Today's Army: Flexible, Adaptable and Versatile

By McHugh, John M. | Army, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Today's Army: Flexible, Adaptable and Versatile


McHugh, John M., Army


After a year as the 21st Secretary of the Army and more than a dozen trips to Iraq and Afghanistan to meet with our deployed soldiers and their leaders, I continue to be in awe of the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the United States Army.

Just consider the last 12 months. We have successfully ended combat operations in Iraq, while completing one of the largest wartime retrogrades in our nation's history. At the same time, we surged troops into Afghanistan in support of a new direction in that vital theater. Meanwhile, here at home, we nearly completed the transformation of our operational force, closed in on restoring balance and conducted a series of capability portfolio reviews in an effort to make our requirements process more responsive and efficient. Throw in our provision of disaster relief, border screening and the Gulf of Mexico oil cleanup, and you have one busy year. No other army and no other nation in the world could achieve so much in so short a time, and through it ail, our soldiers, civilians and families have performed magnificently.

Even as we applaud these achievements, we must be mindful that our nation and our Army are at a strategic crossroads marked by significant challenges. As Winston Churchill once cautioned, "We are shaping the world faster than we can change ourselves, and we are applying to the present the habits of the past."

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates has clearly recognized this emerging reality and has announced steps designed to better prepare our nation's military for the days that lie ahead. "Given America's difficult economic circumstances and parlous fiscal condition," he recently warned, "military spending on things large and small can and should expect closer, harsher scrutiny. The gusher has been turned off and will stay off for a good period of time."

For our Army, this emerging reality presents a particular challenge. As there can be no Navy without ships or Air Force without planes, our Army cannot exist without people. As such, cutting the fat while missing the bone will require our thoughtful examination and determined leadership.

Whatever path we may take, our efforts must, above all else, protect our people. From family programs - what former Chief of Staff GEN John A. Wickham called a "moral and ethical obligation to those who serve and their families" - to training, education, health care and beyond, we must ensure that we preserve those initiatives that sustain the quality of life of our force.

Also, in order to utilize precious taxpayer dollars responsibly, we must develop new solutions to our age-old problems. This will require us to rethink everything we do, from our business practices and family programs to the way we are organized, manage our personnel and acquire our equipment.

One area ripe with such opportunities can be found within the institutional Army, better known as the generating force. For some nine years, through daily contact with a highly decentralized, adaptive, creative and deadly enemy, today's warfighter has met the need to rapidly adapt. As that sector of the Army charged with preparing, training and educating our soldiers, the generating force must also become an engine of change and adaptation, a force driven by innovation and able to quickly develop and field all that our soldiers and their families will require.

In some areas, our efforts have already begun. For example, the Office of Business Transformation is developing a system of plans to transform and improve our business practices. In addition, under the direction of the Under Secretary and the Vice Chief of Staff, a series of capability portfolio reviews are under way to fully examine our requirements process and bring added discipline to our programs.

These steps, while important, are just the beginning. Army Chief of Staff GEN George W. Casey Jr. and 1 recently commissioned a review of our acquisition process to help us discover more efficient ways to develop and field the equipment and weapons of tomorrow. …

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