HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The U.S. Army has launched a massive modernization effort to ensure its continued success on the battlefield and they're implementing interesting ways of getting their hands on new technology and equipment.
This week in Huntsville, Army leaders stressed the importance of the initiative and revealed how its taking shape as they change their acquisition process from what officials called "a slow and risk averse mindset" to one with an accelerated delivery.
The 2018 AUSA Global Force symposium drew thousands to the Rocket City, including the Secretary and Under Secretary of the Army.
The man at the helm of the buying arm of the Army, Dr. Bruce Jette, delivered the final keynote address on Thursday as the three-day conference wrapped up. Jette is the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT).
He talked about the importance of the Army collaborating with industry to modernize and equip troops.
The Army is looking to streamline its acquisition process with the creation of a new overarching Futures Command.
He stressed the need to get the most advanced products onto the battlefield faster.
Jette talked about how the Army has instigated a new technique for accessing innovation and helping small businesses, called the Army Technology Incubator and Accelerator.
"The initiative is designed to further enable the Army to span the chasm between critical modernization challenges and the vast community of non-traditional innovators," he explained.
Contracts are being awarded to those who have innovations the Army wants and wants quickly.
"What we're trying to do is something akin to a Shark Tank. The secretary had a great deal of interest and we're making this work," Jette stated. "The Army needs that private sector innovation. We no longer have the luxury of technology development in the commercial sector. We need to adapt and accept commercial technologies in a greater fashion."
Jette says the Army needs to be less focused on processes, and more focused on getting the best equipment into the hands of the war fighter.
"Modernization is essential to us remaining ready. Today's modernization is tomorrow's readiness," he added. "My heart and soul is behind trying to make this country so strong that nobody dares threaten us or attack our interests."
Space and missile defense was also on the table for discussion Thursday.
Lieutenant General James Dickinson, the commander of the U.S. Space and Missile Defense Command/ Army Forces Strategic Command, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, took part in the forum, discussing work underway to boost flexibility and strategies to better prepare for adapting threats.
Dickinson said one of the most important tasks is equipping the force with the most advanced modern weapons systems and doing it very quickly.
"The challenges of great power competition with China and Russia, the destabilizing threats from rogue nations and regimes of North Korea and Iran, and the continued fight against terrorism present us with a wide and growing range of threat capabilities that air and missile defenders must be ready to defeat," he said.
He added that the new Futures Command is meant to move the Army "past the Industrial Age modernization system and toward a more agile and responsive approach to make sure our current and future war fighters are set up to win."
He also stressed the importance of taking advantage of strategic partnerships with industry.
"We'll look to industry partners for innovative technologies that will enable us to accelerate delivery of revolutionary capabilities to the war fighters," Dickinson stated.
General Carter Ham, U.S. Army Retired, is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA). At the end of the symposium, he revealed that it will be returning to Huntsville next year, in March 2019.
He said this year's event addressed very pressing issues and topics.
"This year was quite special to have so many senior leaders…in announcing and discussing the way ahead for the Army of the future, for Army modernization, which is vitally important for the Army and the nation," Gen. Ham said. "It's particularly relevant for the Huntsville community given how many industries support and enable the Army and are resident here in Huntsville so we're very pleased."
He recognized that the work done at Redstone Arsenal will be key in the Futures Command's mission, including the Army Materiel Command, the Space and Missile Defense Command, and others.
"I'd also comment on how wonderfully supportive this community is, not just of the commands that are resident here, but also the soldiers and civilians that come here for events, as well as the community support for ROTC, for JROTC. It's a magical place here," Ham added of Huntsville.
He says overall, the symposium provided clarity of mission and purpose from Army senior leadership.
"Perhaps for the first time in some time, all of those entities seem to be singularly focused on improving the capabilities of the Army. I think that bodes well for the Army and for the nation," Ham added.
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