December 21, 2004

December 21, 2004 | WebMemo on National Security and Defense

The Future of the Army: A View from the Top

The Army is in an extraordinary period of transformation. At a recent public lecture at The Heritage Foundation, Army Chief of Staff General Peter J. Schoomaker outlined how the Army is addressing the strategic challenges of transformation. Achieving the initiatives outlined by the General will require continued support from Congress, including adequate defense budgets in the years ahead and timely supplemental funding for ongoing operations in the war on terrorism.

 

During his remarks General Schoomaker stressed several major challenges:

  • Infrastructure: Current demands on the Army highlight the need to make the military support structure and overseas basing as efficient as possible. The Defense Department's Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and global force repositioning efforts are essential to making the Army a more effective instrument.
     
  • End-Strength: The Army is increasing its available soldiers through a series of initiatives. In addition to the FY05 Defense Authorization Bill increasing end-strength by 30,000 through 2009, the Army is also moving many non-military activities outside of the Army-thereby freeing soldiers to take on core Army missions-and accelerating efforts to recruit and retain soldiers.
     
  • Active/Reserve Balance: The Active Component and Reserve Component are being rebalanced to provide greater capability in the active force and depth in the reserve components. Further, units are being reequipped and retrained for activities that are more relevant on the modern battlefield.
     
  • Transformation: Taking advantage of new technologies that improve the flexibility, agility, and interoperability of the force is critical. The Future Combat System (FCS) will see the full development of these investments.
     
  • Modularity: There is increased focus on the Army's goal to move toward standard and interchangeable "modular" force components with integral support elements. New threats, and the speed at which they can emerge, require new models to quickly assemble and integrate forces.
     
  • Acquisition: Programmatic decisions like the cancellation of Comanche and Crusader programs are difficult but necessary. Savings realized are being applied to modernization of Army and National Guard aviation and UAV development.

Our research at The Heritage Foundation supports many of these points. See, for example, Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1762, " Large Increases in Manpower Not Needed at This Time," by Jack Spencer and Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1729, "The Army Goes Rolling Along: New Service Transformation Agenda Suggests Promise and Problems," by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. )

 

Realizing the Army's future vision will require sustained support from Congress in the years ahead. Supplemental funding for ongoing operations must be adequate and timely. Annual appropriations must be sufficient to sustain and recapitalize the force and support Army transformation initiatives.

Jack Spencer is Senior Policy Analyst for Defense and National Security in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Kathy Gudgel, Research Assistant in Defense and National Security, contributed to this paper. This paper is based on a presentation given at The Future of the Army: A View from the Top, a public event held at The Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, December 7, 2004.

About the Author

Jack Spencer Vice President, the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity