Army leaders said they haven’t lost focus on advancing future technologies for 2020 in spite of the major budget hurdles the service is facing with sequestration and gridlock on Capitol Hill, officials said Monday at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.
“The focus beyond 2020 is where we have to redouble our efforts,” said Gen. Robert Cone, the commanding general for TRADOC.
Cone addressed at crowd at the trade show on the same day that Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said the service’s current portfolio of modernization programs is in serious jeopardy.
McHugh said every modernization program will be affected to include the Ground Combat Vehicle – the service’s top vehicle modernization program. The service’s top civilian said the service must decide whether to delay the program or kill it as leaders figure out what the Army can still afford.
The Army’s modernization strategy aims to remain cognizant of a handful of trends, such as globalization, urbanization and the growth of Asian militaries such as China, said Dr. Kathleen Hicks, director of international security programs, Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“The U.S. will remain the preeminent military power beyond 2020,” she said.
The Army’s top acquisition executive, Heidi Shyu, said Monday that the service will invest in S&T programs as it looks to advance armor systems and active defense systems for vehicles.
“I'm not aware of a particular technological game changer out there right now but we have to be continuously looking for it,” McHugh said.
However, industry executives described the Army's Joint Multi Role aircraft program as having potential to offer a revolutionary change to the defense industry. Shyu agreed with the possibility, although the JMR isn't expected to deliver an aircraft for the Army fleet until 2030.
Also, experts maintain that the rapid pace of technological change and the flow of information is a trend that’s likely to continue shaping the global environment.
Rickey Smith, Director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center—Forward, said the Army’s S&T investment strategy is focused on three main areas: human performance, advanced computing and material sciences.
Smith said basic research is a key area of emphasis because it looks to identify technologies or systems which could change the technological landscape 20 or 30 years down the road.
“We’re coming out of Afghanistan and drawing down. In a time of declining resources, thinking is free. Now is the time to go for that next level of innovation and look for some breakthroughs,” said Smith.