PEO structure survives Army Futures reorg, for now

business opportunity (Khakimullin Aleksandr/ 

The new Army Futures Command aims to meld all of the service's modernization efforts under one command, but for now the Army program executive officer structure will remain in place.

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said the service was holding off on retooling the PEO structure and instead focusing on collaboration between Futures Command and other modernization entities.

"We're not going to change the PEO structure right now; we're going to see how it plays out," McConville said Aug. 21 at the National Defense Industry Association's Army Science and Technology symposium. Army Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ASSALT) "Dr. [Bruce] Jette still has the authorities.… I think what you're going to see is more collaboration."

McConville said collaboration was key to eliminating unnecessary requirements in acquisitions.

"We're trying to do a better job of informing what's in the realm of the possible of requirements and work very close with industry and collaborate as much as we can within the system" to quickly move from idea to fielded prototype, he said.

Army Futures Command hit initial operating capability in July and is expected to be fully up and running by summer 2019. McConville said the command will be lean to help speed the acquisition process and will be led by Lt. Gen. Mike Murray.

McConville said Futures, Training and Doctrine Command and ASAALT will be "very tied together," communicating and sharing responsibilities. He wasn't clear on what that will look like, but he said the command would help "shape where we're going" with acquisition professionals, technologists and operators working together, as the cross functional teams do.

In his keynote, Jette said that his shop is looking to implement policies that facilitate collaboration, including a new approach to managing commercial intellectual property.

A new IP policy, expected to be finalized in the coming months, would allow companies to talk more informally with government agencies about their "secret sauce" without fear of disclosure or rigid contracts, Jette said.

Not having a clear policy has created problems, Jette said, where a company's IP would get leaked or a company would develop a capability based on an RFP and the government would get locked into the relationship if the company folded or was acquired by another entity.

"We want interfaces that are exchangeable and modular," he said, "so that we both stay honest with each other."

But for the Army overall, the biggest concern is its culture. Both Jette and McConville said their chief concerns were dealing with risk aversion.

Jette said his biggest worry was a "risk aversion culture beating us back from the edge constantly," pointing out a tendency to incorporate clunky Federal Acquisition Regulation processes even when congressional authorities have given permission not to use them.

Other concerns are "things creep in that mitigate our speed," he said. "The best way to retain the speed is to get results. So if we can do something and we put together a plan, we need to have an assessment" of the likelihood of success. And if it doesn't work, "move to something else."

"They don't want you to waste money on something that is never going to work just because you want to do it fast," Jette said. "They want to see, if you are doing it fast, you have a product that's useful."

McConville concurred, saying Army leadership owns the risk. "It's not the PM or PEO that is taking the risk," he said. "It's us."

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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