Story by Edward Lopez on 12/14/2018Although recent funding for the Department of the Army has been good, future funding levels are uncertain, which means the Army has to establish firm priorities while it has the opportunity, Secretary of the Army Mark T. Ester told employees at Picatinny Arsenal during a visit on Oct. 26.
"We've had three good years of funding and I think we have to use this time well," said Esper, who used the comparison of fixing a roof when the sun is shining.
"I want to do everything I can now, to position the Army, to get AFC (Army Futures Command) stood up, to get the CFTs (cross functional teams) working, to give you all the money in S&T (science and technology) to do what you need to do," Esper said. If budget levels should fall "those priority programs will get the money first."
Early in his talk, Esper extended praise and thanks to U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.
"I feel very privileged to be joined today by someone who you all know well, somebody who has represented you in Congress for many, many years, who has done an exceptional job," Esper said.
"His focus on Capitol Hill was always taking care of our Soldiers, taking care of our veterans, and making sure our nation was protected."
Frelinghuysen, whose 11th Congressional District includes Picatinny Arsenal, announced earlier this year that he would not seek reelection.
"It's been an honor for me, the last 24 years, to represent, to look after, the great work here at Picatinny Arsenal," Frelinghuysen said to the appreciative audience.
During his visit, Esper was briefed on projects and technologies at Picatinny, which is the Joint Center of Excellence for Guns and Ammunition, providing products and services to all branches of the U.S. military.
VISION FOR THE FUTURE
"Great things are happening in the Army these days, wonderful things," Esper said. "We have a vision, we have modernization priorities that we are sticking to. We have made big changes to allocate money to ensure we can fund those priorities. We're working hard with Congress. Congress has been fantastic to get us now three good years of funding, and this year on time."
While Esper expressed satisfaction with current funding, he also noted the importance of the people who help to shape the future of Army capabilities.
"But it's due to folks like you, hard-working DA (Department of the Army) civilians who are putting a lot of muscle and brainpower behind our S&T (science and technology) enterprise. So I'm very excited about where we're going."
LEVERAGING PICATINNY'S EXPERTISE
The Army Secretary also noted the contributions that Picatinny Arsenal has made over the years and the role it is expected to play in developing military capabilities.
"Thank you for what you do, thank you for Picatinny. You guys have a wonderful history, a rich history."
As Secretary of the Army, Esper has statutory responsibility for all matters relating to the U.S. Army, to include the recruitment, organization, training, equipping, and care of 1.4 million active duty, National Guard, Reserve Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and their families.
Esper is a 1986 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and received his commission in the Infantry.
Upon completion of Ranger and Pathfinder training, he served in the Regular Army for over a decade, including service in the 1990-1991 Gulf War with the 101st Airborne Division.
He later commanded an airborne rifle company in Europe.
Following active duty, he served in both the Virginia and District of Columbia National Guard, and Army Reserve before retiring in 2007.
Esper was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Nov. 15, 2017, and sworn in as the 23rd Secretary of the U.S. Army on Nov. 20, 2017.