AUSTIN, Texas — As Lt. Gen. Thomas H. Todd III prepares for retirement and life out of uniform, and reflects on his Army career, he remains dedicated to ensuring the Army maintains exceptional capabilities and encouraging young people to consider a career in the armed forces.
“The number one thing that I would say is serve — whatever you think matches your talents and desires to serve,” Todd said.
“A life of service is rewarding beyond anything monetary, anything that perhaps the world outside of the United States Army can give you. Everybody has their purpose, they need to figure out what it is and find it, but at the end of the day, it’s a life of service, and the rewards — some tangible but many intangible — are beyond anything that you really can ever imagine or plan.”
Todd, who is the outgoing deputy commanding general for acquisition and systems and the chief innovation officer at Army Futures Command, recognizes the importance of placing people first in any Army transformation initiative.
“The Soldier is the centerpiece of everything we do,” he said.
Having served as an active-duty officer and Army aviator for roughly 34 years, Todd speaks from experience. He has held numerous operational and acquisitional leadership roles throughout his career, fulfilling positions that included deputy commander of the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command — now the Combat Capabilities Development Command — special assistant to the commanding general of Army Materiel Command and modernization advisor to the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center — now the Futures and Concept Center.
“That broad range of experiences, that broad range of building teams and working with others — great professionals throughout our Army and the other disciplines that make up AFC now — probably more than anything prepared me to come here and to be able to help,” Todd said.
“Where I’ve had the privilege to play a large role, is the integration of technology into operations,” Todd continued, highlighting the importance of producing results with clear operational merit while simultaneously strengthening synergies with foreign partners and allies.
After joining AFC in July 2020, Todd grew his team from a unit of six people to a group of approximately 100 people “in charge of integrating technology strategies and the funding that is associated with it, with those operational concepts that’ll bring us our future Army.”
AFC’s focus on integration — ensuring transformation across the spectrum of doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, facilities, and policy, commonly referred to as DOTMLPF-P — is driving transformational changes for the Army, joint force and multinational partners, Todd explained.
“We’re not only integrating acquisition programs, mature technologies and early technologies along with concepts and requirements, but we’re heavily involved in — for the commander of Army Futures Command, Gen. [James E.] Rainey — making sure we create integrated, formations-based solutions for our Army and the key formations that we’ll be expected to fight on the future battlefields.”
The experience and complexity of bringing together innovative solutions and multiple stakeholders has reinforced for Todd the criticality of working with exceptional teammates to deliver enduring solutions for future Soldiers.
“The reality that you learn in this business is that it’s not about technology, it’s about the human element of warfare, the human element of leadership and the human element of management of the technology that we so desperately need.”
Todd’s understanding of how to lead and develop productive teams was nurtured by Army training and discipline, which he credits, along with excellent mentorship, for enabling his ability to contribute successfully to a wide variety of Army efforts.
“I received some great advice early in life, and that was ‘never side-step, always be stepping forward.’ What I tried to do is always improve myself each step of the way, but, more importantly, the Army did that for me.”
Todd is a strong advocate of embracing opportunities to learn, grow and commence new chapters, both as an individual and a member of the Army.
“It’s very easy for us to stay in our comfort zones. But if we stay in our comfort zones, we suffer the potential never to grow,” Todd said.
“I do believe that to prove we are a learning organization, we need to measure our results,” he added, asserting that senior leader support and the continuance of processes and procedures designed to achieve learning — including “experiments, simulations, development of concepts, and technology search and development” spearheaded by AFC — will be instrumental in shaping a modern Army culture that is able to “take the learning and adopt the learning quickly.”
He sees the command’s unique and collaborative approach to overcoming obstacles, integrating improvements and placing people at the forefront as amplifying the excellence the Army has delivered in the past and will continue to deliver in the future.
“Most people think about innovation in the area of technology or products — what’s new, what can we buy that’s new. The most promising area, though, that we have — and this is what will set our Army apart for years to come — is that we know how to integrate formations, Soldiers, training, doctrine, with concepts and science and technology better than anybody else. So, it’s not the one thing that creates that extraordinary outcome that we’re after, but it’s the integration of all those things.”