|By Staff Sgt. Jack Siemieniec, Army News Service
- "Chief, are you really going to a wheeled tank?"
That's the one question Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki said he gets asked
everywhere he goes these days, talking about his vision for the Army of the new century.
Shinseki took the opportunity to answer it while speaking to about 300 servicemembers
at the Reserve Officers Association Mid-Winter Conference.
"My response is, the Vision Statement is three-and-a-half pages long. You have to
read the whole statement. No fair reading one sentence," he said.
The actual sentence in the Army Vision Statement reads, "We are prepared to move
to an all-wheel formation as soon as technology permits."
This one sentence set off a firestorm of discussion from Pentagon snack bars to
installations around the world where the Army's M-1 Abrams Main Battle Tank and Bradley
Infantry Fighting Vehicle rule the day.
It is part of a larger statement that Shinseki and Army Secretary Louis Caldera made
public last October. Shinseki said the statement is an attempt to answer how the Army will
meet its responsibilities to the nation in the next century.
"The thing you hear most about is transformation. But if you go back to the Vision
Statement ... it talked about several things.
"First of all, it said that this Army was a strategic instrument of national
policy and (it talks about) fighting and winning our nation's wars and to do that we would
stay trained and ready every day," Shinseki said.
The general added that the Army was about people and that soldiers enable America to
fulfill its leadership responsibilities in the world.
"Soldiers, not tanks, not airplanes, soldiers," he said.
Shinseki said he thought the most talked about portion of the statement was the
transformation because it deals with organizations and equipment.
He also said the goal for the Army is being able to deploy a warfighting brigade
anywhere in the world within 96 hours, a division within 120 hours and five divisions
anywhere in the world within 30 days.
To meet this timetable, he and his planners are exploring ways to cut the lift
requirements - the amount of air and sea assets needed to transport the force.
He said he doesn't know if the wheeled tank will ever come to be. However, he does know
that the M-1, designed for the Cold War, challenges the Army to transport it everywhere
the Army goes.
The Army has a "bifurcated force" today, the general said. The heavy
divisions were designed for the Cold War, but can't go everywhere. Whereas the light
forces don't have the lethality or survivability to be put into the middle of a war.
The challenge, he said, is to design a new combat system with the M-1 and Bradley's
survivability and lethality, but with the deployability of light forces.
He said science and technology may hold the answer, but that answer could be four or
five years away.
"The chief after me will get to decide what that future combat vehicle will look
like. But I can tell you that if it's another 70-ton tank, the chief in 2015 will have the
same problem that I have today.
"That is, a spate of missions that will require you to go to places into which a
70-ton tank is not the most ideal vehicle," the general said.
Interim brigades, currently being assembled, will use off-the-shelf, not newly
designed, equipment to contribute to joint requirement to provide ground force
capabilities short of war, Shinseki said. These units will buy the time needed to develop
and create the objective force of the future.
"Transformation is about science and technology investments today for the
objective force. It's about recapitalization (training and equipment) of the current
force, and it's about investment in an interim capability to fill the gap," he said.
During his remarks, Shinseki also explained his reasoning for advancing the Vision so
quickly into his tour as Army Chief of Staff. He assumed his position in June 1999.
A main factor for his prompt action on the Vision was the upcoming Defense Quadrennial
Review in January 2001.
"If the Army was going to set the debate about 'Why an Army?', 'Why this Army?',
'What should this Army be prepared to do for the nation in the next century?' We had to
get the message out early," Shinseki said.
"So, could we have waited a year? Yes. Would the Vision Statement have been
better? Probably. But it would have been irrelevant. No one would have heard it,"
Shinseki said. "The message would have been more difficult to deliver. And the
willingness to participate in a debate about national security at that point would be lost
in the national campaign for this year's election."