The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) will focus on “Building the Army of 2030” at its annual meeting, paying particular attention to recruiting, retaining and training; modernization; and moving toward 21st century technology.
“When you look at that, lieutenants coming in now – 40-plus years after I came in the Army – are on the same equipment,” said retired Gen. Robert Brooks Brown, AUSA’s president and CEO, noting that while the same, the versions have had upgrades over the years.
Those modernization goals also are evident in the U.S. response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, according to Brown.
“Right now, we’re looking very closely at the terrible aggression of Russia and what’s happening,” he said. “[We] look at so many lessons from that. The majority of them are proving modernization priorities exactly right.”
AUSA’s modernization efforts are focused on the following key areas:
- Long-range precision fires;
- Next-generation combat vehicle;
- Future vertical lift;
- Air and missile defense;
- Network and soldier lethality.
Of those, the most notable to Brown has been long-range precision fires.
“We’re seeing, holy smokes what a difference … That’s critical to what’s happening in Ukraine,” he said.
Brown also said he’s “positive” the Army is moving in the direction of “multi-domain operations.”
“And again, we’re seeing that in Ukraine play out in everything from drones to cyber impacts and everything else,” Brown said. “The multi-domain’s going to be key. It’s so much more complex than when I first came in the Army.”
In creating those priorities, Brown said, the Army “really led all the services.”
“It’s not easy to predict what the future’s going to look like,” Brown said. “We started to see more and more what was happening, while involved in two wars.”
At the same time, he said, Russia and China were “looking and learning” from the U.S. amid Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
“You can see where China’s influence used to be right off the coast, and now it extends thousands of miles,” Brown said.
It became clear, according to Brown, that the Army needed to modernize and that future conflicts will be combined and joint.
“No service is going to enjoy advantages like we did in the past,” he said. “No service alone. Because others have prepared for that.”
’Real challenges’ to recruitment
There are “some real challenges” in recruiting, according to Brown, partly because only 23% of the population between 18 and 25 years old is eligible to serve in the military. Hindrances to service include physical or weight limitations and drug usage.
Plus, the trend of military service in families has led to “a warrior class,” according to Brown.
“People will be like, ‘Well my son or daughter doesn’t need to serve because these folks are serving,’” Brown said. “[But it’s] such a good thing. The experience of service will help your whole life whether you stay in three years or 30.”
Unemployment rates and remote work also lend themselves to the challenge of recruitment, Brown said. However, he said it’s also important not to lower the quality of those in uniform.
“It’s better to have fewer folks in the Army and maintain the quality than to lower the quality,” Brown said.
Competitive compensation – one of AUSA’s priority goals – is “always a factor” where recruitment is concerned, Brown said.
“It’s amazing to have watched that over the years, where 20 years ago it was not competitive,” Brown said.
Other focus areas
Other recent focus areas for AUSA have been suicide and sexual assault/harassment prevention. Brown said he believes there has been “really good progress” on those fronts, though it’s never as much as one would like.
“It just breaks my heart when [a] soldier would have a problem and choose death by suicide before even seeking help,” Brown said, noting that suicide is a nationwide epidemic, not exclusive to the Armed Forces.
But the Army has instituted a “people first task force” as part of its effort to “reduce harmful behaviors,” Brown said. As a senior adviser on that task force, Brown said he has seen “tremendous progress and a huge focus into prevention.”
“The culture of all the military and our society has always been reaction … Once you see the problem, you react … The reality today is, it has to shift to where you’re trying to prevent,” Brown said.
Prevention work includes a cultural change that, while occurring, will take time, according to Brown.
In a first for AUSA’s annual meeting, junior leaders from across the Army – active, Guard and reserve – will participate in a Junior Leader Solarium.
“[The participants are] handpicked by their chain of command,” Brown said.
They’re given problems to solve, and key leaders in attendance at the annual meeting will talk with the junior leaders and sit in on some of the forums to learn from each other.
The defense industry also comes to the meeting with the “latest and greatest” technology.
“Every annual meeting I went to, I saw things I always wanted or things I didn’t even think about … and it’s really awesome to see all the capabilities,” Brown said.
Brown said they are expecting close to 40,000 attendees at the annual meeting, which will be held Oct. 10-12 in Washington, D.C.