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The Path Forward: Modernizing the U.S. Army with Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville

Gen. James C. McConville, Army Chief of Staff joins Washington Post Live on Monday, April 12 (Video: The Washington Post)

Gen. James C. McConville, the chief of staff of the U.S. Army, is working to transform the service with the speed, range and convergence of cutting-edge technologies needed for future decision dominance and overmatch required to win the next fight. As the U.S. develops its strategy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the Army is also redefining its role in deterring aggression around the world in this era of great power competition. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius talks with McConville about modernization efforts and other top priorities.

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Discussing the United States’ conflict in Afghanistan, Army Chief of Staff James C. McConville said, “Many of these conflicts are going to continue until we get the appropriate political solution. One of the big takeaways is just how important security provided by the country it is.[…] There’s much, much more work that’s going to need to be done in Afghanistan, and we’ve given the Afghans a start in doing that, and it’s going to end with some type of political agreement.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville spoke in April 2021 about U.S. troops and veterans allegedly linked to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. (Video: Washington Post Live)
On disputes between branches of the military, Army Chief of Staff James C. McConville said, “All the chiefs have talked about this, we’re working together[…]We’re trying to find options to combatant commanders, so things they can use. You know, there’s sea-based, air-based, and there’s also ground based capabilities that give that combatant commander multiple options, but also present multiple dilemmas to someone we’re trying to compete against.[…] So, there’ll be different perspectives, there’ll be different opinions, sometimes, people say certain things, but in the Army and at the chief level, we’re not going down that road. We’re really trying to work together.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
Army Chief of Staff James C. McConville outlined the Army’s modernization efforts, including training soldiers with augmented reality and incorporating new combat technology. “We’re using augmented and virtual reality to train our soldiers very differently. We have six modernization priorities[…] from long-range precision fires to next-generation combat vehicles to future vertical lift to a network that ties everyone together to air missile defense and soldier lethality.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
Asked what equipment and systems the Army would give up to make way for new technology and military strategies, General McConville says, “I keep coming back to the speed of the systems that we need, the range of the systems we need, and this concept of convergence where we bring together the sensors and shooters that are out there[…] What we have to do is make sure we’re not keeping systems just for systems sake.[…] The reason we’re bring on new long-range precision fire is because we want that speed, we want that range. The reason we’re bringing on a next-generation combat vehicle[…] is because that’s going to change how we operate with systems.” (Video: Washington Post Live)

Gen. James C. McConville

Gen. James C. McConville assumes duties as the 40th chief of staff of the U.S. Army, Aug. 9, 2019, after most recently serving as the 36th Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army.

He is a native of Quincy, Massachusetts, and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. He holds a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and was a National Security Fellow at Harvard University in 2002.

McConville’s command assignments include commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), where he also served as the commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force-101, Operation Enduring Freedom; deputy commanding general (Support) of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), where he also served as the deputy commanding general (Support) of Combined Joint Task Force-101, Operation Enduring Freedom, commander of 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Operation Iraqi Freedom; commander of 2nd Squadron, 17th Calvary Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault); and commander of C Troop, 2nd Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division (Light).

His key staff assignments include the U.S. Army deputy chief of staff, G-1; chief of Legislative Liaison; executive officer to the vice chief of staff of the Army; G-3 for 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault); J5 strategic planner for U.S. Special Operations Command; S-3 for 25th Combat Aviation Brigade; S-3 for 5th Squadron, 9th Cavalry; and S-3 for Flight Concepts Division.

McConville is a senior Army aviator qualified in the AH-64D Longbow Apache, OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, AH-6, AH-1 Cobra and other aircraft. His awards and decorations include two Distinguished Service Medals, three Legions of Merit, three Bronze Star Medals, two Defense Meritorious Service Medals, three Meritorious Service Medals, two Air Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, two Army Commendation Medals, four Army Achievement Medals, the Combat Action Badge, the Expert Infantryman’s Badge, the Master Army Aviator Badge, the Air Assault Badge, the Parachutist Badge, and the Army Staff Identification Badge.

McConville and his wife, Maria, have three children serving in the military.