The U.S. Army's ambitious modernization effort currently enjoys congressional support, but a power shift in either the House or the Senate on Election Day could slow momentum behind the service's drive to replace its major combat systems by 2028.
"When new leadership teams come into place, it's tough; those are tough environments," Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told Military.com during a recruiting trip to Philadelphia this week.
McCarthy has served as one of the key architects of Army modernization and has worked tirelessly over the past 17 months to help guide the six new modernization priorities, stand up Army Futures Command and win congressional support for the endeavor.
"We worked both sides of the aisle pretty religiously, because it doesn't matter to us," McCarthy said. "Defense is a nonpartisan issue. Everybody cares about it."
Having said that, McCarthy concedes that Army officials may have to work harder to keep modernization programs moving forward if the party majority changes hands in either the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives on Nov. 6.
Republicans hold 51 seats in the Senate, while Democrats occupy 47 seats. Independents hold the remaining two seats.
In the House, Republicans have 235 seats and Democrats hold 193. Seven seats remain vacant.
There are 73 races in the House and 14 races in the Senate that are likely to be close on Election Day, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
So far, Army's leadership has not experienced any direct opposition from Democrats on the service's new modernization strategy, McCarthy said.
"What they say to me is, 'keep showing us that it's not more bureaucracy ... work hard on that and prevent this thing, this bureaucracy, from getting bloated.'" McCarthy said. "But it was, 'deliver, deliver something; we will hang in there with you. Communicate with us, be transparent and all that stuff, but work hard to deliver.' We've got to do that."
The Army has been pushing hard to show "how much we can reduce" the time it takes to get requirements approved so programs can move forward, McCarthy said.
"That's really the first thing you can show is how you have crunched them down, simplified them, got them in play so companies can start building prototypes instead of waiting five to seven years," McCarthy said.
"Last night we had dinner with Tom Bell, the CEO of Rolls-Royce North America, and he said ... 'You are moving so fast, people are already moving out and building prototypes.' He's looking at how he can put engines in into armored vehicles. Going fast is great for business. Going fast helps you get through windows when there is funding available in Congress because these things are cyclical."
In the long-term, it doesn't matter which party has the majority in Congress, McCarthy said.
"What I am concerned about -- and probably the potential is there -- is when new leadership teams get in place, getting their footing and stuff, time evaporates quickly; that's what makes it tough," he said.
"We are doing OK for now, but we've got to deliver."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.