The Army's ambitious modernization programs are at risk from budget haggling in Congress that allows enemies a leap-ahead advantage in preparing for the next fight, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Monday.
"Our adversaries are investing in tomorrow today, unconstrained by a continuing resolution and singularly focused on shifting the current balance of power," McCarthy said at the opening of the Association of the U.S. Army's annual convention in Washington, D.C.
McCarthy referred to the continuing resolution passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in September. The measure will keep defense spending at the 2019 level of $716 billion at least through Nov. 21 while debate continues over funding of the border wall, space programs and other issues.
Congress has been considering, and Trump has agreed to, a defense budget for fiscal 2020 in the range of $738 billion.
Currently, the nation's adversaries "are operating largely uncontested in space and cyberspace," McCarthy said.
While Congress debates, "Russia and China are investing billions to rapidly modernize their armies, increasing their weapon systems' lethality and thus eroding US overmatch," McCarthy said. "Right this minute, Iran is purchasing and testing weapons systems, from missiles to drones, threatening the surrounding shaky peace in the region."
McCarthy and the new Army leadership team, including Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph Martin and Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston all made their first appearances in their current roles at an AUSA convention focused heavily on technology innovation.
In his keynote, McCarthy said the Army needs an immediate infusion of added funding to maintain progress in innovation.
"We invest now or face the delta between capability and threat, in which our forces must close the distance at the cost of blood," he said.
Both McCarthy and McConville have pressed for 31 modernization programs to replace so-called "legacy systems."
The legacy systems "have served us well for the last 40 years," McCarthy said. But, he said, they will not meet the current challenge of achieving the delicate balance between being ready for current conflicts while preparing for future battlefields.
"Either you have a sense of urgency today, or a sense of regret tomorrow," McCarthy said.
McCarthy put emphasis on the Army's need to make better use of cloud computing technology, in a major shift in information-handling protocols that would allow the service to take advantage of "big data" and artificial intelligence tools while ensuring cyber security.
"The intent is to move the Army from the industrial-age processes to the information age of leveraging data as a strategic asset and utilizing private sector technology," McCarthy said.
The rapid movement of data when paired with artificial intelligence algorithms "reduces the time span of decisions from minutes down to seconds. And seconds in a firefight feels like an eternity," McCarthy said.
"Seamless access to data in the cloud is the foundation for the entire Army modernization effort," he said.
Through 2025, "we intend to invest over $700 million dollars" in cloud technology, McCarthy said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.