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G-8: Army must show taxpayers value, especially in recession

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Oct. 29, 2009) -- During the current economic downturn, the Army must show both Congress and the American taxpayer that it is getting value for every dollar it receives, said the Army's outgoing G-8.

Lt. Gen. Stephen M. Speakes, the Army's deputy chief of staff for programs, offered insight into budgets, modernization and programming during his last media roundtable Oct. 27.

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Speakes has served as an Army officer for 35 years, on the G-8 staff since August 2004, and as the Army's G-8 since December 2006. His last day at the Pentagon is Nov. 2, and he officially retires Jan. 1.

As G-8, he has been responsible for integrating Army funding, fielding, and equipping actions. He's had oversight of the Center for Army Analysis, the Army Quadrennial Defense Review Office, Program Analysis & Evaluation, and Force Development.

The outgoing general said he doesn't expect any large budget increases for the Army, as it has had in past years. But he also said the character of the American people would prevent there from being any decrease in support for Soldiers.

"We may not have much growth, but we better not have decline. The American public is just too responsible for that," he said, saying that continued investment in the military is a "shared American value."

Future modernization and growth programs, Speakes said, come with trade-offs, meaning that for each new program the Army wants to develop, it must consider what else might have to be cut back or eliminated.

"There is no free ride for any program," Speaks said, saying that now, the military, the Army, is in "zero-sum analysis," where any new programs could mean another program has to be made more efficient or eliminated.

During his tenure as the Army's G-8, Speakes witnessed the cancellation of a large portion of the Army's modernization program -- the manned ground vehicle component of Future Combat Systems. The remainder of FCS programs were spun into Army Brigade Combat Team Modernization. But Speakes said the cancellation of that program was both a low point for him, and an opportunity for the Army to shine as it recovered from the cancellation.

"I think the feeling that your ultimate boss did not believe your system was contributing was a tough realization," he said of the cancellation of the program in Spring of 2009. But the Army's efforts following that cancellation, he said, are a proud moment.

The Army and the DoD together "have made a remarkable effort to develop a unified vision for what the right kind of modernization ought to be, and we are now moving in a direction that will get us the legitimacy we will so desperately need for systems and capabilities that are going to be of enormous value for this Army of persistent engagement and conflict," Speakes said.

Two lessons drawn from FCS, Speakes said, are that programs must have a direct link to benefiting Soldiers, and they must deliver on a timeline to benefit Soldiers now.

"The very first issue is, can you show a direct relationship between the capability you are talking about and a figurative Soldier in combat," Speakes said. "If you can't draw a direct relationship between that Soldier you are thinking about and the capability -- you lose."

Secondly, Speakes said, delivery time for new programs must be quick enough to benefit those who need it now.

"If we can master that, then we are going to get support and buy in," Speakes said. "The days of talking about -- at least when we are in war -- 'I've got a vision for the force in 2030,' is irrelevant. And we were actually doing that. In today's war, if you're not talking about capabilities in 12-24 months, you're dead -- your program does not survive."

The Army is developing a new ground vehicle, the Ground Combat Vehicle, that will fill the capability gap the FCS MGV was meant to fill. It is expected to be delivered in five to seven years, Speakes said. And while specific designs of the vehicle are yet unclear, he did say two things are driving its development: mobility and protection.

"Today's battlefield is 360, top and bottom and side and rear," he said. "This new platform has to be configured for this 360-degree threat."

When Speakes retires next month, he leaves behind in the Army two sons who currently serve as officers. One recently redeployed, and one is currently serving in Iraq. Maj. Gen Robert P. Lennox, director, Quadrennial Defense Review, G-8, will serve as the new G-8.

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