Army leaders are putting the future firmly in their crosshairs as they aim to overhaul and modernize the service, including the process for developing and procuring high technology. But will the emphasis on the future be enough to save the Army from a history of bureaucracy and red tape that has marred rapid acquisition?
Across the Army and the broader Department of Defense, efforts to reform the acquisition process are under way, from the creation of new teams and task forces dedicated to improving oversight and streamlining the process in the Army to the upcoming split in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. AT&L on Feb. will split into two undersecretaries of Research and Engineering and Acquisition and Sustainment.
In the Army, officials are making plans to overhaul everything from missile defense to IT and networks, and the changes involve the highest echelons of the service and impact all the way down the chain of command.
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“Our failure to modernize as quickly as possible will most likely exacerbate the significant risks the total Army now faces. This makes reform of our industrial-age acquisition system a strategic imperative,” Army Secretary Mark Esper told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 7.
Officials are hedging their bets on the forthcoming Army Futures Command, announced in October as Army Modernization Command and expected to launch around the summer of 2018. The new command will have eight cross-functional teams, and a key goal is to reduce the requirements development process from 60 months to 12, Esper said.
“This requires Army leadership to be directly involved in making tough choices to divest inefficiencies and reinvest in priorities, which we are committed to doing,” he noted in prepared remarks.
The Army is emphasizing technology in this acquisition overhaul and new command launch, including by aligning 80 percent of science and technology funding toward six core modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, the network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.
Additionally, Esper said the reviews the Army conducted to decide what science and technology efforts should be divested are complete and have enabled the service to shift $1.1 billion in funding toward priorities, according to C4ISRNET sister publication Defense News.
“We’re in a completely different technology space today than we were in the ’80s. Then, the information age was kind of on the horizon, but now it’s upon us,” Maj. Gen. William Hix, Army director of strategy, plans and policy in the office of the deputy chief of staff (G-3/5/7), said Dec. 6 in Washington, according to FCW.
“We’re not saying, ‘How are going to necessarily execute the current system better’ — we are working at that — but we’re also working at what do we have to do to change the system to be more agile and responsive?”
Hix also said that, with the creation of the new Futures Command, the Army will try to break from its history of slow-moving processes and bureaucracy.
“The big thing we seek to avoid is becoming a bureaucracy that eats a bureaucracy … we’re very conscious of that,” he said.