Change is the key to winning in the future, and Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Troy E. Black wants to accelerate change in the United States military.
Black, who most recently served as Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, assumed responsibility from SEAC Ramón “CZ” Colón-López during a ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, today. The SEAC is the highest-ranking enlisted person in the U.S. armed forces and advises the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense.
Times have changed and the U.S. military not only needs to change with the times, but anticipate those changes, Black said in an interview. After 20 years of specializing in counterterrorism operations, the U.S. military faces adversaries of different capabilities and strengths. They also present the will and desire to overturn the rules-based international order that has preserved great power peace since the end of World War II.
The National Defense Strategy calls China America’s pacing threat. Russia, with its invasion of neighboring Ukraine, also is a major problem. The U.S. military must change to deter these possible threats and if deterrence fails, to win against these enemies.
“We spent the last … 20 years … in regional conflicts with the potential to spread trans-regionally,” he said. “Now we really are in that space where we’re trying to use the whole-of-government approach. Obviously, we are hyper-focused on the military piece on what happens if there is horizontal escalation and protracted warfare.”
He said the Russian invasion of Ukraine is an example of all-domain warfare that the United States must prepare for.
Black makes the point that no one on active duty today has ever fought in a great power war. World War II was the last whole-of-government effort and the United States fielded a military force of more than 12 million combatants. The U.S. Marine Corps, alone, fielded 660,000. There was rationing in the civilian population and all industry and raw materials were turned to war production and keeping those service members in the fight.
The U.S. military is the most professional and deadly force in the world today. “If we have to go to war, I hope today is the day,” he said. “Because we will defeat anybody: Today.”
DOD needs to be able to focus on threats today, but also be ready for the future. “How do you maintain that primacy,” he asked. “That we don’t want a fair fight is now a cliché. But it is true. We want people chasing us, we don’t want to chase them in military capabilities.”
This is why accelerating change is so important. The U.S. military is changing, but the military is still largely equipped to fight a counterinsurgency fight, he said. “We’re transitioning, but what does that look like? And what will it look like a decade from now?” he asked.
Changing the equipment is one thing. Using new technologies is another key. So is studying the strategy, doctrine and training needed to field these capabilities.
Black is the first SEAC to have served as a service senior enlisted leader. “The roles and responsibilities of the SEAC are the same, but with a different balance,” he said. “As a service senior enlisted, “the organize, train and equip,” Title 10 authorities took roughly 80 percent of my time.”
He said the service chief, though, is also a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and “you get a very solid global operational, strategic and often right down to the tactical level. That’s unique,” he said. “I think the challenge coming from the service on the operational side, is we have much breadth, but not much depth. I’ve got to build depth of understanding. That’s where I find myself spending most of my time thus far into the turnover.”