REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — The Army’s top leader called for continued focus amidst looming budget uncertainty and provided a glimpse of the service’s largest reorganization in more than 30 years.
Making his way around the world to review the Army’s most critical components, Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper checked in on Redstone Arsenal Jan. 24. Along with the Army Materiel Command, Esper also toured U.S. Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command and the Aviation Missile Research Development and Engineering Center during his daylong visit.
On the heels of a three-day government shutdown, Esper said his message to the Redstone Arsenal community was to stay focused. Redstone Arsenal organizations, he said, were critical to the Army.
“We have an important job to do in defense of our country,” Esper said. “Congress and the executive branch will sort out funding issues.”
Esper said he and other Army leaders are doing everything they can to get the message out about the need for a sustained, predictable and increased budget as well as the detriment of continuing resolutions.
“Leadership at the Department of Defense and myself continue to carry that message to Congress and key players,” he said.
In a media opportunity with local reporters, Esper addressed questions about a new Futures Command, noting the idea was still conceptual, but would materialize at a swift pace. The new command, representing the largest reorganization since the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, should have initial operating capabilities this summer, with full capabilities by next year.
Esper said his visit to Redstone Arsenal was an opportunity for him to discuss his priorities of readiness, modernization and reform.
“I had good discussions with commanders and I’m pleased how they are executing each of those priorities,” Esper said.
The visit to Redstone Arsenal comes after Esper’s tours of the National Training Center, Forces Command, Afghanistan and South Korea. He also had the opportunity to visit Army Materiel Command-managed Army Prepositioned Stocks.
Esper said the leaders he encountered at each location had nothing but great things to say about AMC.
“I hear about your responsiveness to supporting units. They are singing your praises, unprompted,” Esper told Army Materiel Command’s Gen. Gus Perna and a gathering of the organization’s top staff.
Esper noted the military is transitioning from current wars to prepare to face a near-peer adversary.
“After 17 years of war, we’ve not used our heavy equipment, our Abrams Tanks, our Bradley Fighting Vehicles,” he said. “Now as we pivot to prepare for a high-end fight and are training for it, we’re putting a lot more miles on those vehicles and they are breaking down — and that’s good.”
While some may say the breakdowns are bad, Esper said it is just the opposite.
“That’s an indicator that we’re using them. We are exercising; we are training. But what that has done is placed an incredible demand on the supply system that Army Materiel Command is responsible for. It hasn’t been exercised like that in a dozen plus years,” Esper said. “General Perna and his team have done a great job engaging industry, catching up and looking at innovative ways to get those parts and supplies on time, and at a good price for taxpayers too, so our troops are ready to go.”
Even if the Army’s troops are well trained and well-supplied, Esper said that doesn’t equal readiness.
“If you can’t get the tank out of the motor pool, you’re just not ready for the fight,” he said.
Esper said his overall strategy is to focus on outcomes, not processes.
“Process is a guide, but it can’t be an obstacle to speed. We can’t let process get in the way of good ideas,” he told AMC’s commanders and staff. “That’s what Korea and 8th Army are really patting you on the back for.”
Esper said his discussions with Perna also included how additive manufacturing — or 3-D printing — might be incorporated onto the battlefield.
“Rather than run a supply requisition all the way back to a depot, maybe we just print parts on the spot,” Esper said. “At this time of great challenge, I see great opportunity. Can we think of leap-ahead ways to do supply differently? That’s what General Perna and his team are looking for.”
Perna said the Army Materiel Command conveyed to the Army secretary that the command is looking through a new lens and taking a comprehensive but also a common-sense approach to addressing its challenges.
“Our goal is a responsive supply chain that accurately forecasts and delivers what the warfighters need, when and where they need it,” Perna said.
During his visit to U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, Lt. Gen. James H. Dickinson briefed Esper on how the command is focused on supporting theater operations for combatant commands and the future fight. The command’s technical center director Tom Webber also presented an overview of the center’s role as an Army Science and Technology Laboratory focused on providing technologies in directed energy, space, cyberspace, hypersonics, and integrated air and missile defense.
“Being able to tell the secretary what we do across our three lines of effort (operations, capability development and material development), and the uniqueness of SMDC/ARSTRAT is a tremendous benefit to the command because it reaffirms the relevance of the command and its mission,” Webber said.
“Anytime you have the opportunity to brief the secretary of the Army and other Army senior leaders on the role SMDC/ARSTRAT plays for our Army and the nation, it ensures our most senior leaders are fully aware of the command and what we contribute to the fight.”
Esper is expected to return to Huntsville during the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium set for March 26-28 at the Von Braun Center.