A new report from the Government Accountability Office on the Army’s modernization efforts pushes senior leaders to take a more realistic approach with requirements and ensure the new Futures Command has the necessary authorities to avoid previous struggles with costly big ticket programs.

GAO’s report specifically calls on the Army to address Futures Command lack of established procedures for how officials will coordinate acquisition responsibilities and development strategies across its modernization priorities.

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)

“In order for the Army to maintain its technological edge over potential adversaries, it plans to invest in near and long-term modernization efforts. However, the Army has struggled with modernization initiatives in the past,” GAO writes in its report. “We found that it is not yet clear how Army Futures Command will coordinate its responsibilities with existing acquisition organizations within the Army that do not directly report to it.”

The report details how the Army has met previous GAO recommendations, specifically highlighting how officials have settled on and focused acquisition efforts around six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, air and missile defense, the tactical network and soldier lethality.

GAO writes this is a first step toward consolidating the large task of overhauling the Army’s platforms and weapons, while calling on officials to more clearly set realistic requirements to avoid previous missteps.

“The Army’s history of failed, costly weapon system procurements to replace aging weaponry is due, in part, to requirements that could not be met and the immaturity of key technologies. Many of these programs failed to provide any capability to the warfighter despite the time and funding expended,” GAO officials write in the report.

The report specifically highlights the $10 billion spent on the canceled RAH-66 Comanche helicopter program and the $21 billion on the failed Future Combat Systems effort.

The Army is recommended to move away from the process of beginning weapon systems development at a lower maturity level than what may be required to more realistically reach acquisition goals.

“GAO has raised concerns about this type of practice for almost two decades for other Army acquisitions, because proceeding into weapon systems development at earlier stages of technology maturity raises the risk that the resulting systems could experience cost increases, delivery delays, or failure to deliver desired capabilities,” officials said in the report.

For Futures Command, the report calls on the Army secretary to more clearly codify the new command’s responsibilities including capturing lessons learned from the new Cross Functional Teams.

“The Army has not developed a plan for capturing the lessons learned from the Cross Functional Team pilots, and therefore may miss an opportunity to leverage the experience of these teams in applying leading practices,” GAO writes.

The Army secretary is recommended to use the Cross Functional Teams’ experience leveraging new research and development practices when finalizing Future Command’s authorities to ensure the same practices run across all six modernization priorities.