NDIA PERSPECTIVE DEFENSE INNOVATION
Army Locked In on Transformation, Modernization
For the last two decades, the Army was at the tip of the spear defending the homeland, protecting citizens and supporting allies and partners fighting terrorist organizations, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq. The valor and sacrifices of those deployed soldiers was extraordinary, and we are forever thankful.
As U.S. strategies reorient the Defense Department and military services to a return of great power competition, the Army is shifting the service’s primary focus from fighting formations at the tactical level back to the capabilities and capacities required to fight at the echelons of Army corps and divisions. This shift to large scale combat operations will require both modern maneuver capabilities and a secure and resilient network to transmit critical data in complex and evolving operational environments.
The Army’s civilian and military leadership is therefore laser-focused on Army 2030, the multi-year strategy directing the service’s significant reorganization and technical innovation for all operational domains, including space and cyberspace.
As the Army focuses on transformation and modernization, it is prioritizing the need to maintain an advantage in the speed of decision-making, to create a shared understanding of the battlespace, and to ensure the Army and the Joint Force have overmatch in lethality in both time and space. The Army’s digital transformation is focused on linking enterprise and tactical networks, getting data out of siloed channels, enabling the secure and effective transport of data and prioritizing modern development and acquisition processes.
The Undersecretary of the Army Gabe Camarillo is leading these efforts to ensure the Army is changing how it develops, tests, acquires and deploys its systems. His efforts inform the targeted investments the service is making in processes, technologies and professional skill sets that combined will accelerate this transformation. As the Army assesses the impact of its reforms and identifies where further change is warranted, close participation and feedback from industry will be important. That is why it has been so crucial that the undersecretary has remained so actively engaged with industry.
Software is a key component in many of the Army’s weapons and business systems, and it will continue to play an important role in the service’s future systems. Consequently, the Army’s ability to rapidly develop, deliver and adapt software is critical to achieving technical superiority over adversaries.
However, current Army processes were largely designed for hardware intensive systems and do not support modern software development practices at scale and speed. Fortunately, the Army can build off the 2020 software acquisition pathway, one of the six pathways under the Defense Department’s Adaptive Acquisition Framework, which has made the acquisition of both goods and services more flexible.
Army leadership is focused on customizing intellectual property strategies by program instead of simply pursuing government purpose rights. It intends to negotiate custom licenses, and to negotiate those licenses earlier in the process. The end state goal is to evolve how requirements are developed, to ensure more continuous user input and to drive a more agile, iterative process.
To implement, the Army is tackling head on critical issues Camarillo underscores are the two essential enablers to the Army’s transformation efforts: to get the right talent in place at the right time, and to improve the Army’s partnership with industry.
For example, the Army acquisition policy leadership is working hard to make significant investments in its internal workforce talent. This includes working through the issues related to the fact that while program managers are measured against cost, schedule and performance, innovative intellectual property strategies do not necessarily measure well under that framework.
In addition, the Army is also set to improve its acumen of intellectual property licensing through the establishment of a cell consisting of IP experts who will assist and advise the Army’s acquisition workforce and industry partners as they establish strategies. The Army intends to carefully steward the workforce talent of this cell by prioritizing its focus on the most important Army systems.
Routine criticism of any meaningful reform anywhere in the defense enterprise is that it’s not happening fast enough. In this case real credit needs to go to Camarillo and the acquisition policy leadership for their sustained commitment to speed these reforms via ethical engagement with industry to tackle these hard challenges. We are indebted to the undersecretary because if this was easy, someone else would have done it before now.
We in industry must continue to do our part. For example, please plan to attend the 26th Annual Systems and Mission Engineering Conference Oct. 16-19 in Norfolk, Virginia. The conference is organized by NDIA’s Systems Engineering Division in collaboration with the NDIA Test and Evaluation Division and the NDIA Integrated Program Management Division. It aims to provide a platform for industry, government and academia to share insights and discuss strategies for enhancing defense acquisition and system performance.
The event offers an interactive forum for program managers, systems engineers, chief scientists, specialty engineers and managers to participate and exchange knowledge, best practices and innovative approaches to address the challenges and complexities of defense systems. Join us! ND
Michael Bayer is NDIA board chair and president and CEO of Dumbarton Strategies.