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June 27, 2006

General Gordon Sullivan on Billpayers.

In the H&I post today, I discussed the upcoming budget crunches and ways they are going to be met, mostly, I predict, by mortgaging the future and the warfighters.

Here's a little insider email running around the opinion makers of the retired General Officer corps, from former Army Chief of Staff Gordon Sullivan.

Friends---I have been observing very carefully the ongoing saga regarding the approval of the Supplemental for 2006. What my analysis suggests to me is the signals for the future of our Army are not good. Oh, I know there are many in town who will tell you that it is too soon to tell how things will evolve but I see too many signals to conclude otherwise. Needless to say this bothers me because by any measurement the Army as an institution has accomplished every mission it has been assigned. Furthermore, the leadership has looked to the future in a very enlightened and programmatic way which suggests to me a forward look which is both imaginative and practical. Yet the near future funding profile is beginning to look and smell a lot like what we lived through in the early 90's when Army leaders were forced to dramatically reduce the size of the Army, increase mission responsiveness and attempt to move onto the information age while being told we were in a strategic pause and fiscal resources available to the DOD would be used to fund other programs which I feel are nice to have, but not required. Just my opinion.

Think about what our Army leaders and Soldiers have set in motion and are accomplishing:
+ Fighting /Nation Building- Iraq, Afghanistan, elsewhere
+Sustaining the force/Recruiting -Retention- Reset
+Resourcing the augmentation of the Southern Border/Expanding Homeland security missions
+ IGPBS- Integrated Global Presence /Basing Strategies {Come home from Europe /Asia - rotation to Eastern Europe}

I am starting to see signs indicative of a shifting of priorities in the funding steam without a change in strategy or requirements. Without appropriate fiscal resources, provided in a consistent stream, the Army cannot be expected to execute the national strategy and every other mission in as effective a manner as originally intended. This funding stream must flow for the next six years at least or the responsible parties must recast the National Defense Strategy as well as accept that all enabling programs are not feasible. Unless all appreciate the relationship of dollars to programs priorities will dictate tough choices and Army capabilities will diminish.

Part of my concern is that many opinion leaders in Congress and elsewhere believe that as long as the war goes on, their funding focus must be on current operations and not funding modernization programs like the Future Combat Systems, modularity and equipment reset so critical for active and reserve force readiness. Likewise, while all would applaud a successful outcome in Iraq and Afghanistan I fear that should hostilities end, the funding stream will end abruptly in order to recreate the illusion of a "peace dividend" instead of continuing funding for reset for at least two years as well as funding for the Army to refresh itself. In the coming days, I believe we must begin to speak out and let the public know that Army funding must be supported in the near term, but viewed in the long term during which multiple, high cost, long term missions of increasingly complexity such as those envisioned in the QDR and National Defense Strategy will continue.

Now when it should be only too obvious that our endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan must be supported it is becoming painfully and clearly obvious that some are taking their eye off the ball. For instance, we have seen dithering over supplemental funding critical to Army operations which must maintain a steady state. Additionally, I also detect an indication that weapons which were either killed or modified during QDR deliberations are somehow creeping back into the FYDEP planning process. This doesn't surprise any of you I am sure, but watch how the numbers dance. I have no access to POM fiscal guidance 08/13 but the way folks are hedging their bets is not a good sign.

I am no longer in a position of responsibility and am simply one of those proud to be a Soldier. As such I am concerned that in the heat of battle aka "LONG WAR" Army leaders will find themselves forced into making choices between today and tomorrow and unfortunately could wind up being forced to make decisions with negative long term impact. I understand the Army ethos and our oath and the primacy of mission just as I understand that the defense of America is a shared responsibility between elected, appointed and uniformed people as well as our citizens. I believe now is the time to accept facts as they are--we are in a fight which must be continued to a successful conclusion and we must be prepared to face unknown crises. We are about to see if the resources are available to those who are carrying the load on the ground, Army and Marines, are forth coming.

I hope I am wrong, but I fear I am not. It is time to watch things very closely and accept the fact we might soon be facing a serious strategy resource mismatch which will in turn stretch our magnificent Army to the breaking point .

Gordon Sullivan

I should note I'm not on General Sullivan's email list, and probably got this with at least six degrees of separation. (Note to Sir - feel free to add me, however!)