The way ahead on modernization will involve everything from
autonomous vehicles to artificial intelligence, Army leaders said at
a panel in October 2016.
Speaking at the Association of the
United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition, each of the
leaders linked the Army's modernization efforts to its overal goal
tactical operations center, or command post, supports the Army
Network Integration Evaluation to support Soldier readiness in 2015
at Fort Bliss, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by David Vergun, DMA)
Asked how technology will
change the way the Army fights, acting assistant secretary
of the Army Katharina G. McFarland called the Soldier "our
primary weapon." The role of technology, she said, would be
to unburden the soldier.
McFarland said the Army's
new Rapid Capabilities Office and other acquisition methods
that streamline the process will enable new technologies to
come to the fore.
"We need to make him able to spend
more time thinking rather than doing," she said. "We need to
think about how we create an environment that allows him to
have an extension of himself. Those things are related to
By autonomy, she meant the unmanned ground
and aerial systems that can extend a Soldier's reach on the
In her remarks, McFarland listed a host
of technology-enabled goals that the Army has already set
out to accomplish:
- Enable formations to "aggregate and disaggregate quickly"
- Improve overmatch in electronic warfare
- Lessen the logistics and maintenance burden
- Equip Soldiers with complete network and communications gear
- Ensure Soldiers have immediate and accurate positioning and
navigation data in contested environments
- Implement strategies to remove the cyber capabilities of
According to Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley
Jr., deputy chief of staff, G-2, the Army has over the last decade,
"been very additive" in terms of providing sensors and
communications data for the Soldier. "It's almost become a burden,"
The key to modernization for the Soldier, he said,
will be to unburden him from some of that flood of data by "placing
it on a machine" that can process the data and use it to provide the
Soldier with meaningful solutions. That, he said, can be
accomplished through machine learning and artificial intelligence
Another area that needs improving, Ashley said, is
information sharing with coalition partners. Currently, much of the
data that is collected goes to U.S.-only systems.
think of all the [data] collection that you bring in when you
process, exploit, and disseminate that information, it's important
that you can get it in near-real time to coalition partners and
coalition users," he continued.
The solution to exchanging
information with coalition partners, he said, is to "federate" the
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data.
Federation, he explained, means requiring common data standards and
processes to ensure that the many unique systems used by coalition
partners can communicate with one another.
Another area the
general said could use improvement is the realm of social media.
"When you look at all the things that come in through social
media, how do you track them?" Ashley said. "How do you look for a
trend? How do you receive warnings?"
The general cited, as an
example, people congregating in Tahrir Square in Cairo during the
Arab Spring. At the time, intelligence agencies had no way of seeing
or measuring what was going on, he said.
Had there been a way
to track the chatter on social media being used by those who
assembled, a clearer picture of what was going on would have
Lt. Gen. Gustave F. Perna,
who served as the deputy chief of staff, G-4 until September and now
serves commander of the Army Materiel Command, said the Army's
acquisition and requirements processes must be streamlined.
When it comes to acquisition, few people realize that 70 percent of
the cost of a weapon or equipment system comes from sustainment, he
said. Just a small part of the cost comes from the research,
development and purchase.
According to Perna, the solution is
"more alignment between the requirements, generators and acquisition
process early-on in teaming."
Even before the acquisition
process begins, he said, there should be sufficient Soldier testing
to ensure the system is the right fit for the Soldier.
to name the top three sustainment challenges the Army faces today,
Perna replied, "First and foremost, we need to be able to maintain
our own equipment on the battlefield."
To do that, the Army
must own the intellectual property rights, rather than depend on
contractors, he said.
Soldiers must also be properly trained
to maintain their own equipment, he added, and the Army must be
prepared to counter enemy cyber threats to the supply chain.
By U.S. Army David Vergun, DMA
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