Army Chief of Staff Nominee: Service Chiefs Need Enhanced Role in Acquisition
By Graham Kilmer
Gen. Mark A. Milley, nominee for the Army chief of staff, said July 21 in his confirmation hearing that the service chiefs need greater involvement in the acquisition process.
“I think the service chiefs should have an increased role across the entire acquisition process,” Milley said, before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., introduced legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act to reform the military's acquisition process. Among the proposals is to make service chiefs more accountable for when programs go over budget or fail to deliver.
Responding to emerging security threats will require the Army to review and reform its current acquisition process, McCain said in his opening statement. The Army has a “dismal” record when it comes to acquisition that includes such failed programs as the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter, and the XM2001 Crusader self-propelled howitzer, he added. McCain in his statement pushed his plan to enhance role for the service chiefs in the acquisition process.
“Billions of dollars have been wasted on programs that never became operational,” McCain said.
Programs such as the joint light tactical vehicle are important to enhancing critical capabilities such as tactical mobility and medical evacuation, McCain said. These new programs will undoubtedly need additional resources, but will also require the Army to “learn the lessons of its failed acquisition programs,” McCain said.
Milley also said service chiefs should be accountable for ensuring that funding will be available before moving new programs forward.
During his testimony, Milley echoed statements made in a confirmation hearing last week by Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, nominee for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that Russia poses the greatest existential security threat to the United States because of its nuclear capabilities and its aggressions in Georgia and Ukraine.
“The activity of Russia since 2008 has been very, very aggressive,” said Milley.
Additional ground forces are necessary in the United States European command in order to deter Russia and assure allies of our commitments, said Milley.
China, North Korea, ISIS, and Iran also represent security threats to the United States, Milley said. The current strategy for defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria will take a considerable amount of time — measured in years — said Milley.
Milley said he supports of a condition-based withdrawal from Afghanistan rather than a withdrawal based on a time-frame.
When asked by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., how troop reductions would affect the readiness of the Army, Milley said because of the Army’s commitments around the world, reducing the active duty force from 490,000 to 450,000 would place the United States at “significant risk.”
In order to handle force reductions of that nature, the Army must work to integrate National Guard and Reserve elements into Army active force operations, said Milley. The National Guard has been key during the last decade of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, he added. Currently, mobilizing the National Guard is only possible through money from the overseas contingency operations fund and not the base budget, said Milley. Greater access to the National Guard will be critical, he said.
“I think our Guard could be used more effectively than what they are right now, other than private contractors,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
Milley said when he commanded troops in Afghanistan, there were roughly 1.5 contractors for every soldier deployed. “The amount of contractors we use is significant,” said Milley.
It would be more cost effective to use the National Guard and Reserve forces opposed to the more expensive contractor forces in combat operations, said Manchin.
Following the deaths of four Marines recruiters during a shooting spree in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Army should “seriously consider,” arming recruiting stations, Milley said. Until legal restrictions are lifted, “passive” measures should be put in place such as bullet-proof glass and better coordination with police, he said.
Photo: Gen. Milley at Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination for the Army's chief of staff (Defense Dept.)