Army struggles to save programs

The Army will inevitably be facing major budget cuts, and while that means major weapons programs could be scrapped altogether, the force is hoping to achieve a more nuanced approach that focuses on prioritization and better acquisition, according to Army officials.

“There will be budget cuts. If you do the math…it will come to the neighborhood of $14 to $15 billion in cuts to the Army per year. Major costs for us are end strength, and when you’re fighting two wars you can’t draw down your end strength fast enough to offset those cuts,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Lennox, deputy chief of staff, G-8, at the AUSA conference in Washington Oct. 10. “The brunt of those cuts will come from modernization and training accounts. It’s just math.”

According to Heidi Shyu, acting assistant secretary of the Army (acquisition, logistics and technology), members of Army leadership are hoping to avoid a “buzz saw” approach of trimming programs and instead prioritize needs and portfolios, as well as develop a more agile, modern acquisition process.

The acquisition process is slow and cumbersome, admitted Lt. Gen. Keith Walker, deputy commanding general, futures and director, Army Capabilities Integration Center, Army Training and Doctrine command. But he stressed that progress has been made.

Although the process of developing concepts and requirements has traditionally been slow, bureaucratic and overly prescriptive, adjustments continue to be made as the Army trudges forward in a decade of warfare, he said.

“We’ve made some changes along the way. We now write concepts every two years to try to adjust to the changing environment that we face. In the business of requirements we’ve started the effort of not being so prescriptive; not boxing ourselves into a corner, to establish requirements that have an open architecture that you could…have room to improve over time,” Walker said.

The Army’s science and technology arm has established its own new approach to prioritizing and attacking Army-wide problems that it can solve, according to Dr. Marilyn Freeman, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for research and technology.

She said her office has met with more than 100 senior leaders from across the Army to establish the top issues the force is facing, and ways to put those problems in order of importance and inject funding to solve them. The S&T approach focuses on soldier needs on the ground as top priority.

“In concert we decided to make this idea of the soldier as the decisive edge our focus. We said it really appears to us that in the S&T arena, and with future technologies, where we really need to apply that is at the small unit, soldier, boots-on-the-ground level,” Freeman said. “We need to focus on solving problems there, because we know we have significant challenges that we have now and that will remain.”

Through the cross-Army effort, Freeman said the group identified seven top-priority “Big Army” areas under the umbrella of “soldier as the decisive edge” that S&T could help solve.

They include insufficient force protection; surprise in tactical situations due to lack of mission command and intelligence; too much time and money spent on storing, transporting and distributing supplies and waste handling; tactical overmatch issues; maneuverability; and understanding what soldiers need and how they think.

In addition, smaller groups broke out 24 challenges from which Army leadership designated a top 10 of programs to be addressed within a year, she said.

“There is a tremendous amount of research and technology we can apply to help these problems,” Freeman said.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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