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Military panel urges agility as budgets decline

January 23, 2012

By Mr. Dan Lafontaine (RDECOM)

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The U.S. military must become more agile to defeat future adversaries as budgets shrink, defense officials said Jan. 19.

Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, commanding general of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, led the five-member panel discussion, "Meeting the Warfighters' Full Spectrum Operations Challenge: Joint Warfighter Requirements and Challenges."

"When we know we have a wartime mission coming up, we want to be able to rapidly equip the latest technologies," Justice said in opening remarks to about 75 military officials and defense contractors at the 11th annual Warfighter TechNet Conference.

"We want our infrastructure -- our combat vehicles, communications systems, and command and control systems -- to be agile enough to adapt within a building schedule that allows us to map it to the deployment schedule of the units. We have changed our infrastructure almost as we're rotating a unit to relieve another unit in theater."


Panel members stressed the importance of implementing more efficient methods of training and equipping Warfighters.

U.S. Air Force Col. Marcus Boyd, commander of the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation, is attempting to construct virtual training that is comparable to live training.

Several factors -- including the Air Force's fuel consumption and aging fleet -- are pushing the service to change pilot training, Boyd said.

"All my live aircraft are being used in the war effort. I don't have those available. I don't have enough people sometimes to train those who need to be trained," Boyd said. "The B-52s flying today were built in 1960. They're planning to be around until 2040. To get them to last that long, I cannot fly them as much as I used to."

The Air Force uses 64 percent of all U.S. military fuel, Boyd said. Because of fuel and manpower restrictions, new training methods are a priority.

"Funding is declining. The Air Force is going to be losing flying hours. What do I do to augment my live training? I have to go to the virtual world," Boyd said.

Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert M. Williams, a vice president at defense contractor Raytheon, echoed Boyd's remarks while discussing his time as commandant of the Army Armor School from 2005 to 2008.

"The younger generation is more attune to the gaming solutions. They saw potential and opportunities where I saw none," Williams said. "Those devices can empower us to get more bang for our buck in our training solutions."


Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Kent Gritton, director of the Joint Training Integration and Evaluation Center, stressed that leaner budgets will lead to the services combining their resources.

"One key thing going on because of reduced funding is collaboration across services. We have to be able to work together," Gritton said. "How do we take that objective to the next level together so we can maximize our expenditures?"

Gritton asked the audience whether the training requirements align with the demands on Soldiers during future wars.

"It's all about the future. You can see how we have progressed. Training has evolved along the way. Do we know where we're supposed to be in 2025 or beyond? Are we positioned to do that?" Gritton asked. "We have to get those requirements right if we want to make the proper impact on those young recruits who are volunteering their time to our country. They have to be properly positioned and prepared to fight the good fight."


Richard Cozby, deputy director of System of Systems Integration for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, said building a robust network is vital to empowering Soldiers on the ground.

The Army has launched the Network Integration Evaluation / Agile Process, which stresses the service's commitment to its new approach to modernizing the tactical communications network, according to officials at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. The goal is to provide integrated connectivity from the command post to the dismounted Soldier, and update that equipment on a two-year cycle to reflect improvements in technology and changes in operational needs.

"The network is our number one priority," Cozby said. "How can we network the squad? We've done really well in outfitting the brigade with tremendous situational awareness and C4ISR capabilities.

"The folks doing the fighting are at the squad level. We have to get the same capability to Soldiers doing the fighting on the ground. That's our near-term focus."

Justice emphasized the importance of building network infrastructure around the individual Soldier as the complexity of conflicts increases.

"You are out there in small teams in unknown situations," Justice said. "You're reacting to what the environment is without a clear objective or war plan. You know what the outcome should be like, but how you get there is unknown. That is the complexity that we're facing. I can meet unknown challenges in the future quickly because the infrastructure is ready.

"I need to zero in on taking every bit of capability and squeeze it into the hands and bodies of those American Soldiers. They're going to be part of that integration on the battlefield. They're going to have to assimilate it, learn it and know how to exploit the technology."

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