Tag Archives: Army

Army Futures Command Is Leading A Small Business Cultural Shift


DEFENSE NEWS”The Army launched Army Futures Command, or AFC, roughly a year and a half ago to reform how the service develops requirements and transitions research and development efforts into programs of record. The command was also tasked to do a better job working with nontraditional companies, small businesses, startups and academia to advance modernization efforts.


Army leadership tours Cockrell Engineering School at the University of Texas in Austin. (Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf/U.S. Army)

AUSTIN, Texas — Decked out in a dark blazer, jeans and black cowboy boots, and foregoing his four stars for an understated U.S. Army lapel pin, Gen. Mike Murray, the head of Army Futures Command, asked a packed room of small business owners and entrepreneurs how many have seen a four-star general before.

About a third of the audience at the Austin Startup Week in September shot up their hands. Murray turned to a man in the front row and asked who he’d met. The man replied, “Dick Cody,” a general who retired as vice chief of staff in 2008.

“What about a serving four-star general,” Murray asked.

Just a few hands went up in the audience at the Capital Factory, an entrepreneurial hub in the heart of downtown Austin, Texas, which hosted the event.

For startups and companies categorized as small, doing business with the military has been daunting and seemingly impossible to navigate without a staff full of business development experts. And historically, getting access to and communicating with senior decision-makers at the Pentagon hasn’t been easy.

But as the Army tries to rapidly modernize its force following years of failures with major acquisition programs, it knows it can’t conduct business as usual with big defense firms and still get the disruptive technology or out-of-the box ideas it needs for its six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, the network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.

The Army’s billions of dollars in science and technology development funding is a big draw for startups that consider readily available cash to be their oxygen.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, right, deputy chief of Army Futures Command, talks with Josh Baer, founder of the Capital Factory. (Anthony Small/U.S. Army)

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, right, deputy chief of Army Futures Command, talks with Josh Baer, founder of the Capital Factory. (Anthony Small/U.S. Army)

The Army launched Army Futures Command, or AFC, roughly a year and a half ago to reform how the service develops requirements and transitions research and development efforts into programs of record. The command was also tasked to do a better job working with nontraditional companies, small businesses, startups and academia to advance modernization efforts.

To improve relations with those communities and breakdown some of the traditional barriers, the new four-star command wasn’t set up on base, but rather in the heart of a city. The Army chose Austin for its vibrant startup community, creativity and close connection to the military community.

AFC minted relationships with the University of Texas, which agreed to give it the 15th and part of the 19th floor in one of its buildings in downtown Austin as well as access to other campus space.

A year ago, when the service declared initial operational capability for the command, the 19th floor was just concrete and exposed pipes with a view of the state capitol building.

At the time, “the biggest challenge every day was which printer was going to work,” Murray told Defense News in an interview at AFC headquarters in September. The command had a staff of roughly 40 at the time. Now the headquarters is manned at about 75 percent strength and has just north of 26,000 people spread across 28 states in 15 countries developing concepts and working on modernization priorities.

Breaking down barriers

Establishing the command has been a heavy lift, but perhaps the heaviest has been figuring out how to reach out to the entrepreneurial community in a systematic and effective way.

“A year ago I had no idea what startups were or pitches,” Murray said to a packed crowd at Austin Startup Week. “I’ve learned a lot in the first year.”

Murray acknowledged there is still room for improvement when it comes to how the Army works with small businesses. “We’ve gotten better, but we’re nowhere near where we need to get in terms of working with small businesses and startups. And you’re dealing with a lot of culture and a lot of bureaucracy that kind of makes us move slow — a lot slower than we need to be.”

Even with 37 years under his belt as a soldier, Murray admitted: “I’m not an outside-of-the box thinker.” But taking the helm of AFC is forcing the general to change his thinking.

“Our Army has had a terrible habit: If it wasn’t invented inside the Army, it’s not worth pursuing,” he said, “I’m constantly trying to break those barriers that we’ve got to accept some ideas and really some solutions from outside of the Army if we are to take a very analog organization and move it into the digital age.”

A two-way street

Army leadership in Austin acknowledges that the startup community isn’t going to just come beating on its door, begging for a chance to work with the service, partly because government bureaucracy can act as a deterrent. Certainly there are hurdles when it comes to working with the military, but a major issue involves how funding flows during technology development efforts.

Area-I CEO Nick Alley told an audience at Austin Startup Week that one of his products — an unmanned system under evaluation by the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team for possible applications as an air-launched effect — has no commercial application. Therefore, he explained, the company must solely rely on obtaining government funding, which doesn’t come at the pace needed to continue operations.

Gen. John Murray, right, the head of Army Futures Command, listens to innovators during a visit to Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, on Sept. 30, 2018. (Courtesy of the U.S. Army)

Gen. John Murray, right, the head of Army Futures Command, listens to innovators during a visit to Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, on Sept. 30, 2018. (Courtesy of the U.S. Army)

At one point he had to borrow $10,000 from his parents to cover employee salaries.

The Army also doesn’t buy things very quickly, and that has to change, Murray said, joking that if he followed the traditional defense acquisition timeline to get his daughters cellphones in 2011, they’d receive them this coming Christmas, and they’d be flip phones.

The garage door is always open

If you stood outside of AFC headquarters, you wouldn’t see evidence of the Army’s presence, but a plan is in the works to set up a storefront welcoming visitors to come in and learn about the command on the first floor.

But the main gateway for startups to interface with the Army is the Army Applications Lab, or AAL, established over the past year.

The AAL has become the face of doing business with the Army in the startup community, and it has set up shop on a floor inside the Capital Factory, only blocks away from the University of Texas.

While the command headquarters looks like a typical government office, aside from an abundance of standing desks and a complete lack of ties, the AAL speaks more to the startup world.

There’s no security. Anyone can walk in through an open garage door and pitch ideas to the Army while sitting on comfortable, brown leather sofas. Nobody really has their own office, save the colonel in charge of the outfit, but even he shares his space. And jeans and T-shirts are the uniform of choice.

“We act as a translator and concierge service across the Army’s future force modernization enterprise and the broader commercial marketplace of ideas,” Col. Len Rosanoff, the director of the AAL, told Defense News in an interview at the factory. While he has a long career as a special operator, he could easily be confused for an enthusiastic entrepreneur.

The AAL concept wasn’t easy to establish, Murray said in his interview with Defense News. “I struggled with it for probably six, seven months. They didn’t get the best guidance from me because I was trying to figure out a niche, what I really wanted them to do, because it’s so different,” he said.

“If I’m finding technology, then searching for a problem, I’m doing it completely backwards,” he added. The AAL is meant to help with that by bringing the Army’s top issues to the startup community in search of solutions.

Speaking the same language

It’s no secret that the Army and entrepreneurs speak different languages, follow different rules and work at different paces. In fact, the Army is trying to fix that.

The issue was apparent to Capital Factory CEO Josh Baer when he printed the Army logo on T-shirts, only to have Army lawyers take away the shirts while they were being distributed at an event welcoming the AFC to the factory.

Baer ended up slapping company stickers over the logos on T-shirts people were already wearing, and then sent the shirts back to the printer so the factory’s logo could be printed over the Army’s.

“I didn’t even realize I had to get it approved,” Baer said. “There’s no hard feelings. It was really funny.”

The day Defense News spoke with Baer, he was preparing to kick off a first-ever course — a startup academy — for government officials and big companies on how to work with startups. Baer offers similar courses for startups looking to learn how to work with the government.

The AAL has taken pains to break down language and general cultural barriers with the startup world through its technology solicitation approach. AAL established an online portal in March 2018 — like a TurboTax for the Army’s broad agency announcements — where firms can submit solutions or concepts to address the service’s problems. (The Army has 15 ongoing focus areas.)

The companies AAL wants to hear from likely won’t understand how to navigate the process for answering broad agency announcements. So the organization has created a series of simple questions that legally cover the process so users can provide the necessary information. A submitted entry generates a whitepaper for the Army to analyze elements such as technical viability.

The Army averages about one submission a day through the portal.

If the portal is deemed a success for AAL, then AFC and the Army itself might adopt the approach so external entrepreneurs and problem-solvers can better navigate the gauntlet that is government red tape.

“We help expand the Army’s culture to embrace new approaches and opportunities, applying startup and innovation models to spur new capability development — faster, iterative, open,” Rosanoff said. “About 20 percent of what we’re doing at AAL is finding disruptive technology for the Army. That’s part of it, but fundamentally we’re helping the Army reimagine how it approaches problems.”


Army To Kick Off IT-As-A-Service Procurement



“The Army has issued a request for information to help guide its development of an Enterprise IT-as-a-Service (EITaaS) procurement pilot

EITaaS will leverage industry best practices and capabilities from the private sector to assess whether commercial solutions can provide standardized, innovative, and agile IT services to the Army.”


“The service issued the solicitation earlier this month in search of commercial, vendor-owned IT services, rather than building out and maintaining the tech on its own. The pilot will apply to network, end user and compute and storage needs.

“With the assumption that a wholly service-owned and service-operated model could sub-optimize Army operational readiness, the Army is exploring a new approach for delivering enterprise network and core IT services: Enterprise IT as a Service (EITaaS). The EITaaS pilot will assess feasibility and deploy commercial solutions for data transport, end-user device provision, and cloud services for selected Army installations,” the RFI states. “An initial EITaaS pilot will allow the Army to evaluate commercial solutions and their ability to strengthen enterprise IT service delivery, improve user experience and integrate with existing government-only systems, architecture, processes and facilities, while maintaining an aggressive cybersecurity posture.”

The Army plans to host an industry day at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, May 7, to provide an overview of the procurement and the planned use of other transaction agreements (OTAs) for pilots to test the concept. Those who wish to attend have until April 29 to register.

Other Transaction Authority (OTA), which has existed for decades but was expanded in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, allows the military to grant relatively small contracts for the development of prototypes and then follow on with an additional contract for production if and when the pilot is successful.

During the pilot, the Army looks to conduct “site assessment surveys at three Army installations and the implementation of assessable services at Army Futures Command (AFC) Headquarters in Austin, Texas” in fiscal 2019. If the first pilots go accordingly, the Army hopes to also expand to another two bases in 2019, and five more in fiscal 2020. In total, over the first three years, the Army says it could launch up to 15 pilots at bases of varying sizes.

Army CIO Bruce Crawford broadly detailed the plan in a recent appearance. The Army, he said, will “move from an incremental approach at 288 different posts, camps and stations to more of a prioritized approach at about 50 of our most important and significant readiness-related, power-projection platforms.”

Crawford said it would “take beyond the year 2030 if we stayed on the current path to modernize the enterprise,” building out Army-owned systems and IT infrastructure, which comes at a massive cost and investment in time.

[The RFI] says. “Upon successful implementation, EITaaS enables the transfer of government resources to focus on core cyberspace operations, increase readiness and cyberspace effectiveness while enhancing security to ensure successful completion of Army missions.”

The Army’s EITaaS model of launching pilots sounds a lot like the Air Force’s, which also used OTAs to test the concept. It awarded OTA contracts to AT&T, Microsoft and Unisys in 2018 and 2019.”

Army to kick off IT-as-a-Service procurement with industry day

U.S. Army Prioritizes Research And Development (R&D) Funding And Intellectual Property Policies


Army Reaearch and Development


“The idea is to put the money not on various projects that may have been growing with a life of their own, but instead bring that money back against the top six priorities.

More commercial model that may involve purchasing licenses from industry.  Industry can also license intellectual property from the government.”

“The Army’s assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology is looking to aid the service’s modernization efforts by implementing new policies regarding research and development and intellectual property.

Bruce Jette said the Army has already realigned R&D funds to meet its top modernization priorities, which include long-range precision fires, a next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift platforms, a mobile and expeditionary communication network, air and missile defense capabilities, and soldier lethality.

“The idea is to put the money not on various projects that may have been growing with a life of their own, but instead bring that money back against the top six priorities,” he said March 28 at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

Additionally, Jette’s office wants to give more freedom to researchers and lab directors by providing some funds that are specifically geared towards innovating technologies that the military may not have anticipated, he noted.

“We can’t … incrementally engineer breakthroughs, and that’s what we’re trying to do is give them the freedom to do that,” he said.

Jette said the service is also working to establish a fund aimed at crossing the “Valley of Death,” referring to the process for transitioning new technologies into existing programs of record.

For example, a senior commander “would sit there and say ‘OK, one of the guys has this project, he’s got it done, it’s ready, and do we want to actually put it into that program?’” Jette said.

Following consultation with the program manager, senior leaders would then make a decision on the way forward, he explained. “We decide it’s worth it. We do it with our eyes open and … then we fund the transition.”

Jette also wants to improve how industry and the government handle intellectual property. Both sides have been “sloppy,” he said.

“The government starts using your IP, you start using the government’s IP, you can’t get extricated and we begin having unpleasant complications,” he said. There needs to be movement towards a more commercial model that may involve purchasing licenses from industry, he added.

“I’ve done this on the outside. Show me the box — that’s your IP. Put that in the bid. Show me what the limits of that [are],” he said. “Tell me what you want to do for licensing … [and] we can have conversations.”

Industry can also license intellectual property from the government, he noted.

If “we built something and … you want to apply it commercially, you want to apply it to another effort, I’m willing to talk about licensing fees,” he said. “Most people don’t realize that, but the government can get paid for their intellectual property.”





Army “Futures Command” Will Be Based In Major City To Blend With Tech And Academic Cultures


Futures CommandFutures Command Tech Spot

                                             Images: U.S. Army And Tech Spot


“Rather than base the command at an Army installation, the service is hoping to set up a more corporate environment where it will be easier to collaborate with tech and academic partners.

The next phase in its plans to centralize and streamline modernization under one Army Futures Command, including moves to lease office space in a major city where leaders will have access to civilian experts.”

“The Army is weeks away from unveiling the next phase in its plans to centralize and streamline modernization under one Army Futures Command.

The service will start with a list of 30 options due this week to the Army secretary and chief of staff, Undersecretary Ryan McCarthy told Army Times on Tuesday.

And once a headquarters is established, he added, it will be up to commanders to make decisions about military formalities and how those will mesh with partners from different backgrounds.

“This isn’t like a standard basing decision, where we’re moving a brigade combat team somewhere,” McCarthy said. “We needed access to academia and business, and those two kind of key characteristics. Where the systems engineers, software engineers are.”

“So there will probably be some adjustments to the culture,” McCarthy said.

That initial list of 30 cities will be narrowed down to 10, he said, and then further down to four finalists.

“[Vice Chief of Staff] Gen. [James] McConville and I will personally visit the down-select, and make an ultimate decision to the secretary and the chief in the late spring,” he said.

Ideally, the command will probably make a deal to rent out two or three floors of a building for the next decade, he added.

To go with that corporate environment, leaders will be able to make decisions about uniforms, scheduling and other customs inherent to a military command.

For example, McCarthy said, he noticed the cultural divide late last year during a visit to the University of Chicago, where the Army Research Lab unveiled its new partnership with the school.

“We get out — dress blues, French cuffs — we walk in, and everyone inside is wearing hoodies and blue jeans,” he said. “We’re trying to develop a relationship, a partnership with them. So, we recognize different cultures.”

Army Futures Command is due to reach initial operating capability this summer, which will include decisions on which members of the Army’s research, acquisitions and contracting organizations will head out to the new headquarters and who will be in charge.

“There’s not a vision of buildings closing and moving trucks,” McCarthy said. “Will some people move eventually? Probably. But there will be a different reporting structure initially.”





Two Years And COTS Required For Patchwork Fix/Replace Of Army $Multi-Billion WIN – T Network


Army Network knife


The Army needs at least two years to figure out a new, war-ready communications network to replace its current, fragile systems, the acting secretarysaid this week.

There’s no a quick fix: The service is effectively starting over on what it’s long described as its No. 1 priority for modernization.”

“A recently created task force called a Cross-Functional Team (CFT) will overhaul the network architecture, Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told reporters, but its major recommendations won’t be ready until 2019, when the budget request for 2020 is submitted. In the meantime, to ensure that troops are ready to “fight tonight” against immediate threats like Russia and North Korea, the Army is urgently seeking off-the-shelf stopgaps from the commercial world.

“It’s going to take a few years. What do you in between?” said Gen. Mark Milley, the Army Chief of Staff, speaking alongside McCarthy at a Defense Writers’ Group breakfast Wednesday. “What happens if there’s a conflict? And that’s a real challenge, Sydney, that’s hard, and there’s an element of risk there.”

The Army is still issuing some units with the current battlefield network, WIN-T Increment 2, which began fielding in 2012 and still hasn’t reached the entire force. (The Hawaii-based 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division is getting its WIN-T kit right now). But the Warfighter Integrated Network – Tactical program will end next year because it isn’t reliable and resilient enough for fast-moving operations against a sophisticated enemy who can jam or hack it. So after a decade working on WIN-T, the Army will take another two years or more to go back to the drawing board.

“Yes, it probably will take a couple of years to get it right. Changing the architecture of our network…the scale is massive,” McCarthy said. “We stood up these Cross-Functional teams a couple of weeks ago, to be honest with you. They are going to influence the ’20 budget” — not 2019.


The Army strategy is “halt-fix-pivot,” Gen. Milley and Sec. McCarthy explained:

  • immediately halt programs that simply won’t hold up on a mobile battlefield under sophisticated cyber and electronic attack;
  • quickly fix systems that can be upgraded to withstand such harsh conditions;
  • and ultimately pivot from the current clunky patchwork to a new, coherent network architecture.

“We want to stop those subsets of the programs that we know with certainty will not work…for the combat environment that we envision,” Milley said. He wouldn’t say which specific programs were on the block: “Those are still under evaluation,” he said.

While some programs must go, Milley continued, “there are other parts of the system that we know can be fixed. We’ve had many meetings with industry (and) industry is already working on those piece parts of the quote, ‘network system’ that can be fixed in order to operate in a highly dynamic and very lethal maneuver battlefield.”

“And then, what we do is pivot the entire system of systems…to develop a holistic system that does operate in the (high-intensity) environment,” Milley concluded.

This isn’t about any one program: “It’s stepping back and looking at a common architecture, as opposed to particular issues with hardware (or) software,” McCarthy said. “It will take us several years to review the architecture and make fundamental changes.”

How fundamental? “We went back to the white board , literally, and we started laying out things like first principles,” Milley said. “We used that to evaluate not just WIN-T…but the whole suite.”

“We learned that a lot of these systems don’t talk to each other, within the army or the joint force,” Milley said. “We learned that the system is very, very fragile and is probably not going to be robust and resilient enough to operate in a highly dynamic battlefield with lots of ground maneuver and movement. We know that the system is probably vulnerable to sophisticated nation-state countermeasures.”

Short-Term vs. Long

Going back to the drawing board to fix these problems — the pivot phase — will take “years,” Milley acknowledged, “but the fix part is a much faster piece. Will we be fast enough? Time will tell,” he said. ” I know that we are working extremely hard, and we know we’re against the clock.”

The Army can’t afford another program like WIN-T that takes years just to develop new technology, let alone issue it across the service while private-sector processing power is doubling every 18 months. So McCarthy’s guidance to the Cross-Functional Team overhauling the network, and to the seven other CFTs working on other Army priorities, is to “take every opportunity to look into commercial industry. Buy it off the shelf.”

But this has pitfalls too. The Army and the other services already bypassed the procurement bureaucracy and rushed off-the-shelf equipment into service in Afghanistan and Iraq, from network tech to Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected trucks (MRAPs). They had to take shortcuts to save lives, but the result was a lot of wasted money and a patchwork of incompatible equipment.

Ironically, the program that was supposed to bring order to this chaos was WIN-T. Now the Army is halting WIN-T and, once again, embarking on a multi-year quest for one network to rule them all. In the meantime, once again, the service has to keep kludging together partial solutions. The short-term fix may, once again, make the long-term solution harder. The risk of just repeating history is very real.”




Army Turns To Industry For Network Overhaul



Army Command Post


“The Army today has about 20 different software “baselines,” with different units and offices using inconsistent and often incompatible programs, often because their hardware is too old to handle anything better.

The resulting patchwork of networks is expensive to operate and difficult to secure against cyber attack. So the service wants to upgrade everyone to a single, consistent, up-to-date baseline within two years.

Want to sell information technology to the US Army? Then you need to write this down: Paul.A.Ostrowski.mil@mail.mil. That’s the email of the generalseeking industry’s input — historically something of a struggle for the service — as the Army reviews and overhauls its networks.

The Army’s long-term goal: a single unified network connecting everything from the home base to the battlefield, easy for the service to upgrade, easy for soldiers to use amidst the stress of combat, and hard for enemies to take down. The Army’s immediate question for industry: Can you build it?

Lt. Gen. Ostrowski, the director of the Army Acquisition Corps, wants you to write him if you want in on a series of roundtables the Army is holding with selected companies, hosted by the federally funded Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). One roundtable was personally led by the Army Chief of Staff, the hard-charging, wisecracking Gen. Mark Milley, who is taking a hands-on role in the review he launched in May.

“Who’s in charge? The Chief’s in charge…. he and the Secretary of the Army,” Ostrowski said at yesterday’s Association of the US Army conference on networks. Those top leaders have brought together the Army’s Chief Information Officer/G-6 (chief signals officer), the Army resourcing staff (G-8), the Training & Doctrine Command that brainstorms future warfare concepts and writes requirements for new systems, and the acquisition officials who buy them.

“What’s different is the involvement of the leadership,” said Army CIO Gary Wang, who’s leading the review for Gen. Milley. While the Pentagon bureaucracy does plenty of reviews, he told me, “oftentimes it’s delegated down to a much lower level.” This time, though, the severity of the Army’s “financial constraints” have gotten the Chief of Staff and Acting Army Secretary Robert Speer personally involved, Wang said.

There’s another reason Wang didn’t mention: the savage criticism in Congress of the Army’s flagship battlefield network, WIN-T. Gen. Milley himself said the network is too “fragile” and “vulnerable” for future battles against high-tech adversaries like Russia or China, because its transmissions are too easily detected and then jammed or hacked.

Beyond WIN-T

“WIN-T’s our current network,” Ostrowski said when I asked him about the system. “We’re an Army that has to fight tonight, and WIN-T will be very much part of that. Period. That gets that off the table.” Then he moved on to other topics — notably not saying what this review would mean for WIN-T in the future.

But this review goes well beyond WIN-T, Milley and Speer have emphasized. It covers all the Army’s networks, both for combat units and back-office business operations. The crucial issue, Ostrowski said, is “how do we simplify the network? Right now we have a lot of parts and pieces. We’ve gone out and bought a lot of stuff that’s incredible in terms of its capabilities. but we’ve got to simplify: We’ve got to make this soldier-intuitive; we’ve got to make it soldier-maintainable and soldier-operable.”

The Army today has about 20 different software “baselines,” with different units and offices using inconsistent and often incompatible programs, often because their hardware is too old to handle anything better. The resulting patchwork of networks is expensive to operate and difficult to secure against cyber attack. So the service wants to upgrade everyone to a single, consistent, up-to-date baseline within two years.

What’s more, cybersecurity in the narrow sense is not enough. The Army can’t just focus on hackers sending malicious code over the internet: It also has to worry about electronic warriors jamming, triangulating, or eavesdropping on radio transmissions. That’s a uniquely military problem. Yes, civilian mobile phones also rely on radio — that’s what “wireless” means — but only to reach the nearest cell tower, which is often plugged into fiber optic cable; battlefield wireless networks rely on long-distance radio, which is much more vulnerable.

A Daunting Task

So what does the Army want from its future network, and therefore from industry?

First and most fundamentally, Ostrowski told the AUSA conference, the review is driven by rapidly evolving threats, because the network needs to be ready to go to “fight and win our nation’s wars” against those threats. The Army must stand ready “to deploy rapidly, anywhere, anytime, to shape, prevent, and win, against any foe in any domain — domain being cyber, space, air, land, or maritime — and any environment — environment being megacity, desert, jungle, arctic.” So the network must be able to operate, and the soldiers using it must be able to reliably communicate, in all those conditions, under attack by any of those threats, and on the move, without stopping to set up radio antennas or lay fiber optic cables.

To that end, the network must be “simple and intuitive,” Ostrowski said, easy for soldiers to operate without extensive training or constant tweaking. Soldiers must be able to keep it running without relying on legions of industry Field Service Representatives (FSR), as was often the case in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The network must also be easy to upgrade as technology changes, without having to start the whole laborious procurement process over again, and without being locked in to one company’s intellectual property that no one firm can touch. “I will tell you up front, that if you’re going to bring proprietary solutions to the table, don’t come,” Ostrowski said. Instead, the network must be built on open standards, allowing any company to offer upgrades just as any company that meets Apple’s standards can sell apps for the iPhone.

Just as the network has to be open to different companies’ products, Ostrowski continued, “it has to be accessible to our allied partners,” allowing friendly nations’ networks to connect with ours.

Finally, the network must be secure against cyberattack, resilient to the damage of those attacks that do get through, and able to transmit its wireless signals in a way the enemy cannot easily detect. (The technical terms are Low Probability of Detection (LPD) and Low Probability of Intercept (LPI)).

This is a daunting list of desiderata, but engineers from both the Army and “numerous companies” are already “whiteboarding” how they would achieve them, Ostrowski said. “My name and number (are) up there,” he said, pointing to his slides. “I need you to let me know if you want to play.”

Who’s facilitating all this interaction? The Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a federally funded research & development cooperation that Congress had already chartered to study the Army network, said Maj. Gen. Peter Gallagher, who works for CIO Wang as director of architecture, operations, networks, and space. Gallagher told me he doubted if he’d ever seen a review this intensive, adding the full-court outreach to industry was “something Gen. Milley personally directed.”

“We rely on industry for everything we do,” Gallagher said simply.”





U.S. Army Is Growing By Thousands of Soldiers



(Photo Credit: Markus Rauchenberger/Army)


“The Army has used a suite of force-shaping measures and incentives to retain and recruit enough soldiers to bring the force back to over a million.

[Measures] including five-figure enlistment and retention bonuses, as well as major opportunities for National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers to go active.

The Army is on track to reach its end strength goal of 1,018,000 soldiers by the end of September, and that will mean enough manpower to fill holes in existing combat units, save some units from planned deactivations, and man some new ones.

Units throughout the Army will feel the benefit of adding 28,000 troops to the active and reserve components, according to a Thursday release from the Army, reversing a drawdown that had planned for just 980,000 soldiers this year.

“These force structure gains facilitated by the FY17 end strength increase have begun, but some will take several years to achieve full operational capability,” said Brig. Gen. Brian J. Mennes, director of the Force Management Division, in the release. “Implementation of these decisions, without sacrificing readiness or modernization, is dependent upon receiving future appropriations commensurate with the authorized end strength.”

The Army has used a suite of force-shaping measures and incentives to retain and recruit enough soldiers to bring the force back to over a million, including five-figure enlistment and retention bonuses, as well as major opportunities for National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers to go active.

In addition to filling existing manning gaps in brigade combat teams, the release said, the plus-up will save several units that were slated for deactivation. They are:

  • 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, based Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
  • 18th Military Police Brigade Headquarters based in Grafenwoehr, Germany.
  • 206th Military Intelligence Battalion at Fort Hood, Texas.
  • 61st Maintenance Company at Camp Stanley, South Korea.
  • 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea.

Soldiers retained during the end strength build up also could end up joining the recently announced Security Force Assistance Brigades and their training school, as well as an aviation training brigade at Fort Hood.

More soldiers will also help with the Army’s increased manning in Europe.

The Army is planning to station the following units overseas, according to the release.

  • A field artillery brigade headquarters with an organic brigade support battalion headquarters, a signal company and a Multiple Launch Rocket System battalion (MLRS).
  • Two MLRS battalions with two forward support companies.
  • A short range air defense battalion.
  • A theater movement control element.
  • A petroleum support company.
  • An ammunition platoon.

Further, the Army plans to convert an infantry brigade to an armored brigade and add 1,300 new staff to Training and Doctrine Command, in an attempt to increase training and recruiting capacity, the release said.

“The end strength increase will augment deploying units, and units on high readiness status, with additional soldiers to increase Army readiness and enable us to continue to protect the nation,” Mennes said.”




New Army Unit -The Multi-Domain Task Force


Army Multiple Domain Master Sgt Baumgartner, Air Force

Image: Master Sgt Baumgartner, Air Force

“The Army is creating an experimental combat unit to develop new tactics for lethally fast-paced future battlefields.

While small, it will have capabilities not found in the building block of today’s Army, the 4,000-strong brigade.

The Multi-Domain Task Force will be “a relatively small organization…1,500 or so troops,” the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, told the Future of Warfare conference here this morning.  “That organization will be capable of space, cyber, maritime, air, and ground warfare,” he said, extending its reach into all domains of military operations to support the Air Force, Navy, and Marines.

“It’s got a bunch of capabilities, and that’s what we’re going to play with to figure out what’s the right mix,” Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the deputy chief of staff for operations (G-3/5/7), told reporters at last week’s Association of the US Army conference. “It’s got some aviation. It’s got some maneuver. It’s got signal. It’s got cyber.” In English, that means it has helicopters, infantry and/or tanks, communications troops, and technical troops to protect (and perhaps attack) computer networks. By contrast, a typical Army brigade today, a much larger formation, has maneuver and signal, but no helicopters or hackers.

The eventual goal of this experimentation may be permanent units that are so self-sufficient. The old Cold War-era Armored Cavalry Regiments had their own in-house helicopters, as well as tanks, signallers and supply to conduct reconnaissance at high speeds over large areas in the face of armed opposition. Army reformers from Doug MacGregor to H.R. McMaster, both veterans of ACRs, have seen these self-sufficient units as a potential model for future forces. The Army recently explored reviving them, but “we don’t have the stuff to build it,” in particular the helicopters, Anderson said.

“There’s still not consensus about what this thing” — the revived ACR or Reconnaissance-Strike Group — “should look like, how big it should be,” said Anderson. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to keep striving to build that kind of capability….I think in the meantime this Multi-Domain Task Force may provide pieces, parts, of what that RSG was going to be.”

Why the drive for smaller units with a wider range of capabilities? The Army increasingly worries that big units will just be big targets. Russia and China, in particular, have developed their own smart missiles, plus the sensors to find targets and the networks to coordinate strikes. These Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) systems have the range and accuracy to potentially make wide areas of Europe and Asia — including the territory of allies like the Baltics, Poland, and South Korea — a deadly no-go zone for conventional US forces.

“There are several nations around the world who have developed very complex, very sophisticated Anti-Access/Area Denial sort of capabilities,” Milley said. “Obviously Russia and China, to a lesser extent Iran and North Korea…. That A2/AD structure is highly lethal and operating inside that structure, in large formations, will also get you killed.”

“So smaller dispersed, very agile, very nimble organizations — that are networked into other lethal systems that delivered by either air or maritime forces — will be essential to rip apart the A2/AD networks,” Milley said. “These organizations would be highly lethal, very fast, very difficult to pin down on a battlefield.”

The Army can’t maneuver this way today, emphasized Maj. Gen. Duane Gamble, the logistician heading the Europe-based 21st Theater Sustainment Command. “We don’t have the mission command capabilities that can do that. We don’t have the sustainment capabilities,” he told me at AUSA. “But where we’re getting the reps in is widely dispersed operations at the company level, sometimes at the platoon level, training with our allies, and we’re learning the vulnerabilities of our heavy formations (i.e. tank units). Their internal logistics are designed to operate in battalion sectors… So all that is informing what we need to do in the future.”

Not everyone is excited. At the AUSA conference in Huntsville, an analyst, historian and top aide to Milley’s predecessor, retired Col. David Johnson, warns we may have already overloaded Brigade Combat Team commanders with too many capabilities that once were managed by divisions or even corps. “The BCT has become the division… the focal point of just about everything. We ought to challenge that assertion,” Johnson said. “Should we keep pushing capabilities down to the BCT or relook the role of divisions and corps, and focus the brigade on the close fight?”

The head of Training & Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Gen. David Perkins answers: “You’re (still) going to have to have echelons of command that synchronize and deconflict. That won’t change — but how those responsibilities and authorities are divided may have to. A whole generation of Army leaders grew up with Airland Battle doctrine’s clear demarcations between the close fight, conducted by short-range weapons; the deep fight, conducted by Air Force strikes, attack helicopters, and ATACMS missiles; and the supposedly safe rear area.

“A lot of it was determined by range of weapons. It was determined by physics, it was determined by geography, (e.g.) here’s a bridge crossing, who’s in charge of it?” Perkins told me at AUSA. “What we’re finding with multi-domain battle (is) that construct doesn’t work…. What’s the range of cyber?…You can’t define the battlefield framework by the range and/or limit of your weapons.”

“What we tried to do with a two-dimensional construct, AirLand Battle, was impose some order on the chaos that is battle(:) I own this part of chaos, you own this part of chaos,” Perkins said. “Now… instead of trying to control chaos, we have to thrive in it.”



Army Awards Spots on $2.5B Contract Vehicle for Desktop and Mobile Computers



Image: Defense Systems.com


“Nine companies have won spots on a potential 10-year, $2.5 billion contract.

The Army Contracting Command received 58 bids for the Army Desktop and Mobile Computing-3 contract vehicle, the Defense Department said Thursday.

The ADMC-3 contract covers integrated desktop computers, tablets, notebooks, tablets, workstations, electronic displays, printers, thin clients and multifunction devices, according to a FedBizOpps notice.

The awardees are:

  • Blue Tech
  • Dell’s federal systems business
  • GovSmart
  • Ideal Systems Solutions
  • Intelligent Decisions
  • Iron Bow Technologies
  • NCS Technologies
  • Red River Computers
  • Strategic Communications

The Army will determine work locations and obligate funds upon award of each task order under the firm-fixed-price contract and expects contractors to complete work by Feb. 15, 2027.”


The Army Handgun: A New Poster Child for Acquisition Malpractice?




“A handgun is not an aircraft carrier.

The Army’s search for a new service pistol officially began in 2011 — long before that if you include the years when concerns with the existing M9 Beretta first emerged. More than a decade by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain’s own estimates.

The system is broken.

Consider what went down in the handgun buy: There were a couple years of information-gathering industry days. There was a draft solicitation that noted an expected date for a final bid request, but that got pushed back and yet another industry day was scheduled. And there was Beretta, the incumbent, which pushed back on the planned replacement, then formally proposed altering the existing contract, so it could provide a different model that would address the concerns for less money. That, of course, was something government had to consider. More time.

So, what the market got in return for supposed due diligence was delays, often with an explanation that read something like this: “to allow for improvements to the RFP as a result of feedback received from Industry.”

And Army soldiers continued to wait. As Sen. Joni Ernst said during the confirmation hearings for retired Marine General James Mattis earlier this month, “The joke that we had in the military was that sometimes the most effective use of an M9 is to simply throw it at your adversary.” That’s less a cut on the Beretta handgun and more a slam on the process, which includes so much bureaucracy that a product is too often a dinosaur by the time its replacement actually happens.

It wasn’t that long ago when government was forced to look long and hard at how it procured cybersecurity products and services. The existing model was just too slow and arduous to keep up with the threat. While still not perfect, new models came out to enable agencies to roll out cyber products and services fast. I note this not to imply that a handgun is any more like a cybersecurity tool than an aircraft carrier, but rather to point out that acquisition models can be adapted. And the much-feared prospect of procurement reform does not need to be some massive undertaking that transforms how the Pentagon and all agencies do business with industry, across all markets.

Companies want fairness, but they also want predictability. And excessive bureaucracy in the name of fair competition, where contracting officers treat all competitions with kid gloves in fear of getting reprimanded if something goes awry, is counterproductive. It will simply drive companies not to bother, which in turn will cause competition to deteriorate.

Diligence is one thing. Foolishness is another.”