The chief of staff of the Army asked himself a question as he concluded an address to more than 900 defense and industry leaders: "The Objective Force capabilities, can it be done? Yes." And if those capabilities were not entering the Army by the end of this decade, Gen. Eric Shinseki, chief of staff, said, "We begin to lose relevancy."
The "Objective Force" is the term the Army uses to describe how it will be trained and equipped for future military operations. In restating his plan to transform the Army from a Cold War force to a lighter, more deployable yet lethal force, Shinseki cited "Moore's Law." The axiom holds that computer capacity doubles every 18 months or so as the size of hardware shrinks and costs drop. Shinseki said that means changing the way the Army looks at future operations. "The Cold War was built around weight" while the "Objective Force will be built around speed."
Shinseki said he was looking at the Air Force for ideas on speed. Instead of designing equipment that became heavier and heavier to absorb a hit, the Army wants "a system that can't be hit" like stealth aircraft. Slimming also means cutting the weight of fuel, ammunition and the logistical tail to make the Army more maneuverable and deployable, he said. Shinseki estimated 80 percent of the weight of a division rested in logistics -- spare parts, water, etc.
He was speaking on the 10th anniversary of the end of the Persian Gulf War. Like the soldiers of the VII Corps and XVIII Corps, he wants soldiers in the future to "impose their will and achieve moral dominance" over an enemy.
The goals of transformation he said are to win on the offensive, enter combat on the United States' terms, retain the initiative and build momentum quickly and win decisively, Shinseki said.
The United States took months to build up its forces in the Gulf to defeat Saddam Hussein, he said. "We put (the 82nd Airborne) on red and white double-decker buses --- then we held our breath." Adding, "he waited and allowed us to bring in our heavy forces."
Among the lessons of the Gulf War were the "lack of staying power" of the light forces sent to protect Saudi Arabia after Kuwait fell and "the gap in capabilities with late arriving armored heavy forces."
Two brigades at Fort Lewis, Wash., are designed to fill that gap. The Army plans to have at least five interim brigade combat teams in place before the first units of the Objective Force enter the Army in Fiscal Year 2008. He said the Army will decide in FY 2003 "the best test concepts from two of four defense contractor teams. In FY 2006 the Army will begin focusing its attention and money on the Future Combat Systems, likely a common chassis weighing less than 20 tons and not necessarily tracked. "We must master the transition from science and technology to research and development to first unit equipped" to meet the timetable for the Objective Force he said.
The key to future success lies not just in equipment but in "training our leaders to be versatile and agile," he told attendees at a dinner sponsored by the Association of the United States Army.