“It will probably be in a city where we are going to put this Futures Command,” Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy said at a Brookings Institution event Feb. 8, “where there is access to academia and business.”
The type of command the Army is looking for “doesn’t have flags out front or old tanks in front of it,” McCarthy said.
The Army is waiting to unveil a good deal about how the command will take shape at the end of March after it gets recommendations on the way forward from a task force led by Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, who is the director of the Army’s Office of Business Transformation.
The service announced it was standing up the command in October at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington. The plan is to realign the Army’s modernization priorities under a new organization that will implement cross-functional teams that correspond with its top six modernization priorities: Long-Range Precision Fires, Next-Generation Combat Vehicle, Future Vertical Lift, the network, air-and-missile defense and soldier lethality.
“The Army has a lot of different voices about the future and a perfect record of predicting incorrectly, so how do you get more together to get the best ideas possible, make investments against requirements, to get the maximum utility of every dollar?” McCarthy asked.
The under secretary described a visit to the University of Chicago in November as the Army worked to restructure the Army Research Labs, meeting with schools of business, engineering and beyond.
“We walked into the place, all in dress blues and French cuffs and everyone there is in hoodies and wrinkled khaki pants,” McCarthy said. “But there’s a recognition we want to work with these folks, we need their help.”
So a command would need to be in an environment where the brightest thinkers in academia want to work with the Army, he stressed. “It’s got to be more than just me cutting them a check, we need to embrace the cultural dynamics,” McCarthy said.
The Army is also is actively recruiting someone who can serve as a chief scientist for the command specifically, according to McCarthy. The position would not eliminate the Army’s chief scientist, but would instead allow a scientist to be fully dedicated to the Futures Command.
Lt. Gen. John Murray, the head of the Army’s resourcing branch, told senators during an Armed Services Airland subcommittee hearing on Feb. 7 that the Futures Command would reach initial operational capability in June or July of this year and then full operational capability to follow about a year later.
When asked what that meant, McCarthy said, “I can tell you in March,” but added some things the Army has already implemented — like cross-functional teams — that could be considered already reaching an IOC level.
But to make the command sustainable over time, there are other capabilities that are needed, he noted.
Under IOC, “you will have this capability in place, but you need to get the kinks out to make sure we’ve got it right,” McCarthy said. “There may be alterations, changing configuration over time.”
The Futures Command’s existence could also mean major changes to the status quo including potentially big changes to major commands, McCarthy has said previously.
“Within this process, we realized we are going to change [Training and Doctrine Command], we are going to change [Army Materiel Command], we are going to change [Forces Command]’s fundamental makeup,” he said in November.
All of the decisions made to shape the Futures Command, “will alter those characteristics of these commands,” McCarthy said.
Correction: Due to an attribution error in an official transcript of the Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee hearing, Lt. Gen. John Murray’s statement was previously misidentified.
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.