The commander of Army Futures Command said Tuesday the service must be willing to accept more risk, including potential program failures, to implement the new multi-domain operating concept and  avoid missteps of previous modernization initiatives.

Gen. Mike Murray told attendees at an Association of the United States Army event the service can avoid its track record for “absolutely horrendous” attempts at modernization by ensuring that overall strategy doesn’t rely any one single capability and going after mature technologies that match up with his Cross Functional Teams (CFT) program timelines.

Gen. Mike Murray, commander of Army Futures Command, and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley unfurl the Army Futures Command flag during a ceremony, Aug. 24, 2018, in Austin, Texas. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brandy N. Mejia)

“[We] have a built a culture that avoids risk at all costs. That’s why I think you have a very long process. God help us if the first time something fails, and something will fail, we crush whoever it was that responsible. If we crush them, we’re never going to change that culture,” Murray said. “Is there room for failure? Yes. This concept does not count on any specific piece of capability.”

Murray oversees the 31 lines of effort to deliver new capabilities under the Army’s six modernization priorities, ranging from long range precision fires to the next-generation combat vehicle, which are intended to meet the new Multi-Domain Operations Concept for a potential future fight.

“The efforts that the CFTs are working are interlinked, and they interrelated with the Multi-Domain Operations concept. And they’re interrelated with the operational architecture that we’re working right now to make sure if I can shoot 1,000 miles that I can also see 1,000 miles. So there is a relationship, and it’s called a mission relationship, that we’re trying to make sure that we have a firm grasp of right now,” Murray said. “If the Strategic Long-Range Cannon doesn’t deliver, we have hypersonics we could also use. If Extended-Range Cannon Artillery doesn’t deliver, we’ll just have to go with that give and take between the concept and the technology.”

Futures Command, which was stood up last summer, was organized around taking a more iterative approach to requirements to ensure future platforms are designed to incorporate new technologies as they are incorporated into the force.

The new approach was in part to help the Army avoid past modernization failures like the Future Combat System and RAH-66 Comanche helicopters, which Murray said contributed to the service’s “horrendous” track record for new development.

“We built [those] programs around technologies that probably did not mature on the same timelines that we thought they were going to mature,” Murray said. “The secretary and the chief are personally approving the changes in requirements. That has not been true in the past where I think requirements were getting changed at much lower levels.”

Murray said the CFTs are given clearer direction, including near weekly meetings with senior leadership, and greater accountability, spending 60 to 70 hours per week on Capitol Hill meeting individual lawmakers and committee staff.

“All Congress asks of us is transparency, that they know what we’re trying to do as we try to do it. We don’t surprise them with any of this. And the Army doesn’t have the best track record with that, as a matter of fact it’s got a really bad track record with that,” Murray said. “At least we are doing a better job at trying to make sure that the committees in particular are tracking what we do.”