Army takes steps to cope with shrinking budgets

Switch to two-year reviews will help service keep pace with technological change and achieve modernization goals

Making do with less might soon become the new mantra for the Defense Department. Army leaders recently pondered the ramifications of modernizing the service in a time of constricted resources.

Speaking to a gathering of DOD and industry attendees at the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition this week in Washington D.C., Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli outlined the challenges that the Army faces.

In August, Defense Secretary Robert Gates launched an efficiency initiative designed to cut excess overhead at DOD. Chiarelli said the Army was tasked to “take from the tail and turn it into tooth.” However, he added that he felt that the Army was already achieving this goal.

The Army had already launched a servicewide review before the secretary’s effort, Chiarelli said. He explained that the service was re-evaluating all components of the Army’s acquisition process. The intent of the program is to eliminate redundancies in developing new technologies. Chiarelli said the complex review process was so effective that the Army extended it to all programs, not just acquisition.

One of the lessons learned during the evaluation process is that requirements must be revisited more frequently than in the past because of rapid technological change. The Army’s modernization road map will account for future budget constraints. Chiarelli said that review will give the Army a better view of its portfolio. Speaking of the future, he added that it is imperative to provide capabilities that will support warfighters while responsibly spending taxpayer money.

The Army needs to achieve operational adaptability through an affordable force model, said Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, which is part of the Training and Doctrine Command. He said that would be a difficult task even if resources were plentiful.

Regarding acquisition transformation, Vane said the Army must set baselines for its needs, and those should become a springboard for innovation. “Every capability we put into the force must have a clear cost/benefit function associated with it,” he said.

Vane added that the Army is shifting to two-year technology/concept reviews to keep up with the pace of technological change and more rapidly pass lessons along to the force. That will also permit faster updates for force structure and capability needs, he said.

“It’s important that acquisition remain connected to warfighters,” said Lt. Gen. William Phillips, director of acquisition career management and principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology. A disconnect between soldiers and the acquisition process will only lead to problems, he added. Connectivity is the key: The service must continue to look at its processes and institutions and refine them to better serve the troops.

The Army needed to examine its major acquisition processes, Phillips said. He added that the service must strive to deliver capabilities through acquisitions. “After nine years of war, it’s important that the Army take a look at its acquisition process,” he said.

About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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