WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 24, 2012) -- Army acquisition is in the early stages of refining an integrated, multi-pronged strategic approach to equipment modernization which seeks to harvest key lessons learned from a decade of war, service leaders said Oct. 23.

The approach must recognize asymmetrical and adaptive threats, identify key current and anticipated "capability" gaps and sketch out a 30-year investment and science and technology, or S&T, plan, leaders explained at an Association of the United States Army Institute of Land Warfare panel discussion.

"The Army has started a new process, called strategic modernization planning, which combines a detailed analysis of investments in S&T and material development linked to emerging threats and capability gaps across a long-term, 30-year time frame," said the Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.

"The output of this process will be a detailed road map of our future capabilities across the acquisition life-cycle, linking our S&T investments with our Programs of Record which, in turn, are linked to our long-term sustainment strategy," she said.

Shyu advocated an integrated approach to modernization aimed at harnessing near-term emerging capability able to quickly benefit the force while also emphasizing Basic Research able to identify potentially paradigm-changing technologies for the future.

Improving situational awareness for Soldiers through "network" technologies and force protection for vehicles, airborne platforms and small, dismounted units-on-the move will, among other things, continue to factor prominently among acquisition and research priorities, Shyu explained.

The thrust of this modernization approach is grounded in a broader strategic goal of fostering and sustaining an agile, deployable, technologically superior force able to keep pace with rapid technological change, Shyu said. With this in mind, she also emphasized the importance of, at times, synchronizing S&T efforts with Programs of Record so as to identify "insertion" possibilities wherein new capability can integrate within existing developmental efforts.

"The Army is re-assessing S&T across all portfolios to ensure that S&T is properly linked to our acquisition road map and able to facilitate 'insertion' opportunities aligning technologies over time," she said.

In fact, Army scientists and engineers are already working with industry and academic partners on "Concept Explorations" designed to look for opportunities to identify basic research themes geared toward discovering new capability, said Ms. Mary Miller, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army, Research and Technology.

"Army S&T can work toward closing capability gaps as a key foundation for the Army's future technology needs," Miller said.

As part of this effort, Miller cited the congressionally allocated Rapid Innovation Funds designed to support small business S&T innovations aimed at solving challenges. The program, which began in 2011, is already having an impact, Miller said.

Thinking strategically about a longer-term investment strategy cognizant of emerging threats and potential future operating environments was at the heart of the vision for Army acquisition expressed by Shyu.

"As we look ahead, many potential adversaries will have greater access to sophisticated and disruptive technologies that could greatly complicate our operations. We cannot afford to let technological change level our advantage in any potential conflict," she told the audience.

Shyu explained how the anticipated ongoing drawdown in Afghanistan, coupled with a renewed emphasis or "pivot" toward the Asia Pacific theater, represents an important time of transition for Army modernization as the force endeavors to best position itself for a full range of potential future contingencies.

"It is the right time to entertain a comprehensive and strategic approach to Army equipment modernization in which we adapt a systemic approach to setting and determining long-term equipping priorities," Shyu said.

Shyu also took occasion to cite a handful of impactful acquisition successes from the last 10 years of war as a way to harvest key lessons for the future, mentioning Blue-Force Tracking, Enhanced Night Vision Goggles and life-saving Pelvic Protection gear for Soldiers, among others.

"Our command posts and systems transitioned from analogue to a digital backbone. Our tactical mission-command capabilities have been revolutionized to include enhanced situational awareness through Force Battle Command - Brigade and Below, or FBCB2, and Blue Force Tracking as well as improved satellite communications," Shyu said.

Citing these instances of acquisition successes is important to recognize the value of how innovation and technological progress can vastly improve Soldier capability and protection, she said.

"We're developing and fielding capabilities across a spectrum of challenges. Force protection will remain of paramount importance regardless of whatever region we are operating in," Shyu said.

Along these lines, she also cited the protective capabilities of mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, the Stryker Double-V Hull and the Army's Enhanced Performance Round, or EPR.

"The M855A1 [EPR] is a new 5.56mm cartridge with greatly increased consistency and accuracy and greater penetration," Shyu said.

Also, recognizing the need to develop and manage capabilities with a mind to the entire life-cycle is a key element of the Army's strategy, Shyu emphasized.

"Our PEOs [Program Executive Offices] are working to lay out our current and planned capabilities across a 30-year horizon, spanning from concept development to technology development to EMD (Engineering, Manufacturing and Design), production and sustainment. Our strategic modernization plan will also integrate our long-term sustainment needs and priorities," she said.