By C. Todd Lopez
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (March 18, 2016) -- Readiness is the Army's No. 1 priority say both the Army's chief of staff and acting secretary -- and "there is no other No. 1." But if there's a front runner for the No. 2 priority, at least for the acting secretary, it would have to be the Army's Soldier for Life Program, and the commitment the Army has to prepare for civilian life those who have volunteered to serve in uniform.
Soldier for Life Patrick J. Murphy, who took the helm last year as under secretary of the Army, but who now also serves as acting secretary as well, said March 17 that for the $125 billion Americans will be asked to spend next fiscal year for the Army, they will get more than national security and peace of mind.
"I get pretty ticked off when I see in the media, time and time again, that our veterans are treated like they are charity cases," he said. "They are not ... veterans on average make $10k more than their civilian counterparts. Veterans are more likely to be employed. Veterans are more likely to vote in elections. They are more likely to coach little league."
After leaving the Army, he said, Soldiers bring with them to their civilian communities the principles they learned in uniform, including loyalty, duty, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
"What we do in our Army and our military makes these young Americans -- whether they get out at age 21/22, or 52, or 62 -- civic assets that are a treasure to our society," he said.
The Army's Soldier for Life program furthers the idea that Soldiers continue to serve after their time in uniform as ambassadors for the Army. "They want to continue to serve," he said "And we need to ask them to continue to serve ... we need them to be our ambassadors; we need them to go into our career centers, our recruitment centers, to go talk about what it was like."
A larger aspect of the SFL program touches Soldiers before they leave the Army, helping them better prepare for employment outside the Army after they serve.
Murphy said for the Army, readiness means units that are fully manned, trained in their combat tasks, fully equipped, and led by competent leaders. That readiness, he said, will win wars, if need be. It will also be a key aspect of preventing wars as well -- because a ready force deters aggressive action of would-be aggressors.
"I'd rather be proactive than reactive" he said. "We are reminded with alarming frequency that great power conflicts are not dead. They manifest themselves today on a regional basis. Both Russia and China are challenging America's willingness and ability to enforce international standards of conduct. But a ready Army provides America the strength to deter such actions."
Readiness makes future training less costly, he said, and also prepares the Army for transformation.
"Our Army must be prepared and willing to face the high-end advanced combat power of Russia, or more likely, Russian capability employed by surrogate actors," he said. "We are dedicating resources to develop solutions for this and future possibilities to allow our force the space to develop new concepts or those suggested by the National Commission on the Future of the Army."
As the under secretary of the Army, Murphy also serves as the service's chief management officer. He said another way for the Army to achieve readiness is to ensure it is spending the money it gets from the Congress as wisely as possible. That means, he said, complying with a congressional mandate to be auditable -- something the Army has yet to comply with.
"Every federal agency has to be auditable. We're the only ones, the DOD and the services -- that are not. That is unacceptable," he said. "Our board of directors -- the Congress of the United States of America -- has been very clear. We need to become auditable by next fiscal year. We need to get after it this year."
Murphy said the benefits of being auditable include allowing the Army to better know how it spends money, so that it can find places to save money -- and then direct those resources toward better preparing Soldiers for conflict.
"Efforts like this will make our Army more efficient, investing fewer dollars to accomplish the same outcomes -- it will also make us a more effective Army by freeing up more dollars to invest in readiness," he said. "We have to make every dollar count. Our Soldiers and our nation depend on it."