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An Army of robots: U.S. general says that wave is on the way

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The U.S. Army is rapidly moving toward development of a more agile and quicker deploying force – and that includes the replacement of up to 1,000 infantry soldiers with robots and other unmanned technological devices, said Gen. Robert Cone, at a recent military symposium in Virginia.

Defense News reported that Gen. Cone, head of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, said, "I've got clear guidance to think about what if you could robotically perform some of the tasks in terms of maneuverability, in terms of the future of the force."

He also said at the Army Aviation Symposium in Arlington that he also has "clear guidance to rethink" the traditional size of the infantry squad, currently at nine.

The general then said that more unmanned ground vehicles are on the way, Defense News reported. He also said that while the Army was pursuing a goal of shrinking its soldier count from 540,000 to 490,000 by 2014, and to 420,000 by 2019, an even smaller force could still prove successful – and his staff was currently forming an advisory panel to see how that could be accomplished.

With more technological advances, Gen. Cone said that "3,000 is probably enough to get by," Defense News reported. "When you see the success, frankly, that the Navy has had in terms of lowering the numbers of people on ships, are there functions in the brigade that we could automate — robots or manned/unmanned teaming — and lower the number of people that are involved given the fact that people are our major cost?"

Another top military official, Lt. Gen. Keith Walker, had previously spoken to Defense News of a similar technological advance in Army manpower. In an interview earlier this month, Gen. Walker referred to the "deep future" and said "we'll need to fundamentally change the nature of the force, and that would require a breakthrough in science and technology." He put that "deep future" date around 2030 or 204.

Gen. Walker didn't reference robots – but did speak of "tooth-to-tail" ratios, in reference to the number of soldiers who work in support roles versus those on the front line.

He said in a Jan. 6 interview with Defense News: "Right now our force is roughly two-third tooth and one-third tail, so as we decrease the size of the Army you may end up reducing one-third tooth and two-third tail, but what if you could slide that fulcrum? Maybe it's one-half to one-half. The point is you get to keep more tooth, more folks that actually conduct operations on the ground and less supporting structure."

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