Getting a Fix on the Future
June 3, 2014
- Where do we invest to ensure that today's fifth-grader, who in the decade of 2030-2040 will be a battalion commander, will have the tools they need to adapt once the nation commits the Army?
As the Army draws down to what could be its smallest size in nearly three-quarters of a century, the focus is squarely on the future. So, what does the Army need to do today to get where it wants to be 30 years from now?
In a word: Plan. But it's more complicated than it sounds. A year and a half ago, the Army initiated a new strategic modernization planning process that combines a detailed analysis of investments in science and technology (S&T) and material development, linked to emerging threats and capability gaps across a 30-year time frame. The Hon. Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)), has described the output of this process as "a detailed road map of our future capabilities across the acquisition life cycle, linking our S&T investments with our programs of record [PORs], which, in turn, are linked to our long-term sustainment strategy."
"It is the right time to entertain a comprehensive and strategic approach to Army equipment modernization, in which we adapt a systemic approach to setting and determining long-term equipping priorities," Shyu said in October 2012 at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting and Exposition.
A year and a half later, with the war in Afghanistan drawing to a close and the defense budget continuing to decline, the Army materiel development community faces multiple challenges. Systems fielded to support immediate warfighter needs are returning to Army inventories and competing with established PORs as potential permanent solutions to the Army's capability needs.
At the same time, the strategic and operational focus is shifting to the Pacific Rim, with a more advanced threat and near-peer adversary. This significant shift in threats, operations and budgets calls on the Army to make critical decisions that will have far-reaching implications for the development, acquisition, user and sustainment communities. Every investment decision is important, including the sustainment of returning inventory and development of future capabilities.
And, of course, money is tight. But budgetary circumstances don't alter some fundamental realities of how the Army plans its spending of the money Congress provides.
The program objective memorandum (POM) process is the U.S. military's traditional means to define program objectives over a five-year budget cycle.
However, the POM looks at specific PORs; it does not provide a holistic, long-term approach that addresses the affordability concerns that are central to better buying power across a system's acquisition life cycle. Instead, five-year program planning has led to unforeseen, unaffordable collisions of major modernization needs in the years beyond the POM.
Laying out the next 30 years of modernization needs makes those collisions apparent and avoidable. "You can see we've got all these decisions happening in the same short time frame," said Mary Miller, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for research and technology, in a March 11 interview with Army AL&T magazine. "We need to stretch [program decisions] out. … That means some of them we're going to have to do earlier, and we're going to have to resource that appropriately. Some of them we're going to have to stretch out later, which means we might have to do some upgrades for these platforms until we can get to where we can bring in a new platform."
It also might mean more experimentation and early prototyping while programs are still in the science and technology portfolio, Miller said. Examples of this methodology can be found in the development of enablers--such as for assured position navigation and timing as an alternative to GPS, and subsystem demonstrations for the next-generation Future Fighting Vehicle--in anticipation of getting funding later for a future POR product development.
Bottom line: "You start to live within the resources available to the Army," said Miller, who has worked in the Pentagon on and off since she became S&T liaison to the deputy chief of staff of the Army for operations -- force development in 1999. "In my opinion, this is the first time we've really done deliberate planning that extended beyond the POM cycle," she said. "And so we're talking a lot more. We're planning together a lot more."
STRATEGICALLY SOUND CHOICES
This new, long-term approach to modernization planning--evaluating operational needs 30 years into the future--integrates threat analyses from the intelligence community, gap analyses and modernization strategies developed by the centers of excellence, and the materiel development efforts of the program executive offices (PEOs) working collaboratively across the Army portfolios.
That long-range planning approach now informs the POM, which becomes the instrument to implement the long-range strategy. Difficult choices still abound, but 30-year modernization planning better equips the Army to frame its decisions: Which choices will allow the Army to retain the most capability in the long term?
Much of the discussion at the AUSA Institute of Land Warfare (ILW) Winter Symposium and Exposition Feb. 19-21 in Huntsville, AL, concerned how senior leaders across the Army--including the AL&T Workforce in ASA(ALT), the long-range thinkers of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC), and the researchers, developers, maintainers and sustainers of U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC)--are making those choices for Force 2025 and beyond. With the theme "America's Army: Sustaining, Training and Equipping for the Future," the symposium drew about 5,800 exhibitors and participants and featured panel discussions on modernization, the operational environment in 2025, requirements for 2030 and operationalizing the Army's cyber domain, among other topics.
Meanwhile, as the following articles in this issue illustrate, the PEOs have been immersing themselves in the myriad details of 30-year modernization planning and have learned some lessons in the process.
SEEDS OF THE FUTURE
"We're navigating a very challenging period for our Army" with the drawdown of forces during a period of "dramatic fiscal constraint and budget pressure," Shyu said at the AUSA Winter Symposium. "We're leveraging this period to make the best investments possible, planting the seeds that will secure the Army of the future. … Our goal is to provide our Soldiers the best capability possible. They deserve nothing less."
That means clearly and cogently balancing existing capabilities, identifying operational gaps, and pursuing affordable solutions that recognize the evolving threat, the operational environment and ease of maintenance and sustainment. Perhaps more than ever, it also means understanding what S&T can bring to Army capabilities--a "focus on the development of next-generation breakthrough technologies that define the Army of the future," as Shyu described it in Huntsville.
It also means that ASA(ALT) is planning in closer collaboration with TRADOC, AMC and the entire S&T enterprise.
Speaking at the symposium, Gen. Dennis L. Via, AMC commanding general (CG), said that diminishing fiscal resources and growing threats drive three priorities for AMC: "We must continue to modernize our equipment; we must continue to sustain the force of today; and we must continue to develop capabilities and technologies that will give our Soldiers the decisive advantage to meet--and defeat--any potential future enemies."
Via highlighted several of the leap-ahead technologies that AMC's Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) is working on to unburden, protect, empower and sustain the joint warfighter.
"Working in partnership with industry and academia, along with a sustained level of resourcing, I'm confident we can maintain the technological edge that will produce the next generation in vertical lift, ground vehicle, night vision advancement and overmatch capabilities in our next weapon systems, all while protecting and preserving what our Army has worked so hard to achieve over the past decade," Via said.
A Soldier demonstrated the Helmet Electronics and Display System -- Upgradeable Protection (HEADS-UP), which provides mounted and dismounted troops with a more fully integrated headgear system featuring new technologies that include improved ballistic materials; non-ballistic impact liner materials and designs; better eye, face and ear protection; and improved communications.
The Army exhibit at the AUSA event reinforced the closer collaboration among the major players in long-range modernization planning, particularly ASA(ALT) and AMC. Visitors to the exhibit of 10 different portfolios could see "the full life cycle from identifying requirements and design, all the way through the process," said Rick Sims, co-director for the Army exhibit.
Dan Maslach, an engineer with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), showcased 200-watt fuel cells that are hybridized with the Talon, a kinetic-bomb-detecting robot that can operate in adverse conditions, navigate almost any terrain and even climb stairs. Typically the Talon has enough battery power for 2-4 hours of operation, but the fuel cell increases that to 8-24 hours.
"It drastically increases the duration the Soldiers can use the robot without changing batteries or replacing fuel," said Maslach. For Talon operators in the field, that means not having to carry extra batteries or chargers.
Via mentioned the Fuel Cell Talon among other cutting-edge systems in his opening remarks. "These materiel solutions that I've just highlighted are but a glance into what our AMC engineers and scientists are researching and developing, and a glimpse of what's possible in the future as we move toward Force 2025 and beyond," he said.
A FORCE TO MEET THE THREAT
Gen. Robert W. Cone, then the CG of TRADOC who is retiring, described Force 2025 as leaner than today's, but still mean if not meaner. Addressing the AUSA symposium, Cone said, "Expeditionary maneuvering is what drives many fundamental changes in the formations that we're talking about building for Force 2025."
Force 2025 S&T solutions include lighter, more capable protection; cyberspace operations; mission command on-the-move; optimized squads; increased presence; live, virtual and constructive gaming and immersive tools; and long-range precision fires.
"If you think through science and technology, what are you really going to be able to come up with that we're going to be able to field by 2025? The reality of it is that you better think deeper than that, because most of what you come up with will be a waypoint or an interim solution that will need to meet the needs of the Army for Force 2025," Cone said.
Lt. Gen. Keith C. Walker, deputy CG, futures and ARCIC director, put it another way. "Where do we invest to ensure that today's fifth-grader who, in the decade of 2030-2040 will be a battalion commander, will have the tools they need to adapt once the nation commits the Army?
"We study the future not because we wish to get it exactly right, but in order to make sure that we do not get it 100 percent wrong, and so we can adapt once the future happens," said Walker, offering some insight on the likely players and challenges facing the military and the nation as a whole in the years to come.
"Force 2025 and beyond is about more than the year 2025," Walker said. "It's about what must we do to improve the Army 2020 force; it's about maintaining operational overmatch with leaner formations that have greater than or equal capability than we have today by 2025; and it's about fundamentally changing the force in 2030-40.
"While the operating environment of 2025 makes for good table discussions, its importance is in what it means to the Army today. Clearly it means while we may not be able to afford new programs today, we can adjust our investments in science and technology in order to ensure our Soldiers and their formations have the capability of what they need in the future."
Walker noted the effects of globalization, the Internet and communications among other major influences on potential future conflicts. "This exponential increase in the momentum of human interaction means that we as an Army, or we as a joint force, will have to have the ability to employ operationally significant force, which is enough force to address that conflict, with greater and greater speed if we want our strategic leaders to have options. To meet these future challenges, we will have to adjust our research, development and investments into lighter, leaner, more mobile forces that are easier to operate in urban environments with the appropriate protection."
Lt. Gen. Mark Bowman, director for command, control, communications and computer/cyber, and chief information officer/J-6 on the Joint Staff, noted that "the cyber enemy is an enemy that's potentially more dangerous than any individual or machine than we have ever known in the history of the world. We've got to be able to defend against the threat." That means operationalizing the cyber realm now, Bowman said.
"We see the battlefield in cyberspace through data," said Lt. Col. Paul Stanton, technical liaison to U.S. Army Cyber Command. "In cyberspace, the avenues of approach are hundreds, if not thousands, within an operating environment. Additionally, the vehicles, if you will, that traverse that network are in the millions.
"There's just a vast amount of data that we have to have the right capabilities and tools to translate into information in support of the decision process for mission commanders," Stanton said. "How do I determine what actually is an indicator of threat activity on the network?"
The S&T community, including the Army's 16 research and development centers and 12,500 scientists and engineers in collaboration with industry and academia, is playing a key role in determining "the art of the possible" over the near, mid- and long term, Miller said. With the support of senior leadership, she said, the Army now has "a larger perspective that S&T does have a role in this continuing process of making the Army more capable."
In TRADOC war games such as Unified Quest, for example, "What we're trying to do is to give you that technical underpinning and foundation so that when you play a war game, … it's really informed by where we see technology going, what's in the art of the possible, where we see other countries' strategic plans taking it. We're trying to look for those longer-term nascent technologies that really can make a difference in tech research," Miller said.
The next step, she said, is to explore those technologies in conjunction with partners in the other services, one of which might have a greater stake in the technology and therefore be prepared to invest more money in developing it; industry, which may be able to devote independent research and development dollars to it; academia; and even other countries.
"All of us are running as we go," Miller said. "We know it's the future, and all you can do is take a best chance at trying to get it right."
For selected presentations from the AUSA ILW Winter Symposium and Exposition, go to http://ausameetings.org/winter/.