ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Senior leadership hosted a State of APG roundtable discussion and a workforce update for community members at the Myer Auditorium here, April 26.
Maj. Gen. Robert Edmonson II, senior commander of APG and commanding general of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, said APG has an “equal system of partnership” across all organizations. APG is the sixth biggest employer in the state of Maryland and the largest employer of Harford County, he said.
“We have a very sizable workforce,” Edmonson said. “We have to make sure we are bringing in the high-end talent to be a part of what the Army believes.”
Senior leaders from the six Centers of Excellence gave short updates on the latest developments, opportunities and the future as Team APG continues to support the warfighter.
Edmonson said that Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance is a one-of-a-kind national security asset providing barrier-shattering innovations forged in history, guiding the present and anticipating emerging threats.
“We [C5ISR] are networking Army operations in support of national defense,” Edmonson said. “What can we do tomorrow to be better than we are today?”
According to Edmonson, a major part of C5ISR is sustainment. He said everything has a lifecycle. Equipment has to be ready “at a moment’s notice.”
“This is a professional Army that is adapting itself to tomorrow,” he said. “We are moving in a direction to grow our purpose, our value and our mission.”
Edmonson said that Harford County, Maryland, and its surrounding areas are special and collaborative. APG has shown its value for years.
“If there is a level of synergy both on and off base that allows us to have the workforce we need, we can continue to attract and retain the best talent known to this Army,” Edmonson said. “We can’t do this alone.”
APG is postured for growth across all organizations, he said.
Test and evaluation
Testing and evaluating equipment falls to the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command. James Amato, executive technical director for ATEC, categorized test and evaluation into three “big buckets.” They are: does everything do what it's supposed to do?; is the equipment going to work in the intended environment?; and when a unit receives the equipment, are they able to better accomplish their mission?
“It’s our job to take the information and feedback, analyze it and then turn it into something useful,” Amato said.
ATEC is responsible for communicating and conveying information to the warfighter so they know what to do, and to senior leaders so they know that ATEC is “doing what they’re supposed to do.”
Amato praised the work that goes on at the Aberdeen Test Center. He said ATC has been working to figure out how to modernize the Army for the future.
“Thanks to the great work of the developmental command, we will have new tech in the next few years,” Amato said. “Systems are continuously changing and we need academia, industry, etc. to gather the full story.”
Research and development
Brig. Gen. David Trybula, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, or DEVCOM, agreed with Amato that modernization is the main movement for the Army. He said that DEVCOM has direct support from ATEC.
Trybula reminded Team APG that ‘combat’ is the first part of DEVCOM.
“We exist to put capabilities in the hands of Soldiers,” Trybula said. “We are an organization unlike any other. We are uniquely placed for partnerships.”
DEVCOM is the home to tens of thousands of Army professionals. Trybula said that DEVCOM develops “anything that isn’t medical or construction.”
The three main focuses of DEVCOM are innovation and transformation; the future of work; and Project Convergence.
According to its website, Project Convergence is a campaign of learning that leverages a series of joint, multi-domain engagements to integrate artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomy to improve battlefield situational awareness, connect sensors with shooters and accelerate the decision-making timeline.
“We are putting technology in the hands of warfighters to be ready for combat,” Trybula said. “We are enabled to solve the Army’s toughest challenges.”
Nicole Kilgore, deputy joint program executive officer for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense, emphasized that world events have driven the Army’s need to look at integration.
JPEO-CBRND focuses on advanced development and procurement of physical brand equipment. According to Kilgore, in the wake of COVID-19, the Dept. of Defense has started reevaluating how it prepares for and responds to biological threats.
“We need to modernize CBRND capabilities,” Kilgore said. “We have to take advantage of technological advancements.”
The U.S. Army 20th CBRNE Command is a specialized unit to “respond to bio threats,” and to “look for threats that may become an issue.”
Kilgore said that JPEO-CBRND is working to leverage lessons learned from the pandemic to codify streamlined processes and take advantage of technology advancements.
In the future, Kilgore hopes for integration across all domains, functions, equipment and services.
Public health sciences
Big changes are coming to the Army Public Health Center, said Col. Alisa Wilma, director of APHC. The command is transitioning to the Defense Health Agency. This will help better integrate APHC into the bigger picture of public health.
Wilma also discussed the recent changes to Army Combat Fitness Testing.
“The entry basic testing wasn’t reflective of combat, so changes had to be made,” Wilma said.
Wilma said the test needed to highlight the strengths that Soldiers need to survive on the battlefield, which contributed to the new six event combat fitness test.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilma said the Army also had to reevaluate how to train new Soldiers.
“The Army can’t stop,” she said. “We can’t stop recruiting and training. We’re going to have to do it differently.”
Based on data gathered during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilma said that some changes being made are to better assess long-term injury rates. She also said that behavioral and mental health are “big issues.” Studying the long-term effects of being a Soldier both physically and mentally are priorities for APHC.
APHC is opening a new lab on APG South (Edgewood), planned for early next Spring. Nine old buildings will be demolished to build a new lab with “state-of-the-art equipment,” toxicology labs and more.
“The amount of expertise that will be there is impressive,” Wilma said.
APG Garrison Commander Col. Johnny Casiano said his big focus for Garrison is infrastructure and community.
“We are the people behind the people,” Casiano said. “We are the organization that supports the others so they can accomplish their missions.”
Casiano spoke about the new APG Community Exchange, which is similar to the APG town halls hosted in the past. ACE will be “more in depth” and allow APG Garrison to communicate with Team APG and the community better.
“It’s not just for commanders, but subordinates,” Casiano said. “Not just Soldiers, but spouses. It’s for new folks and it’s for tenured folks. We need that social interaction.”
Casiano said that APG is in a “good place” right now but that it takes a lot to run a city. He said they won’t stop at short term solutions, but rather ensure there is proper infrastructure in place to thrive for years to come.
APG recently moved to HPCON Alpha status, which means that 100% of the workforce can return to on-site work. However, there is still maximum workplace flexibility through Sept. 30.
Casiano said that with the move to HPCON Alpha, the base is likely to see an increase in foot traffic that hasn’t been present since the pandemic began. He said that APG Garrison is working on getting different options for dining across the installation.
“Our team is motivated to find purpose,” Casiano said. “It’s very rewarding.”
To view the entire roundtable discussion and questions, click here.