Army Investment and Equipment Modernization: Maintaining the Decisive Edge

As Chief of Staff of the Army, I am charged with guiding how the Army resources Readiness, Modernization, and End strength programs to guarantee the strength of the Army into the future.  These three “rheostats” must remain balanced – we must make tough decisions on how to apply scarce resources to ensure that our Soldiers can execute the full range of missions that the Army is assigned.

In a holistic sense, “modernization” is our comprehensive set of investments in building and sustaining a force that remains technologically advanced and operationally effective. The Army’s modernization effort encompasses a wide range of activities, such as energy programs to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and the associated logistics footprint; Soldier Training and Leader Development to ensure that we lead the Army into the future; Stationing and facilities initiatives to ensure that we provide the right environment at our enduring installations to sustain our Soldiers, their Families, and our Civilian workforce; and in programs to increase the Health of the Force and the resiliency of our Soldiers and Families.

Network Integration Evaluation (NIE)

However, today, I’d like to focus on the subject of equipment modernization – a critical component of the overall effort.  The Army has global responsibilities that require large technological advantages to prevail decisively in combat – “technological overmatch,” if you will.  Just as airmen and sailors seek supremacy in the air and on the seas, Soldiers must dominate their enemies on land.  Modernizing, especially as end strength is reduced, is the key to ensuring that the Army’s dominance continues.

As I reflect upon the pace of technological change in today’s modern world and the impact of rapid, global information exchange upon our overall security environment, I am both inspired and encouraged by the Army’s approach to building a network able to connect our forces at all echelons.  This remains our number one modernization priority.

The concept and continued evolution of our network is firmly grounded in the imperative of giving our Commanders and Soldiers vastly increased ability to communicate and share information on the battlefield. The focus is to share information that enables our Soldiers to communicate while on the move and in the midst of ongoing operations.

Our network will be fielded as critical components of “capability sets”, which include integrated vehicles and combat platforms, Soldier protection, network and communications assets – all developed and exhaustively tested. The network also includes tactical radios to better connect units, and Soldier-focused smart-phone like devices with improved software, graphics and computing capability engineered to provide better, real-time information regarding their unit’s position and the surrounding environment.

The first group of next-generation networking technologies, as part of Capability Set 13, will be fielded to units by the end of this year; at the same time, our network development and fielding strategy is designed so that future improvements and systems can quickly and effectively be integrated with equipment already fielded.  This will avoid any gaps in our Soldiers’ ability to execute their missions.

Essentially, we have been changing how we approach equipment acquisition and modernization investments by striving to achieve the right balance between operational capability and cost. We must continuously examine and balance those critical functions our systems must perform against available resources.

For instance, our Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) effort involves engineering a next-generation vehicle with vastly improved Soldier protection, performance and payload. This promising vehicle will bring Soldiers an unprecedented blend of technologies, including advances in IED protection, off-road mobility, and on-board electronics, computing technologies and electrical power. At the same time, through close collaboration with the Marine Corps and our Defense Industry partners, we have concentrated on achieving clear cost and schedule reductions while still attaining realistic technological goals.  At times this has meant “trading off” less crucial requirements in order to reduce costs without sacrificing protection for our Soldiers. I am confident that we are bringing a great, new, mission-enhancing vehicle to our force.

The Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program is another example of how we have applied an improved approach that benefits the warfighter while controlling costs.  Among other things, this program represents our unwavering commitment to investing in Soldier safety.  The GCV program will deliver a next-generation Infantry Fighting Vehicle engineered from the ground up to safely transport a nine-man squad into and out of a broad range of potential combat scenarios.  It will have better force protection, mobility, and tactical overmatch compared to existing platforms.  Equally important, it will allow easy upgrades as new capabilities become available.

We continuously seek to identify and harness scientific innovation for the benefit of our Soldiers.  We are studying lighter weight materials, including new body armor composites.  We have also already deployed lightweight, portable solar panels, or “blankets,” giving Soldiers the ability to charge their gear during operations, reducing the weight of batteries they have historically carried.  Reducing power and energy support requirements will continue to be a priority.

We have embarked upon a vigorous effort to improve our equipment modernization programs.  An agile, incremental and Warfighter-informed approach identifies, develops and acquires next-generation technological solutions while fully engaging and seeking input from our Defense Industry partners.  This allows us to quickly evaluate and integrate new technologies and systems into our units in a timely manner to provide the best capabilities to our Soldiers.

At the end of the day, our equipment modernization program remains focused on the Soldier, who will be equipped in the smartest, most effective, and “lightest” way possible.  We will never stray from our core task of ensuring that America’s Army is the most-capable, best-led, best-trained and best-equipped fighting force in the world.

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