Secretary of the Army praises Fort Gordon in first visit

Secretary of the Army praises Fort Gordon in first visit

By Damon Cline – Augusta Chronicle

The Army’s top official visited Fort Gordon for the first time Thursday. And he liked what he saw.

“I’ve had a fantastic visit,” Secretary of the Army Mark Esper said during a media briefing. “I’ve learned a good deal and am excited about what I see, and am taking a lot back to Washington with me. I’m sure I’ll be back at some point, but for me, it was a fantastic first visit.”

The 55-year-old West Point graduate and former corporate executive, who received confirmation in November, has been on a mission to modernize the Army, bringing its decades-old combat systems into the 21st century. Fort Gordon, which is home to the Army Cyber Center of Excellence and soon-to-be home of Army Cyber Command, is well ahead of the curve.

“Fort Gordon, and the cyber mission in particular, is already on the cutting edge,” he said.

Esper served with the 101st Airborne Division during the Gulf War and later commanded an airborne rifle company in Europe. Following active duty he served as a National Guard reservist in both Virginia and the District of Columbia before retiring in 2007. He spent seven years as vice president for governmental relations at Raytheon Co.

Esper said he would expect the arrival of Army Cyber Command in 2020 to boost the region’s military-contractor industry.

“Depending on what business you’re in in the private sector, you tend to look to where the government is going,” he said. “Clearly, for the Army, this is our cyber center of excellence. If you have an interest in that business, if you are a vendor, if you have a technology … I think there are a lot of opportunities.”

The Army’s newest command, Futures Command, will be central to the Army’s modernization efforts and keeping Fort Gordon’s electronic warriors stocked with the latest technology. The location for the command, which would be tasked with developing new weapons platforms, such as robots, could be announced before the end of the month.

“We will now have a commander who will be able to take those ideas, those cutting edge technologies, whether they are from traditional defense industry or from non-traditional defense industry – which is where a good deal of these technologies come from in the first place – and really provide that to our cyber warriors at a much better price on a much quicker timeline,” he said.

Aside from making the Army a more nimble force, Esper said he wants to continue making it family-friendly.

“Being an Army spouse is the toughest job in the Army,” he said. “Being a child of a service-member is very demanding; it’s not an easy life, but it’s one of great opportunity. So we’re taking great care in that. We like to say we recruit a solider but retain a family.”