Defense Department News

Army Secretary: Capabilities More Important Than Numbers of Soldiers

Nov. 17, 2016 | BY Jim Garamone

The Army needs to stop talking strictly about the numbers of its soldiers and focus on the capabilities the service needs, Army Secretary Eric Fanning said here today.

Fanning discussed Army capabilities with Wall Street Journal reporter Gordon Lubold during the Defense One Summit. The secretary said the Army needs to define what it needs for the future.

Army Secretary Eric Fanning, left, discusses Army capabilities with Wall Street Journal reporter Gordon Lubold at the Defense One Summit in Washington, D.C., Nov. 17, 2016. DoD photo by Jim Garamone
Army Secretary Eric Fanning, left, discusses Army capabilities with Wall Street Journal reporter Gordon Lubold at the Defense One Summit in Washington, D.C., Nov. 17, 2016. DoD photo by Jim Garamone
Army Secretary Eric Fanning, left, discusses Army capabilities with Wall Street Journal reporter Gordon Lubold at the Defense One Summit in Washington, D.C., Nov. 17, 2016. DoD photo by Jim Garamone
Army Secretary
Army Secretary Eric Fanning, left, discusses Army capabilities with Wall Street Journal reporter Gordon Lubold at the Defense One Summit in Washington, D.C., Nov. 17, 2016. DoD photo by Jim Garamone
Photo By: Jim Garamone
VIRIN: 161117-D-FN340-001

There are currently more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers posted overseas in more than 150 countries, Fanning said. The Army’s role in countering current threats, he said, has “stripped a lot of investment out of the future [and] even a lot of intellectual thinking about the future.”

Creative, Innovative Army Workforce

The Army has a lot of creativity and innovation in its military and civilian workforce, Fanning said, and they need to be empowered and funded to move the service forward.

Army special operations forces are incredibly lethal, but they have been worked hard over the past years, the Army secretary said. There is renewed discussion, he said, about the capabilities the Army requires to continue to accomplish its missions, now and into the future.

The Army is headed to a total of 450,000 active-duty troops, “but the number, by itself doesn’t really tell you a lot,” Fanning said. “There is a lot of analysis behind the number, but there is not precision behind this because it is all about risk.”

People need to get away from focusing simply on force structure and numbers, the Army secretary said.

“Whether the number is 450- or 480- or 520-[thousand], you could end up creating more imbalances because those people cost something,” he said. “We have to have the money to train and equip them. And then there is ‘the [logistics] tail’ -- and that goes to the future for a very long way -- you have to plan for modernization of a larger force.”

The mix of personnel, training and equipment equals capability, and there must be a balance, Fanning said.