While automakers and other industries are good at streamlining their processes to incorporate the latest technologies and roll out new models in a relatively short time to stay ahead of the competition, the Army traditionally has been slow to identify and field new capabilities, Acting Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy said.
McCarthy spoke at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies Center on Military and Political Power in Washington [Aug. 20].
From writing requirements to testing and fielding new systems traditionally takes the Army upwards of 20 years, McCarthy said, so Army leaders have made a business decision to completely revamp the service's structure to roll out high-priority weapon systems faster and at affordable prices more in line with the way industry does it.
Driving this decision is the great power competition with Russia and China, he said.
The Army did three things to streamline the process and make better buying decisions, he said:
-- Identified the six highest priorities needed for fighting near-peer or peer competitors: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, the network, air and missile defense and soldier lethality. The bulk of the Army's science and technology budget is now being directed to 31 systems that will support those six priorities, McCarthy said.
-- To fund those six priorities, the Army divested legacy systems and cut back on others. "We truncated the buys on 93 programs and terminated 93 others. We made some very big, hard choices," he said, citing examples of winding down purchases of Bradley fighting vehicles and Chinook helicopters to save funding for a next-generation combat vehicle and a future vertical-lift aircraft.
-- The Army made its biggest organizational structure change in nearly half a century, standing up Army Futures Command, which reached full operational capacity July 31.
Army Futures Command is about "bringing all the stakeholders together for unity of command and effort to reduce the timespan it takes to make informed decisions," McCarthy said.
The new organization fuses futures and concepts, combat development and works closely with the acquisition community, he explained, noting that previously, these were all separate entities.
The command is located in Austin, Texas, not on a military installation, so Army personnel can interact with industry and academia to better inform requirements and keep abreast of new technology, McCarthy said.
Congress and others will be watching to see how successful Army Futures Command will be in the coming years, he said. There will be successes and there will be failures, he added, and researchers and developers will learn from the latter.
Success will be measured in how quickly the command can get needed capabilities in the hands of warfighters, McCarthy said. "Field testing will be rigorous, followed by low-rate initial production testing in units at larger scale," he promised.
For more information, visit:
• Army Futures Command
• Army Research Lab
• Army News Service