-- In The News --
Published: 17 October 2014
WASHINGTON — After two days of US Army top leadership extolling the virtues of putting US boots on the ground across Asia-Pacific to train and advise allies, both old and new, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday suggested a new Army mission at the annual AUSA convention: a coastal defense force.
In a speech to a military and industry audience that mostly shied away from program specifics, the secretary suggested the Army should try and “broaden its role by leveraging its current suite of long-range precision-guided missiles, rockets, artillery and air defense systems.”
Hagel said these capabilities “would provide multiple benefits, such as hardening the defenses of US installations; enabling greater mobility of Navy Aegis destroyers and other joint force assets; and helping ensure the free flow of commerce.”
He also insisted that “this concept is worthy of consideration going forward” and that “such a mission is not as foreign to the Army as it might seem — after the War of 1812, the Army was tasked with America’s coastal defense for over 100 years.”
Transitioning back to the service’s comfort zone, the secretary bemoaned the budget cuts that have landed on the federal government, saying that due to reductions to the Pentagon’s top line budget Army readiness levels have fallen “short of what I believe is sufficient to defend our nation and our allies with minimum risk.”
Despite this dim view of readiness, 12 out of 37 brigade combat teams are still trained to the “highest levels of readiness,” he said, a marked increase from last year’s event when Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno claimed that only one brigade was at the highest level of readiness.
There’s been a vigorous debate both within the Army and among the think tanks that orbit the Pentagon waving white papers and strategy documents about which lessons the service should take from 13 years of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And while the Army is keeping the counterinsurgency doctrine alive in its schoolhouses even as it transitions back to training for full-spectrum operations, Hagel said that “we cannot forget what we’ve learned about counterterrorism, counterinsurgency and building partner capacity. We must retain those skills. At the same time, our soldiers must also be ready for full-spectrum operations.”
To underscore that point, he secretary said that he’s heading to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, next month