Excerpted by SPC Michelle Helms and Lisa Alley
Beginning with the example of 86th Signal Battalion, which is providing theater-wide communications in East Timor, Army vice chief of staff GEN John Keane outlined communications for the Army of tomorrow. "We must provide our leaders with a wide variety of opportunities to deal with crises that we face on a continual basis," said Keane in the Signal symposiums keynote speech, expounding on the conferences theme (support to the commanders in chief). "Soldiers are transforming the most respected Army in the world into a strategically responsive force.
"The world has truly changed dramatically. We believe the technology is here. We will build the force around future combat systems. Were working on that effort right now. Well make the [research and development] decisions on the objective force by 2003. Well field the force no later than 2012, but [GEN Eric Shinseki, the Armys chief of staff] wants it to move faster. We need to give our Army full-spectrum capability so that (anyone in the force) can operate across the spectrum.
"We need to be able to operationally deploy a force at distance at sea and in the field in ways that we cant do today. We cant wait until 2012; we must move now to make a change. To do so, [Shinseki] has devised three major initiatives. One is to accelerate systems that are needed now. Number two is to move off-the-shelf technology that will convert heavy and light brigades into interim brigades while we wait. Number three is to divest and restructure systems to accommodate the transformation of our force.
"Before you even conduct any type of exercises in a military operation, there are two things you must get right: communications and logistics. They are the foundation for what you do. These systems are critical to our future as a fully integrated member of the joint team.
"The digitization of our Army remains a priority. Well field the first digitized division in the year 2000 and digitized corps in the year 2004."
Keane said one brigade per division would begin to convert to interim brigades, beginning at Fort Lewis, Wash. Keane said the Army chose Fort Lewis since it has both heavy and light brigades there. "Expect some heavy forces around until 2020, although the rest of the Army will be transformed," he said.
"We also will reduce our logistical footprint no more stockpiles," Keane said.
Another Army initiative is to man the combat divisions at 100 percent to keep up with the operations tempo. "Weve had 45 operations in a decade," he said. "We dont intend to break [Army Materiel Command] and [Training and Doctrine Command] to do this, however."
And the Signal Regiment of the future that Keane sees is more of the same: "world-class experts, first in, last out."
Keane is an infantry officer who has commanded at every level, from company to corps, and has experience in all types of infantry: airborne, air assault, light and mechanized. Prior to his current job, he spent the last 20 years in command and staff assignments in support of operations and joint forces.
SPC Helms is a staff writer for The Signal, the post newspaper on Fort Gordon, Ga. Ms. Alley edits Army Communicator.
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