DN - Defence Notes

AUSA 2017: US Army readies for ‘significant restructure’

9th October 2017 - 09:10 GMT | by Grant Turnbull in Washington DC

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Senior US Army leaders have laid out six key priorities it will focus on in order to ensure the force is capable of winning future wars, as well as a restructure that will establish a new command for army modernisation.

The six areas include long-range fires, mobility, networking, protection, sustainment and soldier lethality. These key areas will be led by so-called cross functional teams - or CFTs - ‘who understand how formations work in combat,’ said acting secretary of the US Army, Ryan McCarthy.

‘These teams will compress the [acquisition] timeline by involving the end user, defining the requirements, interpreting, prototyping and validating a concept prior to low-rate initial production,’ said McCarthy.

He also announced the establishment of a task force that will develop a new command that will bring ‘army modernisation under one roof’. 

Senior army leaders have just 120 days to frame and present decision about the form and function of the new command, which will restructure Materiel Command, Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

‘It has more to do with streamlining processes,’ added Gen Mark Milley, chief of staff of the army, ‘It’s a significant restructure, probably the biggest in the last 40 years or so. Remember, Army Materiel Command, Forces Command and TRADOC were all formed in the 1970 in the wake of Vietnam.’

‘It’s time to take a look at anything that has been around for four decades,’ he added, ‘We have to adapt or we die as an organisation, you become irrelevant.’

On the six priorities, Milley noted that the main objective for the US Army is to ultimately win in future conflicts. ‘What do you want an army to do? You want them to win. How do you win? You win on the offence.’

He added that there is currently a capability gap for long-range fires, particularly as peer adversaries have developed extended range tube and rocket artillery systems. A capability gap has also opened in protecting forces under an air defence bubble, with Milley admitting that it was a priority to ‘create a layered defence around our manoeuvre forces’.

McCarthy told journalists at the AUSA exhibition that a significant portion of army equipment had now reached its limit of modernisation and were now ‘squarely on the curve diminishing returns’.

‘The equipment our soldiers use Abrams, Bradley, Black Hawk, Apache and Patriot were designed in the 70s, fielded in the 80s, battle tested in the 90s during Desert Storm,’ said McCarthy.

‘These systems have been continuously and incrementally upgraded since their debut but there is a limit to the improvements that can be made before they no longer offer the degree of overmatch the army requires.’

Peer adversaries - army speak for Russia and China - are developing counter technologies to these ageing platforms, and are acquiring them faster. The US Army will have to address this by increasing the instances of rapid prototyping, as well as accepting failure early and engaging more with frontline soldiers.

McCarthy added that failure to pass the FY18 budget would affect modernisation and that continuing resolution would ‘breed mediocrity’.

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