Army creates process to measure needs 30 years out 

10/24/2012 12:00 AM 

The  Army is undertaking a process of looking at its potential needs 30 years into the future to determine what science and technology efforts it needs to invest in today, senior service leaders have said. 

The Army has developed a Strategic Modernization Planning process, “which combines a detailed analysis of our current and planned investments in S&T and materiel development, linked to our emerging threats and capability gaps across a long-term, 30-year planning period,” said Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology. This process will result in a “road map” to direct acquisition and S&T investments, Shyu said, speaking at an Institute for Land Warfare panel, “Thinking Past Tomorrow – Where is Army Modernization Going?” on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at the Association of the United States Army’s  Annual Meeting and Exposition. 

As part of the process, program executive officers across the Army are now working to lay out the current and planned capabilities over the next 30 years. “Basic research takes a long time to develop. This isn't a planned thing that we can say 'well, in ten years we'll have success,' we don't know what will be successful. So we need to start now, and we need to be consistent with where we're going,” said Mary Miller, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for research and technology.  

A particular focus will be force protection. “That will remain a paramount consideration, regardless of the region we're fighting in. The Army will continue to develop systems to enhance and improve protection whether soldier protection, vehicle – ground vehicle or airborne platforms – or post, base protection,” Shyu said. 

Other areas of focus for Army science efforts will include reducing the load that soldiers have to carry, by developing smaller, lighter energy sources; tactical situational awareness systems; networking and reducing the logistical burden of operating far from home bases, Shyu said. 

The Army is also looking at self-healing armor, non-electronic communications, enhanced line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight capabilities to deliver versatile effects, both lethal and non-lethal, added Miller. 

The Army is seeking to focus more on innovation in the future, rather than adaptation, said Lt. Gen. l Keith C. Walker, deputy commanding general, Futures and Director, Army Capabilities Integration Center, at  Training and Doctrine Command. While wartime contingencies forced the Army to adapt quickly to develop “good enough” solutions for changing circumstances, the new environment will demand more focused research. “What we've been doing over the last decade is adaptation, and some very successful adaptation. Innovation, on the other hand, comes from a much more methodical development of possibilities to longer-term problems,” he said. “Our challenge is how to balance this adaptive/innovative aspect of our Army's organization.” 

Now is a promising time for Army science and technology efforts, concluded Miller. “This is the first time since the war started that we have the Army leadership taking a serious look at what we in S&T can and should be doing in the future,” she said.