Defense IT

What drives Army acquisition? Threat assessment and S&T

The keys to improving the Army’s acquisition process are being familiar with current and future threats and knowing the details of potential technological solutions, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Heidi Shyu said today.

“What are the technologies we need to modernize our systems?” Shyu said in an address at the Atlantic Council. “And that needs to be informed by the national priorities and the threats.” Shyu said the Army cannot simply look at current threats, but what is down the road. “Where are threats today, where do we anticipate the threats to be in five years, where do we anticipate them to be in 10 years? What is the research that has been conducted worldwide that ought to be informing us towards the threat evolution,” Shyu said. “That’s the capability gap we have,” regarding current programs. 

In order to correct these gaps, Shyu said she has directed program executive officers to work with members of the Intelligence Community and the S&T community to understand capability gaps and whether current programs can be matured or if new technologies need to be developed.    

Assessing the threat environment is so important, she said, that she includes a threat briefing in the first portion of every quarterly meeting with team members, which are attended by deputies and program executive officers and are aimed at greater communication across the acquisition department. “:So we always know, and we go by different topics, different threats, so this way all my leadership is on the same page.”

While Shyu lauded the job of the military in fighting the threats of the last 14 years, she noted that it’s time to focus on the threats of the future. “We are responsible for a wide variety of threats,” and environments, from nation states to terrorism, Shyu acknowledged. While there are many things that can be bought off the self, such as quick reaction capabilities that allow the military to quickly respond to threats, the most important thing the Army should focus on—and invest in—are capabilities that are not commercially available.

With that in mind, Shyu said the Army set aside $720 million in S&T funds to mature technologies and push the envelope in technological maturity. “The question I ask clients,” and the S&T community, she said, “is what are the things you did not include in your design because the technology was not mature? If it was mature, would you have included it?”    

Shyu also noted how important it is to focus on S&T, as it is “our future enabler.” With S&T “deep dives,” Shyu said she blocks off time, say two hours a month, to exclusively focus on true technical details, not the 100,000 foot view, which she says she “gets no content” from. Where are the linkages and where does the S&T community going? With top technical minds painting a picture, it is easier to see the direction of the future.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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