DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

COVID-19 NEWS: Army Working Through Weapons Testing Hurdles

6/8/2020
By Connie Lee
U.S. Army Pfc. Seth Robertson receives a COVID-19 swab from Pfc. Seth Wild, May 28, 2020, at Hohenfels Training Area.

Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Garrick W. Morgenweck

Weapons system testing remains one the Army’s biggest concerns during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a top service official said June 8.

“What things have been hindering us a bit? ... The biggest one there is testing," Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Bruce Jette said during an Association of the United States Army webinar.

Jette said he's been working closely with Gen. John "Mike" Murray, commander of Army Futures Command, to try to accommodate testing issues. Safety measures related to the pandemic such as social distancing can pose a challenge, he noted.

“In the case of testing, you have to put a lot of people in the same place," Jette said.

So far, the service has adjusted some testing timelines, but first unit equipped dates have remained the same, he said.

“We’ll probably move a couple Milestone Cs around, but generally testing and delivery have remained on schedule or we have a makeup plan,” he said. “It’s the testing that’s the long pole in the tent and we’re accommodating that.”

In May, Jette said weapons programs have mostly remained on track. However, the service’s Intelligence Electronic Warfare Tactical Proficiency Trainer effort may see major changes because the contractor is a smaller company, he noted. The program is intended to provide training across multiple intelligence disciplines and falls under the program executive office for simulation, training and instrumentation.

Jette said he receives daily reports on the status of the defense industrial base. Small businesses continue to be the most impacted by the pandemic, he noted.

There have been situations where companies with a small number of workers have had to shut down temporarily when one of them was diagnosed with COVID-19, he noted. "They’re all in close proximity, and [when] one of them comes down positive, the whole place shuts down for two weeks. And in some cases ... we had some suppliers down for a month or two,” he said.

Meanwhile, the top six modernization portfolios remain the Army’s biggest priorities, and officials are still on schedule with the top 31 signature systems, Jette said. These initiatives include long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicles, future vertical lift, the network, air-and-missile defense and soldier lethality.

There are a number of ongoing studies within the Defense Department and Army Futures Command as the service develop roadmaps for the future, he said.

Additionally, the Army is working on a “holistic" economic model to examine issues such as the long-term affordability of new weapon systems to include lifecycle costs, he noted.

“We are taking some steps to provide additional data in case there’s a prioritization that does come down the road due to changes in the budget profiles,” Jette said.

Topics: Defense Department

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