6) Refine the Army Culture. The Warrior Ethos and Army Values remain spot on. The evolution of two armies -- the (hooah) operating force and the (wimpy) generating force -- does not. NCOs and officers are not "taking a knee" when they serve in TRADOC, the Pentagon, or study their profession. Two big wars over ten years have gutted the respectability of service outside of the line (not to mention military intellectualism) by heroically valuing "gunfighters" above those serving in the rest of the force. Education today simply does not matter in the Army's "down range" culture. Plenty of well-meaning generals have fueled this disastrous corrosion. Restoring professional thinking, writing, education and developmental assignments to the forefront of what it means to be a Thinking Warrior has to start now. Civilian grad school, mandatory career-long resident education, and developmental tours for NCOs and all grades of officers are a must. (See also: Reconnect the Army to Society). War is a thinking man's -- or woman's -- business.
7) Re-connect the Army to Society. ROTC to Ivy Leagues. Ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Post-deployment speaking tours for company commanders. Visits to University presidents and faculty. East Coast/West Coast speaking engagements and editorial boards for (smart) Army generals. Jon Stewart. Just who is this Army that the nation has had out there at the edge of the universe fighting for the last ten years? Who knew? And inside the force -- regaining a sense of humility that can disappear when too many view military service as a calling for "the best of the best" and often increasingly view the rest of their countrymen with disdain. Today's Army -- including its leadership -- lives in a bubble separate from society. Not only does it reside in remote fortresses -- the world's most exclusive gated communities-- but in a world apart from the cultural, intellectual and even geographic spheres that define the kaleidoscopic United States. This splendid military isolation -- set in the midst of a largely adoring nation -- risks fostering a closed culture of superiority and aloofness. This must change if the Army is to remain in, of, and with the ever-diverse peoples of the United States.
8) Embrace Austerity and Challenge Requirements. Setting aside for a moment the "fixed" costs of personnel, Army discretionary acquisition burns through more money than a thief with a stolen credit card. In the near future, less money in the Army's kitty means less stuff -- and raises the necessity of getting the right stuff, the first time. The Army (hold your breath) has squandered well over $10 billion on cancelled and broken programs over the last ten years: Crusader, Comanche, Future Combat System, Non- Line-of-Sight missile, and Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter to name a few. The latest "must-have" is the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) -- unfortunately with a lot of the same ol', same ol' optics. Requirement #1: gotta have a full 9-man squad dismount. But not so for the last 30 years -- the Bradley only dismounts six, and the Army fought two big wars in the Mideast (1991, 2003) with Bradleys. Dismounting nine men will add 20-30-40 percent more cost, weight, size, propulsion, suspension and armor. Is that really a "requirement?" The coming New Austerity will demand rolling back ten years of bad buying habits from almost every corner of the Army -- from buying $100 camelbacks for every recruit in basic training to allowing pie-in-the-sky requirements generation by nearly every schoolhouse. What do you really need? And how do you get every leader to squeeze value out of the taxpayers' dollars like they were their own paycheck? (They are). Make Austerity a Virtue.
9) Flatten Out and Power Down. Shades of the 1970s and pop-culture "re-engineering the corporation!" Unfortunately, what the Army learned in its post-Vietnam renaissance period from its bright lights like Walt Ulmer and Don Starry was lost in the last ten years of war. The Army has more three-star (and two-star) headquarters today than it had on 9/11. Yet a careful scrub will reveal that despite being in a decade long two-theater conflict, just about none of those bureaucratic dinosaurs have anything to do with fighting the war. A the 4-star level, do you really need both a TRADOC and a FORSCOM? Could they be flattened (along with their countless junior 2- and 3-star HQs) and merged? Recent years of ever-growing budgets and burgeoning personnel rolls -- uniformed, DA civilians, and contractors, contractors, contractors -- have swollen the Army bureaucracy to staggering levels. Defense Secretary Gates' worry about "Brass creep" is right on target -- too often in today's force (and especially in the Pentagon), BG's do Colonels' and LTCs' work, while Colonels try to be Majors. This not only reflects too many officers at too high a level, but deeply corrodes the motivation and sense of accomplishment of more junior leaders. Fewer Generals could actually help relieve this problem by pushing more responsibility downward. But a garrison-based force of micromanagers could also make this worse -- and might be simply intolerable to a generation of young leaders who have been given great responsibilities at an early age in combat, only to see them revoked when returning to home station. And if "home station" now lasts for an entire career, how many of the best will stay? Can the Army break from its traditional post-war return to a top-down system of centralized control, over-supervision, and bureaucratic inertia?
10) Improve Resilience. Army Chief Creighton Abrams often said: "People aren't in the Army--people are the Army." In some ways more so than the other three services, people are what the Army revolves around -- not technology, not weapons systems nor a fixation on the demands of a unique domain such as air, sea or space. Taking care of the people who are the Army -- Soldiers, civilians, families -- worn by ten years at war will demand much time and energy in coming years. Growing out of the current wars into a new, less certain future cannot mean that those who bore the scars of today's battles get left behind. A stronger Army commitment both to its veterans and to those remaining on active duty who will carry lifelong burdens from these wars will be an important part of the next Chief's job. And this responsibility and relationship to the Army should not abruptly end once Soldiers take off their uniform.
So there it is! A daunting list -- but one that both Dempsey as Chief and the U.S. Army are up to. Dempsey and his sidekicks must find and encourage leaders at all levels who can understand, embrace and execute the changes that will be needed -- and get those leaders into the jobs where they can help lead this new mission. This Army is at a strategic inflection point -- success in the next war may well rest on how it manages this wrenching transition. This job is not about "housekeeping," and not about patching together an Army after a war -- it is about leading change going forward into difficult and austere times. It will require listening to the force, questioning basic assumptions, and leading by personal commitment with vigor, smarts and humor. Dempsey must avoid the temptation to simply look back and try a re-do of the nineties drawdown -- this is a different world, and different Army. His leadership tenure will shape an entire generation of this new U.S. Army -- and the Army is most fortunate to have this Irish ballad singer stepping up to its helm as it navigates these rough waters.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.