Esper Declares an ‘Army Renaissance’ to Kick Off Annual Conference
Emboldened by support from Congress, the rapid standing up of a Futures Command and the execution of a new doctrine, the secretary of the Army declared Oct. 8 that the service was entering a “renaissance.”
“The time for change is now. We have the vision, strategy and leadership in place to ensure the Army remains prepared to deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars today and in the future,” Mark T. Esper said at the Association of the United States Army annual conference in Washington, D.C.
The speech was a marked change after years of senior leaders using the annual forum to deliver downbeat assessments of the Army’s ability to be ready for war and to modernize.
However, Congress — after two years of increased budgets — needs to keep the momentum going, Esper said. “Please bring sufficiency, predictability and timeliness to our budgets so we can fully realize our vision,” he added.
For its part, the Army will reform, he said. It must concentrate on its top six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires; next generation combat vehicle; future vertical lift; the network; air and missile defense; and soldier lethality.
“There will be no single technology that guarantees future success on the battlefields,” he said.
Esper singled out the next-generation combat vehicle, the squad automatic weapon, mobile short-range air defense systems and a strategic long-range canon as prototypes that will see the light of day “in the next few years.”
Meanwhile, Army leadership is “taking a fine-toothed comb” to cut programs that don’t fit into the modernization plans. “Priorities are priorities and hard choices must be made,” he said. By going after “nickels and dimes” the Army has freed up $25 billion over the next five budget cycles and “countless” personnel billets to put back into readiness and modernization, he said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said readiness when he took over his current job four years ago was on a downward spiral. “We have, I think, turned a corner. We have a ways to go. We have not obtained the objectives that we set out to attain in readiness.” The goal is to return the Army to a more ready state by 2022 or 2023 and it is on a steady climb to making it there, he added.
The multi-domain operations doctrine Milley first announced at the AUSA conference two years ago calls for the Army to fight in land, air, sea along with cyberspace and space.
To be success multi-domain operations must be institutionalized across the Army, Esper said. To make that happen corps will be supplemented with electronic warfare companies, divisions with greater long-range fires and air defense assets, and brigades will take control of cyber and EW teams, he added.
Milley lauded the opening of Army Futures Command in Austin, Texas, less than a year after it was announced at the 2017 AUSA conference. “I am very, very comfortable and very, very pleased with what the Army has done to reset itself, to reset the stance as we go into the future.”
Esper said: “We must gain control of our destiny as best we can. We must seize it and shape it and hone it. In doing so, we will remain ready to deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars anytime, anywhere against anyone.”