This story has been updated to reflect comment and further detail from the Army chief of staff and Army secretary at AUSA.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is establishing a new command to ensure its modernization programs get the attention, thought and forward movement needed to maintain overmatch against potential adversaries in the future.
The Army’s fiscal 2018 budget request has grown compared to past years. Additional funding would be a big step in the right direction after modernization efforts were essentially paused for several years as the service focused its shrinking budget on maintaining readiness.
But having the money isn’t always enough to get modernization off the ground, so the Army is standing up a new modernization command to see its major efforts through to the final product.
The Army on Oct. 3 initiated “a realignment of modernization responsibilities under a new organization,” an Army spokesman told Defense News.
The new organization will implement cross-functional teams that align with the Army’s six modernization priorities: Long-Range Precision Fires, next-generation combat vehicle, Future Vertical Lift, the network, air-and-missile defense and soldier lethality, the acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy confirmed at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual convention Oct. 9.
“The Army is at an inflection point and has been focused on restoring readiness to prevail in the future,” McCarthy said. “We now must reform how we modernize the Army.”
The reorganization will establish unity of command and effort by consolidating the modernization process under one roof, McCarthy said. The realignment of responsibilities is not additional force structure, but rather a streamlining of work, which will serve to overcome the bureaucratic inertia and stovepiping found in the Army’s current construct, he said.
The cross functional teams will report regularly to the undersecretary of the Army and the Army’s vice chief of staff, McCarthy said, and they will compress the timeline by involving the end user, defining the requirements, integrating, prototyping and validating a concept prior to low-rate initial production.
The leaders of these teams will “understand how our formations operate in combat and include elements from program management, finance, science and technology,” he said.
McCarthy said he has established a task force to develop the new command. The task force will be led by Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, who is the director of the Army’s office of business transformation. He will have 120 days, starting this week, to form the task force and then kick off the modernization command.
“The process will be transparent and thorough, we do not have time to waste,” McCarthy said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley added, “We have been studying this for quite a bit of time. Our objective is to get these organizations and this new command stood up by summer 2018. We are going to move out smartly, this is necessary, this is important and I absolutely believe that unless we do this, we will be increasingly losing ground against potential adversaries.”
It’s also a crucial time to ensure modernization is geared toward the Army’s new focus on its multi-domain battle construct, to prove the concept isn’t just a paper tiger by bending metal into real capability that aligns with the way the Army envisions operations now and in the future.
“We will do what it takes to build an agile, adaptive Army of the future. We need to listen and learn first from the Army itself and from other services, from our interagency partners and also from private sectors and even our critics,” Maj. Gen. Bo Dyess, the acting director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, told Defense News in an interview shortly before the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual show.
“Developing a lethal, professional, but technically competent force requires an openness to new ideas and new ways of doing things in an increasingly complex world,” he said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley’s modernization priorities align well with what Training and Doctrine Command — of which Army Capabilities Integration Center is a part — has identified as capability gaps that need to be filled in order to fight effectively in a multi-domain battle environment, according to Dyess.
And while the top six priorities are the focus, “it’s not the only thing that we’re doing,” he noted, “but those are the things that we thought would have the biggest bang for the buck and making up gaps that have developed based on assumptions that we’ve made.”
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.