The Army is attempting to speed up and streamline its acquisition processes to allow for more effective modernization of the force, senior leaders told an ILW Contemporary Military Forum, “Modernizing the Army in an Era of Constrained Resources” at the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition on Oct. 26.
As a result of the large-scale review of defense spending that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates mandated in July, the Army began Capability Portfolio Reviews (CPR) on every acquisition program in order to try to find redundancies and create efficiencies. In particular, Gates wanted to take resources from the supporting part of the services, or the “tail,” and redirect it to the “tooth” forces that are fighting. The Army found that particularly difficult because it had already been trying to pare programs for several years, said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army. “We felt we were already there, so a lot of these cuts were particularly difficult for us to find in the 'tail,'” he said.
The CPRs “turned out to be a much, much more complicated process than we had envisioned. But it was also much more beneficial than we envisioned,” he added. As a result, Chiarelli said, the Army decided to undertake a similar process with all Army programs, not simply acquisition ones.
The first lesson the Army has learned from that process is that the Army needs to speed up its “outdated, overly bureaucratic acquisition process,” he said. “Requirements have to be revisited much more frequently than we ever had in the past, because the rate of technological change is so great that you've got to be willing to look at requirements much more frequently than you've done before.”
The various commands that have a role in Army modernization are doing their parts to assist in that process. While equipment is being “reset” after use in theater, the Army will implement whatever modifications it can, said Lt. Gen. William Phillips, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology. “We're going to leverage the time we have with that equipment to spiral in modernization,” he said.
Army Training and Doctrine Command will also speed up the frequency with which it reviews the concepts that inform new requirements, said Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center at TRADOC. While those concepts are now renewed every five years, that period will decrease to two years. “This shift will allow for a more frequent review of our concepts, our conceptual framework, which reflects the operational environment of today and the future,” he said. Acquisition, he said, would be driven by the imperative of “Buy Less, More Often.”
But simply buying commercial off-the-shelf technology does not solve the problem of slow acquisition, because support for such products is difficult to get when they don't have a program manager or program executive officer behind them, Chiarelli said. The Army's task is to find a way to come up with a solution for this quandary, and it may be a dramatic one, he said: “I'm a believer in the Big Bang.”
From an acquisition perspective, the Army's top priority now is the computer network. “The network represents our number one modernization effort,” Chiarelli said, calling the WIN-T, JTRS and E-IBCT programs “critical.” And interoperability is the key to the network, he added: “We must achieve a single operating system or environment able to accommodate a variety of plug-and-play technologies.” As an example, Chiarelli mentioned the “Apps for the Army” program where soldiers were encouraged to develop mobile applications for the Army; the response was “overwhelming,” he said.
The Army has fully funded its network programs, so any savings that come from creating efficiencies elsewhere will likely be funneled into ground vehicle modernization programs like the Ground Combat Vehicle, said Lt. Gen. Robert Lennox, deputy chief of staff of the army, G-8. Army officials said that the formal Request for Proposals for the GCV, which has been delayed, is “imminent.”