FORT BENNING, Ga. (Jan. 23, 2018) -- The role of the cross-functional team in the Army was the focus during a final-day session of the Maneuver Warfighter Conference at the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, Jan. 11.

Panelists for the discussion were Maj. Gen. James M. Richardson, the special adviser for Program Integration at the Office of the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army at the Pentagon in Washington D.C.; Brig. Gen. David A. Lesperance, U.S. Army Armor School commandant at the MCoE; and Brig. Gen. Christopher T. Donahue, U.S. Army Infantry School commandant at the MCoE.

In October 2017, the Army released a directive outlining the pilot program of the cross-functional team, including who would comprise the team (members with expertise in science and technology, logistics, contracting, and more) and what the team would set out to accomplish, ultimately "to develop capabilities faster and in a less costly manner to enable our Soldiers to fight and win." (See the "Related Links" section for the full directive.)

Richardson outlined the overarching objectives as follows:

Close existing capability gaps rapidly; reduce 3-5 year capability requirements process to weeks
-- Conduct innovative experimentation and technical demonstrations to inform capability development, leveraging industry and academia.
-- Mature capability requirements using an iterative "design, build, test, and fix methodology" enabled by constant Soldier feedback.
-- The end state then is "Rapidly transitioned, leader-approved capability requirements to the Army Acquisition System in a less costly manner."

Richardson also outlined the importance of the organizations in the process: U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, U.S. Army Materiel Command, U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, U.S. Army Contracting Command, and more. But Richardson also said the input from the Soldier in the field is crucial.

"The requirements are generated in the field, and the warfighter has to be in the loop," said Richardson. "The warfighter, to me, has to be one of the most important aspects of this team, informing us what they need out in the field."

There are eight CFTs that have been created as part of the pilot program, including one for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle, which Lesperance represented during the panel, and one for Soldier Lethality, which Donahue represented.

"There may be more cross-functional teams," said Richardson. "We may change. We're learning."

Lesperance is the director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team, and as part of the CFT, he was looking at what problem the Army needed to solve.

"First and foremost we have an operational mobility challenge for our current combat platforms," said Lesperance. "We have to reduce the logistics burden on the force."

Lesperance made clear that the CFT is in the early phase, and that requirements drive the ultimate shape of the Next Generation Fighting Vehicle.

"It might be an infantry fighting vehicle, it might be a better tank, or it could be both," said Lesperance. "It could be a hybrid. But what we know it must do is it must get into the close fight; it has to dominate cross-domain maneuver. We know that it has to be expeditionary and sustainable, and it needs to have leap-ahead capabilities, so that we can regain and become the pacing threat in the future."

Donahue, as director of the Soldier Lethality CFT, expanded on how to improve the fundamentals of shooting, moving, communicating, protecting and sustaining. He said improvement can be achieved through materiel solutions -- weapons and equipment -- and through human performance and decision-making. As part of the principles to achieve Soldier lethality goals, Donahue said the initial focus was on close-combat Soldiers and said there will be active collaboration with U.S. Army Forces Command, TRADOC, other centers of excellence, the National Guard, and more, echoing the collaboration Richardson spoke of.

"So before we ever bring an idea up, it goes through that analysis team to make sure that the operational force says, 'Yeah, that's an item we're actually interested in,'" said Donahue. "Or as we try to look beyond -- because the operational force may not be thinking about beyond -- based off of threat, doctrine, technology, industry and academia, are we doing the right stuff?"

Other guiding principles for the CFT include developing capabilities rapidly.

"We want to move at the speed of war," said Donahue. "If you look at any time we've gone into armed conflict, how quickly we've had to change, we better build something that will be useful in combat."