Army modernization critical to DOD transformation

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Army's transformation to the Objective Force, centered around Future Combat Systems (FCS), is not only critical to that service's future, but to the overall Defense Department transformation, according to the Army's top uniformed officer.

The Army's chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, who is widely credited with making "transformation" a high-profile issue within the Army and DOD, said the upcoming FCS milestone decision before the Defense Acquisition Board is critical to the entire service, its industry partners, and the rest of the armed forces.

"It's a referendum on the system-of-systems concept," that will affect the overall DOD transformation, Shinseki said during his Feb. 28 speech here at the Association of the U.S. Army's winter symposium.

The system-of-systems approach means that each system that contributes information is designed to work with other systems to give commanders an integrated picture.

The Objective Force is a strategy to develop advanced information technology tools, vehicles and weapons that will make the Army's armored forces better able to survive an all-out fight. The first unit is scheduled to be equipped in 2008, with initial operational capability by 2010.

FCS will equip Army vehicles with information and communications systems to give soldiers capabilities for command and control, surveillance and reconnaissance, direct and non-line-of-sight weapons firing, and personnel transport.

Claude Bolton Jr., assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, along with other service officials and FCS' lead systems integrator team of Boeing Co. and Science Applications International Corp., will present FCS for the next milestone approval before the Defense Acquisition Board in mid-May. Assuming the system is given the go-ahead, the pressure will be on to meet the Army's aggressive timetable, Shinseki said.

"Time is our most precious resource. We have less then five years to get it right and that isn't a lot of time," he said. Shinseki then called upon the industry employees in attendance to "bring us your creativity, boldness [and] commitment to excellence," to assist the Army in meeting its goal.

Three weeks ago, at Fort Dix, N.J., the Army's Communications and Electronics Command demonstrated command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) "on the move" capabilities, and Shinseki said he is looking forward to seeing the lessons learned from that experiment.

He added that testing the tactics, techniques and procedures crucial to the Objective Force and C4ISR architectures, the Army is helping to shape fully joint operational concepts for the entire DOD.

Joint Forces Command is leading the joint testing and experimentation activities for DOD. The Army's Training and Doctrine Command is tied into that work to ensure that the Army can benefit from lessons learned and impact future operations, Shinseki said.

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