The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be teaching the military and
defense contractors equipping lessons that may not be applicable
in the future, said Lt. Gen. Joseph Yakovac Jr., the Army’s
military deputy for acquisition, logistics and technology.
Yakovac voiced concern about keeping the ability to rapidly field
new technologies, losing mobility by buying equipment that relies
on static infrastructure and depending too heavily on contractor
support in the field.
In the current fight, operational needs have been pushed to the
forefront, and funded with emergency war appropriations from Congress.
However, Yakovac said he worries about what will happen when the
fighting slackens and the money is not as forthcoming.
“I lose sleep over losing supplementals,” he said.
“They have allowed the Army to have a future.” He suggested
continuing supplementals for two years after hostilities end—he
did not suggest a timeline for the conflict’s end—to
ensure the sustainment of new programs that proved themselves in
The ability of the Army to respond quickly to equipment requests
is far from sacrosanct, Yakovac said. Experiments with the concept
of autonomous rapid fielding failed during 1997-8, when a $100 million
program fell victim to congressional oversight, Yakovac said. The
idea was for the Army to use the money and report results back to
Congress. However, he said the Army received a “laundry list”
of oversight demands and the program eventually died. “It
was like a regular program,” he said. “It became part
of the bureaucracy.”
Yakovac said he fears the streamlined system that has brought useful
equipment to war zones will suffer when the fighting ebbs. To continue
rapid fielding initiatives will take enthusiastic support from the
secretary of defense and Congress. “We have to get the rest
of the team to play,” he said. “When money is dedicated
without being tied to something concrete, normally it’s gone.”
He also expressed concern about other programs that are seemingly
designed only for use in current fights, and may not be applicable
for other theaters.
For example, he said the counter-rocket, artillery and mortar systems
used in forward operating bases in Iraq can identify and sometimes
neutralize incoming dangers. However, the systems are reliant on
a network of fiberoptic cables, infrastructure that likely will
not be available in future theaters. “That’s going to
be a system we’re interested in, but we have to make it mobile,”
he said. “You have to learn that there are some things we
are learning which will not apply in the future.”
This applies to maintenance requirements for a slew of equipment.
“We’ve moved a depot capability to theater,” he
noted. “Is that a norm? Is that an aberration? You can’t
expect that all the time.”
Many of these questions will become policy-level debates, he said.
As an example, he cited questions about contractor support in the
field. Contractors in war zones bring expertise and skills where
they are needed most, but also carry legal and logistical complications.
It is not a good idea to count on “safe areas” for
contractors to work in future fights, he added. With increasingly
complex equipment, such as Stryker vehicles, the government’s
level of expertise and supply chain can’t keep up, Yakovac
noted. “The best thing we can do is partner … so that
it isn’t a ‘we/they’ situation, but an ‘us.’”
Right now, demand is high enough to keep public and private workers
busy—and therefore funded. But Yakovac said he must plan for
a day when the violence recedes and the Army loses some of this
“We cranked it up. As we crank it down, we have to come to
an equilibrium point. When the dollars dry up, what do we do?”