Army modernization translates into accepting risk and learning quickly

Army modernization translates into accepting risk and learning quickly
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Two years ago, the Army recognized the need to rapidly and persistently modernize our force to stay ahead of technological change and national competitors. The Army Futures Command and the assistant secretary for acquisitions, logistics, and technology lead these bold new efforts. From the start, we have been committed to modernizing differently, faster and smarter, making “learning” a foundation of our efforts. Modernizing our Army this way is essential for strengthening our advantage over national competitors, and it will ensure our ability to fight and win if we have to.

The recent decision of the Army to cancel the current solicitation for the middle tier acquisition rapid prototyping phase of the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle reflects our commitment to getting modernization of our force right. Based on numerous feedback and proposals that we received from the industry, the Army determined that it was necessary to revisit the requirements, acquisition strategy, and schedule before moving forward. We now better understand what the industry can and cannot deliver. We also know where to focus further research. We know what questions to explore moving forward. We have learned and will apply that learning.

Agile processes and development, such as testing and prototyping early, learning lessons, and applying those lessons to optimize the direction of our modernization, is how we get the right equipment into the hands of American soldiers at the right time. Agile processes and development are also how the Army effectively shepherds critical taxpayer resources. So canceling the current solicitation of the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle is the Army keeping that promise to our soldiers and the nation.

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To be clear, the Army is still committed to the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle. This is not a decision to stop development, but instead to restart the process with new knowledge. The Bradley Fighting Vehicle has served the Army well for 40 years now, which stands as a testament to the strong collaboration between the Army and the industry that produced it. But we need a new fighting vehicle appropriate for the speed and technological sophistication of the future battlefield. We will not accept “good enough” for this program. Our soldiers will have the best equipment on earth.

The alliance between Army Futures Command and the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisitions, logistics, and technology is working. We are meeting our modernization goals. We are learning together, and we are delivering results. Our successes over the last year show the value of the revamped and well orchestrated modernization enterprise. The Army is also fielding the new enhanced night vision binocular goggles that allow soldiers better see and maneuver in difficult conditions on the battlefield. Using early prototyping and feedback from soldiers, the Army was able to field the first enhanced night vision binocular goggles in record time.

The integrated visual augmentation system raises situational awareness for soldiers. Our requirements and acquisitions teams worked closely with the industry, using hands on testing by soldiers, during its development. The new integrated visual augmentation system aids in target recognition, technology that will save lives of our soldiers, while helping them protect any civilians on the battlefield. One World Terrain allows our soldiers to virtually train on any terrain where they will operate from anywhere in the world. Collaboratively working with cutting edge companies and research partners helped us to develop One World Terrain rapidly and creatively.

By applying the agile approach we used during all three of these efforts, the Army will make sure that American soldiers are ready to defend the nation with greater speed,  safety, and effectiveness. Our new approach allows us to capitalize on cutting edge technologies that test the limits of the art of the possible. We are committed to continued close and iterative collaboration with the industry and research institutions to develop the best equipment for our soldiers to use. The Army cannot do this alone.

The Army modernization strategy declares the Army needs to modernize for the information age. The industrial age mindset of linear progression, one step at a time, does not match the increasing pace of technological change. We must be aggressive and agile in pursuing our modernization priorities, while at the same time protecting the resources of our nation. That requires accepting risks and embracing the ambiguity that comes with developing new knowledge and systems. Most important, we must be willing to admit if there is a more effective and efficient way forward.

That is exactly what the Army did when it came to the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle. We made an informed decision to change direction early to make sure that we put the best equipment in the world in the hands of American soldiers. Both they and our nation simply deserve nothing less.

General John Murray is the commander of Army Futures Command. Bruce Jette is the assistant secretary for acquisitions, logistics, and technology.