Army Futures Command commanding general, Gen. Mike Murray, answer questions about AFC during a news conference held with the University of Texas System’s building in Austin, Texas, on August 24, 2018.
Setting up a brand-new four-star command to enhance the way the U.S. Army develops and acquires capabilities for future operations is a huge deal. Pair by using the service’s relatively abysmal history in fielding new weapons and there’s bound to be skepticism inside the service’s drastic intend to fix a broken system.
Army leadership got mixed reactions from lawmakers during a Sept. 13 House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee hearing that ranged from deep skepticism to hope.
The new Army Futures Command would put all modernization tasks that “generate a war-fighting capability under one roof,” Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy said with the hearing. “These tasks include war-fighting concepts, requirements, experimentation, and fielding of materiel and non-materiel solutions.”
The command was officially activated last month in Austin, Texas. The Army envisions the command as nimble, agile and in a position to communicate and help academia, entrepreneurs and innovators.
The service has argued that establishing a whole new four-star command can be a disruptive and innovative method to address problems with the past.
But lawmakers had questions on the roles and mission with the new command, asking upfront “will it help” inside the title directed at the hearing itself.
“The Army’s past attempts to change internal policies, command relationships and organizational structures in an effort to improve the acquisition process has met mixed results,” the subcommittee’s ranking member Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Gaum, said in their opening testimony. So, I enjoy hearing the method that you believe it will be different this time around,” she said, addressing Army leadership.
Bordallo said she was concerned that this service was susceptible to creating another massive bureaucracy, it could be duplicating the role of the Army’s staff and that this new command could create “long-term risk to civilian control from the acquisition system.”
She added that this four-star command would have up to three lieutenant generals as deputies to the commander “without a clearly defined command relationship plus an organizational plan.”
McCarthy took pains to explain the command is just not like anything seen inside Defense Department before. “This isn’t your normal Army command. It can’t be,” he said. “To thrive inside information age, we must work with a fast-paced, dynamic and evolving ecosystem. We’ll become comfortable being uncomfortable.”
This means no uniforms down in Austin, Gen. Mike Murray, the brand new AFC commander, testified during the hearing, and it also means with the ability to emerge into communities that will help the Army modernize, whether that’s embedding a group of personnel at an entrepreneurial hub or working alongside engineers at a university lab.
The Army isn’t just creating a whole new command, Murray emphasized; it’s getting a strategy to get commands to improve interact from beginning to end in the acquisition process.
The command will probably be made existing organizations dispersed across the United States, he was quoted saying, and may involve everyone, from requirements developers, to testers, to maintainers and sustainers, being with the table right away.
For example, Murray explained that parts of Army Training and Doctrine Command, just like the Army’s Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC), will fall under the AFC and also aspects of Army Materiel Command and Forces Command.
The reorganization helps to better define and focus commands already around, he explained.
McCarthy added that now TRADOC will hone in on assessing individuals and preparing them to the operational force. FORSCOM will target readiness and, if you take out the research and development area of Army Materiel Command and moving it to AFC, AMC can be capable of look solely at sustaining the force.
Murray can have a deputy commander, Lt. Gen. James Richardson, just some other stakeholders from the Army’s enterprise is going to be direct reports at the same time, including the military deputy to purchasing chief.
McCarthy said that the acquisition chief’s deputy will be stuck just using the newest command to ensure that they can perform oversight and management in the program managers that are “matrixed” in to the command.
The AFC is dependant on six major modernization priorities, and cross-functional teams are already intended to work with each. Those teams is going to be stuck just using traditional program managers to assist move development away from technology and science and into soldiers’ hands.
McCarthy stressed that this military deputy’s instructions can come from buying chief, as has long been the situation.
Several lawmakers asked how the command knows whether it is succeeding.
Murray asserted for him, the “ultimate metric” for measuring the value from the organization is “soldiers on the battlefield being able to use the equipment and concepts we’ll produce.”
Others were concerned the newest command might take money from basic and applied research to purchase its endeavors.
Murray assured lawmakers the Army was preserving that funding and wouldn’t use it to hide the growth work being done within his command.
And addressing the concern how the command was imbalanced with way too many general officers with the top rather than enough civilian leadership, Murray stressed that he is attempting to hire civilian talent, particularly a chief technology officer, that can help the Army recognize feasible technologies that can be realistically pursued and help understand how they may be effectively integrated into capabilities.
While members of the subcommittee peppered Army leadership with skeptical questions, several lawmakers said they believed a move like creating a fresh command looked like the answer.
“I actually have optimism for it if you peer at where our acquisition process has been, you will find there’s long line of almost hall-of-fame-type failures to demonstrate for the purpose hasn’t worked within the last 30 years,” said Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., who served extensively with Gen. Murray in their military career.
“Future Combat System, Crusader, Comanche, Land Warrior, melting plastic rifles at Fort Benning we almost adopted and thank God we didn’t,” Russell listed one of many failures from the past.
But the Army also saw success in communications equipment development, unmanned aircraft and night vision capabilities, largely driven through the special operations forces community circumventing traditional acquisition processes.
“The warriors know very well what they need which can be an approach to get at it,” Russell said.