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Event Summary

On Thursday, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper joined AEI’s Jim Talent for a conversation about modernization and the larger Army renaissance.

During his remarks, Secretary Esper emphasized breaking with the “tyranny of the consensus” and encouraged those with competing ideas to voice their opinions. He described how Army leadership is scrupulously examining every program, cutting or condensing those that are no longer relevant. In addition, the Army is decreasing superfluous mandatory requirements and empowering innovative junior leaders by consolidating authority at lower levels of command.

The Army is set to grow modestly, until reaching at least 500,000 personnel in 2028. This steady growth will allow for effective implementation of multidomain operations doctrine, the Army’s new guiding concept. Army Futures Command enables efficient decision-making and cooperation with industry to get technologies to the field. Should funding decrease, Secretary Esper underlined his commitment to maintaining consistent modernization priorities.

In closing, the secretary addressed the importance of building a culture within the Army and Army families of taking care of each other. He spoke about the need for leaders to spend time getting to know their soldiers and making personnel policies more amenable to family life.

— Sara Morrell

Event Description

A renaissance is underway inside the United States Army, ushering in some of the most dramatic reforms since the 1970s in talent management, design of the force, and modernization. The “war” for talent is a growing priority as the Army seeks to bring aboard and train leaders capable of maintaining a competitive advantage against peer competitors and future enemies. Army leadership is also working to establish new concepts of operation that will better equip the force with relevant capabilities and equipment.

Please join AEI and former Sen. Jim Talent for a conversation with Mark Esper, the 23rd secretary of the Army, on the hoped-for Army renaissance.

Join the conversation on social media with @AEI on Twitter and Facebook.


9:00 AM

9:15 AM
Jim Talent, AEI

9:20 AM

Mark Esper, Secretary of the Army
Jim Talent, AEI

9:55 AM

10:15 AM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Charlotte Kearney at [email protected], 202.862.5904.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829

Speaker Biographies

Mark T. Esper is the 23rd secretary of the United States Army. As secretary, he has statutory responsibility for all matters relating to the US Army. Before becoming secretary in 2017, he was vice president for government relations at the Raytheon Company for seven years. From 2008 to 2010, he served concurrently as executive vice president for the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center and vice president for Europe and Eurasian affairs. From 2006 to 2007, he served as chief operating officer and executive vice president of defense and international affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association. On Capitol Hill, he served as national security adviser for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), policy director for the House Armed Services Committee, staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations and Government Affairs Committees, and legislative director and senior policy adviser to Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE). Secretary Esper’s Pentagon experience includes serving as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for negotiations policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and a war planner on the Army staff. He was also a chief of staff of the Heritage Foundation and taught at Missouri State University’s Department of Defense and Strategic Studies program. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1986 and received his commission in the Infantry. After completing Ranger and Pathfinder training, he served on active duty for over a decade, including service in the Gulf War with the 101st Airborne Division. He later commanded an airborne rifle company in Europe. Following active duty, he served in Virginia’s and DC’s National Guards and Army Reserves before retiring in 2007. Secretary Esper holds a master’s of public administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a Ph.D. in public policy from The George Washington University. He has received the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the Legion of Merit and Bronze Star Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal and Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), and the Combat Infantryman Badge, among other awards.

Jim Talent is concurrently a visiting senior fellow at AEI and a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, where he specializes in defense and national security issues. Sen. Talent has been active in public policy for the past 30 years, including representing Missouri in both the US Senate and US House of Representatives. While serving in the US Senate, he was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Seapower for four years. He formed a special congressional panel in his freshman year in the House to address the decline in military readiness. In addition to his focus on national security, Sen. Talent was also a leading voice on welfare issues throughout his congressional career. As a freshman member in the House, he introduced the Real Welfare Reform Act of 1994, which became the basis for the bipartisan reforms enacted as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. As a senator, he introduced the Compassion and Personal Responsibility Act of 2003 to build on the success of the 1996 welfare reform package. Sen. Talent has a B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.

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