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US Army unveils its 'Big 8' initiatives

March 16, 2016 (Photo Credit: Tech. Sgt. Christopher Marasky)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command laid out its "Big 8" initiatives Wednesday during the Association of the US Army's Global Force Symposium. 

The goal of the Big 8 is to stay ahead of global threats and maintain overmatch against present and future adversaries.

Listed, not necessarily in order of priority are:

• The Future Vertical Lift effort. 

• Active protection.

• Cross-domain fires.

• Combat vehicles.

• Robotics and autonomous systems

• Expeditionary mission command

• Cyber electromagnetic

• Soldier/team performance and overmatch.

Moving these efforts from initiatives to fielded capability will prove challenging.

The next five years – a typical Defense Department future years budget planning cycle – poses “significant risk,” specifically to the Army as it fights the other services for funding major priorities, said Jim McAleese, a Washington-based defense budget analyst, during a Big 8 panel discussion.

For example, the Navy need to fund its Ohio-class replacement submarine and the Air Force is looking to bring its Long Range Strike Bomber into low-rate initial production around the 2023 timeframe. Both of these goals require major funding, McAleese explained.

On the bright side, he still projects a steady budget for tracked vehicle programs. The future also looks bright for Stryker vehicle and Paladin artillery system programs. The Army missile procurement budget looked good, too, he added, but the boost in the 2017 budget request has more to do with the need to buy extra Hellfire missiles to combat the Islamic State group.

McAleese also sees the Army spending “very, very little” on electronic warfare but could see that spending to grow EW improve in the 2018 program objective memorandum (POM).

Even as money and resources become more scarce for all of the services, particularly the Army, demand is only going to increase, Dan Goure, of the Lexington Institute, said during the same panel, and the service can’t afford to “wait until the wolf is at the door.” The Army has to prioritize maintaining overmatch, he added.

So how will the Army manage each of the “Big 8” initiatives?

Maj. Gen. Bo Dyess, the Army Capabilities Integration Center’s deputy director, said requirements for the initiatives will be generated based on the construct of the Army Warfighting Challenges and through lead integrators at the Centers of Excellence and other commands.

Then TRADOC will take recommendations to Army leadership on which resources should be prioritized based on what the organization believes are the biggest gaps in the near-, mid- and long-term.

And a more nimble Army Requirements Oversight Council (AROC), with the Army chief and vice chief at the epicenter, should move initiatives into programs in a more effective way.

Requirement documents should be built with less materiel specificity and more in terms of operational capabilities, said Scott Davis, the program executive officer of combat support and combat service support. Then if changes need to be made down the road, it doesn’t mean making an adjustment to the requirements of a program, it would mean an engineering change proposal, a less disruptive measure to improve capability, according to Davis.

Dyess added the Army should take better advantage of industry days when a program is in a full and open competition. He acknowledged no one in industry is going to stand up at an event like that and reveal their “secret sauce.”  He suggested setting aside a room where individual companies can help the Army better understand how its requirements are being interpreted and what trades could be made in requirements that would allow for better pricing.

Dyess said he’d seen that process used in two programs, but would like to see it employed more often. 

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