As outlined in the February 2012 U.S. Army Posture Statement, over the nation’s past decade at war, the U.S. Army “has proven – on and off the battlefield – that [it is] the premier warfighting force in the world.” Evidence of that status over the previous year ranged from the successful conclusion of U.S. combat operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn to the presence of more than 65,000 soldiers in Afghanistan conducting combat operations and transferring security responsibilities to the Afghan National Security Forces.
The joint foreword to the Posture Statement noted that in early 2012 “over 192,000 American soldiers remain committed to their missions while forward deployed in about 150 countries around the world. Our Army – Active, Guard, Reserve and civilian – has demonstrated its versatility by supporting homeland defense while conducting a wide range of operations, including counterinsurgency, stability operations, regular and irregular warfare, counterterrorism, building partner capacity, and providing humanitarian assistance at home and abroad.”
After highlighting the “remarkable courage” and “mental and physical fortitude” that has been demonstrated by the 1.1 million soldiers who have deployed to combat over the past decade, the statement outlined a future in which “the uncertainty and complexity of the global security environment demands vigilance.”
“In these challenging economic times, America’s Army will join Department of Defense efforts to maximize efficiency by identifying and eliminating redundant, obsolete or unnecessary programs, responsibly reducing end-strength and by evolving our global posture to meet future security challenges,” it reads. “We know, as President [Barack] Obama has repeatedly said, that a strong economy is vital to our national security.”
Senior service leadership goes on to identify the primary roles of the United States Army as preventing conflict, helping to shape the international environment, and being prepared to win in a decisive and dominant fashion in war – emphasizing that this must be accomplished in both land and cyberspace domains.
The statement injects an element of caution that the smaller Army will be driven by future national defense priorities. Noting the historical patterns of “drawing down too fast,” the paper emphasizes the criticality of an Army able “to rapidly expand to meet large unexpected contingencies.” It identifies four key elements of that ability as: maintaining a strong cadre of noncommissioned and mid-grade commissioned officers; making significant investments in Army special operations forces; ready and accessible Army National Guard and Army Reserve forces; and the United States industrial base.
Building on that organizational foundation, in early 2012 Army leadership identified a number of critical modernization areas and programs for the coming year, including: the Network (also known as LandWarNet); Ground Combat Vehicle; Joint Light Tactical Vehicle; and soldier systems.
While it must be recognized that the economic realities noted above – and potential programmatic decisions stemming from those realities – could prompt significant changes in one or more of these service efforts, each major modernization area witnessed significant activities and milestones during the past 12 months.
The network, for example, reflects one of the remaining tenets from the Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) program. While the majority of the individual hardware elements of FCS were victims of that program’s cancellation, the recognition of the network as the critical foundation for Army modernization stands as perhaps its greatest legacy.