Thursday, April 16, 2009

Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Carlisle, PA

Army War College (Carlisle, PA)
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Carlisle, PA, Thursday, April 16, 2009

Good afternoon. Please be seated. It’s a real pleasure to be here for my first visit to the Army War College. Glad to hear a few Aggie fans in the audience. I understand you’ve got the Jim Thorpe Sports Days coming up next week. So best of luck in your competition against the other war colleges, although in light of the jointness I’m going to talk about here in a minute, I hope you’ll understand if I can’t play favorites.
This week I am visiting each of the service war colleges to discuss the budget recommendations I made to the President. Those recommendations have three principal objectives:

· First, to reaffirm our commitment to take care of the all-volunteer force, which, in my view, represents America’s greatest strategic asset; as Admiral Mullen says, if we don’t get the people part of our business right, none of the other decisions will matter;

· Second, to rebalance this department’s programs in order to institutionalize and enhance our capabilities to fight the wars we are in today and the scenarios we are most likely to face in the years ahead, while at the same time providing a hedge against other risks and contingencies; and

· Third, in order to do all this, we must reform how and what we buy, meaning a fundamental overhaul of our approach to procurement, acquisition, and contracting.

Earlier this week, I was asked why I decided to come to the war colleges to discuss this topic. What I said then, and repeat now, is that these recommendations are less about budget numbers than they are about how the U.S. military thinks about the nature of warfare and prepares for the future. About how we take care of our people and institutionalize support for the warfighter over the long term. About the role of the services and how we can buy weapons as jointly as we fight. About reforming the requirements and acquisition process. These are just the kinds of basic questions you will be dealing with as you go on to staff and command positions.

So, with that in mind, for the next few minutes I want to give you some insight into the thinking and analysis behind the budget recommendations, and then give you a chance to ask questions and share your views.

In many ways, these recommendations reflect my experiences in this job for the last two-plus years.

Starting with the roll-out of the Iraq surge, an overriding priority has been getting troops at the front everything they need to fight, to win, and to survive while making sure that they and their families are properly cared for when they come home. During this period, I frequently heard from troops and commanders about what they needed most to complete their mission. I went to the hospitals and talked to the wounded, and I went to the bases and talked to the families. And I read about shortfalls and other problems in the newspapers. Then I raised some of the same issues at the Pentagon – and heard the building’s response about what could be done, and how fast. And whether the issue was Walter Reed, fielding MRAPs, or sending more UAVs and ISR assets to theater, I kept running into the fact that the Department of Defense as an institution – which routinely complained that the rest of the government was not at war – was itself not on a war footing, even as young Americans were fighting and dying every day. For me, everything kept coming back to a simple question, “Is this really the best we can do for our kids?”

Much of the problem, in my view, stemmed from the fact that for too long there was a belief, or a hope, that Iraq and Afghanistan were exotic distractions that would be wrapped up relatively soon – the regimes toppled, the insurgencies crushed, the troops brought home. Therefore, we should not spend too much, or buy too much equipment not already in our long-range procurement plans, or turn our bureaucracies and processes upside down. I believe this was the issue with MRAPs – a million dollar plus vehicle not thought to have much use beyond Iraq. As a result of these failed assumptions, the capabilities most urgently needed by our warfighters were for the most part fielded ad hoc and on the fly, developed outside the regular bureaucracy and funded in supplemental appropriations that would go away when the wars did – if not sooner.

I concluded that the wars we are in had not earned much of a constituency in the Pentagon, as compared to the services’ conventional modernization programs. This did not mean that the conventional capabilities and preparing for other contingencies was not important. It was a matter of balance. I just wanted to see that the needs of the warfighter – on the battlefield, at home, or in the hospital – had a seat at the table when priorities were being set and sustainable, long-term base-budget decisions were being made. And one of the things that I’ve learned since entering government 43 years ago is that the best way to ensure that an organization really cares for and protects something is to put that thing in its base budget.

So, the top priority recommendation I made to the president was to move programs that support the warfighters and their families into the services’ base budget, where they can acquire a bureaucratic constituency and sustainable long-term funding. This shift, at a cost of $13 billion, should be of special resonance to our ground forces, which have borne the human and material brunt of the current conflicts.

In these latest recommendations, we put the growth of Army end-strength in the base budget while capping the number of BCTs at 45. The purpose was to make sure that the Army has fully-manned units ready to deploy, which should mean relying less on stop-loss. We also boosted funding for helicopter support by half a billion dollars – most of it for the Army – which from day one has been an urgent need in Afghanistan. I was at Fort Rucker Tuesday and had a chance to see firsthand the outstanding work of the Army aviation community, which gave me a better understanding of the challenges they face ramping up the Army’s rotary wing assets. Other shifts of direct import to today’s warfighter include more funds for ISR, special operations forces, train and equip programs, and inter- and intra-theater lift.

Furthermore, this budget enhances and institutionalizes support for soldiers and their families. These programs include more funding for medical research and treatment for TBI and post-traumatic stress, improved child care, spousal support, housing, and education.
These proposals, then, begin the effort to establish an institutional home in the Department of Defense for today’s warfighter as well as for tomorrow’s.

Another underlying theme in the budget recommendations is the need to think about future conflicts in a different way. To recognize that the black and white distinction between conventional war and irregular war is an outdated model. In reality, the future is and will be more complex. Where all conflict will range along a broad spectrum of operations and lethality. Where even near-peer competitors will use irregular or asymmetric tactics and non-state actors may have weapons of mass destruction or sophisticated missiles. In one sense, we have been living this reality for some time. In the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. armor and infantry units squared off against the Republican Guard at the front while being harassed by the Fedayeen Saddam in the rear. Last year, Russia’s relatively crude – though brutally effective – invasion of Georgia using armor and artillery was augmented with a sophisticated cyber attack and a well-coordinated information operations campaign. Future adversaries will continue to employ new readily available technologies in sinister ways. They will adapt and develop new tactics, techniques, and procedures as fast as they can imagine ways to gain any advantage over us, to better understand our decisions. This kind of warfare will require innovative, versatile leaders and capabilities with the maximum possible flexibility to deal with the widest possible range of conflict.

Now, even with this in mind – and especially perhaps with this in mind – we cannot ignore the risks posed by the military forces of other state actors. This brings me to some of our conventional and strategic modernization programs, which continue to make up the overwhelming bulk of the Pentagon’s procurement, research, and development accounts.
Broadly speaking, there were several principles or criteria that governed, either in total or in part, most of the major program decisions. The first was to halt or delay production on systems that relied on promising, but as yet unproven, technology, while continuing to produce – and, if necessary, upgrade – systems that are best in class and that we know work. This was a factor in my decisions to:

· Cancel the Transformational Satellite (TSAT) program and instead build more Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites; to

· Cap the Navy’s DDG-1000 ships at three while increasing the buy of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers; and

· Halt the airborne laser at the research and development phase

while increasing funding for the THAAD missile-defense program.
Furthermore, where different modernization programs within services exist to counter roughly the same threat, or accomplish roughly the same mission, we should look more to capabilities available across the services. While the military has made great strides in operating jointly over the last two decades, procurement remains overwhelmingly service-centric. The Combat Search and Rescue helicopter, for example, had major development and cost problems. But what cemented my decision to cancel this program was the fact that we were on the verge of launching yet another single-service platform for a mission that in the real world is truly joint. This is a question we must consider for all of the services’ modernization portfolios.

Finally, I concluded we needed to shift away from the 99 percent “exquisite” service-centric platforms that are so costly and so complex that they take forever to build, and only then, in very limited quantities. With the pace of technological and geopolitical change, and the range of possible contingencies, we must look more to the 80 percent multi-service solution that can be produced on time, on budget, and in significant numbers. As Stalin once said, “Quantity has a quality all of its own.”

This was a major consideration with shipbuilding and air supremacy. I recommended accelerating the buy of the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, which, despite cost and development problems, is a versatile vessel that can be produced in quantity and go to places that are either too shallow or too dangerous for the Navy’s big, blue-water surface combatants. As we saw last week, you don’t necessarily need a billion-dollar ship to
chase down a bunch of teenage pirates.

With regard to air supremacy, this budget increased funding for the fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighter by more than $4 billion dollars. This commitment will accelerate the F-35’s development and testing regime to fix the remaining problems and begin rolling out these aircraft in quantity – more than 500 over the next five years, and more than 2,400 total for all of the services.

And finally, I looked at whether modernization programs had incorporated the experiences of combat operations since September 11th. This was particularly important to the ground services, which will be in the lead for the irregular and hybrid campaigns of the future.
Parts of the Army’s Future Combat Systems program have already demonstrated their adaptability and relevance. For example, the connectivity of the Warfighter Information Network will dramatically increase the agility and situational awareness of the Army’s combat formations. And we will accelerate its development and field it, along with proven FCS spin-off capabilities, across the entire Army. But the FCS vehicle program was, despite some adjustments, designed using the same basic assumptions as when FCS was first designed nine years ago. The premise behind the design of these vehicles was that lower weight, greater fuel efficiency, and, above all, near-total situational awareness, would compensate for less heavy armor – a premise that I believe was belied by the close-quarters combat, urban warfare, and increasingly lethal forms of ambush that we’ve seen in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and are likely to see elsewhere as other adversaries probe for and find ways to turn our strengths against us.

Though the Army currently holds a comfortable margin of dominance over any other conventional ground force, the service clearly must have a new, modernized fleet of combat vehicles to replace the Cold War inventory. But before we spend ten years and $90 billion, and before we send young soldiers downrange, we had better be sure to get it right – or as close to right as we can. So I am recommending that we cancel the existing FCS vehicle program, re-evaluate the requirements, technology, and approach in light of our combat and operational experiences in two wars – and then re-launch a new Army vehicle modernization program. There will be substantial money in the FY10 budget to get started and to make sure this happens. My hope is that we can be ready to move forward in FY11. And I have directed that all the money for FCS in the out-years be protected to fund the new vehicle modernization program.

Looking forward, the goal of our weapons buying is to develop a portfolio – a mixture of weapons whose flexibility allows us to respond to a spectrum of contingencies and beyond the horizon. Focusing exclusively, or obsessively, on a single weapons system designed to do a specific job or confront a single adversary ignores what a truly joint force can and must do in the 21st century.

Where the trend of future conflict is clear, I have made specific recommendations. In other areas, however, I believe we need to develop a more rigorous analytical framework before moving forward – the type of framework that will be provided by the Quadrennial Defense Review. I should note that this will be the first QDR able to fully incorporate the numerous lessons learned on the battlefield these last few years. Lessons about what mix of hybrid tactics future adversaries, both state and non-state actors, are likely to pursue.

We have started to address these developments in the budget recommendations. The QDR, as well as other assessments such as the Nuclear Posture Review, will examine these issues more closely. That is one reason I delayed some decisions to do with, for example, amphibious operations and the next generation cruiser: to develop an analytical construct through which we can more precisely determine future requirements and what capabilities will be needed.

As we look towards the future, I have directed the QDR team to be realistic about the scenarios where direct U.S. military action might be required. Where, for example, it would be necessary or sensible to send a large conventional ground force. The QDR will also take a look at the Army’s force mix of heavy and light, active and reserve, and assess whether shifts are needed.

In all, we have to be prepared for the wars we are most likely to fight – not just the wars we’ve traditionally been best suited to fight, or threats we conjure up from potential adversaries who also have limited resources. And as I’ve said before, even when considering challenges from nation-states with modern militaries, the answer is not necessarily buying more technologically advanced versions of what we built – on land, sea, or in the air – to stop the Soviets during the Cold War.
While there were many other issues that arose, and many other decisions that were made, I’d like to give you plenty of time to ask questions. So I’ll close with a final thought.

Behind my desk at the Pentagon are portraits of two Army officers: Dwight D. Eisenhower and George Marshall. During the Second World War, Marshall said, “We must do everything we could to convince the soldier that we were all solicitude for his well being. I was for supplying everything we could and [only] then requiring him to fight to the death when the time came … you couldn’t be severe in your demands unless [the soldier] was convinced that you were doing everything you could to make matters well for him.” These budget recommendations are a start at turning that sentiment into a long-term institutional commitment.
Eisenhower and Marshall, of course, had the industrial muscle of a fully mobilized United States behind them during the Second World War. We do not have that today and will not in the future. But, looking ahead, even without Rosie-the-Riveter, victory gardens, and bond drives, we must find a way to institutionalize a sense of urgency and higher levels of responsiveness in our defense bureaucracies. The challenge is balancing support for the warfighter in an era of persistent conflict – where good-enough solutions are needed in months, weeks, or, better yet, tomorrow – with an entirely different dynamic for conventional and strategic programs – which can take many years to achieve the desired level of technology overmatch. Reconciling these two paradigms is one of the most vexing challenges facing our military institutions – but one I am committed to tackle.

All of the services are challenged to find the right balance between preserving what is unique and valuable in their traditions, while at the same time making the changes necessary to win the wars we are in and being prepared for future threats. With this budget, I have tried to make a holistic assessment of capabilities, requirements, risks, and needs across the services. I ask you to do the same – to look outside your area of specialty, and outside your military branch. To look forward with the certainty that the battlefield is constantly evolving, and that the United States Army as part of a joint force must always be evolving with it.
Thank you for your being here this afternoon, and thank you for your service to our country.

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