HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Over the next few months, the Army’s newest major command will take shape with the announcement of a commander and a headquarters location for the organization that will consolidate all of the service’s modernization and acquisition functions.
Army Futures Command will be made up of existing Army organizations like the Army Combat Integration Command (ARCIC), Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and Research Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), though the exact details are not set, Undersecretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said March 26 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium here.
McCarthy and Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville spearheaded the development of Futures Command under the watchful attention of Army Secretary Mark Esper, who previewed his vision of the Army in 2028 based on the work Futures Command will do.
“Based on the future strategic environment it is charged with envisioning, this command will develop requirements more quickly, ensuring unity of effort, establishing accountability and begin delivering the next-generation of weapons, vehicles and equipment,” Esper said.
Scheduled to reach initial operational capability in late summer and be fully established a year later, Futures Command, or AFC, will be led by a four-star general and will be on “equal footing” with Army Materiel Command, Forces Command and TRADOC, which will remain.
“Upon activation of Futures Command, the Army will have a total of four Army commands, each on the same equal footing,” McCarthy said. “Futures Command, as it name implies, will be focused on the Future Force. … It will be the custodian of our modernization efforts by streamlining processes and driving integration.”
AFC will focus on the Army’s six modernization priorities and the cross-functional teams (CFTs) already pursuing those will reorganize under the new command and its three subordinate commands: Futures and Concepts, Combat Development, and Combat Systems.
Only the Futures Command headquarters and command group will be situated in the city that will be announced in coming months. Quality of life, availability, cost and time assessment and civic support also will factor into the siting decision.
“All other aspects of the command will stay in place and folks realistically will just change the unit patch on their sleeve,” McCarthy said.
AFC will bring ARCIC’s “core functions” of developing concepts and requirements together with RDECOM’s engineering and acquisitions support under one command and one leader, who will be named in the next couple of weeks, he said. The small, agile headquarters “focused on flexibility, agility, collaboration and speed,” will likely be located in a city with “proximity to talent” including academia and entrepreneurship. A list of 10 finalist cities should be announced within a couple months, McCarthy said.
Though AFC’s establishment is the most significant reorganization for the Army in 40 years, it is more a “rewiring” than anything else. Most of the soldiers and civilians who will eventually be attached to AFC will change the patches on their uniforms but will not change zip codes, McCarthy said.
“Think of it as more of a re-wiring and de-layering of the current structure and processes from across the entire Army,” he said.
“It’s command group will be located near innovative and agile industrial and academic institutions,” McCarthy said. “This will help form the innovation and synergistic culture required to lead the Army’s modernization effort.”
The Army’s acquisition and development functions will be split between TRADOC, which will focus on near-term efforts within the current five-year defense plan (FYDP), and AFC, which will focus on modernization work beyond five years into the future and as far as 30 or 40 years, according to McConville.
Organizational realignment and the identification of key leaders and facilities location along with the wiring of the new chains of command will define initial operational capability this summer. Over the following year, the Army will learn, refine and adjust the organization and authorities to best meet its modernization goals, McCarthy said.
Though the wrinkles are still being ironed out, the Army is running with AFC and its modernization goals while it has the funding and congressional support even if the details will come later, McCarthy said. The service has a $22.5 billion acquisition top line that includes a $7.3 billion infusion of cash to the research, development and acquisition accounts.