“I am very comfortable with almost every program right now in terms of its general direction of travel, the requirements seem reasonable, and that our cost estimates are pretty good,” said Doug Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, in his first media roundtable since being confirmed by the Senate last week.
As the Pentagon pushes a strategic pivot to the Pacific and near-peer competitors in China and Russia, the Army is expected to be a major bill payer. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth has continuously stated that “everything is on the table” for potential adjustments, with Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville echoing those comments last week, saying the service will take a “hard look” at their key 35 modernization programs.
Bush warned in his nomination hearing earlier this year that the “aggressive timelines” of the modernization programs could be challenging for the service. The best way for a program to survive, Bush said, prove their worth as investments.
“We will earn additional funding to field things if we show, as an Army, that we can get things through R&D [research and development], prototype, soldiers like it, get it in the field,” Bush said. “So we got to put some points on the board and I think we will. I think that will enable us to compete with all the other needs of the Army — I am clear-eyed about the Army has many needs — to ensure we get enough money in modernization to achieve the goals.”
The Army has bookmarked what it calls its “31+4 programs” — in simpler terms, 35 — signature modernization programs that range from new networking tools to ground vehicles to artillery, all scheduled to be fielded to soldiers at various times across the next decade. Top service leaders tout the programs as the Army’s biggest modernization push in 40 years and crucial to the next few decades of conflict with near-peers.
The Army aims to have 24 of those signature programs either fielded or in various stages of prototyping by fiscal 2023. The crucial aspect for the modernization programs are staying on schedule, meeting cost estimates and successfully transitioning between prototyping and a program of record, Bush said.
“We’ve got a lot of efforts that are right at that tipping point over the next couple years. So that’ll be my focus,” he said.
But the Army also has several modernization programs — such as its two future helicopter programs or the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle — that have acquisition timelines that extend years beyond the mid-2020s. Experts fear that programs with the longer timelines risk falling off track and could get cut in the future.
“We need our industry partners we’re working with to perform on cost and schedule, cost and schedule still matter. So I think that’s the main thing,” Bush said. “It’s more a case of just if the army still has a requirement for that capability in the future and the program is performing well, in terms of staying closely on track, then I think all those things would compete very well.”
Army modernization programs need to put ‘points on the board’: Acquisition chief – Breaking Defense Breaking Defense is written by Andrew Eversden for breakingdefense.com