WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today questioned Secretary of the Army Mark Esper and General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army regarding the Army’s FY2019 budget submission given the accelerated modernization of Russia and China’s militaries and the modernization efforts of the United States military as outlined in the National Defense Strategy [NDS].
“Over the past two decades, for a whole lot of reasons, the U.S. military hasn’t been able to match the rapid pace of Russian and Chinese military modernization,” Sen. Cruz said. “Both nations are reaching parity in some areas once dominated by the United States, such as field artillery, reactive armor, air defense artillery, electronic warfare, and anti-tank guided munitions. Furthermore, the training and professionalism of the Russian and Chinese militaries have seen steady improvements as well. This is why the recently released National Defense Strategy (NDS) explicitly directs the U.S. military to prioritize the threats emanating from Russia and China. The NDS will have far-reaching implications for how the U.S. military trains, equips, and postures its forces. Each of the Services will play a significant role in the implementation of the NDS, which requires new and innovative ways of conducting joint operations.”
Watch Sen. Cruz’s line of questioning here. A full transcript is below:
Sen. Cruz: “Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, General, welcome, thank you for your service. Secretary Esper, the capability gap separating the United States and its competitors in Russia and China has reached a troubling inflection point. Over the past two decades, for a whole lot of reasons, the U.S. military hasn’t been able to match the rapid pace of Russian and Chinese military modernization. Both nations are reaching parity in some areas once dominated by the United States, such as field artillery, reactive armor, air defense artillery, electronic warfare, and anti-tank guided munitions. Furthermore, the training and professionalism of the Russian and Chinese militaries have seen steady improvements as well. This’s why the recently released National Defense Strategy (NDS) explicitly directs the U.S. military to prioritize the threats emanating from Russia and China. The NDS will have far-reaching implications for how the U.S. military trains, equips, and postures its forces. Each of the Services will play a significant role in the implementation of the NDS, which requires new and innovative ways of conducting joint operations. In light of the NDS, what does the Army see today as its primary mission?”
Secretary Esper: “Our primary mission is to deploy, fight, and win the Nation’s wars Senator. And as the National Defense Strategy outlined in this great era of great power competition, our focus is on high intensity near-peer threats, possibly Russia and China, or namely Russia and China, so that is our core focuses. In addition to that the NDS outlines the need to of course protect the homeland, the need to preserve irregular warfare as a core competency, but those two strategic competitors are our primary focus.”
Sen. Cruz: “How is the Army prioritizing the threats posed by Russia and China? Both in the context of weapon procurement but also transitioning the mindset of our Soldiers from a Global War on Terror to a more expeditionary posture?
Secretary Esper: “We have moved to focus on high intensity conflict in our home station training and our training centers, particularly our National Training Center. When I was there in November visiting the First Cavalry was going through the training they were actually facing scenarios that the Ukrainians saw in Eastern Ukraine against the Russians: high intensity, use of drones, etc., so training is one. With regard to material, as we’ve outlined today, there are six modernization priorities that we think if fully exploited will ensure our overmatch in the out years, so that’s the second part of it. And again, we must, as the chief spoke eloquently on earlier, continue to develop our leaders to make sure they are prepared for the future battlefield and train the soldiers as well so they can fight along the entire spectrum of conflict which well may mean that they don’t have access to communications, electronics, etc.”
Sen. Cruz: “I am also concerned about the modernization of our Armored Brigade Combat Teams such as those at Fort Hood and Fort Bliss in Texas. Technology such as Active Protection Systems and reactive armor have failed to keep pace with where Russia is currently. I understand that the Army has started fielding systems like Trophy before deploying to Europe. What is the status incorporating APS systems like Trophy on our armored vehicles such as the Bradley or the Stryker?”
Secretary Esper: “Senator you are correct we are outfitting some Armored Brigades with Active Protection Systems. We are looking at the same with regard to Bradleys and Stryker. But there are other things going on as well. We are upgrading the Abrams Tanks. The budget we see in ’18 and ’19 will allow us to accelerate the upgrade of five ABCTS from ten years to five years. And of course we’re pursuing other ways to improve the survivability and lethality of these systems.”
Sen. Cruz: “Additionally, how are you working to ensure that all of our armored formations incorporate technologies such as APS, FLIR, and other off the shelf technologies needed to keep pace with the threats that exist today?”
Secretary Esper: “I would say, and I would defer to the chief here as well, this is one of the areas the school houses are looking at requirements for the future fight, certainly across functional teams to make sure we are incorporating whatever technologies are available to do that. Certainly with regard to communications, we have pivoted now to looking a lot more commercial, off the shelf technology that we could ruggedize. I’ve seen that already with regard to how we are outfitting the Stryker and Infantry Brigade Combat Teams and it’s the only way we’re actually going to be keep up with the changing pace of technology in the communications sphere.”
Sen. Cruz: “General, anything to add on that?”
General Milley: “In the seconds remaining I would just tell you we are actively upgrading our Bradley and Abrams formations. But as I mentioned in a previous question, the Bradley and the Abrams came into service when I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. They have served the nation extraordinary well, but they are fundamentally at the end of their lifespan. We’ll probably get max another 10 maybe 15 years out of these vehicles. We have maxed out their weight, the technological upgrades that we can do. So hence, the modernization program of a next generation combat vehicle. But we are aggressively upgrading Abrams and Bradley, and Stryker in all of our formations throughout the Army. I’m very confident that those weapons systems will continue to serve us well, even against a Russia or China in the near term. Because, armies don’t go to war. Nations go to war. And armies don’t win wars, nations win wars. And we go as part of a joint force. So it’s not just the Army. It is the Army, with the Marines, the Navy, the Air Force, the CIA, and so on and so forth. It’s the synergistic effect of all that combat power in time and space against the opponent, whether it’s China or Russia – no matter what the country. That’s what brings victory or defeat. We do know that decision in war happens on the ground. We know that, because that’s the wars part of politics, people live on the ground and so on. So it’s important. The Army’s contribution to that piece is critically important. That we have a decisive conventional capability that can conduct campaigns over extended periods of time, to do combined arms maneuver and defeat the armies of the opponent and then to take control of the land mass from the enemy army. That’s the fundamental task of any army. And that’s our task as well. We’re confident in our current capabilities, we’re confident in our current systems relative to Russia, China, or anyone else for that matter. But we are keenly aware of the modernization programs of both Russia and China right now, and we are keenly aware that we need to shift gears rapidly into the modernization in order to make sure that we don’t have parity or that they don’t close the gap or cross the gap. We want a military across the board to be unbelievably lethal and unbelievably dominant so that no nation will ever challenge the United States militarily. That’s what we want.”
Sen. Cruz: “Thank you gentlemen.”