By Sean Kimmons, Army News ServiceFebruary 7, 2020
WASHINGTON -- In his first six months on the job, the Army's vice chief of staff said the speed of an improved acquisition process has impressed him the most when it comes to tackling modernization.
Gen. Joseph M. Martin, who once led the Army Operational Test Command, recalled the "glacial pace" it previously took to get new equipment out to the force. And by the time it got into Soldiers' hands, some of it was already obsolete.
"We cannot afford to do that to ourselves," Martin said in an interview Wednesday. "So we've got to be agile in the way that we develop our technology."
With the Army Futures Command's cross-functional teams in full force, Soldiers can now team with acquisition and science and technology experts at the start of projects.
As a result, AFC leaders have said it takes only months to get a requirement approved today compared to years in the past.
Congress has also given the Army additional wiggle room, such as other transaction and middle-tier acquisition authorities, to fund rapid prototyping efforts.
With prototypes out quicker, the Army is able to see and drive them before buying them, and Soldiers can provide feedback before the Army makes a major investment.
"If we need to fail early, we're not waiting until we get way down the road on a program to determine that's not the direction we need to be going in," Martin said.
Last month, the Army decided to cancel its solicitation for a rapid prototype for the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, which would replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
Current plans are to revisit and solicit it again to gain more interest from industry in order to build a better vehicle.
"The most prudent means of ensuring long-term programmatic success is to get this multi-billion-dollar effort correct," Gen. John Murray, the AFC commander, said in a news release. "We are going to take what we have learned and apply it to the OMFV program to develop our path and build a healthy level of competition back into the program."
Before the acquisition process was overhauled, Martin said Soldiers did not handle new equipment until the limited-user test.
"The problem with that is it's too late," he said. "Soldier touchpoints are fantastic because they give us feedback that we would have otherwise had to wait on."
Their input is important since they may use the gear in a different way or under extreme elements not tested before.
"Those engineers and scientists are wonderful people, but they're not Soldiers," he said. "There's something about the Soldiers where they pick up a piece of equipment and they tell you things about that equipment."
Martin saw firsthand the impact of the touchpoints during a November visit to Fort Pickett, Virginia. There, Soldiers tried the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, a heads-up display designed to increase situational awareness in combat and for training.
Soldiers questioned some of the features of the IVAS that then led designers from its manufacturer, Microsoft, to quickly fine-tune them.
"They're able to take that and very quickly make an adjustment," Martin said. "And, in some cases, deliver some of those capabilities during that touchpoint."
COMMAND AND CONTROL
Martin also noted the successful test of the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS, in December at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
The system, which is software that links air and missile defense launchers with sensors across a battlespace, allowed Soldiers to destroy two incoming target cruise missiles. The goal is to field the system to a Patriot battalion in fiscal year 2022.
A limited-user test for the IBCS is set for late spring at White Sands.
"It's not just a concept, this is reality," Martin said.
The system, he added, could play a role in the Joint All-Domain Command and Control, an evolving concept that aims to tie all U.S. military sensors to shooters.
Another system that fits into that concept is TITAN -- Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node. A scalable and expeditionary intelligence ground station, TITAN leverages space and high altitude, aerial, and terrestrial layer sensors to provide targetable data to shooters.
It also provides multi-discipline intelligence support to targeting, and situational awareness and understanding for mission command.
An initial prototype of TITAN is slated to be tested during the Defender-Europe 20 exercise this spring, officials said in October.