HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The Army of the future is the big talker in Huntsville this week, with top leaders outlining out plans to move our fighting force forward.
The AUSA Global Force Symposium is underway and some big topics are on the agenda, including a brand new Army command.
The theme of this year's event is "Modernizing and Equipping America's Army for Today and Tomorrow."
Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark Esper took the stage for the keynote address Monday morning to kick off the three-day conference at the Von Braun Center. He stressed the importance of planning for what's ahead.
"While we've been rightly focused on winning in the Middle East, China and Russia have invested in advanced technologies, professionalized their militaries and changed facts on the ground that have reduced our military advantage. Both countries are modernizing their militaries at a pace that is... improving their ability to threaten our national interest," he said before a crowd that filled the concert hall.
"We must be able to overcome our adversaries' defenses to gain a foothold, maintain access and exploit success," he added.
He shared his vision of the Army ten years from now.
"The Army of 2028 will be ready to deploy, fight, and win decisively against any adversary anytime and anywhere in a joint, multi-domain, high intensity conflict while simultaneously deterring others and maintaining its ability to conduct irregular warfare," Esper explained.
To make it happen, Esper and his staff are completely restructuring the Army to add a fourth command to focus on modernization, the biggest change in decades. It's called the Futures Command.
"It's a different way of looking at it. That's how you get leap ahead technology and concepts by having a specific command focused on the future, not tied to the present," explained Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville
"One of the things we try to do by putting the future in futures command, is to make sure that the future is preserved," Esper added. "What's happened over the past 17 years and arguably longer, is the demands of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the present has consumed the future. There wasn't as many folks as you might think looking to the future in terms of what we might need and how we're going to fight. What the futures command will do is own the future."
The new command will streamline the procurement process and make things more efficient.
"If I need to do something on a program, I have to talk to multiple people to find out where it is in the process. You need one person to go to and tell you where we are, how do we accelerate it, how do we get the cost down, or what's going on. That's what we're trying to get at," Esper stated.
Army leaders say the same level of ingenuity and innovation that built up the rocket program in Huntsville after WWII will be required to accomplish their vision.
There are six modernization priorities: long range precision fires, next generation of combat vehicles, future vertical lift, Army network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.
"We are executing reform by reallocating funds to ensure these efforts are funded while refocusing our bureaucratic processes to only the necessary tasks," said Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy. "Forming Army futures command will build the environment that ensures enduring success. Change of this scope and scale will be incredibly difficult for an organization as large as the army, as it is not something the army has done since 1973."
There's word yet on where the new command will be located. Many have wondered if Huntsville is on the list of potential sites.
McCarthy says officials are not looking to put it on an Army installation, They want access to academia and business. They're also not looking to move the different pieces of the command all over the country, but align them.
"We need access to commercial industry and academia. We have started this process with 150 cities and it's going through this funnel," McCarthy said. "You want to access specific talent sets, like systems engineering and software developers."
The final 10 cities will be announced in next few months. Then the list will be narrowed down to four. After recon is done of each site, the Army will announce the chosen spot this summer. It will have full operational capability next summer.
Officials said the research happening at the Army Materiel Command and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center at Redstone Arsenal will play a key part in the Futures Command and its organizational structure.
"Research and development for long range precision fires is done right here. When you look at future vertical lift, research for aviation is done right here. When you look at air and missile defense, it's done here. So you start to look at those things and we lay out the priorities and if you line up with those priorities, you're in the right line of work I'd guess you say," Gen. McConville stated.
"Our research and development enterprise is extremely important as an element to the new futures command organization. Bringing this S&T community closer to the requirements community is philosophically the crux of what we're trying to achieve. The folks here in Huntsville will be instrumental in this new command," added Ryan McCarthy, Under Secretary of the U.S. Army.
Adding this new command is the biggest change to the Army in decades, but Esper says its critical to improving readiness for threats like North Korea, Iran and ISIS, as well as being prepared for militaries that have made big strides in advancements.
"The Army will do this through the employment of modern manned and unmanned ground combat vehicles, aircraft, sustainment systems and weapons, coupled with robust combined arms formations and tactics based on a modern war fighting doctrine and centered on exceptional leaders and soldiers of unmatched lethality," he said.
"And even if we never face Russia and China on the modern battlefield, we should expect to see their weapons, equipment and tactics used by adversaries against us," Esper added.
The AUSA symposium continues Tuesday and Wednesday in Huntsville at the VBC.
Copyright 2018 WAFF. All rights reserved.