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Statement for the Record – Senate Armed Services Committee: Airland Subcommittee – 17 May 2017 LTG (R) John M. Bednarek

We recently shared Retired MG Robert Sclaes’ testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s AIRLAND Subcommittee regarding US Small Arms. He was joined that day by LTG (R) John M. Bednarek (USA). LTG Bednarek’s testimony is very much in line with what we see the Army actually doing. Considering he was the Chief of the Office of Security Cooperation (OSC) in Iraq when he retired, it makes sense he would have the Army’s pulse. LTG Bednarek has commanded Army echelons from Platoon to Division, and beyond. A career Infantry officer, he commanded 2/75 and the 25th ID. LTG Bednarek was an excellent choice to tell the SASC what is going on.

Mr Chairman:

Thanks to you and all the Members for the opportunity to provide a few insights on our Armed Forces small arms weapon systems. As stated, the purpose of today’s hearing is to discuss a current assessment of US military small arms requirements, our known threat environment, and to share thoughts on potential options to better equip our Infantry units with the most effective small arms available, including emerging technologies. From a broader perspective, this committee has a tremendous opportunity. That opportunity is to reinforce a higher priority in our DoD budget and procurement activities to directly influence the needed increased lethality across our Infantry formations.

Clearly one challenge is the delicate balance to improve our capability, increase our battlefield lethality, while watching our government costs. Our Nation’s ground forces, with their weapons and enablers, remain the most formidable ally on the planet. Our troops and their individual weapons, are a system of systems designed with one purpose: to close with and defeat our adversaries. They MUST be lethal.

Lethality is the primary factor that guides capability development for all our combat troops to fight and win in all operating environments. It’s all about readiness. It’s all about effects to kill the enemy. Our Services – and our collective energies – must continue to research, develop, and provide the very best capabilities available for the future fights we know will come.

We don’t want “near-peer competitors”. Our Nation expects our ground combat troops to be the best equipped force on earth. We want overmatch. I’m not looking for a fair fight anywhere.

The current M4 Carbine family of weapons has served our Army and Marine Infantry forces well for the past decade plus. Product improvements have provided our Soldiers and Marines the best available 5.56 caliber weapon available. I have trained with, and been in firefights with – the M4 Carbine across Iraq over the past 9 years. It has performed well.

However, as this Committee has heard, and multiple studies have shown, it is time to upgrade to a higher, more lethal caliber weapon system for our Infantry ground troops–regardless of Service or component. It’s time to modernize our Infantry weapon capabilities. It’s my opinion that our Service Chief’s fully recognize this – CSA GEN Mark Milley & CMC Bob Neller – and they are
moving out to get what they need.

I’d to highlight three key factors for the Committee’s consideration and assessment:

At the start of our current named operations (OIF / OEF, etc), we were shooting enemy combatants wearing T-shirts and baggy pants – a LOT of them. They’re still wearing T-shirts and baggy pants, but now with near level II & III body armor. Our capability to eliminate this threat at medium to long range distance is almost one. We must have small arms systems that can stop and penetrate this increased enemy protection.

All our Service Chiefs, especially GEN Mark Milley, are on public record on the current challenges and excessive bureaucracy in our current DoD processes. While I’m not a procurement nor contracting expert, I do not want to look another Soldier in the eyes and tell him or her that our leaders have not provided them the best weapon system available because it’s tied up in acquisition masking tape. A 5-7 year acquisition cycle to procure weapons and equipment that our warfighters needed yesterday is unconscionable.

While the discussion today is principally focused on small arms weapons, we must remember that our Services strategic approach that gives US combat forces the decisive edge is the holistic systems approach. It is NOT just our weapons. It’s not just a higher caliber bullet, caseless or polymer munitions. It’s about the “system”. It is our “human dimension”.

The training and leader development we provide our Infantry Soldiers (and others) that make them the best close combat formations on the planet. It’s the term of “Mission Command”. Trust and decentralization – the fact that we train our small units to operate without specific instructions and then trust them to execute based on commander’s intent.

This approach includes our Soldiers and Marines fighting together as teams. It includes sights, optics, embedded laser range finders, night vision, radios to communicate with fellow troops to
provide over-watching fires. It’s about supporting capabilities of mortars, artillery, helicopter gun-ships, close air support, USAF fighter aircraft. It’s about training our combined arms teams that gives us the overmatch.

Sustained emphasis on this “systems approach” to our military capability must not be overlooked.

Ongoing Service Actions:
Current and future capabilities include continuing the “pure-fleeting” the Total Force with our current M4A1 carbine. Recent purchases of the new SIG SAUER pistol (modular system) starts fielding with the 101st AASLT DIV in several months.

U.S. Special Operations Command, in coordination with the U.S. Marine Corps, is looking into sources for a brand new lightweight machine gun from defense contractors, one that can bridge the gap in distance and lethality between the 7.62-mm light machine gun and the .50 caliber M2.

Other activities include:
a. Squad Designated Marksman Rifle (SDM).
We must have increased caliber weapon systems in our baseline formations. The Army is buying a variant of the Heckler and Koch 417, 7.62 mm Rifle to be fielded as a SDM Rifle. Each Brigade Combat Team (BCT) rifle squad will be provided with a SDM Rifle to increase reach and lethality. Since this is a modified “COTS” commercial solution, fielding begins in 18 months.

b. Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR). (Editor’s note: He is referring to what USSOCOM calls the Advanced Sniper Rifle. The Army’s name for the program is PSR which may cause some confusion.)
The PSR will replace the M110, M107, and M2010 Sniper rifles and provide increased range and lethality against individual targets and light vehicles. This rifle will give our snipers the punch and reach that they have in the .50 sniper rifle in a much lighter package. Army-wide fielding is scheduled to start in FY20.

c. M3 Carl Gustaf 84mm Recoilless Rifle.
The Carl Gustaf is currently being fielded to Army Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCT) Rifle platoons to provide increased capability. The M3/M3E1 enables rifle platoons to engage area targets with a manual air-bursting capability and point targets. Light armor targets can also be engaged. Lightweight Carl Gustaf fielding begins in FY20.

d. Next Generation Soldier Weapons (NGSW).
The NGSW family of small arms will replace current squad (rifle/carbine, squad automatic weapon, and sub-compact) weapons. Production is slated to start in FY23. Informed by the Small Arms Ammunition Caliber Study (final report is expected this month ), the NGSW will provide the increased range and lethality to maintain overmatch.

e. Small Arms Fire Control (SA-FC).
SA-FC is under development for Precision (sniper) rifles, Crew Served weapons, and Squad/Individual weapons. SA-FC will provide a modular integrated set of systems (including determination of range, meteorological data, target acquisition, ballistic solution and display of adjusted aiming point) that when combined will increase the probability of hit and decrease the time to engage target sets. These solutions will leverage equivalent Family of Weapon Sights to provide day, night, and obscured battlefield environments capability. (Examples include the M901 (sic) 7.62 rifle, interchangeable upper receiver conversion kits; .338 Norma Magnum machine gun; etc)

We must not wait to react to current or future threats. We must continue to leverage our wide and diverse intelligence activities and study our potential adversaries to gain and maintain Soldier equipment – including improved small arms – superiority.

Former Chief, Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq (2013-2015)

14 Responses to “Statement for the Record – Senate Armed Services Committee: Airland Subcommittee – 17 May 2017 LTG (R) John M. Bednarek”

  1. some other joe says:

    LTG Bednarek was also the commander of BDE Modernization Command at Ft Bliss circa 2012 and was involved in standing up the recurring Network Integration Exercise. Just adding this to give some context to his perspective, especially compared to MG Scales.

  2. Kirk says:

    Dear God, what the hell are we doing that leaves nearly all of our leadership sounding like they’re the callers for a game of “Buzzword Bingo”?

    There are some good points in this, stuff I agree with, but… Man. How about some plain English, without all the jargon? This isn’t something that’s going before a bunch of your peers, this is testimony before Congress, and the eventual audience is the general public. Do these guys not understand how a lot of this language is going to be seen as sheerest BS by the majority of the audience?

    That closing paragraph, for God’s sake… “We must not wait to react to current or future threats. We must continue to leverage our wide and diverse intelligence activities and study our potential adversaries to gain and maintain Soldier equipment – including improved small arms – superiority.”

    How about “We need to maintain an eye on what the rest of the world is doing with their small arms, and stay ahead of them.”?

    Army Writing Program my ass. It’s been implemented more like the Army Obfuscation Program–And, this is a really good example of what I was talking about the other day, when I said that the O-corps has a hell of a problem communicating with the enlisted side, and vice-versa. I once did a position paper for my bosses in two different formats–One, in plain English that my privates could understand and easily comprehend, and the other in what I’d term “Buzzlish”. Guess which one my boss said was written properly?

    I don’t know how the hell we’re doing it, or where it’s happening, but we are somehow producing a whole lot of officer cadre that can’t speak or write plainly and intelligibly to the rest of us, and who can’t effectively process information that isn’t written in their strange little dialect.

    • SSD says:

      The average American will never see this. In fact, few SSD readers would have if I hadn’t shared it.

      The SASC and HASC, or more specifically the staffers, are used to seeing this type of stuff. It’s how they talk at the Pentagon and not that big of a deal.

      • Kirk says:

        Mmm. I think we’ll need to agree to disagree about how “big a deal” things like this are.

        The inability to write in clear, lucid prose is an indicator that you’re cloaking poor argument and bad logic in an ink cloud of obfuscation and outright bullshit. These guys write their commander’s intents and operations orders with the same language, and it is telling to watch how well those work out when exposed to the real world. The guys that write and “communicate” like this are the ones to watch out for, in my experience as a senior NCO, because they’re usually just as incoherent in their actions and policies as they are in their writing.

        I’m not saying I’m some flippin’ genius, either–There’s a reason I never went for a commission myself, and that was that I had no interest in that sort of job, and am pretty much aware of my own limitations in regard to my capacity for such things. But, after working around that sort of walking, talking bullshittery for most of a career, I can identify it at 30 paces, and I know it when I hear it. You want an example of a really great commander who could write clearly? Grant. Eisenhower. Rommel–Although, I’ve only read him in translation. Germans I know laud his clarity, in the original German, however.

        You can’t communicate clearly, you likely can’t think clearly, and your actions are going to be similarly flawed when out in the real world. When your officers can’t express themselves with clarity and simplicity, you’ve got a damn problem in your service. Jargon and cant have a place; that place is not in testimony before Congress, unless you’re trying to hide shit, and then we have another issue to worry about…

        • SSD says:

          There’s a reason SSD is written the way it is. It’s the same way I would share intelligence information with my consumers. For the most part, short, sweet and to the point.

        • Dev says:

          Don’t get wrapped around the axles so much how stuff is written… The important bit is how all this gets translated from intent into effort.

          • Kirk says:

            Ever wonder how little things like the M60 having a so-called “quick-change” barrel that included ancillary parts like the front sight and the gas system happened?

            That crap comes straight out of the way the institution did their thinking about the issue, and that itself was influenced by the language they used to do their thinking and discussion.

            Contrast the M60 “quick-change” barrel system with the German MG42, for example–For the Germans, that quick-change barrel was just that, the barrel alone. And, they did some interesting stuff with that, in that every single MG42 barrel was interchangeable with every other one. It didn’t matter–They were all headspaced the same. So, unlike the M60, where you had to keep careful track of the barrels that were the proper headspace, the MG42 was a true “quick-change interchangeable barrel”. They had gun teams that carried as many as five or six barrels, routinely, and were able to put out enough fire with that system that they were able to rival the equivalent Allied water-cooled guns, which was an incredible achievement.

            But, because we’d poorly defined the term “quick-change barrel”, along with a bunch of other crap dealing with that gun system, we saddled ourselves with a real POS gun system, over the long haul.

            And, it all went back to the language used in the original solicitation/design requirements.

            Language is the tool of thought; be clear and concise with it, and your thinking will likewise be clear and concise. Poor language use leads to poor thinking and communication, which leads to poor performance.

        • ‘If you can’t explain it to a six year old you don’t understand it yourself’- Albert Einstein. I agree with this statement and endeavor to teach in this manner in my classes and explain the item at hand in my videos. A true master of his craft takes complex topics and makes them simple to understand.

          • Kirk says:

            I like the old standby: “If your concept of operations can’t be explained in five minutes at two in the morning to guys who’ve been up for three days straight, using only the back of an MRE box as a chalkboard… It probably ain’t gonna work out too well during the execution phase.”.

  3. Providence 6 says:

    Is there anywhere to find the video of SASC and HASC, nothing on YouTube yet. Does congress publish them somewhere?

  4. Ranger Rick says:

    Pardon my ignorance, but why do the following basically off the shelf items require 18 – 36 months to procure, is it a production issue?

    Squad Designated Marksman Rifle (SDM). Since this is a modified “COTS” commercial solution, fielding begins in 18 months.

    M3 Carl Gustaf 84mm Recoilless Rifle. Lightweight Carl Gustaf fielding begins in FY20.

    • Dev says:

      I think this involves “A-Z”, from the publishing and amendment of training literature, weapons systems ancillaries, spares and other miscellaneous kit that goes with the long-term fielding of a weapons system.

    • some other joe says:

      Lightweight Chuck G, aka M4 recoiless rifle, isn’t a COTS item. It is the next generation of the M3 family using new materials for construction. If I’m replacing the steel tube with something else, I kind of want enough time to make sure the new stuff will contain an explosion I intentionally set off literally right next to my head.