The Army’s top acquisition official on Thursday said his office has settled on an integrated approach to procurement with the new Futures Command needed to forge ahead with major platform development efforts including the service’s future missile defense system and near-term fire protection capability.
Bruce Jette, the Army’s assistant secretary for the acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)), told reporters he is focused on working with his Futures Command counterparts to drive procurement advances in artificial intelligence and integrated sensor networks to move away from programs built around disparate systems.
“The velocity of this integrated shared development process, both the requirements and the acquisition strategy, has become much more pervasive across the board,” Jette said.
Jette specifically cited Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS), the Army’s future missile defense command platform, and Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC), an interim capability required by 2020, as two programs being propelled by the new integration between his office and Futures Command.
“I came onboard a year ago, and the IBCS system was in trouble mostly because of muddied requirements. Some of it was the way we approached it acquisitionally,” Jette said. “We fixed the requirements. We got an acquisition process in place and we’re doing really well. We’ll be delivering next December systems that are deployable.”
The December 2019 mark to deliver components for IBCS would fall right before an expected Milestone C decision in 2020, with Army officials expecting to field a baseline system by 2022 or sooner (Defense Daily, Jan. 7).
Jette said the process for IBCS, which is being developed by Northrop Grumman [NOC], is representative of the Army’s changing approach to acquisition, in which the focus is now placed on delivering integrated network of sensors to better account for known threats and future adversarial challenges.
IBCS will incorporate battle command capabilities for Patriot missile defense systems as well as Sentinel radars, while building toward incorporating Marine Corps and Air Force sensors.
Future Command’s Cross Functional Teams are also allowing directed energy and artificial intelligence communities to discuss integration opportunities for programs such as IBCS, according to Jette.
“We have a much more holistic view of where we’re heading now in the air defense area,” he said.
Jette also confirmed the Army is on track to meet a directive in the latest defense authorization bill to acquire IFPC and deliver two batteries for an interim capability by September 2020.
“We do need to look at interim systems. We want to have some things in place that provide us immediate protection. So we’re going to look at things that are readily available,” Jette said.
A likely solution for the Army is the Israel-developed Iron Dome system that would meet range requirements for fire protection.
Futures Command is currently working with ASA(ALT) to determine if the long-term solution will focus on modifying the eventual interim capability or take a developmental approach and producing an entirely new system, according to Jette.
The two organizations are also working through requirements for future AI objectives, including allowing allowing algorithms to control certain aspects of weapons systems.
“AI is critically important,” Jette said. “We are trying to structure an AI architecture that will become enduring and will facilitate our ability to allocate resources and conduct research and implantation of AI capabilities throughout the force.”
Common practice across the DoD currently stipulates keeping a human in the loop for AI applications, which Jette cautioned may put restrictions on future applications.
“People worry about whether an AI system is controlling the weapon, and there are some constraints on what we are allowed to do with AI,” Jette said. “If I can’t get AI involved with being able to properly manage weapons systems and firing sequences then, in the long run, I lose the time deal.”
Futures Command has also helped establish an AI center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
“[Futures Command] has a responsibility to focus on AI from a requirements and research standpoint,” Jette said.