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National Defense > Blog > Posts > Commission: Army Modernization Shortcomings ‘Regrettable’
Commission: Army Modernization Shortcomings ‘Regrettable’
By Stew Magnuson



The National Commission on the Future of the Army’s report to Congress released Jan. 28 took note of the service’s acquisition woes and said they were a “significant long-term-concern.”
 
The service has “appropriately” chosen readiness over modernizing its equipment, the report’s authors wrote. But that comes at a price.
 
“The commission considers the limited investment in modernization as a source of significant long-term concern, a concern that would surface even had the less-challenging security conditions assumed in the current defense strategy held,” the eight-member panel wrote.
 
It singled out shortfalls in aviation survivability; short-range air defense; artillery; chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protection; field artillery; and watercraft. It recommended the Army “reassess the risk it is assuming” in these fields. The need to modernize equipment in these categories could affect troops in the Americas, Europe and the Korean Peninsula, the report said, but it left details for the classified portion of the report.
 
“In light of the current security environment and budget constraints, the commission judged the Army’s approach of prioritizing readiness and capacity understandable, although its consequences for modernization are regrettable,” the report said.

While the panel did not share any recommendations for overhauling the Army’s acquisition processes, it did note the long list of failed programs that cost taxpayers billions of dollars and did not result in better capabilities for soldiers. It has canceled the ground combat vehicle, armed aerial scout and unmanned ground vehicle upgrades. “Compounding the problem, modernization plans for mounted soldier system programs, aviation, communications, and ground combat vehicles remain vulnerable to further reductions,” the report stated.
 
The lack of investment in these fields would create risks to the industrial base, it said. “Continued fiscal uncertainty and low resource availability for Army investment will also dissuade new entrants to the defense marketplace,” it added.

Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Virginia-based think tank, said: “The Army has no major modernization programs. Sit on that for a moment. You have a sucking chest wound, and the commission focused on a bunch of paper cuts to the fingers. There is no clear, evident future of the Army in modernization terms.”
 
The only major modernization program that comes to mind is joint multi-role helicopter modernization, which is a vague program way out in the future and there just “to keep some industry people hopping along,” he said.
 
The Army needs better counter-rocket, precision-guided artillery, mortar systems, active protection systems for vehicles and ways to fly through brownout conditions in helicopters, he said. These are incremental improvements that do cost a lot of money, but are relatively close to being fielded, he added.
 
Beyond these short-term technologies, the Army “doesn’t have a clue as to what it is doing in the future,” Goure said. The report was a once in a generation chance to address fundamental problems in the service and to set it on a modernization, force structure and budgetary path to the future, but “they punted,” Goure said.
 
“I think they missed all the marks. Maybe because it had to be a consensus document. Maybe because there are politics with these things,” he added. “I almost feel like this is what they could agree on — watercraft.”
 
The top modernization priorities that the report should have addressed are aviation, force protection and networking, which includes cyber operations. Very little of the unclassified report addressed cyber issues, he noted. Maybe there is more in the classified version, he speculated.  
 
Congress created the commission one year ago to look at a variety of issues facing the Army.
 
The commissioners took the service to task for not maintaining its fleet of tactical wheeled vehicles.
 
“Commissioners received numerous reports from soldiers and commanders about tactical wheeled vehicle shortages. These shortages are most pronounced in heavy equipment prime movers,” the report said, describing the problem as “alarming.” It recommended that the service report back to Congress within one year with a plan to close the readiness gap in tactical mobility.

Photo Credit: Army

Comments

Re: Commission: Army Modernization Shortcomings ‘Regrettable’

The US Army, like the rest of the armed services is made up of Americans, pretty obvious, so far ? The problem lies with American culture and society. Americans are having a difficult time balancing desires versus needs and greater difficulty determining the priorities of needs versus critical needs. This extends to every aspect of American life, Americans want everything for everybody, but can't figure out how to pay for it. This problem extends to the military. The social political climate in a polarized American society makes it difficult to know what to plan for and planning for everything is virtually impossible. So while I might be disappointed that the Army has no idea what it really wants to do in the future, I'm not surprised. The Army is after all just an extension of American society.
RT Colorado at 1/30/2016 3:48 PM

Re: Commission: Army Modernization Shortcomings ‘Regrettable’

A lot of the "modernization equipment" already exists off-the-shelf out there if the US Army wants it.  Instead, the US Army went down the path of trying to design its own vehicles and that fell flat.  A lot of the tests and R&D that the US Army conducted has proven that the machines and vehicles actually do work, but politics, lack of commitment, changing requirements, and critics have doomed a lot of the programs.

For instance. the Crusader SPH was tested to work at 70 tons and then 40 tons, but no, the critics wanted 20 tons and that reduced the SPH to being so small it was almost not much of an improvement over the M777 and M109A6.  LOSAT and CKEM work as does a lot of turret autoloading mortar systems that can mount on the Styker.  MEADS works and is way more mobile than Patriot, but the US Army doesn't want to buy it.  There's the M4 and M5 ECM and C&C on a MLRS chassis, but again, the Army didn't buy it.  There's the M8 AGS, tested as a winner over the MGS, but the Army went with the MGS.  There's the PL2000 as a possible light tank.  The HK416 and FN SCAR-L works better than the M4, but again, the Army elected to stick with the M4.  These are the "billions of dollars" spent on modernization programs that produced zilch, but the good thing is that they were tested as mostly being better than what the US Army currently has.

So as you can see, the US Army has a lot of "new toys" to draw from and buy right off the shelf, tried and tested, by the US Army itself.  It's up to the US Army to make such commitment decisions.

Why then does the USA feel China and Russia are (new) emerging threats?  Perhaps it's because both foreign nations could build, field, and use new weapons and vehicles way better than the US military can as we stick with upgrading our old "legacy" systems.
Peter at 2/4/2016 2:07 PM

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