WASHINGTON — Bruce Jette’s time serving as the U.S. Army’s acquisition chief has aligned almost entirely with the service’s ambitious effort to transition between its current fleet and a fully modernized force by 2030. The wheels have been quickly turning to field new capabilities, and it has kept Jette busy working to strike a balance between the service’s present needs and its future requirements.
Defense News spoke with Jette ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference, which will be held virtually. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Project Convergence recently wrapped up and was deemed one of the most important Army events. Having seen how technology performed, what is not yet a program of record that you quickly want to make into a program?
Project Convergence was, in many ways, a weaving together of existing capabilities that had not been brought together in the manner that they were for that demonstration. There were changes to DOTMLPF pieces, [or doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities], that were significant. I didn’t have a tactic, technique or procedure, for example, to call artillery fire on a target obtained from a space asset because the Army never had that capability before. The TITAN ground station is a program of record, which will inherently give that capability to the Army with the delivery schedule already in place. So pushing forward on TITAN, what we really did was we solidified some programs of record.
There was an interesting artificial intelligence piece of software in the middle of it — FIRESTORM — which offered some insights into some methodologies of target management, so I don’t think that it’s the be-all and end-all at this point, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. And it is in the tech base. Remember, this entire effort is a tech-based demonstrator. So I think that much of it is informative of the tech base directions that need to be pursued.
So a fundamental answer is: We have programs of record, we’re going to continue to mature them where we are. But I don’t see at this point a new program of record popping out of the effort. I think there’s still maturation that has to go on in the tech base, and that is going to continue.
What else did Project Convergence show you?
I will tell you that a significant part of where we’re trying to take the Army right now is to an architectural approach and design.
The optionally manned fighting vehicle is going to be a cornerstone for us driving toward an architected vehicle development. If I have vehicle “A,” I have "A" requirements, "B" requirements, "C" requirements. They’re each three bids separately. They’re each three designed separately; and a simple example is, in each one of them, I can have a ballistic kernel and a ballistic computer. All have different capabilities, yet if I want to upgrade any ballistic kernel or the ballistic computer, I have to pay each vendor to do that. There’s no way to cross-level and there’s no way to take advantage of best-in-class. Our objective is to establish a fundamental architecture for where these are — not just the vehicles but our entire system of systems, which then become a core requirement of any system that gets bid out.
The Army is discontinuing its Rapid Equipping Force. What are your thoughts? Will the ability to field something in 180 days be picked up elsewhere?
We’re working that with the senior leaders of the Army right now as to what the right architecture is. And there was a reduced requirement for in-theater, direct support. However, we still have joint urgent operational needs statements and operational needs statements and 10-liner requirement forms that still come in. And we have to fulfill them, and we’re trying to work out the right architecture to make sure that those things still are accommodated.
We’re going to move the functionality and those pieces that you want, and it’s still fundamentally capable of performing the same functions. It’s just — it will look significantly different.
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.