Army May Have to Limit Distribution of Best Equipment
As modernization budgets are squeezed, the Army might have to be more selective about which units receive the most advanced equipment, a top officer said June 13.
Personnel and readiness costs are eating up the vast majority of the service’s topline, leaving only 18 percent for modernization, noted Gen. Daniel Allyn, vice chief of staff of the Army, during a talk at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C. think tank.
“Fundamentally it’s a math problem,” he said. “We have begun to look at … how do we prioritize delivery of capability to a smaller number of units rather than trying to spread the peanut butter” across the force.
That could lead to trouble down the road if the United States comes into conflict with a high-tech adversary, the combat veteran and Silver Star recipient acknowledged.
“Should we get into a scenario where it’s a near peer or a competitor that requires a massive response from the United States military … you’re going to stand a chance that some of those forces will not be as adequately prepared and equipped as they should be,” Allyn said.
The service’s number two officer said the upside of such an equipping strategy is that the Army would not be as committed to gear that could have a relatively short shelf life.
“Technology is changing so fast that we think by the time you field a smaller set you’re going to be going after newer, more modern capability anyway, so [buying lower quantities] is less of problem then it may have been in the past,” he said.
The budget situation, which Allyn doesn’t expect to change in the foreseeable future, is also forcing the Army to target its limited modernization dollars.
“When you look at the 700 to 800 portfolios that we currently have for equipping our Army, that gets spread very, very thin,” he said. “We have been forced to prioritize our modernization efforts to address the emerging demands, particularly in high-intensity combat.”
The service is also focused on divesting itself of obsolete or redundant systems so that funding can be redirected toward areas of greatest need, Allyn said.
Among the highest acquisition priorities are “active protection systems” for combat vehicles and aircraft, he said. Such technologies enable troops to identify and destroy incoming warheads or other threats before they strike U.S. military platforms, as opposed to more traditional protection systems such as armor that absorb enemy fire.
Modernizing the service’s aviation portfolio and beefing up cybersecurity are other key needs, he noted.
Although the Army is prioritizing readiness at the expense of modernization, leaders are trying to retain flexibility to adapt to future threats, Allyn said.
“Despite all the cuts that we took in modernization, we preserved our [science and technology] portfolio so that as emerging demands come out there we’ve got a focused investment strategy,” he said. “My expectation is as we continue to look at peer competitors out there, there’s going to continue to be gaps that we have to prioritize and get after, and that’s the critical focus as we move forward as well.”
The service is partnering with the Defense Department’s Strategic Capabilities Office to look at long-term challenges and emerging technologies.
“We know particularly in the area of integrated air defense and long-range precision fires that there are very, very specific capabilities that hold promise,” Allyn said without identifying them. “We are working very carefully with [SCO Director William Roper] and his team to address gaps that we have.”