Army Chief of Staff Discusses Challenges, Priorities for Upcoming Fiscal Year

February 18, 2021 by Reece Nations
Joint Chiefs of Staff Tank Photo (Dec. 11, 2020) Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos Vazquez II Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

WASHINGTON — Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville shared updates and laid out the branch’s priorities in a virtual webinar discussion hosted by The Heritage Foundation on Wednesday. 

During the forum, McConville said the Army’s primary upfront investments will be people-focused and geared toward both reserve-and-active-component soldiers. National Guard and Reserve components are as intrinsic to the Army as active-duty personnel, he said. 

“I take a look at our Army and — really for the last 19 years, we’ve been heavily engaged in combat, specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan,” McConville said. “We’ve asked a lot of our people and when I say people, I’m not talking just about soldiers.” 

Last year presented a set of unprecedented challenges in terms of recruiting, he said. Fortunately, the Army had record levels of retainment during this span of time and consequently has made significant strides in virtual recruitment in tandem with traditional methods. 

McConville added that the Department of the Army’s civilian workforce works tirelessly for the branch’s betterment, as do its retirees and veterans. By fortifying itself from the ground up, the Army remains competitive globally and focused on readiness. 

“When I look at it, I believe we get the people right,” McConville said. “We get the right people in the right place, and we get rid of those corrosives that affect our people, whether sexual harassment, sexual assault, whether it’s racism or extremism.” 

This forward-thinking approach is also reflected in the Army’s cooperative ventures with the private military industry, he said. In the past, determining equipment requirements would impede the necessary competition and acquisition phases of military contracts. 

Now, McConville said the Army is able to approach the private sector manufacturers with only basic characteristics for a piece of equipment or technology and will rapidly end up with immense input. From there, they proceed to the design phase and prototyping, allowing the branch to expeditiously improve its capabilities. 

“We’ve moved from an industrial age acquisition process to a much more 21st-century process that we’re working very well with industry,” McConville said. “We’re starting to get systems fielded in three, four or five years, which in the past was a 15-year program.” 

The Army is also working to improve its mid-range and long-range capabilities alongside its efforts in cyber threat intelligence and cyberwarfare, he said. As modernization efforts unfold within the Army’s operations, programs like the Multi-Domain Task Force will move to the forefront of the branch’s administrative focus. 

The Army’s MDTF program is mainly concentrated on thwarting enemies’ anti-access/area-denial capabilities specifically in the Indo-Pacific region. The Army MDTF encompasses long-range precision effects and fires, and intelligence operations, McConville said. 

“Those assets have the ability to penetrate, if required, an adversaries’ anti-access/area-denial capabilities,” he said. “And through that you get deterrence.” 

Due to the sensitive nature of the Army’s upcoming fiscal year 2022 budget submission, McConville was not at liberty to discuss its specifics. However, he said the Army has its main priorities understood: people, readiness and modernization. 

Further, McConville said the branch is “taking a hard look” at balancing readiness and modernization aspirations while preserving its strength. In McConville’s position, he has to review all the data and determine what the Army can ultimately afford. 

“But we’re going to every single area and taking a look at where we can find the money to modernize them, I believe we absolutely must do that,” McConville said. “At the same time, the end strength we have is what we need to keep and we’ve got to make sure that every one of those soldiers that we send into harm’s way is trained. So, we’ve got to maintain readiness also.” 

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