Army Modernization Debate Begins

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I attended the same interview at the Pentagon with Colin and Greg Grant where MGen. Terry met with a select group of reporters. It's too bad he didn't say much, but I'll go ahead and give Colin some props for spinning out a story on it and getting the debate started.

The incoming commander of the famous 10th Mountain Division, Maj. Gen. James Terry, sat down with defense reporters today to talk about the future of Army modernization. Terry, a very personable commander with a refreshingly candid approach, wouldnt offer specific answers about what the Armys Brigade Combat Team Modernization would look like. After all, its one of the biggest acquisition decisions the service will make for years and its not unreasonable for him to go slow. But there is a larger issue that a major general dares not address in public are the Pentagon and Army moving in the right direction when it comes to redesigning the force? The answer we got from a respected analyst is a resounding No!

Terry knows a great deal about the past and future of Army modernization from his job as director of TRADOCs Future Force Integration Directorate, known fondly as FFID. But he is also an officer in the chain of command and the Army is in the midst of deciding just what the successor to FCS will be, so he couldnt say much.

Terry did say that the Army is probably going to do more of taking Operational Needs Statements from commanders in the field and turning them into programs of record, those wonderful budgeting tools that allow the service to build a program into its regular annual funding plan. At the end of the session, I asked him if the Army was moving from a force bent on fundamental change which the service declared was the case with the development of FCS to a more incremental approach. Terry said he thought the service was probably headed to something much closer to a step by step approach.

Eager to get some perspective on whether the service is generally headed in the right direction since the demise of the Manned ground Vehicle program, I called one of the best outside analysts who follows the Army, Dan Goure of the Lexington Institute. Goure was adamant. The Army has, under enormous pressure from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, begun to turn into an institution planning for the last war one of the greatest sins of which a military can be accused.

The Armys current course almost guarantees surprise, technical and operational surprise in our next conflict because the service is rebuilding to cope with the wars it has most recently fought Iraq and Afghanistan. Gates has declared repeatedly that he is acting to rebalance the US military in light of the lessons he has learned since coming to the Pentagon.

Why would you think you are going to get yourself in the same situation in five years" Goure asked. On top of that, Army officials have said repeatedly they are planning for uncertainty and for the long war. The Army uses the term uncertainty thats not a plan for the future, he said. Instead that leads the service, Goure opined, to operating without a greater vision, a greater purpose than the immediate fight. And that takes us back to his initial premise, that the current course of the Army will place the country in peril because it will be vulnerable to an enemy able to target our technology that has been developed with the current fight in mind. You dont have a core purpose for the Army, whether it might be developing the capability to read and react to an enemy attack, mobilize quickly and stop the enemy in its tracks almost anywhere in the world, pacify the Indians or stop the Soviets at the Fulda Gap.

Read the rest of this story and join the discussion over at DoD Buzz.

-- Colin Clark

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