Less than two weeks into its official activation, the Army’s Futures Command (AFC) has two new confirmed leaders and plans to establish a technology incubator aimed at bringing in more non-traditional industry partners and getting capabilities out faster, senior officials said Wednesday.
Army Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Gen. John “Mike” Murray, the leader of AFC, told attendees at a Defense News conference they imagine the new “Shark Tank”-style incubator will look “a sea of laptops” and provide smaller start-up companies with an easier opportunity to pitch innovative ideas and work around the current requirements-heavy process out of the Pentagon.
“It’s going to allow access to capital, joint ventures, maybe even an inquisition. This is going to ensure there isn’t any disruption in those product lines and those ideas can be bought up and we can keep them off the street,” McCarthy said. “Instead of just throwing an RFP in your lap, now we can talk through the requirements.”
McCarthy said he envisions the incubator as an opportunity for smaller start-ups to interact with larger, more traditional defense partners and keep innovation technologies in the Army’s system to speed up the process of finding capabilities for the service’s most pressing modernization priorities.
McCarthy also said Maj. Gen Richardson was confirmed Tuesday as AFC deputy commander and Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley has been tapped to lead the new command’s Futures and Concepts team working to identify pressing capability modernization gaps.
“We’ve put our money where our mouth is to finance our modernization efforts. And we’re putting the best people possible against our modernization efforts as we go forward,” McCarthy said.
Richardson, who will now receive a third star, currently serves as a special adviser to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and previously led Army Aviation and Missile Command. Wesley currently serves as director of Army Capabilities Integration Center.
Futures Command is intended to bring the Army’s entire modernization apparatus under one organization to focus on development and acquisition efforts for the Army’s six priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, tactical network, air and missile defense and soldier lethality.
Secretary of the Army Mark Esper said last week the new command will operate on an annual budget of around $80 million to $100 million to handle the service’s approximately $30 billion to $50 billion modernization portfolio (Defense Daily, August 29).
Murray said the new officials will help in leading the command toward creating a “disruptive process” needed to change the Army’s modernization culture, including the creation of a technology incubator.
“It has to be disruptive, the command. The processes we put in place, the way we deal with industry, the way we deal with technology innovators, the way we deal with these innovation hubs, the way we deal with Army processes has to be disruptive,” Murray said. “The primary intent is to be disruptive enough to deliver capabilities to soldiers on time and on the battlefield.”
Murray also added Futures Command was looking at bringing in top technology experts from the outside scientific community to help him assess the maturity level of the technology that companies pitch out of the AFC incubator.
“We are in the process of hiring a world renowned scientist to help me with that. And it’s like any other organization, I got to find the right people to help me judge. A lot of those people also exist in the Army, in places like Army Research Laboratory, to get a good assessment,” Murray said.