AUSTIN, Texas — As the U.S. Army develops new systems to ensure overmatch on future battlefields, it is also working to hone an enduring driver of warfighting success: human performance.
“We have to push the ball down the field further,” said Maj. Nick Rinaldi, human performance portfolio lead at Army Futures Command’s Army Applications Laboratory, emphasizing the need to continuously enhance Soldier wellness and lethality.
Army Futures Command hosted the VERTEX | Human Performance workshop from Dec. 7 to 8 to explore cutting-edge resources and tools for optimizing human performance — including in the rapidly growing areas of wearables, tech and data — while strengthening relationships with private-sector innovators.
Approximately 150 participants from government, academia, industry and the tech sector convened in downtown Austin to attend the interactive event, which served as a collaborative market research opportunity for the Army and its partners.
Through a blend of keynote speeches, panels and small group sessions, VERTEX | Human Performance participants focused on avenues for amplifying Soldier readiness and synchronizing evaluation and implementation of premier technologies across the Army transformation enterprise.
Core topics covered included tech’s ability to encourage healthy choices and bolster cognitive performance; improve stress management and threat response; and fine-tune sleep and recovery patterns. The indispensable role of data in enabling accurate and actionable measurement and understanding of human performance was also a primary point of discussion.
“Our mission is to ensure that we can fight and win the nation’s wars,” said Susan J. Goodyear, executive deputy to the commanding general of Army Futures Command and a speaker at the event.
Goodyear pointed out that in future operational environments, even amid impressive developments in robotics and artificial intelligence, “we’re still going to be human” and thus will continue to require dynamic human performance support.
“What can we start now that would get us to 2040?” she asked the audience to consider.
VERTEX | Human Performance was organized and executed with this question in mind, and in recognition of the powerful partnerships the Army can forge with commercial leaders and disruptors in the human performance space.
Keynote speakers at the event included Doug Beck, vice president of worldwide education, government and health at Apple Inc; Alexis Bonnell, senior business executive and emerging technology evangelist at Google; and Josh Clemente, founder and head of research and development at Levels. Additional business executives and university directors served as panel speakers, facilitating discussions focused on expanding human performance insight and connectivity.
“Ultimately, what we’re really going after is closing the gap” between military and private-sector capabilities and among various organizations working on Soldier performance solutions, Rinaldi explained.
To set the stage for networking and learning within the government sphere specifically, Army Futures Command additionally hosted a pre-event, government-only workshop at the Army Applications Laboratory on Dec. 6. The workshop provided officials with an intimate forum for delving into the parameters and challenges of human performance within a defense context.
During the government workshop, Army and Air Force research, requirements development, acquisition and training experts highlighted factors affecting performance – from physical and mental health to social, spiritual and emotional well-being – and the nuance involved in assessing and promoting potential human performance solutions.
Army Futures Command plans to distill recommendations from both the government workshop and the broader VERTEX | Human Performance event to share with Army leaders in the coming months.