Q. The Army is developing its fiscal '17 budget and its next five-year plan. What can you say are the biggest priorities going into FY17 and what can take a back seat?
A. If you look geopolitically at what is happening, you see the environment in Europe and the conflicts that are happening in Ukraine. You see China's island-building. You see the ISIS threat that is just exploding. There is a significant amount of instability.
The next contingency we are likely to face is much more advanced threats. It is not the same kinds of threats that we faced in Afghanistan, which is more counter-IED, small arms and rockets. My goal and my focus is going to be, "How do we position ourselves in a much more contested environment?" We will face a lot more missiles. We will face jamming. We will still have to operate in a multitude of different environments from desert to forested to mountainous to urban in the presence of whiteouts, brownouts, smoke, fog and you name it. My priority is to make sure we are spending the relevant technology and maturing it so we can position ourselves to operate in that environment.
Q. Lawmakers expressed concern in the National Defense Authorization Act conference report that the unit cost to upgrade Stryker vehicles might be too high. Are you worried about that?
A. We are really responding to an urgent request from Europe. We are looking at what the things are that we can rapidly upgrade and deliver to Europe in a quick timeframe. That is driving this. If we had more time, namely a normal acquisition that is not driven by a drop-dead date of 2018 you have to deliver, then we can say, "Let us compete." Competition will drive down the price. But if you say I need it tomorrow, you do not have the time to compete.
Q. The Army just awarded a contract to Oshkosh to build its Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. What else needs to be prioritized to modernize the Army vehicle fleet?
A. If you look at what the Army is looking at, they are looking at some of the capability gaps that they currently have. This is why they are focusing on rapid-entry vehicles. You will hear [Army Training and Doctrine Command] TRADOC talk about the capability they have in terms of mobile protected fire power. That is really focusing on more of early entry.
Q. In terms of actually procuring this stuff, how quickly can the Army buy some of these types of vehicles or upgrade what it has?
Q. Obviously sequestration worries you, but what else are you concerned about now?
A. I worry about the [continuing resolution] followed by CR followed by CR. It is CR perpetuity. … This is because if it drags out for an entire year, that is going to be over 400 programs that will be impacted. That is over $6 billion at stake. If you think about it, it impacts industrial base. If you are supposed to ramp up in production where you can, you are only allowed to buy whatever budget you have last year. If your design phase is supposed to ramp up because your program started last year — like the [Armored Multipurpose Vehicle] program — you cannot ramp up because you are limited by the budget.
A lot of our programs like Apache quantities will be impacted. Actually if you look at all of our major programs, they will be impacted one way or another if you have a yearlong CR.
Q. Is the current CR affecting anything at this point?
A. We have worked things out. We can handle a short-term CR. There are workarounds that we are doing. It absolutely will be impacted if it drags out beyond that. That is my biggest fear.
We actually have a list of what is impacted in six months and how bad it is going to be when it hits a whole year. Really every major program will take a hit if you get to a year. [Paladin Integrated Management] will be hit. AMPV will be hit. Apache will be hit, and you name it.
Q. Is there anything in the acquisition reform in the NDAA that you applaud or that is causing some alarm?
A. The one thing that creates the most concern for me is the duration of a program manager. I know everybody wants accountability, so they want to hold the program manager through a milestone. Programs, especially acquisition programs for complex weapon systems, you are not just there for two or three years between milestones. If you force a guy to stay, you are going to stay in place for seven years before you go from one milestone to another, you have torpedoed his career … Now you have disincentivized anybody to get into acquisition. That is an inadvertent effect. They shackle them into one position just so they can sledgehammer them if they screw up on the program.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.