Alabama general issues call to action for Army modernization

Alabama general issues call to action for Army modernization
(Source: WAFF 48 News)
Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy (Source: WAFF 48 News)
Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy (Source: WAFF 48 News)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The highest-ranking Army leader in Alabama says lives are at stake in the fight to advance our military.

General Gus Perna, delivered a powerful speech in Huntsville Tuesday morning at the Von Braun Center, kicking off the second day of the AUSA Global Force Symposium. Thousands of people are attending the conference.

Perna is the commanding general of the Army Materiel Command, based at Redstone Arsenal. AMC is the logistics and sustainment headquarters for the entire Army.

"Why we must challenge and change status quo to maintain our edge against a dynamic and always changing world,' Perna said of modernization. "It is shameful what we've come to….This really should scare you."

Perna's remarks come as the Army is trying to jump-start modernization efforts by creating a new, overarching command to oversee the acquisition process.

It's called the Army Futures Command and it is being designed to involve fewer people and fewer steps in delivering new and needed capabilities. Army leaders hope to establish the command this summer, though the location and commander have not yet been determined.

Perna said the Army's restructuring and new Futures Command is a bold and innovative way of moving our fighting force forward.

The general added that a significant modernization hasn't happened since the 1980s and stressed its importance.

"We exist in an environment where peer competitors are trying to out-innovate us every day and right now, we are not postured for success," he said.

The necessary emphasis on missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined with constrained or limited buying power have posed challenges, he added.

"It has slowed, deterred and at times, eliminated our ability to modernize for the future. Meanwhile, our peer competitors are not so constrained," Perna stated.

In the Middle East, he says rogue nations continue to purse ballistic capabilities, weapons of mass destruction and cyber weapons.

"They are using both conventional missile and state sponsored terrorism to impact our strategies,"  Perna said.

He went on to say that other countries are also expanding their nuclear capability and clandestine operations.

"One could easily speculate that these nations are directly trying to deter what we believe and our way of life and they're doing it through modernization," Perna said to the crowd. "We know that the past ways of thinking, of organizing, executing are inadequate and will not serve us well in the years to come. Today we're not worried but it's tomorrow we must think about

Perna added that the Army Materiel Command will be laser focused on supporting the vision of the Futures Command.

"We are in full support of the secretary and chief's vision…We must stop admiring the problem and making excuses," he stressed

While a leader and location for the Futures Command have not yet been determined, Army leaders say the work done on Redstone Arsenal, including at AMC and AMRDEC (the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center) will be part of its organizational structure.

General Perna says it's important for the Army to think about how it will fight in the future and sustain that capability on the battlefield. That's why the leadership is rolling up their sleeves and rolling out the plan.

"Our enemy is not constrained by our bureaucracy or our funding. Our enemy is producing innovatively to defeat us on the future battlefields," he added. "We must make the decision today to move forward."

Army senior leaders feel  that the Futures Command is a bold and innovative way of accomplishing that mission, giving us the advantage and our enemies the disadvantage.

"I strongly believe that the next two or three years are going to impact the next two or three decades. That's the impact we must have. The ultimate consequence of our actions, or more importantly our inactions, will be measured on how many lives are saved or how many lives are taken," Perna said.

There are six modernization priorities: long range precision fires, next generation of combat vehicles, future vertical lift, Army network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.

Future Vertical Lift was discussed on Tuesday during a forum.  FVL is a plan to develop a family of next generation military helicopters. It will replace aging helicopters.

Brigadier General Wally Rugen says the goal is "to build an aviation force that's optimized and lethal for large-scale combat operations."

Army leaders are looking to leverage the wisdom applied to the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration (JMR-TD) program. AMRDEC at Redstone Arsenal is a big part of the program to bring speed to future tech development. They're expanding and demonstrating new capabilities in vertical lift technology.

Officials want ultra reliable designs and cost efficiency to accelerate technologies to keep our Army dominant in the air domain.

Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy addressed local media outlets on Tuesday and compared the Army to University of Alabama's football team.

McCarthy says Coach Nick Saban saw a trend that would fundamental change in the landscape of the game and adjusted, changing offense and defense and bringing in other coaches in ensure continued success.

"That's what Army leaders are doing, We see a trend and are adjusting," he said. "We needed to change the way we played, the way we're doing business. The challenge we have is, we still have to deal with irregular warfare and the threats we have in the Middle East and Africa and other places around the globe.

He says the Army's goal is to get equipment onto the battlefield in two years or less. He added that work being done at Redstone Arsenal on future vertical lift, long range precision fires and missile defense will help the Army in its massive advancement efforts.

"We're trying to change 44 years of operating model. We're trying to be methodical in our approach and wanted to make sure we got it right.  We absolutely believe we got it right," McCarthy stated.

A location for the Futures Command has not yet been determined.

The final 10 cities will be announced in next few months. Then the list will be narrowed down to four. After recon is done of each site, the Army will announce the chosen spot this summer. It will have full operational capability next summer.

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