The Army is set to undergo the largest structural change in four decades with the establishment of a modernization-focused command focused on bringing its decades-old vehicles and equipment into the 21st century.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Acting Secretary Ryan McCarthy laid out their plan to modernize the Army’s aging combat vehicles and equipment during an Oct. 9 press conference at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual expo in Washington, D.C.

“It’s a significant restructuring, probably one of the biggest in the last 40 years or so,” Milley said.

Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy (left) and Chief of Staff Mark Milley hold a press conference at the 2017 Association of the U.S. Army annual expo in Washington, D.C.
Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy (left) and Chief of Staff Mark Milley hold a press conference at the 2017 Association of the U.S. Army annual expo in Washington, D.C.

Army Materiel Command (AMC), Forces Command (FORSCOM) and Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) were created following the Vietnam War by then-Chief of Staff Creighton Abrams. Abrams eliminated seven commands and restructured the institutional Army into those three commands, which have persisted for 40 years, Milley said.

“That’s been the fundamental structure of the Army now for four-plus decades,” Milley said. “It’s time now to take a look at anything that’s been around for four decades.”

McCarthy has ordered the formation of a task force led by Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon to design a new command the sole mission of which will be modernizing the Army. Cardon has 120 days to develop a plan to establish this modernization command within existing force structure. Cardon heads the Army’s Office of Business Transformation.

“This is a significant change and requires both careful and expeditious consideration of detailed planning for how this command will exercise its responsibilities while maintaining coherence with the rest of the Army enterprise,” McCarthy said. “The process will be transparent and thorough. We do not have time to waste.”

Milley said the eventual plan may require shifting personnel and funding from existing organizations to the new modernization command.

“This has more to do with streamlining the tasks and processes and getting those aligned right within the organization, which we don’t think they are right now,” Milley said.

Details will be worked out by Cardon’s study, but the new command’s scope of authority will include concept development, requirements generation and prioritizing acquisition programs that address those requirements, McCarthy said.

Under the new command will be a series of cross-functional teams, or CFTs, that will each focus on one of six modernization priorities. The teams will report directly to the secretary of the Army and the vice chief of staff.

“These teams will compress the timeline by involving the end user in defining requirements, interpreting, prototyping and validating a concept prior to low rate initial production,” McCarthy said.

The teams will tackle, in order of importance and funding priority: long-range precision fires; next-generation combat vehicle (NGCV); future vertical lift (FVL); mobile expeditionary communication network; air and missile defense; and soldier lethality.

McCarthy said he has already begun moving funds within the program objective memorandum (POM) to cover these modernization priorities. He said the Army will continue to move funds to protect these efforts during the five-year defense plan.

Having focused on rebuilding readiness over the past few years, the Army is at an “inflection point” where it must invest in modernization or risk losing the overmatch it has enjoyed since World War II, McCarthy said.

“These systems have been continuously and incrementally upgraded since their debut and there is a limit to the incremental improvements that can be made before they can no longer offer the overmatch our Army requires,” McCarthy said. “Modernizing these aging platforms has yielded benefits and we are now squarely in the pinnacle of diminishing returns.”

Each of those priorities represents a fundamental of military science and they are placed in the order in which those fundamentals – shoot, move, communicate, protect and sustain – are performed in successful offensive combat operations, Milley said.

Long-range precision fires will cover the Army’s assessed gap in offensive shooting capability. Both the NGCV and FVL are aimed at improving battlefield maneuver capability.

“Both of those systems, our rotary wing and wheeled- and tracked-vehicle fleets, are essentially at the end of any kind of product improvements we can do on these things,” Milley said. “With those air and ground vehicles, we are going to leverage emerging technologies, things like robotics, active protective systems and all this other stuff.”

A mobile, distributed Army then needs an expeditionary communications network. Included in that item is both offensive and defensive cyber. Ballistic missile defense and short-range air defense is included as a means of protecting the force once its fielded, Milley said.

“We have ripped out our air-defense systems over the last 16 years,” Milley said. “We have got to create a layered defense around our formations if we are expected to fight combined arms maneuver against a near-peer competitor in a dynamic environment.”

Finally, the entire service and its capability is defined by and comprised of soldiers, Milley said.

“We will go to great lengths to increase the lethality of the soldier and their systems, everything from body armor to small arms,” Milley said.

“Those priorities aren’t randomly put out there,” Milley said. “They are put out there because we want to win. You win on the offense. You win by being master of the fundamentals. Those priorities for the modernization of the Army are going to be firm and that’s the guidance We’re running with in order to create an organization to deliver.”