DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. -- Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper said that one of the goals of the Army's new Cross-Functional Teams will be to reduce the timeline of the acquisition process from three years down to 18 or even 12 months, which will help Soldiers get the equipment they need faster in order to maintain decisive edge over America's enemies.Esper spoke with reporters while visiting Detroit Arsenal, Michigan, on April 27 as part of his ongoing effort to better understand the capabilities of Army bases and installations around the world.The secretary was joined by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., for a jam-packed schedule that included a roundtable discussion about the Next Generation Combat Vehicle with senior Army leaders from the arsenal; briefings by the Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems on the Stryker Lethality and mobile protected firepower; and briefings by the Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support about the armored vehicle launch bridge, heavy equipment transporter and other combat-enabling systems.During the visit, the secretary also had lunch with junior enlisted soldiers and saw hands-on demonstrations of the Army's newest vehicle technology, including a demonstration of the Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center's expedient leader/follower robotics vehicle.
"I am happy to be at Detroit Arsenal," Esper said to representatives from local and national media outlets who engaged the secretary and the senator in a 30-minute conversation about what he wants to accomplish and how long he thinks it will take to get there.Esper spoke to the group after a morning discussion with senior Army leaders about the Next Generation Combat Vehicle and what it would take to get the vehicle from the acquisition phase to on the road in record time."You do that by bringing all of the key players and all of the stakeholders who are typically involved in a linear process over a time period, and you now bring them to the table up front -- whether they are the contracting community, the war fighter, the budget people [or] the testers," Esper said."… [Y]ou bring them up front and agree on those requirements initially -- don't change them -- and that has great promise in terms of reducing the requirements process."Esper explained one of the challenges the Army faces is defining its requirements. "In the past, we would take five to seven years to develop a set of requirements, and they would be so grandiose they would be unachievable for the amount of money we had and the amount of time you would need."Esper reiterated that by 2028 the Army will be fully ready to deploy, fight and win against any adversary, echoing a similar statement he made to an Association of the U.S. Army conference in March.Peters added how important the relationship between the Army and the automotive industry is and what this relationship would mean to the Army. He stated, "The greater Detroit area and Michigan are leaders when it comes to the development of self-driving vehicles, and those achievements can be leveraged by the Army."Esper also talked about the Next Generation Combat Vehicle and how the Army is focusing on a vehicle that is modular, scalable and designed with open architecture, which would make it easier to integrate future technology and robotics into the vehicle system. He stated that he is not looking for a family of vehicles at this point, but instead is looking for a replacement for the Abrams tank and the Bradley.Peters added that Detroit's automotive R&D, technology and manufacturing sectors will be important to the Army as it prepares for a dramatically different type of warfare in the future. Peters went on to say that during the war in Iraq, the Army lost more soldiers to logistics attacks than it did in combat.After the media engagement, the secretary met with a group from TARDEC to talk about the different vehicle architectures TARDEC is developing to support the NGCV program. The discussions centered on vehicle architectures the R&D center is developing to support the NGCV (including interaction with a virtual concept vehicle in a 3-D immersive environment via the Mobile Computer Automated Virtual Environment), advanced combat engine/32 Speed Transmission/Integrated Starter Generator, and TARDEC's Physical Simulation capability.There was also a live vehicle demonstration of the Mission Enabling Technologies Demonstrator, the Expedient Leader/Follower and a ZH2 fuel cell vehicle, followed by a tour of several of TARDEC's labs, including the fuel cell, power and energy vehicle environment; ground systems propulsion; and ground vehicle simulation labs.After the secretary toured the TARDEC facilities, he sat down with Maj. Gen. Clark LeMasters Jr., commanding general, U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command for a discussion on the legacy-to-future-fleet transition. This was followed by a meeting with Program Executive Officer Ground Combat Systems Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings on Stryker Lethality and mobile protected firepower.The travel party then moved to nearby Selfridge Air National Guard base where Acting Program Executive Officer Ross Guckert briefed Esper on the PEO Combat Support and Combat Service Support portfolio, which includes roughly 150 programs in active management and 100 more in sustainment. The CS &CSS portfolio equates to roughly 25 percent of the Army's programs -- namely, the Transportation, Engineering, Ordnance, and Quartermaster systems that move Soldiers and their equipment, as well as supply, feed, power, and fuel them and carry them forward.Guckert explained that while PEO CS&CSS is not specifically aligned to the Army's "Big Six" priorities, also known as Cross Functional Teams, the portfolio indeed includes combat enablers inextricably linked to the successful employment of CFTs, especially when it relates to moving combat formations, maintaining and sustaining formations, and protecting formations.As such, representatives from the PEO's Project Management Offices for Transportation Systems and Force Projection briefed the secretary on their respective initiatives to bolster the Heavy Equipment Transport System to haul the M1A2 Abrams, as well numerous bridging systems Soldiers need to quickly and effectively support the weight of modern combat platforms across dry and wet gaps. The team impressed upon Esper that it manages the life cycles of critical combat enablers for the Big Six -- with manned and unmanned capabilities.(Editor's Note: Both the Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support Public Affairs Office and the Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center Public Affairs Office have contributed for this story.)