Futures Command, coming this summer, needs a leader and a base

Army Secretary Mark Esper said the new Futures Command will help change the service's acquisition culture.

Army Secretary Mark Esper named acquisition and personnel reform integral parts of the services coming centralized modernization command.

"The biggest challenge to acquisition reform will be changing the culture, and that will probably be one of the last things we change," Esper said at a May 1 Atlantic Council event.

"The culture is probably the most powerful thing within any organization. But there are ways to begin changing the way an organization operates," such as picking the right leader and location, he said.

Esper said that the Army Futures Command, which will aggregate the services acquisition efforts, will be headquartered "in a city known for its entrepreneurialism, its innovativeness, that has a rich source of talent whether it's from industry or academia -- preferably both."

Futures Command is slated to hit initial operating capability later this summer, but neither a leading commander nor location have been named.

Esper said the new command "will empower the acquisition workforce" to move the organization from a lowest-price-technically-acceptable mentality to one focusing on best value. A cycle of prototyping, investing, learning, failure and repeating as necessary will help the Army protect people from getting penalized for failure and save money.

Esper's desire for acquisition reform is aligned with Congress, though his passion for major personnel reform hasn't quite reached Capitol Hill.

"We need to get to a system that manages and develops talent better than we do today," he said, noting that he is working with a talent management task force to reform the Army's personnel system within the next 10 years.

The Army is developing programs to help better identify officer talent and encourage self-identifying and peer evaluation to "better marry up those attributes with the needs of the Army, particularly when you think of areas such as cyber," he said.

But for significant change, legislation will be required, Esper said.

"We're doing some experimentation with this now," but with regard to policy, Esper said Congress should consider reforming the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act and the Reserve Officer Personnel Management Act.

"We want to take some of the shackles off of the current statutory requirements under DOPMA and really open up so we can manage talent a lot better … to recruit and retain the best," he said. He suggested making it easier for service members to move between components and giving them reprieves to get an education or be with family and then rejoin the ranks without penalty.

Beyond policy, Esper recognized that personnel reform and culture change begins at home.

Military service is becoming a "family business" that threatens to disconnect the Army from the general public when the people who serve are from the same pool of service members, Esper said. The solution, he said, is to get those who served, including himself, to reach back to their communities to encourage new people to sign up.

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