Army to develop future force now, says Shinseki

by Gerry J. Gilmore

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 13, 1999) - The Army "will roll up its shirt sleeves" and start changing now to develop a force that is strategically responsive and dominant across the spectrum of operations, said Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki Oct. 12 at the Association of the United States Army's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Shinseki shared the Army's vision for next-century's force in a keynote speech that he gave at the AUSA's Eisenhower luncheon and during a press conference that followed the luncheon, which included Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera.

Shinseki said the Army must be more responsive, lethal, agile, versatile, survivable and sustainable to meet the needs of the nation.

As the first step, Shinseki said the Army will develop two technology-enhanced, fast-deployable and lethal brigades at Fort Lewis, Wash., this year, using knowledge gained by Force XXI experiments and off-the-shelf technology available from the private sector.

"The decision to go to Fort Lewis was to pick a site where you had a capability to do a heavy and a light transformation," said Shinseki. "You also have a great deployment airfield at McChord ... so if you're going to pick this [brigade] up and deploy it and demonstrate that you have gained something in terms of strategic responsiveness, that is helpful."

Previous work with the "Strike Force" concept will be incorporated into the brigade conversion project at Fort Lewis, said Shinseki.

Shinseki noted that the U.S. Army was at a similar juncture 100 years ago following the U.S. victory in the 1898 Spanish American War. America became a player on the world stage, he said, and its Army needed to change to reflect that reality.

In 1899, said Shinseki, Secretary of War Elihu Root and Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Nelson Miles established the Army War College in Washington to develop general staff officers, such as those possessed by the Prussian and other nation's militaries.

It is time again for the Army to move forward, said Shinseki, who noted he and Caldera co-developed the Army's vision for the 21st century.

Shinseki and Caldera said America's Army would continue to prepare to fight and win the nation's wars and train soldiers and grow leaders. However, they noted, worldwide geopolitical realities that exist after the end of the Cold War have caused the American Army to be deployed worldwide during this decade to meet U.S. national security interests.

"We have long thought about how to transform the Army to meet what was obviously a changing strategic environment," said Shinseki. "Over these last seven or eight years it is the Army that has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting, these missions that are just short of the war fight, but are just as intense and energetic. So, we had looked for the opportunity to go after a capability we didn't have."

"We are committed to this change," said Caldera. "We have to be able to get to the fight faster. We are willing to drive this change without accepting undue risk."

One way to deploy forces faster, said Shinseki, is to make them lighter and easier to airlift. He said the Army will develop the capability to put brigade combat teams anywhere in the world within 96 hours after liftoff, a division on the ground in 120 hours, and five divisions within 30 days.

Shinseki noted that 90 percent of Army airlift assets are now devoted to logistics movement. By using lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles and "just-in-time" supply delivery systems -- instead of amassing "Iron Mountains" of supplies -- the Army should be able to deploy more troops and equipment more rapidly, he said.

Additionally, heavy tracked vehicles like armored personnel carriers and tanks could be phased out by lighter, faster, more fuel-efficient wheeled vehicles during the next century, said Shinseki.

"Wheel technology has come a long way driven by off-road industry and technology is allowing us to reduce weight," he said. "If we can bring these two together, the question of moving to wheels is worth pursuing."

Work performed at Fort Lewis will eventually be spread throughout the Army, said Shinseki, who noted the Army wants to field new capabilities as soon as budget and technology permit.