REDSTONE ARSENAL, AL (WAFF) - The Army’s top civilian leader made his way to Redstone Arsenal this week to see the progress being made in efforts to develop the next generation of helicopters.
It’s called Future Vertical Lift and it’s a main component of the new Army Futures Command, which focuses on modernization.
Secretary of the Army, Dr. Mark Esper, met with leaders on the arsenal, as well as with Northrop Grumman, and he fielded questions from the media during his overnight stay in Huntsville.
Two of the eight cross functional teams that make up the Future Command are based on Redstone Arsenal.
Esper says it’s important work to move the Army forward.
“I had the chance to visit with our cross functional team leads, two teams that are vital to the Army’s future when it comes to modernization of the force. I also had the chance to visit with Northrop Grumman who are developing some of those systems that are essential to our future of air and missile defense,” Dr. Esper stated.
Esper visited the installation a year ago to talk about his priorities- the Army’s readiness, modernization and reform.
Then in March, he spoke at the AUSA Global Force Symposium in Huntsville to discuss the new Futures Command.
He gave an update on Tuesday, saying: “Last summer, in July, we stood up Army Futures Command in Austin, Texas. They are supposed to be fully operationally capable this upcoming summer. They are on schedule, if not ahead of schedule.”
This was his second visit to Redstone Arsenal since becoming Secretary of the Army.
On Monday, he spent time with General Gus Perna, the head of the Army Materiel Command, one of the Army’s major commands that is headquartered on Redstone Arsenal.
On Tuesday, Esper also visited AMRDEC, the Aviation Missile Research Development and Engineering Center on the arsenal.
He met with the leaders at the Future Vertical Lift cross functional team to discuss programs. The other cross functional team (CFT) on Redstone Arsenal is Assured Position, Navigation and Timing.
“We need to know where we are and where we are going. Those are two very important CFTs. Both, and all eight of them, are making great progress,” Esper stated.
“There are 31 programs associated with the 8 CFTs which are critical to the future success of the Army on the modern battlefield. We need to make sure we hit our timelines and that the companies that we are contracting with reach their cost schedule and performance milestones. That’s the conversation I had with Northrop Grumman when it comes to air and missile defense, specifically IBCS,” he added.
The Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) is a revolutionary command-and-control (C2) system developed to deliver a single, unambiguous view of the battlespace, according to Northrop Grumman’s website. The enhanced aircraft and missile tracking improves the ability of combatant commanders and air defenders to make critical decisions within seconds. IBCS enables integration of current and future sensors and weapon systems and interoperability with joint C2 and the ballistic missile defense system, according to the defense company.
Esper fielded questions about several other hot topics, including the president’s push to build a wall on the southern border.
“The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for contracting for commercial builders. They’ve been doing it for years. It’s ongoing. I’ll just leave it at that,” he responded.
He was also asked about the government shutdown.
“The Army and DOD at large has received great funding from Congress in ’17 and certainly ’18 and ’19 so as you know, because we have appropriations, there’s been no impact on DOD or the Army,” Esper said.
“We, DOD, enjoy good bipartisan support from Congress. I think everyone understands the importance of our national security mission and with regard to the Army, continuing to build readiness,” he added.
Next, Esper headed to South Alabama to Fort Rucker, the home of Army aviation, to continue talks on Future Vertical Lift to replace aging helicopters across the DOD services.
“I had a good visit. It’s always great to be back down in Huntsville. There’s a great community here. It’s a little colder than I expected in terms of weather but a warm stay from all the people who welcomed me here,” he said before he flew out of Huntsville.
Colonel Richard Spiegel, Director of Public & Congressional Affairs for the Army Materiel Command, says for those who work on Redstone Arsenal, Esper’s second visit to the installation spoke volumes about his leadership.
“It was important for the Secretary to come here because he was able to see firsthand, the progress being made on one of his six key modernization priorities, future vertical lift. It’s really the follow-on to the helicopter and the other vertical lift assets that the Army has now,” Colonel Spiegel stated.
“Just speaking from experience of being in the Army for more than 30 years, it’s always really cool when the senior leaders come and take interest in your work and get their updates. It’s awesome to see our senior leaders. It’s very motivating,” he added.
Esper was sworn in as the 23rd Secretary of the United States Army on Nov. 17, 2017.
As secretary, he has statutory responsibility for all matters relating to the United States Army, to include the recruitment, organization, training, equipping, and care of 1.4 million active duty, National Guard, Reserve Soldiers, Department of the Army Civilians, and their families.
Esper, an Army veteran, oversees everything from manpower and personnel to weapons systems and equipment acquisition.