No eyeballs on target at AUSA

The show floors at the recently concluded Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) conference and exhibition in Washington, D.C. bristled with new technologies and capabilities that could serve our military well in places such as Afghanistan and the South China Sea. Unfortunately, far too few of our service members were on hand at AUSA to see and demonstrate those technologies for themselves.

It’s all because of the blowback related to the careless and near-criminal use of federal funds by the General Services Administration throwing itself a lavish $800,000+ bash in Las Vegas. Even though the annual AUSA show is a private nonprofit group without government funding, Army leadership took what I believe is the politically correct path instead of the defend-America-at-all-costs path by severely curtailing the ability of soldiers to discover the latest technologies and capabilities that they can use to carry out their missions.

I’m not defending the large Army booths that at past AUSA shows displayed entire tactical operations centers and armored trucks. Those booths needed to stay packed in their crates this year in light of real budget cuts to Army spending. At this year’s show, the Army had only one appropriately sized area on the show floor and emphasized education over hardware.

But I’ve talked to many soldiers and Army employees who were told to stay back at the office this year to save money; even if they were allowed to attend the show, they were told that the Army wouldn’t be paying for a hotel room. On the one hand Army Secretary John McHugh, who made the opening remarks at the conference, told the audience that AUSA was an “important educational opportunity,” but on the other hand he took away this educational opportunity for most soldiers.

So here are a few of the new technologies that I was able to see demonstrated at AUSA. Since I carry a pen instead of a weapon, though, many soldiers will have to learn about these technologies and capabilities from our magazine and website instead of gaining valuable first-hand knowledge that can be applied directly to their missions.

I stood inside a training and simulation dome created by Cubic (along with the Italian Army Chief of Staff LTG Claudio Graziano, by the way) to see how valuable immersive 360-degree training could be in preparing soldiers for combat. I saw the aerial communications relay system that the Army will use in Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 3 to provide beyond-line-of-sight communications without the use of expensive satellite, which General Dynamics C4 Systems was displaying for the first time ever. And I saw from Raytheon Technical Services a super-lightweight and removable hard drive connected to a wrist-mounted display that helicopter pilots could use for situational awareness on the ground after ditching their rotorcraft.

About the Author

Barry Rosenberg is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryDefense.

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