The Army plans to stick with its Cross-Functional Team (CFT)-led approach to future system development beyond 2035, the head of Futures Command said Tuesday, as the service looks to take on new modernization initiatives in areas such as artificial intelligence and logistics.

Gen. Mike Murray told reporters the service is conducting “futures studies” that will inform how the eight existing CFTs, which work on developing the Army’s current group of more than 30 signature systems, may need new titles or adjusted responsibilities to take on the next batch of future initiatives.

Gen. Mike Murray, Commanding General of U.S. Army Futures Command, discuss the future of the U.S. Army modernization and Futures Command during the National Partner Luncheon during this year’s Association of the United States Army annual conference on Oct. 10, 2018, in Washington D.C.

“Through those studies, we’ll begin to understand what technologies we’ll have to make additional investments in and then that will drive additional programs for the Cross-Functional Teams,” Murray said. “People ask me all the time, ‘Will the Cross-Functional Teams work themselves out of business?’ And I would argue if we’re doing our due diligence of looking at what comes after you pick a system, then no. You may have to change the name of [some of them], but the role the Cross-Functional Teams play I think is critically important to drive that soldier innovation and soldier touchpoints and the thinking outside of the box of what technology can do for the Army.”

The current group of CFTs, stood up to streamline the requirements and development process for new capabilities, cover the service’s six modernization priorities, Next-Generation Combat Vehicle, Future Vertical Lift, Long-Range Precision Fires, Tactical Network, Air and Missile Defense and Soldier Lethality, as well as two additional supporting areas, Assured Position, Navigation and Timing and Synthetic Training Environment.

“The beauty of the CFT is the focus and the direct access to senior leaders on both the Futures Command side and the [acquisition office] side. The power of the [CFT] is that pairing that we have made with program managers and program executive officers to where they’re focused on the same problem every day, oftentimes sitting side-by-side,” Murray said.

The studies to look beyond 2035, ostensibly when the Army will have fielded its full range of 30-plus signature systems, will consider how technologies such as AI, autonomy and robotics and factors like climate change and urbanization may shape future CFTs’ focus areas.

“Do you add some of that to an existing CFT? Do you rebrand it with a different name? As we begin to look at the future and as we begin to make assumptions about what new system development is going to have to be, it may not be 31 [new signature systems], it may be less or it may be more. But there are lot of things across the Army that need modernization, that need to be brought into the 21st century, in terms of technology,” Murray said. “Right now, there’s no CFT for logistics. And we’re going to have to figure out things like electrification, or [also we call it] reduction of dependency on fossil fuels.”

Murray said recently he’s optimistic the service’s next five-year spending plan, to be rolled out along with the fiscal year 2023 budget request, will continue to protect the full range of more than 30 signature programs to keep current modernization initiatives on track (Defense Daily, June 9).