War-Weary Army Faces Long Road to Recovery
Of less consequence, but nonetheless a concern for Army leaders, is a growing backlog of battered trucks, helicopters and other war-torn combat equipment that needs to be repaired or replaced.
So as senior officers and civilian leaders gathered this week at the annual Association of the U.S. Army symposium and technology exhibition, it was clear that what is on their minds right now is trying to figure out how to make the Army “whole” again.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen warned in a keynote speech that the nation’s military is in for a rude awakening.”I believe what we can see today is truly just the tip of the iceberg,with consequences for our military and veteran health-care system, our national employment rate and even homelessness,” Mullen said.
In the Army, officials are only just beginning to grasp the extent of the crisis.
“We’ve been stretched and stressed as we’ve led the nation in what’s been the longest war we’ve ever fought with an all-volunteer force,”Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said in a speech. “We have to reconstitute this force not only to back to where we were, but we have to reconstitute it for the future,” he said.
The extended deployments have rattled the Army to the point that it is now launching a study to look at whether the whole notion of what it takes to be a soldier has to be re-evaluated.
“I believe it is time to examine the impact of nine years at war on our profession -- the profession of arms,” Casey said. “The impacts of war have changed us as individuals, as professionals, and as a profession in ways that we don’t yet fully appreciate. … It is essential to take a hard look at ourselves to examine what we have been through … how we have changed for better for worse and how we must adapt ourselves to succeed.”
Also an underlying theme at AUSA was the upcoming budget crunch and what potentially it means for the future of the Army. The service faces tough budgetary choices as it seeks to maintain a large active-duty,Reserve and National Guard force; modernize its weapons, and expand a wide array of soldier and family benefits and medical programs to take care of dead troops’ survivors and those who require long-term care.
With budgets projected to stay flat or decline over time, the Army’s wish list is unrealistic, analysts pointed out. This could be bad news for industry because the Army may have to sacrifice new weapon procurements and technology development projects to pay for its soaring personnel and benefits tab.
Hundreds of companies that exhibited their wares at AUSA were hoping to hear encouraging news about the Army’s future purchases of new equipment. But to their chagrin, they were informed about yet more delays and more uncertainty in the Army’s modernization plan.
After the cancellation of the $180-billion Future Combat Systems, it’s been downhill for Army big-ticket procurement programs. A replacement for the aging scout helicopter Kiowa Warrior? On hold, pending further study. A new ground combat vehicle to replace the Abrams and Bradley tanks? Temporarily suspended pending a review of the technical requirements. A long-term strategy for replacing aging trucks? Held up pending further analysis. A new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle? It’s still alive, but barely.
Industry insiders said they have never seen this much indecisiveness in Army procurement plans. Some wondered whether the service’s top leadership is so consumed by personnel and health-of-the-force problems that modernization may have to wait longer than industry would want.
Asked to comment about industry’s frustration over the Army’s hesitation and delays, the deputy chief for programs and resources, Lt.Gen. Robert P. Lennox, said the military and industry are a “partnership” but he understands why contractors might be unhappy.Truth be told, however, it is not the Army’s job to make industry happy, Lennox said.