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Army Must Ready for Future Fights in Dense Cities: Fanning

U.S. Army Secretary Eric Fanning, left, receives a briefing from Army Col. Benjamin DiMaggio about his battalion’s basic combat training course for new soldiers at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, June 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Susanne M. Schafer)
U.S. Army Secretary Eric Fanning, left, receives a briefing from Army Col. Benjamin DiMaggio about his battalion’s basic combat training course for new soldiers at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, June 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Susanne M. Schafer)

The outgoing secretary of the Army said Tuesday that he sees the likelihood of a conflict occurring inside a densely populated city lasting for years into the future.

"I think that the broad requirements levied on the Army now -- counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, as well as preparing for a larger fight for a near-peer adversary -- are going to remain in the future," Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning told an audience at the Library of Congress.

"The issue is how technology changes, how the adversary changes and where you imagine the environment we might be fighting changing or evolving, because we know we are on a trend to increased urbanization and mega-cities.

"We've got to think about being able to fight ... in dense urban areas where the adversary is mixed in with large civilian populations."

Fanning, who will step down from his post sometime before President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January, spoke at an event to pay tribute to an upcoming exhibit at the Library of Congress.

"Echoes of the Great War -- America's experiences of World War I" is scheduled to open April 4, 2017.

Fanning is leaving at a time when the service is facing increasing threats from Russia, China, North Korea and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Fanning has worked to reform the Army's acquisition system, which is often criticized for being slow-moving and overly bureaucratic.

"We have made a lot of changes to the acquisitions process," he said.

"If I had more time, that would be a primary focus -- to keep working on that. And a big part of it is not just changing what we do internally, it is changing how we interact with, collaborate with and work with those outside the Department of Defense."

Companies and academic centers develop technology in different ways than they used to, Fanning said, acknowledging that the Army is not agile enough to keep up with the fast pace of industry.

"We are probably the last people institutionally to hold on to Blackberrys because Apple didn't want to work with us," he said. "They said, 'The product is just one part of it -- the software, the updates -- it's all a package that goes together and you are not equipped to receive our technology and we can't be bothered.' "

Fanning called it a "cautionary tale" for how the Army acquires things.

"I think there is more we can be getting off the shelf and get it into the hands of soldiers faster, but also how we build and acquire lots of things."

Fanning stood up the Rapid Capabilities Office in August with the goal of finding solutions to acquisition problems within one to five years.

"We are not going to enlarge the Rapid Capabilities Office into something that can build an entire helicopter, but there might be some capability on that helicopter that we need to pull out and accelerate to field it faster for the existing fleet," he said.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Related Topics

Headlines Army Military Strategy Department of Defense Urban Warfare Matthew Cox

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