Army leaders came to the service's biggest conference of the year in Washington, D.C., with one central message: "We're going to fix our broken acquisition system."
The first step on the road to recovery is admitting there is a problem. It's not that the Army doesn't realize it takes too long to field new technologies, but this is the first time it has delivered such a unified message with senior leaders, program managers and their civilian counterparts all publicly announcing initiatives that are supposed to put the Army's acquisition enterprise in order.
The Association of the United States Army annual conference kicked off with Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley announcing the formation of a yet-to-be named command that will help it streamline its acquisition processes and deliver new capabilities to soldiers as quickly as possible.
It was only a year ago at the same conference when Milley announced the "multi-domain battle concept," in which he envisioned a future where the Army had to fight peer or near-peer competitors in the land, sea, air, electromagnetic and cyber realms. The service had enjoyed success against poorly equipped, relatively low-tech insurgents, but nations such as Russia--although senior leaders are reluctant to name names--will be coming at U.S. forces with more than small arms and roadside bombs.
A year later, vendors at the show had the words "multi-domain battle" and "solutions" and "innovation" emblazoned across their booths in an effort to prove that they can deliver what the Army needs as it enters this new era.
While industry might be able to provide what the Army requires to fight on future battlefields, the service must be able to acquire it in a timely manner.
That is the crux of the problem for the Army and one of the most crucial questions facing the military as a whole today: Can it maintain its edge over potential rivals while being hamstrung by an antiquated acquisition system?
The interesting aspect of this new push is that it appears to be coming from the Army itself. These are not edicts flowing from Congress or the office of the secretary of defense. It does follow a trend in Congress that wants to take oversight away from the OSD and return it to the services.
Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said at the conference that she fully supports this trend and that she has already begun the process of returning...