Brig. Gen. David Hodne, the dual-hatted director of the Army Futures Command's Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team, will speak from a position of unique authority when he delivers a Warriors' Corner statement on the lethality of the Close Combat Force (CCF), from 11:10-11:50am Oct. 15 at the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
As the commandant of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga., Hodne is responsible for training 20,000 new Infantry Soldiers annually, the vast majority of Soldiers who comprise the CCF, the four percent of the American fighting force who engage the enemy on the front edge of battle.
As the director of the Soldier Lethality CFT, he leads the team of developers who are positioning the CCF to quickly assume a position of clear and sustained overmatch in multi-domain operations.
Each position informs the other.
"(The Army's) most important weapons system is the Soldier. We need to invest our time and energy in honing the basic skills they need to be successful," Hodne said. "And we need to give them the tools and weapons they need to be the most lethal and survivable combatant in any theater, under any condition, anywhere in the world."
That's overmatch, and in the language of the Army, it's the theme that drives those who convey messages to an audience not always ok with the concept of lethality.
Overmatch is as much a deterrent to war as it is a byproduct of lethality, Hodne said. In order to arrive at a position of clear and sustainable overmatch, "we must equip Soldiers and squads as a combat platform with the tools and resources that are smarter, more efficient, in many cases lighter, and integrated to work holistically as a system."
One year ago, when Hodne spoke from the stage at AUSA, he was one month into the job, having inherited a team of fewer than 10 Soldiers and civilians focused on building the plane in flight -- or developing programs in the process of developing a team to develop those programs.
Today the SL CFT is staffed with 30, heavily on the civilian side, with experts in the field of science and technology, acquisitions, contracting, combat development, systems architecture, integration, and more. The team works closely with partners within the Army modernization enterprise, including PEO Soldier, Combat Capabilities Development Command, the Futures and Concepts Center, and many others, focusing on four signature programs: the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), Next Generation Squad Weapons (rifle and automatic rifle), the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle -- Binocular (ENVG-B), and Adaptive Squad Architecture.
Col. Kurt "Travis" Thompson is the deputy commander of the CFT.
"A few years ago, we used the phrase 'team of teams' liberally. Everyone and everything was a team of teams," Thompson said. "The AFC construct is designed to leverage the experience and institutional knowledge of the organizations that became our partners when AFC stood up. They've been doing this for years and doing it well. Army Futures Command harnesses all that talent and expertise to take us where we were headed much faster, more efficiently and more economically. It's truly a team of teams."
Hodne has invited those partners to join him on stage to highlight the successes they've facilitated in the last year, among them: contracting with Microsoft to develop the IVAS; selecting five vendors to produce prototypes of the NGSW, than narrowing the field to three; and the fielding of the first ENVG-B last month in Fort Riley, Kan. The ENVG-B fielding was heralded as the first big success for AFC, having been delivered less than two years from requirement identification.
Brig. Gen. Tony Potts, director of PEO Soldier, and CCDC's Doug Tamilio (Soldier Center) and Dr. Donald Reago (C5ISR) will serve as panelists alongside Hodne during the Warriors Corner.
"The purpose of the CFT was to develop requirements, informed by experimentation and technical demonstrations, through teaming, agility and rapid Soldier feedback. We've kept that our focus over the past year, and it has proven successful," Hodne said. "The key to our success is the key to achieving overmatch; we must always keep the needs of the Soldier at the center of everything we do. Soldier feedback drives us."
Toward that end, the SL CFT employs a variety of iterative rapid testing and evaluating strategies that put system prototypes in the hands of Soldiers over and over in order to collect feedback, data and anecdotal evidence that speaks to user sentiment. These strategies include User Studies, User Juries and Soldier Touch Points (STPs), which typically bring greater numbers of Soldiers together to test capabilities in varying conditions to evaluate their performance and solicit their feedback. More than 10 STPS were conducted on the ENVG-B. Team IVAS, comprised of partners from SL CFT, PEO and Microsoft, is conducting the second IVAS STP this month in Fort Pickett, Va., and has logged more than 5,000 hours of Soldier feedback since November. NGSW STPS are taking place simultaneously this month at Fort Benning and in North Carolina.
"By incorporating frequent Soldier Touch Points in the development and acquisition process, we're ensuring we field systems our Soldiers will use, integrated systems that will enhance their ability on the field of combat," Thompson said. "Everything they wear, everything they use … must have complete utility as a system."
Thompson refers to the Adaptive Squad Architecture (ASA) concept, which is quickly taking shape as part of the IVAS program. The architecture is a concept of treating the Soldier and the squad as a system. For too long, Soldiers have been issued new pieces of "kit" with little to no regard for their impact on the totality of the kit or second and third order impacts. ASA advocates liken that to "hanging something else on the Christmas tree." ASA ensures that systems are integrated with the Soldier rather than added to the Soldier. ASA establishes power, data, connection and transfer standards to the Soldier and their equipment, treating the Soldier the same as an integrated combat platform.
"What's significant about (ASA) is that it facilitates technology insertion and Soldier integration through communication with industry, so it will enable the advancement of capabilities as technology advances," Thompson said.
While ASA a new term of art is relatively new, but it's not a new concept. Treating Soldiers as a system has been the cry of senior Army leaders for many years. Hodne and his panel partners will brief the concept during the Warriors Corner and address the way ahead for all SL CFT programs, which will come to fruition before the Army of 2028 is realized.
"We're moving swiftly and purposefully," Hodne said. The team here will see to it that the capabilities required to get to the Army of 2028 will be delivered long before 2028. That Army will have a clear and sustainable overmatch, and the Close Combat Force will be equipped with all Soldier Lethality program systems."
The Soldier Lethality Warriors Corner is scheduled for 11:10-11:50 Oct. 15 in Room 1725, the Army Booth.