The Second Decade

Article excerpt

Over the past three years, I have used the Green Book and the subsequent AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition as launch points to frame future directions for our Army.

In 2007, I described the Army as out of balance and framed our approach - centered on the four imperatives (sustain, prepare, reset and transform) - to get back in balance by the end of 2011. I also described a view of the future strategic environment that warned of a decade or more of persistent conflict - protracted confrontation among states, nonstates and individual actors who are increasingly willing to use violence to accomplish their political and ideological objectives.

In 2008, I described how we saw the character of conflict that our land forces would likely face in the early decades of the 21st century; introduced the concept of hybrid threats - diverse combinations of conventional, irregular, criminal and terrorist capabilities arrayed asymmetrically to counter our strengths; and described the six qualities that land forces would require to be successful against these threats: versatile, expeditionary, lethal, agile, sustainable and interoperable.

In 2009, I described the four roles that land forces would most likely be called on to perform in the future: prevail in protracted counterinsurgency campaigns; engage to help others build capacity and to assure friends and allies; support civil authorities both at home and abroad; and deter and defeat hybrid threats and hostile state actors.

I further described the Army that we would need to accomplish these roles - a versatile mix of tailorable and networked organizations operating on a rotational cycle - and established the basis for setting the Army on a fully integrated rotational model of one year deployed to two years at home (one-to-two) for the active component (AC) and one year deployed to four years at home (one-to-four) for the reserve components (RC) beginning in fiscal year (FY) 2012. This will be essential if we are to support sustained commitments and build the capacity to surge against unexpected threats at a tempo that is predictable and sustainable for this magnificent, all-volunteer force.

We are well on our way to making these ideas operational, and 1 believe they form a sound foundation as we head into the second decade of the 21st century and of war.

Over the past three years, we have made great progress towards restoring balance to the force, and we can anticipate reaching a point by the end of next year when we will have a more sustainable deployment tempo for our forces. As we approach this point, we face a key challenge: maintaining our combat edge while reconstituting the force for other missions and dealing with the continuing impacts of war. The war is not over, and the future holds complex, dynamic and unanticipated threats to our national security. We cannot afford to lose our combat edge in this turbulent period.

It seems the right time to review and reflect on where we have been as an Army, where we are now and where we need to go to ensure that we remain the Army the nation needs for the latter decades of the 21st century.

Where We Have Been

The United States has been at war for nearly a decade, engaged in a long-term ideological struggle against a global extremist network. This is the longest period of continuous combat ever for our all-volunteer force. While we have liberated more than 50 million people from tyranny and transformed on the fly to master a different form of warfare, the cumulative effects of this war have been substantial and will be with us for some time. More than 1 million servicemembers have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, and more than 4,100 of them have given their lives, leaving more than 20,000 surviving family members. Another 27,000 have been wounded, more than 7,500 of them seriously enough to require long-term care. Almost 100,000 soldiers have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries, and another 45,000 have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. …