Shalikashvili Says Modernization Needs Money
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 16, 1996 The military needs more money for equipment, but not at the expense of personnel, the military's top general said.
Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili said in an exclusive interview, more money must be devoted to modernization and acquisition.
"Now that the [personnel] drawdown is nearly completed, I think it's time to turn toward modernization and toward replacing equipment," he said. "Some of it is getting old or is getting worn out because of extensive use."
Shalikashvili said a prudent modernization and acquisition program would call for $60 billion per year. "We're not there at all yet," he said. "We're probably around $40 billion this year. So it is time now to ramp that up." The general said DoD can reach the $60 billion mark under the Clinton administration budget plan by 2000 or 2001. More funding from Congress will not be needed.
"I think we can go a long way in that direction and stay within the same top line, but we have to learn to do things smarter," Shalikashvili said. "We have to husband all of the savings we can out of turning back bases and facilities, we need to move on with acquisition reform and with privatization and finally through jointness. We can ensure that if we do things smarter, we can eliminate unnecessary duplication."
Shalikashvili said the $40 billion proposed in fiscal 1997 puts DoD behind the power curve "a little bit," but the lag is manageable. He said as long as all leaders recognize the United States needs to reach $60 billion for modernization and work toward that goal, all will be well.
"This is not something we can afford to slough off and allow to slide further and further to the future," he said. "This is a serious issue, and we need to get on it."
Shalikashvili said there is no danger from letting modernization slip for two or three years, but service members will notice equipment getting older and needing more maintenance. "You have to remember that modernization and replacing equipment is tomorrow's readiness," he said. "The more you put off when we reach the $60 billion amount, the more we're putting off tomorrow's readiness.
Shalikashvili said having older equipment means spending more money and time maintaining the equipment. More importantly, he said, troops ordered into combat should not do so in overage equipment.
Some critics say the U.S. military doesn't need more money devoted to modernization. Many press pundits say current U.S. equipment is far better than that of any country we are likely to have problems with. Shalikashvili said he thinks those people are absolutely wrong.
"The United States has global interests and global responsibilities," he said. "We're very different from other nations. We do in fact have a leadership responsibility in this world." He said the United States has not been good at judging where and when a fight will break out.
"We must be prepared for the unexpected," he said. "Another thing I must [say] is that after every conflict we have reduced the size of our military and at the same time reduced our readiness."
For those reasons, he said, the United States must maintain a momentum in modernization and in replacement of equipment.
"But having said that, we have to be careful that our emphasis isn't all on equipment," he said. "What has made us great as a military ... are the people who operate the equipment.
"So while we have to ensure that we put emphasis on modernizing the force and replacing that which is worn out, we have to put an equal if not greater emphasis on the people that make up this military," he continued. "They are really a national treasure, and that gets back to ensuring that quality of life for them and their families is a priority, that we don't tamper with their benefits or their compensation.
"Those who want to find billpayers within the military are gambling with the future of this country, and they must be very, very careful."