WASHINGTON — After years of tight budgets and advances by adversaries that have eroded the U.S. competitive advantage, the Army is “moving out” to reform itself and to modernize to be ready to fight and win any future war, Army Secretary Mark T. Esper said Monday.
“These efforts amount to nothing short of an Army renaissance,” Esper told the opening ceremony of the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C. “The time for change is now. We have the vision, strategy and leadership in place to ensure the Army remains prepared to deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars today and in the future.”
“We must act now to ensure that we are ready today and even more lethal tomorrow,” Esper said, echoing the theme of the 2018 meeting.
Answering questions from reporters after his speech, Esper elaborated on his theme of an “Army renaissance.”
“It’s an exciting time to be in the Army, a renaissance led by the chief of staff, Gen. Mark Milley, and his focus on readiness in the past few years. Readiness and modernization are our guideposts. Change is under way and continuing reforms are vital to sustaining momentum.”
Milley was commander of Fort Hood from December 2012 to August 2014.
AUSA’s website describes the organization as “the U.S. Army’s professional association, the voice for the Army on Capitol Hill, and (one that) offers support for soldiers and their families.”
One of its many chapters is AUSA Central Texas in the Fort Hood area.
The 2018 AUSA Annual Meeting, designed to deliver the Army’s message by highlighting the capabilities of Army organizations and presenting industry products and services, according to the AUSA website. It includes presentations on the state of the Army, panel discussions and seminars, as well as networking events including ticketed dinners and receptions.
Killeen area officials attending the meeting include City Manager Ron Olson, City Director of Public Information Hilary Shine, and council members Shirley Fleming, Gregory Johnson, Debbie Nash-King, and Mayor Jose Segarra and Mayor Pro-Tem Jim Kilpatrick. The Herald is requesting finance reports on the cost to the city for travel, lodging, meals and related expenses.
Esper, during his talk Monday, announced efforts to change doctrine, training, personnel policies, business practices and recruiting, that after the Army fell 6,500 recruits short of its recruiting goals in fiscal 2018. Answering questions after the talk, Esper said, “TRADOC (U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command) has been tasked with coming back with a holistic strategy of how to overhaul recruiting.”
Esper said he looks forward to expanding the number of recruiters and promised “a lot more engagement with senior leaders. We can and will do a lot better” on recruiting, he said.
Milley, speaking with reporters, added that the Army would “not sacrifice quality for quantity. We could have met the numbers if we were just after the numbers.”
On doctrine, Esper said the rapid changes in technology and advances by potential adversaries make old doctrines obsolete, and they are being replaced by a new version of Multi-Domain Operations, which will be released soon. On training, he noted the addition of two months to infantry training. He described this as the “longest and most challenging infantry basic training in the world.” He said similar additions to training will be made for armor and engineers and, likely, other branches.
“We’re also developing a new generation of weapons and equipment to guarantee overmatch for years to come,” Esper said, noting the “six modernization priorities” Army leadership had chosen “to put next-generation equipment into the hands of our soldiers. We expect to have prototypes for the next-generation combat vehicle; squad automatic weapon; mobile, short-range air defense system; and a strategic long-range cannon in the next few years.”
Milley, joining Esper to answer questions, talked about the Army’s investment in new infantry weapons as an investment of how the six priorities will increase readiness and lethality. “We are committed to a new rifle and squad automatic weapon. Right now, it looks like we will go to a 6.8 (mm) caliber round.”
Guiding doctrine, modernization and other key initiatives will be in the hands of the new U.S. Army Futures Command, under its first commander, Gen. John M. Murray, Milley said.
The Futures Command, activated in August, for now will operate out of the University of Texas System’s new downtown headquarters that is surrounded by nearby startups and tech incubators. The Army says it wanted to tap into that workforce. About 500 people are expected to work at the command, most of whom will be civilians.
Herald staff contributed to this report.