WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 23, 2013) – As a result of fiscal “belt tightening, the Ground Combat Vehicle and the Armed Aerial Scout could be delayed, continued or terminated,” said the Army’s top acquisition professional.
“We’re lurching” ahead with deciding which programs stay, are postponed, canceled or not started “because our budget is lurching,” said Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.
Shyu, along with Gen. Dennis Via, commander, Army Materiel Command, spoke Oct. 21, at a modernization press conference at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.
It’s especially hard on the Army’s industry partners, Shyu acknowledged, but it’s been a “perfect storm of continuing resolutions, sequestration and government shutdown” with no end in sight and the impacts will be even greater next year.
Deciding which capability is most important, what’s good enough and what to sacrifice “is not an easy one. It’s a decision not taken lightly,” she continued. “We’re in a belt-tightening mode.”
The Army is looking closely at every one of its portfolios and is receiving input from U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command to determine the future status of each of its programs as sequestration in 2014 and beyond will have a significant impact on all of them, she continued.
Last year, the Army was criticized by Congress for its Program Objective Memorandum, or POM.
“Last year we were blamed for having just one POM,” she said, indicating there was no backup POM. The POM provides the Army with budgetary decisions over several years.
“This year, the Army’s producing two POMs,” based on what the budget might or might not look like. “One is a good POM and the other is a bad POM,” the latter being a worst-case budget scenario or lack of a budget.
It’s not just portfolios that are affected, she said. So are science and technology, research and development and operation and maintenance of equipment. On top of that, “we can’t get the force structure down fast enough” to keep up with cuts to readiness and modernization.
Shyu said the “budget morass” is so significant, she wouldn’t be surprised if the force structure is brought down below the planned 490,000 target.
The budget woes also threaten to disrupt “our efforts to regain expeditionary capability,” said Via.
The Army had large, fixed bases with infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan. Future operations “may not have that luxury and may be austere,” he explained. As forces draw down from Afghanistan and become more U.S.-based, that expeditionary capability becomes critical from “kinetic to disaster-relief” missions.
Besides future threats, the Army still has a war on its hand in Afghanistan, Via reminded the audience. Logistical support is still needed there as well as the need to retrograde equipment from Afghanistan to the U.S. where it needs to be reset and delivered to units so they’re prepared for future contingencies.
To address these growing concerns, Shyu said the Army has four logistical strategies:
First, since the force structure is coming down, the Army will purchase less equipment.
Second, existing legacy equipment not needed and too expensive to maintain will be eliminated.
Third, any new equipment purchases will likely be done using more efficient contracts such as multi-year contracts, since these have the greatest discounts that will drive cost savings.
And fourth, the Army will continue to incrementally improve and modernize its aging systems and platforms like the Apache, Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters; Bradley Fighting Vehicles; M113 Armored Personnel Carriers, which will be upgraded to Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicles; Paladins; and Abrams tanks.
“We also have to prepare ourselves to fight in a much more contested environment,” she said.
To do this will cost money, but it’s a necessary investment, she continued, giving some examples such as better integrating sensors, missiles and manned and unmanned aviation assets together so they’re networked and visible across the battle space.
Another example would be providing special capabilities to pilots so they can navigate and land in “degraded visual environments such as smoke, fog sandstorms and whiteout conditions.”
Science and technology investments will also continue, she said. For example, if the enemy jams GPS, Soldiers would need a reliable backup system, since its weapons and people are so reliant on satellite positioning.
Another program that will continue through its testing phase is the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System, which is a signals intelligence gathering system used on aircraft.
The Army is also interested in keeping tabs on the underlying sensor technology that drives systems like EMARSS, so it will continue to invest in science and technology, she said, noting that systems become obsolete in just a few years as they keep evolving at a rapid-fire fashion.
On a different topic, Via provided some good news on current equipment retrograde efforts in Afghanistan, which had sometimes bogged down over the long, tortuous road through Pakistan over the last few years.
“Retrograde is proceeding on plan,” he said. “The Pakistan ground lines are open so each week there’s an increasing throughput and velocity in pushing equipment back. We don’t know what the final security agreement will look like or how many forces will remain, so we’re watching that.”
Via added that the Army is using lessons learned in Iraq to do a smarter drawdown in Afghanistan, not just for retrograde procedures, but for disposing of excess gear. For instance, some countries have expressed an interest in acquiring it, he said. And some of it that’s not economically feasible to bring back is being scrapped and dismantled in ways that will make it difficult for anyone who wants to do harm to use.