The fundamental objective of the U.S. Army is to engage in sustained ground combat campaigns to successfully defend our nation’s people and Constitution against aggressive enemies foreign and domestic.
It’s a violent and potentially deadly mission, but one our fighting forces have prevailed over adversaries with formidable force since the first musket volleys of the American Revolution. Warfare scholars will agree to maintain dominance on the battlefield in order to ultimately regain peace and security, continual innovation in technology, tactics and training is necessary.
In their 2019 Army Posture Statement presented to Congress last March, Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley updated the House Armed Services Committee of Congress on the Army’s on-going three-point strategy to build and better position our fighting force to prevail not only over foes of today, but in preparation for those that might emerge in the future as well.
When stepping up as Army Chief of Staff in August 2015, Gen. Milley said “readiness is the No. 1 priority and there is no other No. 1” for the Army.
The goal, he explained, is to have 66 percent of regular Army and 33 percent of National Guard and Army Reserve units standing at the highest level of combat readiness. Army leaders estimate that combat-deployable readiness no stands somewhere around 40 percent. From September 2016 to December 2018, the report read, the Army increased the deployability across all units by nearly 11 percent.
As the Army leans forward in building its force-readiness, Fort Knox continues to offer untapped training capacity that should be better used. Among a long list of attributes, having more than 100,000 acres of training land, state-of-the-art ground and 360-degree river live-fire ranges, four aircraft runways and central proximity to two-thirds of our nation’s population makes Fort Knox an asset gem for the Army and Department of Defense.
To this end, U.S. Reps. Andy Barr and Brett Guthrie co-sponsored an amendment to transfer and redirect $6 million in defense-wide appropriation funds to specific training missions for the First Army Division East to take place on post at Fort Knox.
Adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives and now in the Senate, the training these dollars would support would be targeted toward National Guard and Army Reserve units to improve their deployment readiness.
Providing Guardsmen and reserve soldiers combat scenario training, including the degree of hands-on live fire weapons training Fort Knox’s ranges provides is key to their ability to quickly get up-to-speed when their units are deployed. Further, the complete gunnery and maneuverability requirement training for armor, artillery and mechanized units Fort Knox provides is second to none.
Lawmakers in the Senate should pass this amended bill. Doing so will meet help move the Army a step closer in meeting its goal of readiness improvement. That the money is already budgeted in the Department of Defense spending bill ensures no additional impact on taxpayers to better position Guard and Army Reserve fighting forces with improved training.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.