October 2019 -- American military history is full of painful examples of costly “first battle” losses for a less-than-ready American Army. Today, the nation once again faces an unsettled world with a number of threats, some that are near-term and others that seem likely to present us with a generation of lethal challenges from peer and near-peer nation state competitors. Because America’s foes will not provide the luxury of “time to get ready”, the Army must be ready to fight and win future “first battles”, whenever they may come.
The defense of our freedom requires vigilant attention to force readiness. In the best circumstance, our Army’s recognized and credible readiness will serve to deter adversaries from challenging America and her Allies. In other starker scenarios, our Army’s readiness will enable decisive overmatch and the rapid defeat of our enemies. The Roman saying, “Si vis pacem, para bellum” – if you want peace, prepare for war – remains true. As echoed in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, “The willingness of rivals to abandon aggression will depend on their perception of U.S. strength…”
The Army must be ready to “fight tonight” AND fight tomorrow – prepared to win anytime, anywhere. The current legacy force cannot be ignored and the future force can no longer be deferred. The Army does not have the luxury of selecting readiness today OR readiness tomorrow. In a dangerous world, the American Army must always be ready. We must ask ourselves, what else can be done to help the Army with this two-headed modernization challenge?
Congress also has a critical role to play in Army readiness and modernization. The success of the Army and its dynamic modernization drive depends upon a continued and predictable level of funding for necessary operations, maintenance, training, R&D and procurement. Congress must do its share to enable Army readiness by delivering realistic and on-time defense budget approvals, discontinuing recent habitual default to the inefficiencies of start-stop continuing resolutions. Most importantly, Congress must rise above party politics for the good of our national defense, by working in a truly bi-partisan way to do everything possible to avoid the return of BCA and crippling sequester. As Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis not so subtly noted in February 2018 testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, “No enemy in the field has done as much harm to the readiness of the U.S. Military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Acts defense spending caps.” Our citizen voting workforce, our legislative affairs teams and our industry associations can work together to ensure that Congress understands the imperative of providing our Army with the timely and adequate resources needed to modernize and stay ready.
Ensuring readiness today and enhanced lethality tomorrow is a difficult challenge, but the Army-Industry team have a proud and successful history of overcoming daunting challenges by putting the “Arsenal of Democracy” to work. As the Army marches toward improved readiness and lethality, it follows an azimuth of rapid and innovative modernization that challenges the status quo on all fronts. Our industry must be prepared to partner with the Army - and do the same.