Assistant secretary: Work smarter to fill capability gaps
April 24, 2013
- Heidi Shyu praised S&T experts who do the research and development that keeps the Army mobile and vehicles survivable
DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. -- (April 9, 2013) A senior Army leader visited the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's tank and automotive center to meet with workers and outline her vision for the future.
Assistant Secretary for the Army (Acquisition, Logistics & Technology) and Army Acquisition Executive Heidi Shyu spoke with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center workforce in an April 9 town hall meeting.
The Secretary of the Army's toughest challenge will be balancing priorities while filling capability gaps in an uncertain fiscal environment, she said.
Meeting this challenge involves not only short-term rethinking of how to control costs on existing programs as budgets shrink, but also committing to a long-term, 30-year perspective on providing ongoing technological superiority to forces.
"One of the key things I want to do is make sure we focus on a long-term strategic plan that's not just driven by the POM [Program Objective Memorandum], because you only look at one year at a time and sub-optimize your plan based on the budget this year. But what about the POM after that?" Shyu said. "We need to look at the potential S&T [science and technology] to link us into greater capabilities and make smarter decisions.
"This is why it's so critically important to link these pieces together into an overall cogent strategy moving ahead."
The Assistant Secretary made the two-day trip to hold discussions with leaders and hear program status updates from Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems and PEO Combat Support and Combat Service Support. The Town Hall gave her an opportunity to also communicate with TARDEC and address a cross-section of TACOM Life Cycle Management Command associates.
To ensure warfighters can carry out their missions and come home safely, the Army has to identify its capability gaps, carefully establish priorities in anticipation of tighter budgets, and think more strategically about how to provide capabilities with new technology and a long-range sustainment plan for each platform, she stated. This challenge has prompted everyone in the Department of Defense to reassess programs.
"We're forcing ourselves to think things through differently," Shyu said. "What's the cost associated with each capability? What are my alternatives? Is that the only solution or is there a lower-cost solution? I'm challenging our folks to think through all that."
The Assistant Secretary presented the Army's top priorities in the short term:
•Continue to support the current fight in Afghanistan
•Meet the Afghanistan retrograde deadline (December 2014)
•Reset vehicle and equipment as it comes out of Afghanistan
•Modernize platforms and aging equipment
Even with the coming strategic shift to the Pacific Region, Shyu said, the United States has many global interests and allies, and must equip our forces to be flexible and adaptable for a wide range of missions.
"The reality is, we are a worldwide Army. We're in more than 160 nations," Shyu said. "Even if we pivot to nations in the Pacific, it doesn't mean we're getting out of the other 159 places. Our mission requires a diverse set of capabilities we must develop and sustain to enable us to clearly be the number one land force in the world."
Shyu reiterated her office's commitment to a 30-year strategy to equip and sustain that dominant force. The approach involves looking at vehicles and aviation not just as operational assets the Army needs today but as platforms that have to be sustained and modernized to engage future threats.
"We ought to know as programs evolve, there are usually multiple generations of the program with multiple spirals. Look at the Apache helicopter -- we are on Apache version E now. You continue to add more capabilities, as we do with combat vehicles. I know all of you are working very hard to understand the sustainment plan. We need to look into the details to determine the average age of systems and the utilization."
The Army regards greater mobility, lethality and survivability as the guiding principles for its ground forces. The 30-year plan has prompted TARDEC and the PEOs to make investments with long-range vision to enable the next generation of capabilities.
Shyu pointed out that all acquisition executives are facing the same budget challenges. As a result, she noted the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are seeking more opportunities to develop technology jointly.
"For example, we have our own robotics, the Marines have robotics, and the Air Force and Navy have ideas for robotics. We can develop common platforms and a set of common requirements," she said. "After all, the JLTV program does that. We have to leverage each other more. And that's exactly what we're doing."
Acquisition executives started meeting monthly to focus on a particular technology solution -- beginning with the Position, Navigation and Timing tactics to provide vital information to Soldiers if they're denied GPS satellite capability -- to seek more joint opportunities.
"We have to ask: 'What are the technologies each service is developing and what is DARPA working on?' We are sharing that technology across the board when it makes sense. That is the smart thing to do. We're looking at all these things to drive down cost," Shyu said.
Shyu praised S&T experts who do the research and development that keeps the Army mobile and vehicles survivable.
"I have a world of respect for what you're doing. You're doing such an awesome job," she related. "It's so important for us to work together toward the same goals -- it's the only way we will be successful. We're all here to support the Soldier. There is no other reason for us to be here."