Rainey: Army Needs Industry’s Help to Transform

Rainey: Army Needs Industry’s Help to Transform

Gen. James Rainey, commanding general of Futures Command, speaks at AUSA Global Force 2024
Photo by: AUSA/Jared Lieberher

From off-the-shelf technology that can help soldiers today to next-generation autonomous vehicles and command-and-control capabilities, Army Futures Command is looking to its industry teammates for help.

“Indisputably, the amount of technology disruption in the character of war is unprecedented, and it just keeps getting faster and faster,” said Gen. James Rainey, commanding general of Futures Command.

During a keynote presentation March 27 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville, Alabama, Rainey said the Army is “trying to do continuous transformation,” and it is “not going to succeed” without help from “industry teammates, big, little and small.”

“We don’t really have a technology problem in the Army,” Rainey said. “What we have is a technology adoption problem. The American industrial base is such a huge advantage we have in our country. How do we bring that to bear?”

As it works to deliver the capabilities soldiers need, Futures Command is approaching the service’s transformation in three periods of time.

Over the next 18 to 24 months, “we have to look at what’s happening in the world and adapt faster,” Rainey said, citing Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George’s “transforming in contact” initiative.

“The term ‘transforming in contact’ confuses some people,” Rainey said. “What we’re saying is the great brigade combat teams and divisions we have right now that are rotating forward into [the U.S. Central Command region], into Europe, into the Indo-Pacific and other places, that’s the best place for us to work on transformation.”

George has challenged leaders to look at what capabilities the Army can put in soldiers’ hands “so they can experiment with it and learn with it and provide feedback … so we can get better next year and get better every year after that.”

Some key capabilities the Army is seeking in the near-term include loitering munitions, ground-based rockets and missiles and counter-unmanned aerial systems that would work alongside an armored company or a light infantry company, he said.

The Army also is working “very hard” on human-machine integrated formations that blend soldiers with robotic and autonomous vehicles, Rainey said. “We’re never going to replace humans with machines,” he said. “It’s about putting those two things together in an optimal way that makes the Army better.”

Over the next two to seven years, the Army is looking to work on launched effects, the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft and the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, also known as ERCA.

“ERCA is a requirement, not a thing,” Rainey said. “We did a rapid prototyping effort, and we watched what’s going on in Ukraine and adjusted what we’re doing with ERCA.”

This includes focusing on the round instead of the platform. “Just by focusing on the round, we had a significant amount of success in extending the range,” Rainey said.

Futures Command also is pursuing a “better armored howitzer” and mobile indirect fires, and Rainey said he’s “very interested” in an autonomous robotic cannon solution for the Army’s joint forcible entry formations, such as the 82nd Airborne Division. The service also must “relook our suite of mortars,” he said.

The network is another priority, Rainey said. By developing what he termed “next-generation command and control,” Rainey said, “commanders can make more, better and faster decisions.”

The Army’s systems can’t be just a little bit better than its adversaries’ systems, Rainey said. “It has to be 10 [times] better,” he said. “We can’t be a little bit faster; we’ve got to be way faster.”

Finally, the Army is looking out to 2030 and beyond. “There are real opportunities for us to transform and make bigger adjustments than we can make in the next five to seven years,” Rainey said about the long-term window.

This includes advances in robotics and force protection but also updates to how soldiers fight. “We exist to dominate the land, and the land domain isn’t going out of business,” Rainey said.

In the future, the fight will be long, Rainey said. “I do not believe in the short, sharp war idea,” he said. “Nuclear-equipped superpowers, if they got into an existential fight, I believe it’ll be a long, tough, nasty fight. We … need to be clear-eyed about that, and we need to make sure we have the endurance.”

This includes endurance within the defense industrial base, magazine depth and making sure “we recruit and train humans who will be able to withstand the horrors of what will be the next war we fight,” he said.

The Army also must look at how it can improve the lethality and survivability of its light infantry formations and its casualty evacuation and medical treatment capabilities on the battlefield, Rainey said. “We have to never forget that this is about close-combat dominance,” and the men and women who are on the front lines, he said.