Monday, May 02, 2016

The Army’s "Big 8" initiative will serve as a guide for the next generation of required capabilities to help the current and future Army maintain overmatch against enemies, a panel of experts said during the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville, Ala.

The "Big 8" areas are: future vertical lift, advanced protection, cross-domain fires, combat vehicles, robotics/autonomous systems, expeditionary mission command, cyber electromagnetic, and soldier/team performance and overmatch.

Given the age of current systems, "Army forces are beginning to lose existing overmatch against capable and elusive enemies," said panel moderator Brig. Gen. Tom Goedkoop, USA, Ret., vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton.

"Reductions in resources will challenge the Army’s ability to meet the nation’s defense strategy," Goedkoop noted, adding that the prioritization of readiness to support events in Europe, North Korea, and the Middle East has resulted in modernization funding being at historic lows.

"The Army must make hard choices" regarding emerging technologies to support new systems, he said.

Maj. Gen. Robert "Bo" Dyess, deputy director and chief of staff, Army Capabilities Integration Center, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), said the Army’s "complicated and slow acquisition process is unable to keep pace with the rapid development of technology."

The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act contains six focus areas for improving acquisition, Dyess said – enhancing the roles of service chiefs, increasing accountability, utilizing alternative processes, improving access to nontraditional contractors, streamlining the process, and strengthening the acquisition workforce.

Supporting these efforts, using the 20 Army Warfighting Challenges from the Army Operating Concept as a guide, led TRADOC to identify the "Big 8."

"Our intention is to focus force modernization on the Army’s most critical gaps," Dyess said, adding, these capabilities will allow the Army forces to be agile, adaptable, expeditionary and able to deploy on short notice.

TRADOC will work with Headquarters, Department of the Army in developing specific management practices to ensure the Army realizes the "Big 8" capabilities, he said.

The recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in Army capabilities being solely focused on fighting irregular enemies, said Dr. David Johnson, senior historian with the RAND Corporation.

"The Army has not fought a high-end state actor since World War II … many current platforms are not suited for expeditionary operations against hybrid and state adversaries," he added.

The Russians, in particular, have deployed new air defense systems and fielded rockets and conventional artillery, and plan for the use of tactical nuclear weapons during operations, Johnson said.

"One can reasonably debate whether the United States will fight the Russians, given ongoing efforts to deter conflict" but the Army must prepared to combat these weapons and systems, he said.

Luc Dunn