HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The US Army is looking beyond tanks and attack helicopters as it builds and prepares for the future.
"There is no lack of ideas for what to do with the Army," said Gen. David Perkins, commanding general of US Army Training Doctrine and Command. "The challenge becomes having a coherent view of what the future is and taking an idea and turning it into a reality. The Army doesn't have the luxury of just thinking about the future. We're not a think tank. We actually have to produce the future."
As TRADOC looks at what the future Army should look like, it's not building a "shopping list" of items to buy, Perkins said.
"The solution isn't going to be just a tank or an Apache," he said. "It's going to be a capability. I'm not buying the future, I'm building the future. It's a very multifunctional, holistic approach."
This means looking at what the Army should be able to do — whether it's active protection, expeditionary mission command or soldier/team performance and overmatch — and then coming up with innovative solutions quickly, he said.
In the past, the Army knew its enemy and their weapons and doctrine.
"We would then differentiate from that and say, 'OK, I know what the enemy's tank is, we need to build a much better tank,'" Perkins said.
Innovation like that gave the Army lead time and was somewhat predictable, he said.
"The problem is the world is changing," Perkins said. "The Soviets pretty much had a rule book that didn't change that often, and we would replicate that at [the National Training Center]. Now there is no template for the enemy."
This means the level of differentiation is no longer important, he said. Instead, it's the rate of innovation.
Because the enemy is constantly innovating and adapting, the Army must do the same, Perkins said.
"War is a series of temporary conditions. Eventually, the enemy will try to emulate your capability. They will try to avoid our strengths," he said. "I have to understand that if I have an advantage, it's only going to be for a while. I need to innovate quicker and quicker and quicker."
As the Army pushes forward on this effort, its "asymmetric advantage" is its leaders and soldiers, Perkins said.
"Where the US Army excels is a soldier as part of a team," he said.
In addition to technology, the Army relies on "critical thinking leaders and well-trained soldiers," he said.
Developing agile leaders is so critical that the Army included soldier/team performance and overmatch in its newly unveiled "Big 8," a list of initiatives designed to help the service stay ahead of global threats and maintain overmatch against present and future adversaries.
"We put that in there because, otherwise, everyone tends to focus on a materiel solution," Perkins said. "The soldier is the centerpiece of the solution."
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.