The Army has released its updated modernization strategy detailing the service’s plan to integrate new weapons platforms and operational concepts as it looks to “transform into a multi-domain force by 2035.”

The new document, released Wednesday, builds on the Army’s plan to go after six modernization priorities and covers a four-phase approach to implementing new formations and capabilities required to restructure the Army around a Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) concept geared toward a potential future fight with peer competitors, such as Russia or China.

By 2025, the Army sees ground troops conducting foot patrols in urban terrain with robots (U.S. Army image)

“This 2019 [strategy] expands the Army’s approach beyond those six priorities, outlining a more holistic approach to modernization while maintaining continuity of priorities. Modernization is a continuous process requiring collaboration across the entire Army,” officials wrote in the strategy. “Therefore, while this AMS outlines an end state for the future Army in 2035, Army modernization will remain ongoing as we must continue to test and refine operating concepts, draw on emerging technologies, and anticipate changes in the operating environment.”

Gen. Mike Murray, head of Futures Command, and Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, director of the Army’s Futures and Concepts Center, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington that the latest strategy moves beyond materiel plans and details considerations for doctrine, organizations, training, personnel and policy. as it applies to modernization.

The Army’s previous strategy laid out the service’s six priorities for future equipment: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, integrated air and missile defense, the tactical network and soldier lethality.

The new strategy “expands the Army’s approach beyond those six priorities, outlining a more holistic approach to modernization while maintaining continuity of priorities,” and lays out the path for the Army to be MDO-capable by 2028 and MDO-ready by 2035.

Starting this fiscal year through FY ’22, the Army will begin initial fielding of capabilities being developed out of the cross-functional teams leading each of its six priorities. This includes programs such as the Integrated Visual Augmentation System headset and the tactical network modernization team’s first capability set.

From FY ’22 to FY ’25, the Army will “adapt its formations and organizational designs to incorporate the modernized equipment required to execute MDO,” based on the results of earlier testing and experimentation. 

Leading up to FY ’28, the first MDO force package will be certified, as the Army looks to roll out major combat platforms including the Bradley-replacing Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle and Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft.

During the final phase from FY ’29 to FY ’35, Army leadership will finish certifying its next force package to fully integrate an MDO-ready force. 

The strategy echoes recent comments from top Army leadership that the service will have to continue making increasingly tougher decision to divest from legacy systems over the next several years to fund modernization priorities facing tighter budgets (Defense Daily, Sept. 4). 

“This entails assessing our capability needs, acquisition programs, and existing systems to determine the most economical sustainment approach,” officials wrote. “In many cases, it will result in forgoing additional incremental upgrades to legacy systems. The Army will also eventually divest some legacy programs to free up resources for modernization priorities.”

The Army’s ‘night court’ process has already found $33 billion to shift toward modernization over the next five years, as officials look to have modernization programs overtake readiness as its top priority by FY ’22.

“This was an important start, but the costs of modernization while maintaining readiness are only going to grow as systems enter low-rate initial production and then procurement. The Army must continue to find savings through reform initiatives to ensure we have the resources available to develop and scale systems,” officials wrote in the strategy.