The Department of Defense should have a forward-thinking mindset when it comes to setting requirements for equipment and training under its current financial constraints, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va) said during a recent discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Tuesday.
The challenges are changing, he said, and DoD needs a reset to prepare its soldiers for a broader set of missions, which means resetting requirements.
“People have extraordinary experience, but in a very narrow range of operation. I can guarantee you that the challenges they face in the future will not be exactly like what they have faced in Iraq and Afghanistan. So the question is how do you make sure you train to develop that capability?” Wittman said.
To properly equip and prepare forces, Wittman said DoD must take a step back and look at the “soldier as a system” and ensure military personnel are prepared on individual, squad and brigade levels.
“How do we become visionary enough to look at what future challenges may hold to make sure that the soldier is capable of meeting that challenge and that there is enough flexibility within the force, as far as capability, to say, ‘Okay, we can adapt to what we may be facing in the future.’ That adaptability, flexibility, and then sustainability, I think, is going to be critical for future force structure,” Wittman said.
He also said DoD and Congress must recognize how budget cuts effect military readiness and the risks involved.
“We understand the budget challenge, but we understand, too, that there is that constitutional responsibility in Article I, Section 8 about providing for the national defense. I want to make sure everyone understands that and what it means and what the risks are,” Wittman said, “The risks of not having a properly postured and resourced force are this: When we ask our men and women to go into harm’s way, there will be greater casualties.”
When it comes to funding, Wittman said DoD’s working with a dual budget — the base budget along with the Overseas Contingency Operations budget-causes policy issues, which disrupts already difficult financial decisions. “We have to begin to get OCO into the base budget so we can make those tough decisions we have going forward.”
As for compensation and benefits for military personnel, Wittman said DoD must be careful to not walk away from commitments to the men and women in uniform. He said any changes to compensation and benefits would have to be for future generations. Even so, he said altering benefits could badly effect recruitment and retention and “we don’t want to move away from the skilled and capable force.”
Wittman said he sees many opportunities for dealing with financial struggles. He also said he wants to keep the conversation going between Congress and service leaders in order to be able to meet the challenges facing DoD.
“The way that we make sure we avoid poor decision-making is to have discussions like we had today, to makes sure that we lay all the options on the table so that members of Congress are more informed and more educated about the challenges that we face. How do we properly resource those challenges and how do we make sure we have the proper structure in our systems-in our force-to meet those challenges,” Whittman said.