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Question: ‘Where is Army modernization going?’ to meet future needs

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Army is undertaking a process of looking at its potential needs 30 years into the future to determine what science and technology (S&T) 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," Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said.

This process will result in a "road map" to direct acquisition and S&T investments, Shyu added, while speaking at an Institute of Land Warfare Contemporary Military Forum titled "Thinking Past Tomorrow – Where is Army Modernization Going?" 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," said Mary Miller, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for research and technology.

Adding, "So we need to start now, and we need to be consistent with where we’re going."

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; and 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, Lt. Gen. Keith C. Walker, deputy commanding general, futures, and director, Army Capabilities Integration Center, at U. S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, said.

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," Walker said.

Adding, "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.