Army Secretary Notes Another Inflection Point for Service

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan (right), commander, U.S. Army North (Fifth Army), briefs ARNORTH’s functions and capabilities with the 23rd Secretary of the Army, Dr. Mark T. Esper inside of the historic Quadrangle at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Apr. 17. The Quadrangle serves as the headquarters building for ARNORTH operations. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tomora Nance, U.S. Army North)

The U.S. Army has faced inflection points in the past and is facing one today, Army Secretary Mark T. Esper told the Atlantic Council here this morning.

The secretary charted what the service must do in the coming years to push through this inflection point and remain the pre-eminent ground force in world.

He likened the situation today to what the service faced coming out of Vietnam in 1973: a long war, political turmoil, budget uncertainties and more.

“We’ve been here before,” Esper said. “The Army, today, is at a strategic inflection once again. We are coming off many Years of hard conflict, but unlike the Army of 1973, we can’t afford to put low-intensity conflict in the rear-view mirror. We have to carry our hard-won competencies in irregular warfare forward.”

More Complicated World

Today, the Army secretary said, the world is even more complicated, with America now in great power competition with Russia and China, and the U.S. military must be prepared for a high-end fight.

“These evolving challenges reflect the changing character of war,” he said. “We are entering an era where our forces will be under constant observation, disrupted communications – if not nonexistent communications.”

The threats will span the domains, including cyber and space, and that forces the Army to devise strategies and doctrines operate in these domains, Esper said.

To win on future battlefields, he told the audience, all components of the Army must be able to deploy rapidly, overcome defenses to gain footholds, remain mobile and exploit success. “And we must do it faster than the enemy,” he said.

The Army in 2028 must be ready to deploy, fight and win against any adversary in a joint, multidomain, high-intensity conflict while maintaining its ability to conduct irregular warfare, the secretary said.

“The Army will do this through employment of modern manned and unmanned ground combat vehicles, aircraft, sustainment systems and weapons, coupled with robust combined arms formations and tactics based on a modern warfighting doctrine, and centered on exceptional leaders and soldiers of lethality,” he said.

The service will highlight hypersonics, artificial intelligence, robotics and directed energy as it moves forward, the Army secretary said.

Objectives for the Service

All this flows into Esper’s objectives for the service. First, the Army must grow to more than 500,000 soldiers, with related growth in the National Guard and the Army Reserve. The service needs to ensure the formations are more robust and lethal. The Army must integrate cyber operations into its formations and return electronic warfare capabilities to the formations.

Training must be tough, realistic and dynamic. The service is looking to emulate the aircraft world, with simulators for combat operations. The service also must modernize the force by reforming the acquisition system and unifying modernization under a single command: Army Futures Command.

Finally, Esper said, “we have to develop smart, thoughtful, innovative leaders of character who are comfortable with complexity and capable of operating from the tactical to the strategic level. We have to develop a talent-based management system that leverages the knowledge, skills, behaviors and preferences of every member of our force.”

The short-term focus for the service is readiness, and once that is caught up in about fiscal year 2022, Esper said, the focus will be modernization.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)