both as a deterrent against actions by our enemies and as a reliable partner to our allies, will suffer. Already, friends and foes alike question our resolve, commitment and responsiveness to treaty obligations. This invites miscalculation and emboldens forces aligned against the United States and its interests. A credibly sized force—not just a reasonably sized force—provides a deterrent effect and helps reassure our allies. That capacity is withering due to reduction in personnel. The goal is to avoid a hollow force now and in the future.

6. In light of the recent deployment of soldiers to West Africa to help the fight against Ebola, how do you predict budget and personnel reductions will affect the mission?
The Army is a global force in 140 countries that is also regionally aligned and responsive. Currently, the total Army is manned at slightly more than 1 million soldiers. Sequestration, however, takes the total Army to 920,000. At this level, the total Army is unable to execute the defense strategy.

7. As a result of downsizing, the military looks to rely more on new technologies and small-unit tactics. How can soldiers prepare to do more with less?
As technology proliferates, enemies will have greater access to WMDs [weapons of mass destruction] and sophisticated capabilities that will negate the Army’s overmatch strengths on the battlefields of tomorrow. Soldiers and leaders must therefore be innovative, adaptive and critical problem-solvers. In order to prepare for the future, Army forces must excel across the entire range of military operations and adapt rapidly for unconventional missions. The new Force 2025 and Beyond initiative mandates making Army forces more expeditionary and leaner; retaining or improving current levels of tactical mobility, lethality and protection; and reducing the required sustainment footprint in austere environments.