The Army's New Modernization Program Could Be The Branch's Biggest Shakeup Since The Vietnam War

news
Photo via DoD

The Army has used the Association of the U.S. Army's 2017 annual conference to outline a major new modernization program — one that may change the face of American land forces as we know it.


Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley and Secretary of Defense James Mattis used the AUSA exposition from Oct. 9-11 in Washington, D.C., to lay out a major new push to put the Army on a strong footing to face future adversaries whose technology is eclipsing America’s historical prowess.

Milley confirmed that the modernization shakeup would constitute the “largest reorganization of the institutional Army in 40 years,” when commands like TRADOC and Army Material Command were established after the Vietnam War. “Unless we do this we’ll be losing ground to potential adversaries.”

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley delivers his State of Army address at AUSA's Eisenhower Luncheon , Oct. 10, 2017.Photo via DoD

In his opening speech to the AUSA conference, Mattis outlined some of the threats facing America: terrorism, the destabilizing impact of North Korea in the Pacific and recent Russian aggression in the Ukraine. And while the United States has long enjoyed a significant technological advantage over almost all of the world’s militaries, senior Army officials are now concerned this edge may be dwindling.

McCarthy criticized the Army’s long-standing program of refitting older equipment, saying: "There is a limit to the incremental improvements that can be made before they no longer offer the degree of overmatch the Army requires," suggesting that while they have previously helped maintain America’s strategic and tactical advantage “we're squarely on the curve of diminishing returns.”

To address this, McCarthy announced the Army has formed a “modernization command,” starting with a 120-day task force led by Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, which will explore the Army’s future needs and set out the new command’s role. McCarthy explained that the command’s role "will extend from idea to delivery" of the kit the Army needs to modernize effectively.

The announcement came following the release of an Oct. 3 letter from Milley to other senior officers last week outlining the organization's aims. Milley explained that reform to the Army’s procurement system is essential to modernization with a focus on making “soldiers and units more lethal.”

To do this, Milley writes that the Army “must turn ideas into actions through continuous experimenting and prototyping, improving acquisition business processes, pursuing appropriate commercial/off-the-shelf options, and improving training.”

Modernization Priorities for the U.S. Army by Jared Keller on Scribd

At the moment, the Army’s acquisition is stymied by bureaucratic complexities, and Milley hopes that a more centralized procurement model will streamline technology development and acquisition and “overcome the bureaucratic inertia and stove-piping found in the Army's current construct.”

The service-wide modernization will initially focus on several key areas including older command and control communications (that are immune to cyber and electronic warfare), air and missile defense, next-generation vehicles and helicopters, and upgraded individual weapons for soldiers on the ground.

That last item comes in the wake of the collapse of the Army’s Interim Service Combat Rifle program, which sought to equip infantry with a modern 7.62 mm rifle capable of reaching out to longer ranges than the current M4A1 and penetrate increasingly prolific body armor.

Two soldiers work together in the Integration Motor Pool at Fort Bliss, Texas as part of Army Warfighting Assessment 17.1 as part of a broad modernization effortPhoto via DoD

What we don’t yet know is what form the new command will take and what its impact on procurement will be. Will it control all Army Requests For Information, Requests For Proposals and contract awards? If so, how will it overcome potential bias from industry and senior officers? There is a clear desire for soldier-driven procurement but how this will be structured and carried out remains to be seen.

The Army is hoping that the new Modernization Command will stand up in 2018 — and begin what is certain to be the long and complex task of preparing and equipping the U.S. Army for the mid-21st century. Only history will tell whether it's a success or not.

WATCH NEXT:

U.S. soldiers surveil the area during a combined joint patrol in Manbij, Syria, November 1, 2018. Picture taken November 1, 2018. (U.S. Army/Zoe Garbarino/Handout via Reuters)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will leave "a small peacekeeping group" of 200 American troops in Syria for a period of time after a U.S. pullout, the White House said on Thursday, as President Donald Trump pulled back from a complete withdrawal.

Read More Show Less
Construction crews staged material needed for the Santa Teresa Border Wall Replacement project near the Santa Teresa Port of Entry. (U.S. Customs and Border Patrol/Mani Albrecht)

With a legal fight challenge mounting from state governments over the Trump administration's use of a national emergency to construct at the U.S.-Mexico border, the president has kicked his push for the barrier into high gear.

On Wednesday, President Trump tweeted a time-lapse video of wall construction in New Mexico; the next day, he proclaimed that "THE WALL IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION RIGHT NOW"

But there's a big problem: The footage, which was filmed more than five months ago on Sep. 18, 2018, isn't really new wall construction at all, and certainly not part of the ongoing construction of "the wall" that Trump has been haggling with Congress over.

Read More Show Less
(From left to right) Chris Osman, Chris McKinley, Kent Kroeker, and Talon Burton

A group comprised of former U.S. military veterans and security contractors who were detained in Haiti on weapons charges has been brought back to the United States and arrested upon landing, The Miami-Herald reported.

The men — five Americans, two Serbs, and one Haitian — were stopped at a Port-au-Prince police checkpoint on Sunday while riding in two vehicles without license plates, according to police. When questioned, the heavily-armed men allegedly told police they were on a "government mission" before being taken into custody.

Read More Show Less
Army Sgt. Jeremy Seals died on Oct. 31, 2018, following a protracted battle with stomach cancer. His widow, Cheryl Seals is mounting a lawsuit alleging that military care providers missed her husband's cancer. Task & Purpose photo illustration by Aaron Provost

The widow of a soldier whose stomach cancer was allegedly overlooked by Army doctors for four years is mounting a medical malpractice lawsuit against the military, but due to a decades-old legal rule known as the Feres Doctrine, her case will likely be dismissed before it ever goes to trial.

Read More Show Less
The first grenade core was accidentally discovered on Nov. 28, 2018, by Virginia Department of Historic Resources staff examining relics recovered from the Betsy, a British ship scuttled during the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. The grenade's iron jacket had dissolved, but its core of black powder remained potent. Within a month or so, more than two dozen were found. (Virginia Department of Historic Resources via The Virginian-Pilot)

In an uh-oh episode of historic proportions, hand grenades from the last major battle of the Revolutionary War recently and repeatedly scrambled bomb squads in Virginia's capital city.

Wait – they had hand grenades in the Revolutionary War? Indeed. Hollow iron balls, filled with black powder, outfitted with a fuse, then lit and thrown.

And more than two dozen have been sitting in cardboard boxes at the Department of Historic Resources, undetected for 30 years.

Read More Show Less