Can science and technology save Army programs?

The Army is looking to its science and technology arm to help determine its most critical issues and top spending priorities.

With the inevitable defense budget cuts soon headed to the Army, many tough choices are going to be made, and now the service is looking outside its traditional avenues toward collaboration to prioritize and meet its most critical requirements.

One of the most important collaborators in this new approach is the Army’s science and technology (S&T) department.

“The fiscal constraint we’re facing today is more challenging than it’s ever been before. It’s very important that we collaborate as a team, because acquisition is not a solo sport – it’s a team sport,” said Heidi Shyu, acting assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, speaking Oct. 10 at the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington.

“We’re focusing S&T challenges to meet unique Army needs…specific areas that the Army is interested in. This is a new start for the Army,” she said.

Helping to lead the effort is Marilyn Freeman, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for research and technology.

Freeman’s office has met with more than 100 senior leaders from across the Army to establish the top issues the force is facing, and ways to put those problems in order of importance and inject funding to solve them. The S&T approach focuses on soldier needs on the ground as top priority.

“In concert we decided to make this idea of the soldier as the decisive edge our focus. We said it really appears to us that in the S&T arena, and with future technologies, where we really need to apply that is at the small unit, soldier, boots-on-the-ground level,” Freeman said. “We need to focus on solving problems there, because we know we have significant challenges that we have now and that will remain.”

Through the cross-Army effort, Freeman said the group identified seven top-priority major areas under the umbrella of “soldier as the decisive edge” that S&T could help solve.

They include:

  • Insufficient force protection. 
  • Surprise in tactical situations due to lack of mission command and intelligence.
  • Too much time and money spent on storing, transporting and distributing supplies and waste handling.
  • Tactical overmatch issues.
  • Maneuverability.
  • Understanding soldier needs and how they think.

Those key areas were then passed up the chain of command to determine action.

“We took these problems to the Army leadership and said, ‘We know we can’t solve all these problems by ourselves at S&T. But by continuing the partnership with the TRADOC folks writing requirements, by working with the G-8 to resource programs by which we have priorities and are focused, and by working with the rest of the community we can figure out not only how to address these issues but probably solve these and get a new set of capabilities to soldiers in the near-term,” Freeman said.

In addition to the seven main areas of concern, smaller groups within the Army leadership workshop broke down 24 challenges from which Army leadership designated a top 10 of programs to be addressed within a year, she said.

“There is a tremendous amount of research and technology we can apply to help these problems,” Freeman said. “This is going to help us align these challenges immediately but over time we will have a better focusing of our S&T budget toward real Army priorities that then transition into deliverables and into the portfolio of the main Army.”