In a Dec. 13 visit to Natick Soldier Systems Center, Heidi Shyu, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, urged the workforce to focus on identifying capability gaps and filling them cost-effectively against the backdrop of shrinking budgets.

"What are the things we have to do?" said Shyu in a town hall meeting at NSSC. "I want us to focus … our (science and technology) portfolio on solving critical Army problems that nobody else is going to solve for us.

"What's the gap? What's the threat? How are we going to get there? How mature are the technologies?"

Shyu pointed out that Army AL&T already had spent the past year achieving significant cost savings.

"The key thing is to change the mindset, change the culture of our program managers as they're executing their programs," Shyu said. "Since we started … we've saved $10 billion. That's 10 billion that the Army can spend elsewhere. It's a great thing.

"We're changing the acquisition process to make it a lot more agile."

Even as budget cuts loom, Shyu seemed determined to defend the foundations of programs.

"You've got to nurture your (science and technology), because that's the seedling," Shyu said. "I want to make sure the critical enabling technologies are nurtured so when that money (is available) again, I can turn on the spigot and get going. I'm a strong advocate of (science and technology)."

The top priority, said Shyu, is supporting the war fighter.

"You guys are doing that in spades," Shyu said. "All the stuff you guys are working on is helping our Soldiers … today -- very, very important work that you are doing."

Shyu toured NSSC facilities, and then she and her party climbed aboard two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for a brief flight to Fort Devens, where they inspected the Base Camp Integration Laboratory.

In an earlier overview, Brig. Gen. John J. McGuiness, NSSC senior commander, told Shyu about Natick's unique facilities, ongoing projects, and what motivates its highly skilled workforce.

"As Soldiers are deploying, it's all about confidence," McGuiness said. "If Soldiers are deploying, it's not only the Soldiers that deploy; but it's the mothers and the fathers and the spouses and the children that are back home that worry about them and have to have confidence in the uniform and equipment that these folks are responsible for to make sure that they come home safe."