Army leaders urge science and technology reform 

The goal of Army acquisition, logistics and technology (ALT) is to provide soldiers a decisive advantage in all phases of combat, particularly in dismount where soldiers are fighting one-on-one with the enemy, according to the assistant secretary of the Army for ALT.

Speaking Wednesday – which was designated “Science and Technology Day” – at the opening session of AUSA’s Winter Symposium and Exposition in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Lt. Gen. Malcolm R. O’Neill, USA, Ret., said he wants to equip soldiers to be more than dominant – they should be decisive so every enemy or potential enemy doesn’t want to fight them.

O’Neill, said his goal is to improve the efficiency of the acquisition process. It typically has taken about seven years to get a new technology to the warfighter, but an alternate system is needed to “get things needed today developed and out tomorrow.”

Speaking after O’Neill, Marilyn M. Freeman, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for research and technology, said while the Army Force Generation model transformed the force, it did so from the brigade level and above. Science and technology reform needs to be looked at “from the bottom up” starting with soldiers and small units and will affect “how we will equip soldiers and get them the things they need.”

Speaking to an audience with military as well as industry leaders, Freeman urged that partnerships will be essential because the soldiers is the most complex weapon system “you can imagine.”

“Put yourself in the boots of those soldiers and understand the world from their perspective,” she said. “Understand the challenges and frustrations they face and what you have to do to help them.”

While the term “persistent conflict” has been around for awhile, it really encompasses soldiers’ missions and roles, Freeman said. Soldiers are war fighters first, but then they are peacekeepers – “friends, diplomats and protectors.” They have to think on their feet, and their actions could have tremendous international impact.

“Bring your ideas and thoughts forward, and let’s do something,” she said. “My challenge to you is to be a partner to change.”

Addressing the need to simultaneously empower, unburden and protect the soldiers cognitively and physically will yield the best products, she said.

Freeman said she has established nine goals to challenge the Army research and technology community. While six of those are things researchers are already doing, more effort needs to be taken in the other three areas to realize overall science and technology reform. These are: Timely transition to new technologies, strong external and internal partners, and an overall balanced investment portfolio.

Her role in the coming months will be to establish a new capabilities strategy that will restore the confidence in the institution of Army science and technology.