Secretary’s Modernization Media Round table Transcript

By Audricia HarrisApril 23, 2020


Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy

GEN Mike Murray, Commanding General, Army Futures Command

Dr. Bruce Jette, ASA(ALT)

Secretary McCarthy: …difficult period. Just yesterday I was traveling in the country, was as actually in Detroit Michigan with Vice Chief of Staff General Martin, and we had the opportunity to visit BAE Systems, as well as General Dynamics and got to talk to the workforces of both of those corporations and look and see the progress as they're pursuing programs like mobile protect firepower and a couple others. Just raising how quickly they've adapted, kept their workforce engaged, and are protecting cost schedule and performance on these weapons systems. So, you know, good opportunity to talk to the workforce and talk to their executives about their progress, which makes it very encouraging. You know, I think it's also something  I'm very proud of General Murray and Dr. Jette’s performance during this crisis - working on things like progress payments for manufacturers, trying to help them get access to small business loans, the managing of second and third-tier suppliers. We've been very supportive of our industrial base and their supply chains to ensure that they continue to go down the path of recapitalizing existing weapon systems as well as the development of the new ones. So, you know, I think it's important that both those two guys get to talk here throughout the discussion. But just how encouraged we are and how grateful we are for American industry. So, since we’ve only got about 27 minutes and you’ve got about how many reporters on here?

Secretary McCarthy: Okay. So, Dr. Jette and General Murray will probably answer the bulk of questions. Why don't we go directly into the Q&A so everybody gets to ask a question and then have time for wrap up. Okay? So, Driece, go ahead.

Staff: All right, so we're going to go ahead and start with Army News Service. Sean, what's your question?

Sean: Gentlemen, thank you for speaking with us. I was hoping one of you had the status on Soldier Touch Point. Is there an example of how they are being protected now? Are they being postponed?

Secretary McCarthy: General Murray, why don’t you Drive that one?

General Murray So, a great example of that is Soldier Touch Point is going on at Fort Riley Kansas as we speak for future UAS systems. So, you may or may not know there are five different brigades, and four different vendor solutions for a future UAS to replace the Shadow UAS, and then it varies based upon where you are in the country. So, if one installation, Fort Campbell, were a little bit delayed on that Soldier Touch Point, we should be able to get that off the ground here this month; at Fort Riley Kansas different situation - they've actually been exercising with Soldier Touch Point with the proper PPE, with the proper social distancing, with the proper hygiene, and so it really varies place to place in terms of touch points. Over.

Staff: All right. Let's go to Matt Beinart.

Matt: Alright, thank you. I was kind of curious about how the pandemic has impacted the Night Court process? How far along were you in doing that Night Court when this kind of all started up? Has it moved virtual? How is that impacting maybe….will you have to do a more aggressive night court to account for things that may be delayed this year? How is that kind of working?

Secretary McCarthy: Well, I'll start, and then I would ask my two co-chairs of the EE PEG to weigh in here respectively. I will tell you that we've done two sessions for the Chief and I with Dr. Jette and General Murray on the EE Peg alone in the last I guess 45 days - those two guys can correct me if I’m wrong. It’s a challenge because a lot of folks are working virtually, but the same level of rigor that we've imposed on the system is being applied again. What's makes it very helpful is that our priorities have been consistent for the last three years. So, when you really drill down into elements of the investment portfolio, it's not as I guess as broad as it was when we restructured the portfolio three years ago. Now you can really drill down very quickly into hard rocks if you will, you’ve got to basically break through. General Murray and Dr. Jette have a very strong handle on this. General Murray was the G8 when Dr. Jette came in, and now he's the AFC Commander. They've got a lot of reps together, and they know this this portfolio very well. So, you know, all the players are pretty much the same - folks have new jobs, but they continue to work together and know this problem set very well. Dr. Jette, why don't you comment on that and then we'll go to General Murray. Over.

Dr. Jette: So, my comment is that fundamentally the secretary has hit it dead on. He has encouraged us to continue to support the Army's main effort for 31 plus 6 programs. We've got to keep supporting Covid efforts, but we can't take our eye off the ball that we have a fundamental readiness modernization objective. That includes things like having a ____[OMCCUHAA(1]  done and done on time. So the EE PEG, the SS PEG have continued to work. We do it virtually, but then again the Army is reasonably well suited to being able to do things virtually. The Secretary has given the G6 CIO additional instructions to enhance that through some new tools which have been put in place as well. So, we just continue to march on, and we don't plan to skip the schedule at all.

SR: General Murray?

General Murray I think Dr. Jette meant 31 plus 3 unless we’ve come up with 3 new programs….I was just trying to avoid the follow on question. The thing that has not changed is exactly what the Secretary said is the rigor behind the process, the analysis is going on… all that can be done virtually. We can bring in people from across the Army in terms of VTC, and you know where we are in the process is I think we have presented the Chief and the Secretary the final brief from the EE PEG. So, Bruce Jette and I have been through all 609 programs inside the EE PEG, and a lot of the recommendations and decisions are pretty much close to being finalized. Over.

Staff: All right, Lee Hudson.

LH: Thanks for doing this. I wanted to follow up on what General Murray said about the future tactical UAS program. Why is that delayed at Fort Campbell and not at Fort Riley? Could you talk about if COVID-19 is impacting migration to Army personnel, the space force, please?

Secretary McCarthy: I'll take the last one. General Murray, why don't you take the first one?

General Murray I was going to volunteer you for the last time, Mr. Secretary.

Secretary McCarthy: Thanks, teammate. I appreciate that.

General Murray We rely very heavily on the assessment that the local commander on the ground makes. So, in the case of Fort Riley the Division Commander at Fort Riley and the Senior Mission Commander in a different hat made the decision that they could get the protective measures in place, that they could do the social distancing and that soldiers would be safe to execute that Soldier Touch Point. At Fort Campbell based upon that local situation General Winski, who is the Senior Mission Commander of Fort Campbell, made the decision to delay that Soldier Touch Point until he could have those conditions in place. So, we consult but ultimately we will defer to the local commander on the ground to make those types of decisions about the health of the force and what they can and cannot do and preserve the force. Over.

Secretary McCarthy: With reference to the space merger to space force, the initial decision by the Air Force where they essentially recolored some personnel and now are standing up the first tranche of personnel into the space force as you saw the Air Force Academy graduation last week - the first I believe 89 officers being commissioned out of the Air Force Academy to the space force. There's some existing personnel within the Air Force that are recoloring to space force. With respect to space capabilities within other services that would then ultimately be divested by the Army, the Navy and then moved to the space force that will go a long a process internally. It really starts with the tank process with the Chiefs talking about the task organization, admissions of each of those services, and what is the breakpoint at where you have certain capabilities that may have to be organic to a service based on how they fight and that domain of  combat that they'll make that determination. That's a process that's underway, and those decisions will be made over time.

Staff: Alright. Michelle Tan?

MT: Yes. Hi. Thank you for doing this - I appreciate your time. I just wanted to talk, Mr. Secretary, a little bit…you could kind of take those 6, 9, 12 months out….what does the Army need to do to get to maybe the not normal but at ‘the new normal’? You're very busy now with the Guard and active-duty soldiers supporting efforts across the country, but what does it look like six months from now? Nine months from now? Will NTC for example or Ranger school or the modernization efforts?

Secretary McCarthy: So if you were to look at…I guess you're getting back to how do we do collective training exercises as an Army? A lot of that is the testing capability as well as the protocols or the leadership and discipline over the protocols we will put in place to test individuals and put what we call safety bubbles around a formation so that they can train in large groups and obviously keep people safe and healthy. So, you’ve seen this, and this is part of the larger national dialogue of the push for robust test capability around the country. Dr. Jette’s team has done a remarkable job working with the task force of putting in the test capability at our installations globally - everything from getting into Afghanistan and Iraq to all of our training centers in the United States as well as FORSCOM Installations. So, as you put all that test capability in place, it's how do you now look at a battalion that is moving down the readiness continuum that needs to do a company and battalion level live-fire, ultimately get to a combat training center and then deploy to Afghanistan or Pacific Pathways in East Asia. So, it is as much the resources to test as it is once you get somebody, you know they're negative, putting them into an isolated space where they can go out and train in the field with their teammates and then keeping them healthy to be ready for deployment. We're going to be rolling out in the near future how we're going to be doing all of that and to be able to turn the CTC rotations back on. Ultimately, 9-12 months from now, I sure hope we're having a conversation about vaccines, and I think we will. You know, General Murray's MRDC has been a key part of the government private sector approach on the pursuit of vaccines. You know their history. They were instrumental in bringing Ebola vaccine to the public as well as cracking the code on zika. He has some remarkably talented people in that command that are playing a key role in the national test effort as well as vaccines. We're going to put these safety protocols in place. We're going to manage the risk here in the near term, but downstream we know that MRDC and others are going to help us find a vaccine, we're going to turn the corner.

Staff: Haley Britzky?

HB: Thank you. Yeah. Mr. Secretary, I just want to echo my appreciation for you to take the time to do this. It’s very helpful. I want to ask a broader question. I am wondering how the stop move order extension to June 30 is expected to affect soldiers who have deployment or redeployment dates that fall in that window. What sort of guidance is being given to them on sort of what to expect?

Secretary McCarthy: So, the June 30th is assessed every 15 days by the Secretary of Defense - conditions-based. With respect to units, those are risk-based decisions that he looks at with the chairman, and in some cases the Chiefs and others, to look at the risk-based nature of extension versus bringing them home. So, a lot of it depends on the mission and where they are in the world.

Staff: Alright, everyone still there?

Speakers: Go ahead. Yes.

Staff: Okay, moving on to Matthew Cox.

MC: Hey, Mr. Secretary, General Murray, Dr. Jette. Thank you for doing this. So, I did want to get back a little bit to the training question. You know, we talked about you are going to be rolling this plan out soon. As far as I know, there has only been one NTC rotation, a unit out of Lewis, that was cancelled or postponed. Is the Army going to delay anymore NTC rotations? That’s one thing, and also can you talk about maybe… actually that question first. Are there any more delays planned right now or is it shut down right now?

Secretary McCarthy: Matt, we're going to be putting out some information on that in the next couple of weeks to how we're going to proceed. So, we'll be able to address that head on here very shortly.

MC: So, you can't speak to whether NTC….

Secretary McCarthy: I'm going to address it in a couple weeks when I'm ready.

Staff: Thanks, Matt. Ashley Roque?

AR: Thank you for doing this. I had two questions.  Could you give us a sense and an update on the multi-domain task force that was supposed to deploy to the Pacific this year, and if it's being impacted by Covid-19, and then also an update on sort of the programs, additional programs that may be delayed at this point as you continue to assess the industrial base? Thank you.

Secretary McCarthy: So, General Murray, do you want to take the first one and then Dr. Jette takes the second one?

General Murray The MDTF is a little bit outside my lane. That's more of an Army G 3/5/7, but I do track it very closely. So, the stand up of the first multidomain task force at JBLM in Washington state has not been impacted in terms of the equipment flow. Of course, the people have probably been a little bit delayed. Right now, I believe that the plan is that they will still participate in the exercises in the Pacific, and then next year Defender 21, which is in the Pacific…. but you're going to have to go back probably to the G 3/5/7 to make sure that I'm not speaking out of school, but I have not heard of any impacts or planned impacts to their participation in the Pacific. Of course, they’ve got to stand the unit up first and flesh it out with the rest of the capabilities that the Army made the decision to do.

Secretary McCarthy: That’s my understanding as well, General Murray. The Chief was out there with the new task force Commander, Jim Eisenhower, and the Corps Commander, Randy George….I think it was back in March actually when he was out there visiting Washington State and seeing the troops in Seattle. He actually went and sat down with the leadership out at JBLM, and they're still moving out smartly to prepare for that. Over.

General Murray And then on program delays…. we are at the same place we were, you know, a week or a week and a half ago that we talked to you. Since the last time we talked I have updated the Chief and the Secretary, and for the 31 plus 3 we went through every program about delays. We're still watching some very closely, and what I'm very much focused on - there may be some slips in some key decisions.  There may be some slips in some Soldier Touch Points. What I'm focused on, what I believe is the most important thing, is when we promised our soldiers we would deliver that capability. If you look at it from that standpoint, we can make up the time that we've lost in the programs we will lose time, because it's not all of them, and we will deliver…The current estimate is we will deliver the capability by the time we said we would deliver that capability to our soldiers, which you would know is first unit equipped. Over.

Staff: Okay. Thank you, sir. Joe Gould?

JG: I guess I wanted to specifically ask about, to jump off Ashley’s question, whether there is a limited user test…you know, for the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command system is still going to happen. What gives you confidence that that's still going to happen on time? The Precision Strike Missile flight test, what gives you guys confidence that's still going to happen on time? This situation is so fluid, you know, is there anything that's starting to change, kind of at the lower tiers of the industrial base that has you guys concerned or anything, any red lights blinking that might not have been blinking a couple weeks ago when you spoke with us?

Secretary McCarthy: Okay, General Murray, why don't you take the LUT, and Dr. Jette can talk about the supply chain.

General Murray Roger, Mr. Secretary. I'm confident enough that we're going to do the next test flight of PrSM that I've scheduled a military aircraft to go out and see it. So, I'm very confident that on 30 April we will get flight test through for PrSM missile. The IBCS, or AIAMD by another name…. we talked about this last time….. it will slide a little bit but we will be on time for milestone decisions, we will be on time for IOT&E, we will be on time for first unit equip. What gives me confidence in that is is a couple things. One is we did a very extensive train up with an air defense battalion prior to the restrictions going in place. That will be the same unit that will take it into LUT and IOT&E. The Army has been very gracious about stabilizing a small number of soldiers in that unit to make sure we’ve got continuity between train up, the LUT and the IOT&E. I have extreme confidence in the unit. The two primary players in that - the PEO Major General Robert Rasch and Brigadier General Brian Gibson, the CFT director, have been working this from the very very beginning to understand where we are, making sure the software is up to date… that has continued to happen while we have had this slight delay. That's not just the mission software - that's the simulation software. The equipment has never left White Sands Missile Range. We've had a test unit on that, continued to exercise the system while we have had this slight delay. So, I'm very confident that although it will slip a little bit that we will get the LUT done this summer, early fall. Over.

Secretary McCarthy: Dr. Jette, you want to talk about the supply chain?

Dr. Jette: Yes sir. So, I keep track on a daily basis 63 pages of supply chain. Our industry partners have been really good about opening their books all the way down to their sub suppliers and keeping us well informed.  They contractually don't have to do that, but they have. The supply chain itself does have some challenges. That's probably where the vast majority of any slips that would occur are tied to individuals in the supply chain. Some of these companies are small. If one person gets COVID in the company the next thing you know, you’ve lost 14 days for the whole company because everybody that didn't get it is in quarantine. So, there are a number of other issues that we encounter at that level, but we've made a great deal of effort to facilitate their cash flow, work with the primes, and it's just been across the board to stay as close to on schedule as possible. In general, I very much echo what General Murray had said. We don't see any FUEs changing. We are tracking each program to include all of the 31 plus 3, but all of our over 600 programs - none of them are at risk of not being able to recover without significant slip at this point.

Staff: All right. Thank you, gentleman. Did you have something to add sir?

Secretary McCarthy: No.

Staff: Okay. Sydney Freedberg?

SF: Hello gentlemen. Thank you Colonel. You’ve gone through some good examples of, you know, the QS[OMCCUHAA(2]  is moving ahead in some places, other places are still in partial pause, working on the LUT for IBCS. Can you give us some additional examples? FVL, for example, we have two platforms for FARA in flight test and we have two platforms in detailed design for FLARA, which is two very different stages with very different things you can do virtually and remotely with the engineering design versus flight test. What are we seeing with IVAS as well where the Soldier Touch Points have been absolutely crucial to the point where these guys are actually proposing design changes that Microsoft is being on the spot. That would require people working side-by-side. I imagine that's going to be a whole lot harder.

Secretary McCarthy: General Murray?

General Murray Yes, sir. Sydney, thanks for the question. I've asked specifically - that's also - we had Soldier Touch Point 3 scheduled for this summer - critical Soldier Touch Point because it was the first…and some of you have been up to see it before…it was going to be the first military form factor that we had the capability on. That was being put together in California. We had obviously some delays in the manufacturing. That company that puts it together, a sub for Microsoft, should be up and operational late this week or early next week. Right now, we're going to delay Soldier Touch Point 3 because it is such a critical Soldier Touch Point, because it's the first military form factor, to this fall. We have got plans in place to make that time up and maintain the first unit equipped like we promised all along. You are absolutely right - that has been, not only for that program, but for all our programs, input from the soldiers that will actually be asked to use this equipment has been critical.  That has been impacted obviously. Next-Gen Squad Weapons is another example - six week delay in getting the prototype weapons from all three vendors based upon supply chain issues when this started. We will get weapons into the hands of soldiers - current plan and under the current conditions - in the hands of soldiers two weeks after we take delivery of the prototypes. That used to be a longer process, and so we'll get back four of those six weeks right away just by accelerating the time we can get in the hands of soldiers. So, every individual program, I mean, there are little places where we're massaging and working to make back time. And that's pretty much, as Dr. Jette said, we've been pretty much successful or we have been successful, given what we know today across all the priority programs. Over.

SF: What do you cut out when you cut out for of the six weeks out? Does that mean that some qualification or some kind of logistics process have to happen in parallel with handing out to the soldiers as opposed to happening beforehand? Clearly, you weren’t putting them in a stew for six weeks to marinate and become tastier, right? There was clearly a point to the four weeks that you now have to get some other way.

General Murray Well, no, actually, it's just taking the slack out of schedule. So, a lot of places there is slack built into the schedule for unforeseen circumstances. So, we're actually just going to stick to when we were originally going to get the weapons in the hands of soldiers. So, it’s not like we're really cutting anything out. We're just moving faster than we originally planned to go from prototype delivery into the hands of soldiers.

Staff: All right. Thanks, Sidney. Did you have anything to add, Dr. Jette?

Dr. Jette: No. General Murray has got all the good, key features.

Staff: Alright. Ashley Tressel?

AT: Hi, thank you. Could you please briefly give an update on production? I know we kind of touched on the industrial base earlier, but have there been any further delays or temporary closures or anything like that? And then a general budget question. How do you foresee this impacting the 21 budget and then budgets coming up after that? Are you going to have to seek any additional like reprograming or anything like that? Are you talking to committees about that?

Secretary McCarthy: Uh, Dr. Jette. You take the first one, and I'll take the budget one, okay?

Dr. Jette: Yes, sir. So, we do track all of our closures. Right now, all the companies that were closed for any period of time have reopened. So, for example BAE closed for a week - they had a person come down with positive on an assembly line. Some of these lines - you can't do assembly of armored vehicles by telephone or computer. You’ve got to have welders and people in there, and sometimes they're in close proximity to each other. So, they went back and rescrubbed their entire procedures, and they took care of their people as we would encourage them. So, they closed. They coordinated with us. We understood.  They coordinated with their Union. They normally have a summer week that they take off, and instead they swapped it out so they wouldn't lose schedule. That kind of goes back to General Murray's comment that there are ways we can sometimes make changes to our schedules and make things stay on schedule. Boeing closed for 10 days at the Philadelphia plant - did a very similar thing and reopened on time and are continuing to work. We can kind of go down that chain for the primes. They tend to be quicker at coming back online. The ones where we end up with two or three weeks are the ones where we've got small individual companies of maybe 20 to 30 people who are suppliers of cables or connectors and things like that. If someone gets sick there that tends to have a bigger impact for a little bit longer time. What we do then is we try to execute those portions of the program which aren't dependent upon those components, and then we'll come back and clean up the battle space.

Secretary McCarthy: So, on your second question, Ashley. You have to look at the whole fiscal picture. They've had three COVID supplemental bills. There's talk of a fourth and even potentially a fifth. If you recall, Secretary Minuchin called this a 9-inning game or fight. So, Congress has been incredibly supportive of passing supplemental funding bills. So, when you look at are there ways in which you can offset costs that may have been incurred to your point, which we would call an emerging requirement for the COVID National Emergency, and then are there additional things that could be put into that bill? A lot of that discussion is underway. So, we'll see that. In the COVID three we did get a lot of funding to pay for like the first responding for vaccine work, for PPE… so, we've been able to get, you know, the type of funding and resources we need. As we continue to work with Congress on this there will be the potential for other things to fill these emerging requirements. As for now, we're collecting potential costs that may be incurred, and that's how we'll address it - through those various mechanisms. Until we get further into the summer we won’t know if there's been adjustments that would need to be made to the FY 22 program. But as Dr. Jette and General Murray described, they are putting an enormous amount of rigor into the 22 program. No different than we did the year prior. Now, there's just additional lines of effort with these supplemental funding bills. We're watching them closely, but Congress has been incredibly supportive in a very bipartisan fashion.

Secretary McCarthy: So, unless there are any other questions with Sydney talking about tasty rifles I'm getting hungry – it’s lunch! We'll try to do more of these on modernization in particular, but I can't emphasize enough just how well Dr. Jette and General Murray's teams are doing managing these very complex set of conditions. Appreciate your time and stay healthy everybody. Thank you.