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Mobilization Readiness in the 21st Century
Prepared remarks of Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, Army chief of staff, the 1995 Eisenhower Award Banquet, sponsored by the American Defense Preparedness Association and Na, Tuesday, May 16, 1995

Thank you. ... Although you honor me with this prestigious award tonight, it is you -- the men and women of America's armed forces and you in corporate America -- that I want to focus on. You have critically important roles to play as we collectively develop, shape, and indeed prepare the armed forces of the next century. You are all working together to develop the future defense -- a joint force that leverages information to make our men and women more versatile, more deployable, more flexible and more lethal. Joint warfare is teamwork.

Your steadfast commitment to the preparedness of the United States of America ... has been one of the reasons that we have been able to succeed over the years -- in four big wars this century and in tiny wars. Your commitment, which this Eisenhower Award represents, your collective commitment to the defense of the United States of America is the reason that we have prevailed. You need to feel very good about all of that.

Now the problem we have had ... is that we have not been consistent in our preparedness, at striking the appropriate balance between near-term readiness and modernization and mobilization readiness. Our preparedness has gone up and down. And because of that, as you all have worked very hard to do, we must seek balance and be consistently prepared. Since our success in any of our endeavors is not preordained, we can begin by resolving to look ahead and not backward, building on our commitment to preparedness and balancing the needs of today and tomorrow.

Dwight David Eisenhower, general of the Army and president, and the one whom you honor with this medal -- which I am certainly proud to wear around my neck -- personified preparation. As we go into the 21st century, Gen. Eisenhower is an example for all of us of one who prepared himself for the challenges of leadership and the national security needs of the United States of America. He prepared himself through a lifetime of service.

Life is a journey, not a destination. It is hard to predict what is going to happen. In the case of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard, the journey for all of us, in a sense, started in 1775, before there was a United States of America -- before there was a country. The journey for us in uniform is never finished. We must continue our journey, working together to defend this nation and transform our armed forces into one that can continue to serve the United States of America into the 21st century, a partnership between us in uniform and you in corporate America.

And when you think of us in uniform, you have to also think of yourselves, because we have not done it alone. You have been with us through thick and thin, and from where I sit, the last four years have seen more thin than thick. You have been with us as we have struggled through these times.

Your role, ADPA, as the "Voice of the Industrial Base" has been important. With your NSIA colleagues, you ensure the excellence of our armed forces and of "a nation secure." We must be acutely aware of the realities that confront all of us in today's very dangerous and complex world. As we face tomorrow's very dangerous and complex world with declining budgets, leaner forces, and formidable geopolitical issues and technological trends, we will not achieve future preparedness -- Information Age preparedness -- by doing business the way we have in the past.

What is Information Age preparedness? Your challenge, our challenge, is to maintain balance and consistency, consistent balance. We must seek a balance between today's readiness and tomorrow's readiness, and tomorrow's readiness means not just new weapons, not just modern infrastructure. It also means mobilization capability and sustainment capability for the 21st century. Tomorrow's readiness, by the way, is not characterized by the kind of thinking that prevailed in the past.

Let me give you an example of what tomorrow's readiness is not and the kind of thinking we must avoid. I had the occasion to look at a film of a conference that took place in October 1939 at Aberdeen Proving Ground [Md.]. Let me put October of 1939 in context for you. October 1939 was one month after the Wehrmacht invaded Poland. The narrator of the film was beating his chest about what was happening at Aberdeen.

Now let me tell you what was happening at Aberdeen: The 3rd United States Cavalry had a machine gun section that rode up to the firing line on their horses. They dismounted and put a .50-caliber machine gun into action. The cavalry troopers had their high boots and spurs on, and they shot a cloth target. Meanwhile, we were congratulating ourselves because we put pneumatic tires on World War I cannons, and we were firing articulated coastal artillery guns, which were to be emplaced at Fort Monroe [Va.] and in Boston Harbor.

This is one month after the Wehrmacht invaded Poland, and we were talking about "eaches." We were not talking about concepts to defeat the Germans on the battlefields of Europe.

Concepts. The future. How will you apply the power of the United States of America, not to make yesterday perfect, but to prepare for wars we have not fought and conflicts we can hardly conceive? What does it mean to mobilize an Information Age force? And how will we mobilize and sustain an Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard -- a joint force which is equipped with Information Age technology in an Information Age economy?

We cannot continue to measure success in terms of trainloads of ammunition. That's Grant and Pershing and even Marshall, Eisenhower and Bradley.

We must be more precise and effective -- better is better -- and we must be capable of sustaining the 21st century fight. We want the right integration of military and industrial capabilities, the simultaneous application of our complementary capabilities. Recapitalization of our equipment and infrastructure, as important as it is, only solves the most immediate strategic requirements. We must all acknowledge the realities of sustaining our forces during periods of crises.

I was the vice chief of staff for the United States Army during the gulf war, when some of you in this room were shooting Patriot missiles at such an alarmingly fast rate that it was not clear if we could produce Patriot missiles to keep up with the rate of fire. I will tell you, ladies and gentlemen, if the troops had kept shooting them at the rate that they were, it would have been almost impossible to replace those weapons.

Quite frankly, for intricate, complex items like guidance systems in Patriot missiles, we do not have a quick mobilization capability in the industrial base, and depots are not the answer. They were Grant's answer.

My point here is that we have a very different environment on our hands, and it is a very complex, differentiated environment. What does that mean? How do we balance what we need to have? Just how do we get there from here? Eisenhower faced a similar challenge in his day, and as difficult as it was for him, in today's Information Age it is more sophisticated, more challenging, more difficult!

Make no mistake. Mobilization still shows its railroad roots, where functional experts deal with each part sequentially and integration occurs late and at a fairly high level. Do you ever wonder why we have depots at Chambersburg, New Cumberland, and Tobyhanna [Pa.]? Because the Union Army put them there.

Information Age mobilization, which we have not yet invented, will be a much different challenge. We don't have the answers. We all have questions to which none of us have completely satisfactory answers. But I do know this: We cannot be wedded to Industrial Age approaches and concepts that hinder our progress. Our traditional views of mobilization and sustainment may not suffice. Mobilization and sustainment can and must be redefined in the Information Age.

Look, in 1939, they had an admittedly limited grasp of their tomorrow. It was not because they were deficient. It was because they lacked the tools we have, and, with few exceptions, most were not thinking about a world war.

Today, we have concepts for fighting and winning that we did not have before -- like joint doctrine, simulations that enable us to see what can be and so on. We are all thinking about the future. These concepts and ideas explain our war-fighting success. That's because physical transformations are informed by serious thinking -- intellectual change leads physical change. Similarly, we must push ourselves to develop the theory, develop substantive thinking for mobilization success -- to tackle the challenge of replenishing stocks, feeding, clothing and equipping a future force.

Our challenge, then, is to think and experiment and create the intellectual content so that the future force will, in fact, be more lethal. Major advances in military art are mostly intellectual -- amphibious warfare, naval aviation, blitzkrieg. Naval air is mostly a product of the 1920s and '30s. There was not a lot of money available then. When the dollars were there, we built the great fleets of World War II. But the intellectual work and experimentation took place in the '20s and '30s, when there were few resources.

Mobilization and sustainment of the joint force over the long haul are challenges for us all in this room. What will be the concepts that will drive mobilization and sustainment of this force which these leaders at this head table are putting together? What will the team represented in this room -- you -- do about these challenges?

This, in my view, is a formidable task for all of us. The defense of the United States of America is a shared responsibility. We, in uniform, corporate America, our elected and appointed officials and the people of the United States of America all share in that burden. Getting to the fight is the first step. Fighting the fight is the next. And sustaining the fight is the challenge that we all must apply our energies to.

Like Eisenhower's, our job is to grow purposefully into the future and carry the organization forward into the Information Age with Information Age systems. And we have begun the process by resolving to look ahead and not backward, building on our commitment to preparedness and balancing the needs of today with those of tomorrow.

But the bottom line of it all is profoundly expressed by President Eisenhower. In a speech just weeks before he died, he pointed out that what really counted was not equipment. It was quality men and women. Although the Information Age holds great promise, there is absolutely no substitute for good blocking and tackling, great training and leadership, soldiers understanding how to operate in any environment with or without technology and people such as you in this room committed to America's defense -- thinking about the challenges of the future.

I quote: "In these times, some Americans seem to think that intricate and superbly engineered machines have diminished the role of the individual; ... that ... character is of less account; that such concepts of duty, honor, country are outmoded relics. ... Those who so think are dead wrong. ...

"In the hour of grave crisis or severe challenge, character is the chief resource of [people] and their nations. ... Today, even as it was a century ... ago, the final index to a nation's destiny is within its people; in their commitment to principles and ideals; in their willingness to sacrifice for the common good; in their determination ever to bear themselves with courage whatever the challenge or threat."

In October of 1993, I was at Andrews Air Force Base. I walked behind the stretcher of a warrant officer who was just returned from captivity in Mogadishu [Somalia]. As he was transferred from a C-141 to a C-20, his wife and I walked along behind the stretcher.

I was talking with her and I said, "Lorrie, you are a source of personal strength to all of us." You in this room tonight might recall she was the young woman who, on television, looked everyone in the world in the eye while her husband was still in captivity and said, "Night stalkers don't quit!"

I was out on the road somewhere feeling sorry for myself when I heard what she said. Then I said to myself, "Suck it up, Jack!"

I said, "Lorrie, you're a source of strength to all of us." She looked at me and she said, "I love him. He loves what he does. I have no other choice but to be strong."

There it is, troops. That tiny woman walking behind that broken body of a man saying, "I love him. He loves what he does. I have no other choice but to be strong." We have no other choice but to be strong!

There are enormous challenges for all of us, but we are meeting them because we have concepts, a love of country and a recognition that it is not "stuff" that makes it happen. Oh, you must have the best equipment in the world, and we do. And, yes, we have to have more equipment, good equipment. But it takes men and women of courage to climb into those airplanes, get onto those ships, come off the end of the aircraft carrier in the middle of the night, get into the Apaches, come out of helicopters and jump out of planes.

Men and women of character -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

December 1993, Fort Drum, N.Y., 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry. A man walks into the formation of 3rd Platoon of Charlie Company, just back from Mogadishu -- with a cane, missing a leg and an arm. "What happened, Sgt. Reid?" I asked.

"We fought through three city blocks. The last thing I remember," he said, "was the heat of the helicopter. But do you know what, sir? If I had it to do over again, I'd do it again."

"I love him. I have no other choice but to be strong."

"If I had it to do over again, I'd do it again."

Remember those words -- the words of a wife and of a soldier who, five years ago, was not even a citizen of this country. There is power in this room. There is power in what is represented in the uniforms in this room and in corporate America.

Our objective remains firm: continue our journey into the 21st century and develop a versatile joint force, capable of delivering decisive victory anywhere and under any circumstances. It is a journey, and making the journey with us is hard work. Those who seek certainty will be frustrated. Those who hesitate to leave the comfort of Cold War deliberateness will be left behind. But for those who make the journey with us, to empower ourselves with information, to redesign ourselves, harnessing the power of information will enable us to realize the vision of Force XXI, to create a force for the future, a force leveraging unique American strengths.

God bless our great men and women from all the services and their families. They are all over the world ... , standing in harm's way in places too numerous to count. They truly represent the great diversity of America -- men and women of all ranks, from every corner of the nation, from every walk of life. They don't ask much, but they give so much. All of them are very special, and we are going to give them the best we can.

God bless all of you; bless you for what you do. Thank you for this award. I am proud to have been a soldier in America's Army. God bless you. Thanks.


Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at