WASHINGTON - A new "Army Vision" spells out how the Army intends to prepare for possible warfare against near-peer competitors such as China and Russia, while simultaneously conducting irregular warfare, said the service's secretary.
"Within a day or so, the Army Vision for 2028 will be rolled out," said Mark T. Esper, speaking Tuesday at the Brookings Institute, where he discussed in detail how the Army plans to grow and adapt over the next decade to an ever-changing threat environment.
To meet that threat, the Army needs to grow the active force to at least half a million, Esper said, adding that there will be similar growth inside the Army National Guard and Army Reserve.
Growing the force will require both the retention of existing Soldiers and the addition of new ones, Esper said. For now, he said the Army is meeting its retention goals - an indication that Soldiers in uniform today are happy with the work they are being asked to do, and with the opportunities the Army provides to them.
Getting new Soldiers on board through recruiting efforts, however, remains a challenge, he said. That may be a symptom of a private sector economy that is doing well and that has a low unemployment rate. Still, Esper said he thinks the Army should be able to make its recruiting goals.
One tool that may in the near future help the Army attract and retain more talent into service is the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army. The new personnel system has been designed to include, among other things, new tools that will make it easier to identify the unique talents Soldiers bring to the force, and help commanders make use of those talents when they need them most.
The new system factors in the knowledge, skills, behaviors, and preferences of Soldiers and makes assignments accordingly, Esper said. And when coupled with more flexible career models, it will enable the Army to better attract, identify, develop, and place Soldiers in career paths that keep them interested in service over the long term.
To better prepare Soldiers for the high-end fight, the Army is extending One Station Unit Training, or OSUT, to 21 weeks for some combat arms Soldiers. Additionally, the Army is instituting a new physical fitness test that will better indicate a Soldiers combat readiness, he said.
These high-quality Soldiers need to be led by smart, thoughtful, and innovative leaders of character who are comfortable with complexity and capable of operating from the tactical to the strategic level, he said.
The Army wants courageous and creative leaders like it had in World War II, he said, leaders like those who led U.S. Soldiers onto the beaches of Normandy. On June 5, 1944, exactly 74 years ago today (June6), U.S. Soldiers were just hours from crossing the English Channel, Esper reminded the audience.
The Army that landed on the beaches of Normandy, June 6, 1944, is alike in certain ways with the Army of today, he said.
They fought in a joint/combined, multi-domain battle, with close air and naval gunfire support. That same kind of warfare, combined with cyber and space, is what the Army Vision calls for, Esper said.
In addition to multi-domain battle, the Army will increasingly rely on robots in the air and on the ground for movement, firepower and sustainment. "Robotics and artificial intelligence can fundamentally change the nature of warfare," he said, adding that whoever gets there first will dominate on the battlefield.
To get there first, the Army is putting resources into research and development, he said. Cross-functional teams are at work developing the Army's six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, an expeditionary network, air and missile defense and Soldier lethality.
Facing a potential peer threat, the Army no longer has the luxury of time, the secretary concluded. That's why the Army must be ready to go at a moment's notice, and that's what the Army Vision lays out - so that America's Soldiers are always prepared for the battlefields of today and tomorrow.