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Commission Report Offers Army Rare Opportunity for Change

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Statement of Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, U.S. Army retired
President and CEO, Association of the U.S. Army

Last week’s report from the National Commission on the Future of the U.S. Army provides a rare opportunity to address risky capability shortfalls, reinforce the Total Force concept and convince a skeptical Congress and American public there are limits to how small the Army should shrink.

We at the Association of the U.S. Army see two important near-term outcomes:

First, we see the chance to stop and hopefully reverse force structure cuts.

There is a clear warning in the report of the risks of reducing the Army below 980,000 soldiers in the Total Force. We hope this congressionally mandated report would result in Congress and the American public recognizing that our nation already faces too much risk. Our preferred outcome is for gaps in people, capabilities and resources to be closed as quickly as possible. At the 2016 and proposed 2017 spending levels, it is highly doubtful all risks can be mitigated.

Second, we are pleased Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley is seizing the moment to prove the Total Force is not just a slogan. The Regular Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve have the chance to not just talk about working together, but to show it by setting a path under Milley’s leadership and direction to a future with more cooperation.

Reports of this kind are often skimmed and then quietly placed on a shelf. That would be a mistake, but it would also be a mistake to rush to make sweeping changes.

With 63 recommendations, Gen. Milley and the Army Staff need time to carefully study the implications, especially regarding feasibility and affordability. It will do no one any favor to rush to judgment.

This process of reaching consensus could be a significant team-building accomplishment, building stronger bonds among the Army’s often competitive branches and components. It is within the Army’s grasp to reach a pact on both the way forward and on everyone’s role in creating the stronger, more capable and innovative force our nation needs.

With unity and careful thought, this is an opportunity to stop the seemingly bottomless slide of our Army into a force with too few soldiers and with gaps in capabilities, which pose a dangerous situation for our nation and its interests and possibly, a deadly combination for our selfless soldiers. The longer we wait, the more difficult and costly it will be to get back on the right course.