Army nears decision on ‘Futures Command’ location to improve acquisition

Army nears decision on ‘Futures Command’ location to improve acquisition

Secretary of the Army Mark Esper tours the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., May 24, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

WASHINGTON — Army Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday the Pentagon is nearing its choice of where to locate a new modernization command that in theory would centralize many of the bureaucratic tasks required to buy new equipment.

In doing so, he sounded like Amazon officials in saying what the Army seeks in a new location.

Lots of academics and innovators. Good location for families. Business expertise abounds. And like Amazon, the list of finalists made public is about 15 to 20 — but indications are both Amazon and the Army now have short lists of about five.

And both have Boston on their lists.

A decision may come before July, Army officials said.

Esper outlined the thoughts on “Futures Command,” along with areas, during remarks made before the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

Esper has been touting the “Futures Command: for months. If it goes through, it could be the most significant rearrangement of the acquisition process in almost half a century. He told reporters earlier this year the new command will have eight cross-functional teams to streamline effort, needs and command demands.

There is widespread acknowledgment in the Pentagon that the Army has too many organizations that own some part of the acquisition process, officials say, making all of the procedures that happen between the time a need is identified and filled too complicated, too slow and too expensive.

In creating the “Futures Command” the theory is mistakes and experiments can happen early on and be fewer if there is more direct input from soldiers in the field. By centralizing the process, overlap and competing visions will be handled early and less expensively, Esper said. He said the goal is to reduce the requirements development process from 60 months down to a year.

“Not suffering big failures. Let’s fail early. Let’ fail cheaper,” Esper said. He also said he hopes all the service breaches will begin to share ideas and research so “we do not have to spend the “money and manpower to figure out what the others already had figured out.”

The changes are most likely to affect the acquisition roles now handled by Army Materiel Command, Army Forces Command, and Army Training Doctrine Command, he said.

“With a few exceptions, what we have is essentially a linear process — going from an idea, writing up a big requirements document and then vetting it through multiple steps — it takes years, and it’s just not going to be effective going into the future,” Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, told reporters earlier this year. “So we’re going to re-engineer the corporation.”

The Futures Command is part of making sure the Army is able to be ready to fight for quickly and effectively in the next decades, a need Espy underscored by reminding the audience that it has been 74 years this week since the D-Day landings in World War Two.

“It took three years of training and preparation (for D-Day landing),” Esper said. “We will not have that luxury in the next war.”

He noted that D-Day represents what the military today calls multiple domains, using coordinated air, sea and land power.

In his remarks, Esper said the Army will increase its basic training to 21 weeks and focus on improving fitness – a nod to the fact that the Army has the highest number of nondeployable troops in all the military because of obesity.

“This generation has an incredible facility with electronics, with software and all that,” Esper said. “On the other hand, they may not be coming in as physically fit as previous generations for one reason or another. That’s one reason we’re looking at an extended basic training.”

Esper said the primary focus for the Army is confronting peers in a major conflict while holding the rest of the world threat at bay and continuing to perform low-intensity, irregular warfare. He said the Army hopes to be “harvesting what we have developing” by 2020.

“You prepare for the toughest fight and I suspect you can take care of the others,” Esper said. He said the Army is expecting more urban warfare with electronically degraded environments. and less open countryside battles in its future.

He said the Army’s doctrine today remains that “the Army of 2028 will be able to deploy, fight and win decisively against any adversary, anytime and anywhere in a joint, multi-domain, high-intensity conflict while simultaneously deterring others and maintaining its ability to conduct irregular warfare.”

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