The top general from Army Futures Command gave a keynote address Thursday at the 2019 Space and Missile Defense Symposium at the Von Braun Center.
Gen. John Murray, AFC commander, gave an update on Army modernization priorities the final day of the conference, viewed by many as a leading educational, professional development and networking event in the space and missile defense community.
The general pointed out that it has been almost exactly 29 years ago since the United States went into Saudi Arabia in what became Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
“We have enjoyed advantages that Huntsville was a large part of … since that time,” Murray said, adding that the advantage is either completely eroded or quickly eroding.
“It’s almost time – no pun intended – for our next moonshot, as the defense industry with our defense partners, to find out what we can do to establish that next significant – not only tactical, but operational in many ways – strategic advantage against near-peer competitors identified in the National Defense Strategy.
“As we executed Desert Storm, first, and then (Operation Iraqi Freedom), our near-peer adversaries watched very, very closely what I will call ‘the American way of war’ taking time to build up supplies, taking time to build up any munitions, to build up forces,” Murray continued. “They basically determined they did not want to take on the United States Army in close combat on the ground … So they developed ways and materiel solutions to establish what I consider to be the problem, the primary problem we’re trying to solve today, and that’s standoff.”
Murray touched on four key outputs to address that issue: Multi-domain Operations, structural changes, materiel solutions being worked on by the cross-functional teams, and partnerships – which he said is important to the first three outputs.
He spoke of recent participation from senior representatives from the Navy and Air Force in a wargame at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. “It’s critically important that Multi-domain Operations is not simply an Army concept,” Murray said, stressing the importance of working with both services to come to a joint solution and also that the ultimate goal of any concept is that it become doctrine.
The most important aspect of organizational structure is how to structure the Army for echelon responsibilities and capabilities. He said the last 18 years have driven the Army to provide capabilities at the brigade combat team level to make them as interchangeable as possible as they rotated in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“That was very necessary for that fight. The fight we’re looking at … will be a very, very different fight in the future,” Murray said. The new question is whether there is a need to go back and evaluate the requirements at the division, corps, theater and Army levels, along with the knowledge that commanders with echelon-level responsibilities will need echelon-level capabilities.
With respect to materiel solutions, the goal is to shorten the acquisition cycle and requirements process to expediently move out with a validated requirement and, ultimately, to deliver capability to the warfighter.
The first materiel capability will be delivered in October, Murray said. “It’s a new and enhanced night vision goggle – binocular – EMVGV, less than two years from statement of need to delivery to the deploying unit.
“This has been and always will be about aligning the Army’s resources against the things that are most important to the Army,” he said.
The “incredible power of the partnership” between operators and acquisition professionals, he said, is probably the most impressive thing that has been learned in the last year and a half or so. “The interaction that goes on between the requirements community, acquisition community and a lot of other communities … is almost seamless.”
Murray offered assurance that, though leadership will change, the Army’s priorities will not change and will continue to be fully nested in the National Defense Strategy and with the guidance coming out of the Department of Defense.
“You will see no change in our push to work very, very closely with our joint partners and coalition partners to make sure that we are in sync and, in many ways, in cooperation with each other as we go forward,” he said. “I think you’ll see more and more experimentation, not only from a materiel standpoint, but from a formation and tactics standpoint.
“At the end of the day, we are convinced that the resources are sufficient,” Murray said as he wrapped up. “And we are convinced that we’ve got to operate within our budget to make sure that we deliver the most important capability to the most important formations.”