Friday, January 11, 2013

Unimaginable Statements and Signs of Surrender

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discuss the effects of sequestration during a news conference at the Pentagon, Jan. 10, 2013.
As Leon Panetta approaches retirement I just want to say that I believe he has been one of the great public servants in modern American history. Until he retires however, he is still the Secretary of Defense and unlike some folks who approach retirement, he has not 'checked out' mentally and is still actively engaged in the responsibilities of his job. This time sequestration.
“We really have no choice but to prepare for the worst,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters at a Pentagon news briefing Thursday. “Regardless of what Congress does or fails to do, we still have an obligation to protect this country...”

Earlier this month, Congress came to an agreement to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, but instead of eliminating the threat of sequestration, the deal simply delayed the automatic, across-the-board cuts until March 1.

“Postponing sequestration doesn’t prevent, it just prolongs the uncertainty for our force and for our military families,” said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Readiness is what’s now in jeopardy. We’re on the brink of creating a hollow force, the very thing we said we must avoid.”

Absorbing billions of dollars in cuts nearly halfway through the fiscal year would be even more damaging to the military, Panetta and Dempsey said, which is why the military must take steps now to prepare.
I get to this point in the article discussing sequestration and I'm feeling pretty good about how the DoD is handling the immense challenge and burdens the sequestration process has placed on the DoD. My glass is half full until...
If sequestration does take effect, Dempsey said, troops in combat, those about to deploy to combat and wounded warriors will be protected.

“But for the rest of the force, operations, maintenance and training will be gutted. We’ll ground aircraft, return ships to port, and sharply curtail training across the force,” he said. “Within months, we’ll be less prepared. Within a year, we’ll be unprepared.”
If you are the top General in the United States Armed Forces, and you know something is coming that must be planned for, and you have been telling everyone that you have been preparing for that something going back over a year now, if you are not prepared when it arrives is that not a failure of leadership to be prepared?

Brett Friedman said it best. "Can you imagine a USMC 4-Star ever saying "we'll be unprepared'? Never"

It is comments like these that have me concerned that US Army leadership is unprepared for the fiscal situation that is about to hit that great institution harder than the other services. I get it that Dempsey is CJCS and not fully engaged with the US Army anymore, but his comments sound depressing, defeated, hollow...

The US Army really does need to be the most innovative and motivated service of the three major branches of the military if they are going to manage the upcoming budget cuts well. General Odierno is a brilliant tactician, operator, and warfighter but I have not been able to find much media reporting where he is discussing sequestration, or any comment whatsoever where he is able to articulate a compelling strategic vision for a smaller US Army heading into the 21st century.

The US Navy today has this incredible depth on the bench of remarkably brilliant one and two star Rear Admirals, which for the record, makes me think that suggestions the Navy has lost the best and brightest of this early 80s graduation generation of sailors is a bunch of nonsense. When the current group of three and four star Flag Officers in the US Navy retire over the next 2-4 years, which include the remaining group of sailors who come from graduation classes in the late 70s, I strongly believe the Navy is going to be in fantastic hands with a collective cadre of the smartest, strongest leadership the fleet has had in modern naval history - for good reason too, their system of promotion collectively required them to be educated more than any previous generation, and it shows. These Rear Admirals were all doing their DH tour during the post cold war contraction of the US Navy, and if you think about it that gives them a lot of insight regarding what needs to be prioritized. The US Navy has extremely strong leadership right now, and I think there are signs of it everywhere.

As for the Army, not so much. I can't remember the last time I read something from a General in the US Army and thought to myself how smart it was, indeed nearly every really bright idea from an Army officer these days comes from someone in a field grade. I have to believe (or maybe I just want to believe) that after over a decade of war, and because they are of the same generation of military officer, the US Army has depth on their bench of brilliant one and two star Generals that most of us never see or hear from. OSD needs to be more keenly interested in this issue, and make it clear it is time for that generation of US Army officers to step up for their service and their country in what is clearly a significant challenge that will require significant changes forced almost entirely by fiscal stress to the US Army, because from my perspective most of the three and four star Generals in the Army today not only physically look defeated, they are starting to sound defeated.

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