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Today's Army Is More Than Tanks, Bradleys, Army Secretary Says

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The United States must maintain overmatch — be stronger, better armed, or more skillful than its adversaries, the Army secretary said at the Brooking Institution in Washington.

Ryan D. McCarthy addressed Indo-Pacific region Army strategy at the nonprofit public policy organization today. 

"Our modernization focus — how we fight, what we fight with and who we are — is in part driven by new challenges and potential adversaries," he said.

A helicopter hovers with a howitzer hanging by a sling.
Howitzer Haul
An Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter takes off carrying a howitzer at Fort Drum, N.Y., Nov. 19, 2019, after soldiers executed a training air assault sling-load operation.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Paige Behringer
VIRIN: 191119-A-HL390-0056

The secretary said the Army remains ironclad in its priorities of readiness, modernization and reform, and the Army budget and investments are aligned with its priorities. 

"In this era of great-power competition, China will emerge as America's strategic threat," McCarthy said. "Over 60% of the world's [gross domestic product] flows through the Strait of Malacca, and China is militarizing the global commons."

He noted that having the Army in that region of the world with modernized weaponry "changes the calculus and creates dilemmas for potential adversaries."

Having the Army in the region also strengthens America's position to conduct global commerce, build confidence with investors and compete economically, he added.

Military helicopter flies over the Pacific.
WestPac Refuel
An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter assigned to the 33rd Rescue Squadron performs receives fuel from an MC-130J Commando II aircraft above the Pacific Ocean during Exercise Westpac Rumrunner Jan. 10, 2020.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton
VIRIN: 200110-F-YJ424-1100

The Army has traditionally focused its efforts toward Europe, given that Russia is a land-based threat, the secretary noted. "Seven decades of partnership in Europe has set the conditions for strong militaries. And strong partners that are capable of countering threats from abroad," he added.

While efforts continue with U.S. allies and partners in Europe, the Army is much more than tanks and Bradleys, McCarthy said.

"We serve as the operational command and control, advise and assist, long-range precision fighters and the logistical backbone of our current and future military operations," he said, adding the Army, in essence, is engaging in warfare by other means. 

A soldier holds up a weapon while walking through a wooded area.
Military Moves
An Army paratrooper moves through a simulated objective during Rock Frost in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Dec. 7, 2019. The exercise helps soldiers build proficiency and readiness.
Photo By: Army Sgt. John Yountz
VIRIN: 191207-A-TO756-779C

It's been evident since World War II that the Army would need to operate on two fronts: in Europe and the Pacific. It's the Army on the ground, partnered with militaries, that has ensured continuous presence and shared equipment will enable military strength to overcome economic strangleholds, promote good global commons and offer an alternative to the adversary's narrative, he noted. 

In the new competition space, U.S. forces will require a change in behavior and patience, the secretary said.

Presence does not have to lead to conflict. If we wait until there's a conflict, we're already too late."
Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy

"We must be engaged in constant competition, versus the episodic engagement strategy," he said. 

The military has had a boxer's mentality to conflict — go in, use fast hands and deliver a devastating punch in the first round that's fast, lethal and gone, McCarthy said.

"Our approach to competition with potential adversaries, however, such as Russia [and] China will feel more like a soccer match than one round in the ring," he emphasized.

U.S., Indian soldiers train.
Rifle Demo
Army Staff Sgt. Martin Matteson, a team leader with C Troop, 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, provides an M4 carbine semi-automatic rifle demonstration during a weapons exchange at Ranikhet Cantonment, Uttarakhand, India, Sept. 19, 2014.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Mylinda DuRousseau
VIRIN: 140918-A-SF624-311

"Endurance, strong partnerships and patience will be a necessary mix. Presence does not have to lead to conflict. If we wait until there's a conflict, we're already too late," he said.

McCarthy said that now, during the "compete phase," the Army is refining its approach to improve U.S. strategic readiness. 

"We'll accomplish readiness through strengthening our partnerships and advising and assisting with our regionally aligned security force assistance brigades, which will deploy in fiscal year 2021," he said. 

McCarthy added that the military's multidomain task forces with deployments in fiscal years 2021 and 2022 will build partnerships.

The Army seeks to increase foreign military sales, international military education and training and more repetitions from multinational exercises, shared equipment, shared training, and shared understanding as the end state, he noted.

A group of military helicopters fly above the water with a coastline behind them.
Coastal Choppers
UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters fly above the Japanese coastline during a joint training exercise with Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force members to rehearse tactical flight operations at Camp Zama, Japan, Jan. 9, 2020.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Raquel Villalona
VIRIN: 200109-A-PI656-060A

"The Army is reinvigorating our presence and disposition in the Pacific," the secretary said. "History has shown the Army has always had a role in the Pacific."

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