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Shyu: Army acquisition's pivot to the Pacific

Army leadership has a struggle ahead in explaining how America's land service fits into the new defense strategy and the Pacific pivot that it outlines. The Army's acquisitions chief said Monday the pivot will shape the service's acquisition strategy going forward.

Heidi Shyu explained in an interview with Military.com that the Army must focus more on technological battlefields where the Army will not enjoy uncontested aerial environments. The Army will face enemies with missile fleets, cyber attack capabilities and the ability to shoot down U.S. drones.

Shyu will join the rest of the Army's generals at the Association of the U.S. Army's conference in Washington D.C. this week to lobby for the rapidly shrinking pool of defense dollars focused on building a military to exert influence in the Pacific.

"The pivot tells me the next step the Army needs to go is figuring out how to address an environment that is more contested. That means we have to focus on cyber warfare, we have to focus on working in an electronic warfare environment," Shyu said. "We have to focus on air and missile defense."

She knows the Army will not so easily collect intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan in future wars. Enemies will not allow drones and turbo props to loiter over potential targets.

"We have to focus on our ISR, and not just in clean environments, ISR in a contested environment," she said.

Missile defense is a topic that has not received the same amount of attention this past decade as the Army has faced few missile threats in Afghanistan and Iraq. Shyu said that will change as the service shifts its focus to emerging threats in the Pacific. North Korea and China both bolster significant missile fleets.

"There's countries that have a lot of missiles, so our air/missile defense becomes more important," Shyu said.

One challenge she highlighted was upgrading and replacing the service's quickly aging vehicle fleet. Shyu explained that the service's vehicle fleet faces power limitations when keeping up with the technology advances the service hopes to introduce into the Army. She has worked hard to ensure the survival of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program -- the vehicle the Army hopes to use to replace its Humvee fleet.

"Some of our vehicles are totally maxed out. You can't add more [communications systems]. You are maxxed out in terms of size, weight and power so we have to have upgrades. We are planning for upgrades now. Then it comes to a point where no matter how much you upgrade, you just need something new," Shyu said.

Shyu's 16 month tenure as the acting Army acquisition chief has ended after Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., removed the last hold on her nomination. She said she will continue her top down review of the Army's acquisition strategy with a close eye on the expected cuts to planned defense spending.

The Army must take into account emerging threats as well as national and Defense Department priorities when choosing where it will spend its shrinking budget, Shyu said. She has started a 30-year review of Army acquisition examining each step of the process "from concept development to technology demonstration to EMD [engineering, manufacturing and development] to production to sustainment."

She explained that the Army must cut out capability gaps faster by working with the Science and Technology (S&T) community and ensuring their work translates into equipment reaching soldiers in combat. At last year's AUSA, Shyu unveiled the S&T prioritization of seven Big Army problems and 24 specific challenges.

Shyu wants the entire process to work together better. The engineers working on S&T research should have the sustainment strategy in mind and work with those officials, she explained. The Army has no other choice with the budget cuts it expects to sustain, she said.

"We should know it's coming. If you look all those together you can balance your portfolio, because if I get a budget cut I can look within my portfolio and across the portfolios because across portfolios there are interdependencies," Shyu said.

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