Battle command network drives Army modernization

New metrics aim to avoid delays and cost overruns experience in the FCS program

The Army outlined its latest near-term goals and means of achieving them in the April 28 release of its 2010 Army Modernization Strategy, a roadmap toward a 21st-century armed force that is versatile and irrevocably connected to the network.

The plan hinges on three tenets: developing and fielding new capabilities; continuously modernizing, upgrading, recapitalizing and divesting equipment and capabilities; and acting in accordance with the guidelines and priorities of the Army Force Generation Model.

The Defense Department has kept close watch on and helped shape the Army’s latest playbook, particularly on the heels of the costly demise of the Future Combat Systems (FCS) program and the implementation of its follow-on Brigade Combat Team Modernization.

The plan's bottom line: getting mature, adaptable, networked technology into the hands of warfighters as fast as possible.

“We’re fielding new capabilities, buying new stuff with networked systems” and focusing on battle command networks, including unmanned aerial vehicles, new ground combat vehicles, the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) and the Warfighter Information Network (Tactical), said Lt. Gen. Robert P. Lennox, deputy chief of staff G-8 and the Army's chief material integration officer. “These are careful, finely tuned investments that are relevant today and tomorrow. And we are fitting capabilities to the mission.”

To do so, the Army is taking a holistic look at its “portfolio of portfolios,” a departmentwide inventory of systems and equipment. “The systems individually look good, but we need to look at several at a time, in a portfolio sense,” Lennox said. “We’re asking, ‘What is the value of this to the U.S. Army?’”

Four key attributes will be at the center in measuring that value: versatility, tailorability, the ability to be networked and the ability to field the capability on a rotational cycle, according to the strategic plan text.

The wholesale examination will track aspects of the Army portfolio such as relevancy, health, redundancy, costs, financial balancing and training, and support decision-making, Lennox said.

DOD officials believe those metrics will help avoid mistakes made in the FCS program, plagued by delays, cost overruns and a lack of foresight in procurement that resulted in too many conventional combat systems and not enough of the unconventional counter-intelligence systems needed in today’s asymmetrical warfare.

Now, the focus is on the network, connecting the dismounted soldier all the way up the chain of command. And fielding capabilities incrementally, rather than all at once, will lower the risk of getting the technology or design wrong, officials said.

“If you get the network right, it doesn’t matter as much if you have the right sensor right now. You can develop the sensors. Getting the power of the network is critical,” said Lt. Gen. William N. Phillips, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology.

The Army Modernization Plan, which tracks some of the goals within the Quadrennial Defense Review, is budgeted at $31.7 billion in the 2011 defense budget. Included in the breakdown are:

  • $10.3 billion for research, development, testing and evaluation
  • $5.5 billion for trucks and support equipment
  • $6 billion for aviation
  • $1.7 billion for weapons and tracked combat vehicles
  • $3.9 billion for missiles and ammunition
  • $4.3 billion for communications.

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