ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Prior to the creation of Army Futures Command (AFC), the two communities in the Army with expertise to architect the future resided in separate four-star commands. The operational experts writing the Army's Future Concepts that drive Army Acquisition resided in the Training and Doctrine Command, while technical experts in the Army Science and Technology (S&T) community that enable technological solutions resided in the Army Material Command.
A core design in organizational structure of the newly created AFC was to unite this expertise, creating both the Futures and Concepts Center (FCC)-- with operational experts who identify required capabilities to overcome a projected adversary-- and the Combat Capabilities and Development Command (CCDC)-- with technical experts who execute use-inspired research to provide disruptive warfighter capabilities.
During the transition into AFC, Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins, then commanding general of CCDC, directed Dr. Phillip Perconti, then director of CCDC Army Research Laboratory (ARL), to oversee a six-month task force to instantiate processes, events and outcomes to realize this AFC vision.
In March of 2019, Task Force Ignite, with the help of collaborative partner CCDC Data and Analysis Center (DAC), began piloting events and designing collaboratively-authored products. Based on successful progress and widespread interest in the vision for change, Team Ignite was born in October 2019 as the follow-on effort to the Task Force.
The aim of Team Ignite? To lead a systematic, continuous and iterative process of shaping concepts and capabilities for future warfighting, while fostering collaboration between CCDC and FCC, its sister organization under AFC.
Rather than conduct research and concept development independently, Team Ignite establishes processes to spur scientifically-informed concepts and warfighter-informed science. The interdependent ideas can be quantified to examine the operational impact of the hypothesized capability in the future operational environment. Currently, Team Ignite members are working on expanding the scope of effort to increase collaborations across the Army Modernization Enterprise.
"Team Ignite has figured out how to create an ongoing collaborative space," said Martin Perry, CCDC DAC Warfighter and Futures Integration Division (WFID) Futures Integration Lead. "By leveraging bidirectional communication, research and concepts can shape each other."
Team Ignite's paradigm-shifting process to consume and influence innovation is accomplished through systematizing metrics, experimentation and relationships.
THE IMPORTANCE OF METRICS
CCDC DAC is a critical collaborative member of Team Ignite, due to CCDC DAC's expertise in developing innovative models and simulations, analytical methods and authoritative system performance data to deliver evidence that enables critical modernization decisions across the entire life cycle.
CCDC DAC characterizes capabilities through metrics, offering analytical rigor to describe not just what S&T is, but what it could be. It also helps translate the purpose and direction of science outcomes at the system, capability and operational level into consumable metrics fostering both consistency and utility. These metrics quantify data for developmental S&T, support FCC experiments, help prioritize the right subset of systems and enable future capability projections.
Additionally, abstract concepts that are difficult to capture and characterize--think artificial intelligence or utility-- are codified by CCDC DAC to use in tangible ways. Artificial intelligence, for example, is a broad capability enabler that must be considered in specific use cases. If used for decision support applications, useful metrics might include the ability to identify a window of vulnerability, the time from sensing to decision and the likelihood of selecting a correct course of action. Useable metrics like these grant consistent understanding to both researchers and concept writers, synchronizing analysis and experimentation planning and execution.
As meaningful requirements integrate science into early experiments to inform decisions, concrete and consistent metrics help early experiments retain value as the science advances. Team Ignite posits that this is one of the critical new opportunities to enhance how CCDC subject matter experts execute scientific research under AFC.
"Research has historically always needed statistical tests as backing. Army research should also have operational metrics informing how the projected capability from the science plays out for the Army," said Dr. Jean Vettel, the inaugural Chief Scientist for FCC. "Operational metrics that CCDC DAC develops actually shifts analysis to the left, looking into the future of S&T to target Army needs earlier on."
Ultimately, Team Ignite ensures use-inspired research: research directly targeted to a capability that was derived from the bidirectional collaboration of FCC and CCDC.
"Now, there's early, iterative feedback to inform data-driven decisions," said Jennifer Mullins, Chief of the Advancing Concepts Office in the newly instantiated Futures Division in CCDC ARL.
Prior to Team Ignite, CCDC DAC was not traditionally focused on early S&T development programs and usually got involved only as the decision to create a technical solution was made. Now, with early involvement in translating and assessing appropriate capability metrics for emerging S&T, CCDC DAC ensures opportunities and challenges are identified and prioritized earlier to assess and synthesize solutions for actionable decisions.
Carefully crafted metrics can also help articulate capability descriptions, support rationale for why research is paired with a certain program and improve concepts of operations to flesh out better options. Mr. Perry offered the imagery of a spiral, constantly refining upward to continuously and systemically review, analyze and adjust.
COLLABORATION TO CREATE COMMON GROUND AND INFORM DECISIONS
To warrant specific and shared vocabulary beyond metrics, Team Ignite also strives to build relationships to establish a common language, and thus, a common mission.
"Before, it was difficult to talk in a shared space because FCC and CCDC were so divergent," said Ms. Mullins. Due to the former specializing in operational expertise, and the latter, technical expertise, the communities were treated with little overlap.
"Collaboration happened in one-off examples, but we had to ask ourselves: systematically, how do we expand a collaborative mission?" said Dr. Vettel.
Concept and writing workshops helped connect those dots. During a series of Ignite-designed Science-Concept Collaboration Workshop since summer 2019, both Army research and concept communities combined their specialized expertise to identify capability and research gaps. Whiteboarding sessions helped to develop meaningful, useable terminology and richer conversation, allowing scientists to achieve better operational perspective, concept writers to achieve better understanding of relevant research and both communities to better understand the complexity of the problem space. This collaborative, unifying dialogue grounds the future-focused concept documents in "what could be," based on scientific discoveries and technological advancements developed across CCDC.
John David "JD" Devido, CCDC DAC WFID Team Lead for the Capability Projection Team, joined Team Ignite in late June and has since seen positive reactions to its work.
"I've sat through a couple of workshops, and I'll say, they've always, always, had a full room," said Mr. Devido. "The response has been incredible; the momentum from early workshops certainly helped get more people engaged. People recognize that in doing this teamwork early, we have that body of evidence, that documentation, to make an informed milestone decision."
A VISION TO INCREASE REACH
Because of Team Ignite's two-way exchange, discoveries are targeted for a specific need and create a growing evidence base for needed technologies. S&T knowledge products are translated, integrated and ingrained in concept development. During focused excursions, Conceptors can apply science into wargaming, incorporating research into existing exercises during targeted or concurrent sessions to experiment with and refine concepts.
"Everybody seems to want to play. It's an opportunity for them to get involved: to link to CCDC, to link with the FCC side of the house, to help fill in Army gaps," said Mr. Devido.
And Team Ignite is growing. Members strive to strike the right balance of physical presence across the Command. Co-locating, according to members, ensures values of teamwork and collaboration.
"It's exciting to assist FCC during the incredibly important work they do in crafting the future force," Mr. Perry said. For the Army, this goal is a Multi-Domain Operations ready force by 2035.
"[Team Ignite] certainly has the right people-- people that are process-oriented, people that go out and make things happen to fight that 2035 battle... to be ahead of the curve and forging the future," said Mr. Devido.
"We're going to change the Army," said Dr. Vettel. "That's our vision."