Winning Matters, Especially In a Complex World

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    Oct 3, 2015
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    Winning Matters, Especially In a Complex World
    October 05th, 2015 6:07 AM

    By Gen. Mark A. Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army

    Today, the soldiers of America’s Army are deployed and engaged around the globe in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Eastern Europe, Africa, the Pacific, the Baltics and Latin America. Acting as part of one joint team, they are simultaneously deterring adversaries and assuring allies, building increased partner capacity and responding to regional challenges, providing humanitarian support and disrupting terrorist networks.

    Wherever they are, America’s soldiers are displaying true courage, commitment and character. They are demonstrating unparalleled competence and agility. And no matter the challenge, no matter how complex the environment or how dangerous the situation, our soldiers win wherever they are. We are—and must remain—the world’s premier ground combat force, ready to fight today and prepared to fight tomorrow.

    A 3rd Cavalry Regiment soldier on watch in Paktya Province, Afghanistan​
    A timeless priority for our nation is to ensure that our Army is ready and maintains its edge over our adversaries. Readiness to win in ground combat must remain the Army’s No. 1 priority. We were unprepared for the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the post-invasion Iraq insurgency, and many other military operations throughout our history. Each time, our unpreparedness cost our soldiers’ blood, and we risked achieving our national objectives. We must recommit ourselves to avoid failing to anticipate, and prepare our ground forces for the next war. We collectively owe it to the soldiers we lead and the nation we defend to ensure that we organize, equip, staff, train and lead our Army to prevail in the unforgiving crucible of ground combat.

    We can never have another Task Force Smith. In the summer of 1950, North Korea attacked across the 38th parallel. The U.S. responded by deploying the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, known as Task Force Smith, to the Korean Peninsula. Rapidly committed to combat, the task force was quickly overrun as the North Korean People’s Army continued south to the Pusan Perimeter. Those American soldiers and many others in the follow-on units paid the price in blood because we had failed them. Equipment was missing or in disrepair, and they were undermanned and poorly trained for ground combat against a capable enemy.

    A 101st Airborne Division soldier in live-fire range training at Tactical Base Gamberi, Afghanistan.​
    Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, the Islamic State group, and radical violent extremist organizations that currently challenge the U.S. will likely continue to do so for some time. These security challenges exist within a wider global context of rapid technological change, significant demographic shifts, an uncertain economy, and geostrategic power dynamics of historic proportions. These conditions intensify the level of uncertainty and the pace of change, and they raise the potential for significant interstate conflict to higher levels than at any time since the end of the Cold War.

    Paired with the lessons of history, these contemporary security challenges require the U.S. Army to always be ready to deploy at any moment to fight and win. As a result, my No. 1 priority is readiness across the total force. There is no other No. 1. Readiness to fight and win in ground combat is—and will remain—an inviolate benchmark; no American soldier must ever deploy to combat unready. The Army must also set the conditions to increase our effectiveness to meet the challenges of the future. Our transformation to the future force begins now. We will set the conditions to maintain overmatch against future adversaries while enhancing our ability to adapt to unforeseen challenges. All of this is achievable because of our most valuable asset—our people—the soldiers, families and civilians who dedicate their lives to the selfless service to our nation. We will keep their faith.

    Consequently, our Army must focus on three initial priorities: Be ready today; prepare for tomorrow; and ensure that we care for our soldiers, families, civilians and veterans.

    Arkansas National Guard soldiers pass through a breach during a Decisive Action Rotation at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.​
    Ready to Fight
    Winning the nation’s wars as part of the joint force is what the U.S. Army is all about, which is why readiness is my No. 1 priority. Currently, our soldiers remain engaged in active contingency operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and it is very possible we will be called on in many other areas as well. The U.S. is a global power with worldwide responsibilities and interests. Therefore, it is the solemn obligation of every leader to prepare our soldiers for combat against multiple adversaries in varied locations.

    Our soldiers, our nation’s sons and daughters, must have the necessary training, leadership and resources to win. To do so, we will refine our training programs to execute tough, realistic training based on warfighting fundamentals that build capability in our soldiers and leaders. We will discriminately apply our resources to sustain our current equipment, technological and training overmatch. We will enhance the development and education of our leadership at all levels to produce adaptive, agile, innovative and flexible leaders of character and competency. And we will do so as a total force to win anywhere, anytime, against any enemy.

    Soldiers assigned to the 412th Aviation Support Battalion train at Grafenwoehr, Germany, using fully immersive virtual simulation.​
    The key to victory lies in building and maintaining readiness across the total force. The last 14 years of integrated operations have demonstrated that we are, indeed, one Army. Our readiness must show sufficient capacity to meet the demand for Army forces and proficiency in the multitude of capabilities that enable the Army to accomplish its diverse missions. Given limited resources, we must strike the right balance of capacity and capability across the active, Reserve and National Guard forces, training and working as a team. Together, we provide critical land power depth, keep our edge over any adversary, and ensure that the Army provides timely global response to support combatant commanders.

    Building sustainable readiness is a long-term task. A unit that is ready today did not get there instantaneously. It took time and predictable resources. Sustainable readiness involves individual and collective training, multiple exercises and constant repetition. Units must be staffed at combat levels, and equipment must be upgraded, modernized and maintained. Our goal is to make sure 60 to 70 percent of the Army is at combat levels of readiness as a routine steady state. Once achieved, we must do everything we can to sustain the highest levels of readiness across the Army. That is a tall order, but to do less is to place our soldiers and nation at risk.

    Based on history and recent trends, I estimate that the demand for U.S. ground forces will increase as the global environment continues to be uncertain and increasingly unstable. This demand is not limited to responding to conflict or war; it also includes an increased demand for forces to assure allies and deter adversaries. U.S. Army readiness is related to the readiness of our allies as we integrate to achieve shared security interests across the globe. It is imperative that we continue to train, develop and fight alongside our allies because our combined efforts strengthen resolve and enable deterrent effects. Operating by, with and through our allies and partners is a reality and necessity that will likely grow in the future. U.S. Army readiness is also directly related to our nation’s ability to deter adversaries. If our adversaries know that the U.S. Army can rapidly project combat power and will overmatch them in any conflict, they are less likely to militarily confront us.

    A member of “The Old Guard” prepares Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day.​
    The Army will always operate as part of the U.S. joint force. We provide joint commanders with the force uniquely capable of winning decisively on land and sustaining operations over time. Equally important, we provide the foundation of the joint force in communications, intelligence, sustainment, Mission Command and many other critical functions. Additionally, we will continue to integrate personnel and units from all three components to give joint force commanders the best Army force composition for the mission. Finally, we provide combatant commanders with those capabilities needed to give the joint force the depth and versatility to provide more effective, interoperable, flexible, and rapidly deployable forces for employment.

    Preparing to Win
    The coming years will bring to the forefront the challenge of maintaining tactical and operational advantage over our adversaries. The Army currently benefits from an overmatch that enables a historically small number of soldiers to accomplish significant objectives while minimizing casualties. However, this advantage has a shelf life, and our adversaries are sufficiently wary to avoid our strengths. The technologies that give us the advantage today are increasingly available to state and nonstate adversaries at a dramatically lower cost than even a decade ago. As this overmatch degrades, the risk to soldiers and our mission increases.

    A decade and a half of war has taught us that the Army must constantly adapt to the missions assigned and the operating environment. Our adversaries recognize the limits of our capabilities and capacity and have employed novel countermeasures, created by combining increasingly available military and commercial technologies. Accordingly, our enemies are increasingly using “hybrid warfare” methods that blend aspects of conventional and irregular warfare to threaten neighbors and destabilize regions across the globe. As our Army continues to demonstrate the ability to innovate in Iraq and Afghanistan, our future force must also leverage this knowledge to adapt and expand our training to include conventional core skills, truly preparing us for the full spectrum of conflict.

    We have been fighting for over a decade in a singular typology of war: counterterrorism and counterinsurgency primarily in the defined specific geographic areas of Iraq and Afghanistan. We must not repeat the reflexive mistake of making the linear assumption that our next conflict will look like the fights we have been engaged in for so long. Future warfare may well take on similar characteristics, but it more likely will not. As an Army, we must make a rigorous analytical assessment and refocus to the new realities and be flexible enough to change quickly if or when we get it wrong.

    I envision carrying this spirit of innovation forward by setting the conditions and climate for a robust culture of innovation, inquiry and rigorous experimentation to determine the optimal future force. This effort includes enhancing the organizational foundation and nurturing the intellectual talent of the Army to explore in depth what the future might be and the possibilities that could present themselves.

    Establishment of this culture starts now with the development of a deliberate science and technology strategy that seeks to exploit research with the potential for leap-ahead capabilities. A wide variety of emerging technologies may significantly affect ground warfare, including technologies in communications, robotics, nanotechnologies, human performance, explosives and propellants, hypersonics, directed energy, cyber, protective materials for personnel and equipment, and a variety of developments in weapons technologies. The Army will explore these in depth to assess applicability.

    Most Valuable Asset
    I have huge confidence in our Army, which continues to represent the strength of our nation as it has since June 14, 1775. Right now, we have an incredible generation of combat-proven leaders and soldiers who have shouldered the challenges of 14 consecutive years of war. These soldiers and leaders know firsthand the challenges, complexities and sacrifices of war. We have the most combat-experienced leaders and the most skilled Army in our nation’s history. We recognize this decisive advantage and will harness it for the future.

    Staff Sgt. Timothy Bailey, North Dakota Army National Guard, walks with his son after returning from a yearlong deployment to Kosovo.​
    But the soldiers of our all-volunteer Army have not been through this alone. Our accomplishments are strengthened by our families and supported by a cadre of civilian professionals. It is this shared, unshakable commitment that enables our Army to be where we need to be, when we need to be. People are our most valuable asset, and their well-being is of absolute importance. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and be afforded the best quality of life, health care, and an equal opportunity to excel based on their merit. And we will keep trust with our veterans and their families.

    We are the best-equipped, best-trained and best-led Army in the world, but we cannot rest on our laurels. We must get better. The world is rapidly changing, and the future is unpredictable and uncertain. We will adapt, we will change—that is a given. We will build capacity now to set conditions for future growth and capability to respond to any threat. We are an organization that has evolved to meet the challenges over more than 240 years, and we will change yet again to meet the challenges of the future. When called upon, we will be ready to win with tough, ethical, competent and well-led soldiers who will fight anywhere, anytime, against any foe as the world’s premier ground combat force—an Army that remains the most versatile and lethal land force on Earth, valued by our friends and feared by our enemies. The Army delivers mission success in this complex world. Winning matters, there is no second place in combat, and combat readiness is the key to winning.

    * * * *


    Gen. Mark A. Milley was sworn in as the 39th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army on Aug. 14. Previously, he was commander of U.S. Army Forces Command. He has held multiple command and staff positions in seven divisions and Special Forces over the last 34 years. He was the commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, Texas; commanded 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (Light), in both Afghanistan and Iraq; served as the deputy commanding general (operations), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; deployed as the deputy commanding general (operations) Regional Command-East, Afghanistan; served as the Joint Staff’s deputy director regional operations J33 at the Pentagon; and served as the commanding general, 10th Mountain Division (Light) and Fort Drum, N.Y. He is a graduate of Princeton University and holds master’s degrees from Columbia University and the U.S. Naval War College. He is also a graduate of the MIT Seminar XXI National Security Studies Program.

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