The Army plans to use its growing investment budget over the next two years to drive a new technology-informed approach to requirements and address modernization that’s left the service lagging behind near-peer competitors’ in future capabilities, a senior acquisition official said Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, director of the Army Acquisition Corps, said the Army will maximize its increase in investment dollars from $26.8 billion in FY ’17 to $28.9 billion in FY ‘18 and then $32 billion in FY ‘19 to go after its critical modernization priorities while bringing in more non-traditional defense partners.

Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, director of Army Acquisition Corps
Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, director of Army Acquisition Corps

The $32 billion is the number included in the current versions of the next defense authorization bill being considered by Congress.

“We have been on a modernization vacation for the last eight years,” Ostrowski told attendees at an Association of the United States Army event. “We’re at the point now where we can no longer afford to do that. Fortunately, we’ve been given an opportunity by the Hill. In ‘18 and ‘19, our topline is higher than it’s been in a long time. For the next two years, we have to take advantage of this opportunity that we’ve been handed. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Ostrowski said the Army will continue to shift focus from incremental upgrades to large legacy programs, such as the Bradley vehicle or Chinook helicopters, and work towards its modernization priorities needed to meet a potential peer or near-peer multi-domain fight in the future.

The Army has identified its modernization lines of efforts as: long-range precision fires; next-generation combat vehicle; future vertical lift; the tactical network; air and missile defense; and increasing soldier lethality. Ostrowski said the service is eyeing its increased investment dollars on those six plus two others, assured positioning, navigation & timing, and synthetic training environment.

The service’s new cross-functional teams are helping to drive a prototype-focused approach to requirements that takes a month to six weeks to process rather than the current average pace of two years.

“In the past, with our lethargic, bureaucratic process, the way we wrote requirements was in a vacuum. They were not technology-informed requirements. Testing was not informing them. Sustainment and logistics were not informing them,” Ostrowski said.

Ostrowski said the Army going forward will continue to focus on firm, fixed-price contracts and use of Other Transaction Authorities (OTAs) to get deals out faster and reach more non-traditional defense partners.

OTAs can now be used on defense projects all the way through full-rate production decisions.

“We all know that the lockstep, bureaucratic industrial base process that we’ve been under, in terms of acquisition for all these many years, has got to go. Congress understands that. We understand that. OSD understands that,” Ostrowski said. “We’re going to do business the way industry does it.”

The most current version of the pending FY ‘19 National Defense Authorization Act would also allow the Army to use Section 804 authorities to bypass the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System document and DoD 5000 acquisition requirements process. This would speed up procurement efforts to do more rapid prototyping, according to Ostrowski.

Ostrowski said the acquisition reform push will drive the efforts the Army’s new modernization-focused Futures Command.

Futures Command is tasked with taking the lead on the Army’s six modernization priorities and organizing how the battlefield will look through 2036.