By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Aug. 06, 2010) -- The Army needs to modernize the way it's allowed to buy technology, so it can put the best tools in the hands of the warfighter faster than the enemy pushes technology out to its foot soldiers, said the Army's vice chief of staff.
Today's acquisition systems can put years between the best technology now available and the time that technology actually gets into the hands of America's Soldiers, said Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli during the 2010 Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's "LandWarNet" conference, Aug. 3-5, in Tampa, Fla.
Chiarelli said America's enemies are leveraging the latest technology on the commercial market to accomplish their own terror mission.
"The enemy we face is taking great advantage of simple, affordable technologies such as cell phones and other rudimentary components used to make improvised explosive devises, to command and control forces, and to usher in a new form of information warfare," he said. "The fact is we don't talk enough about how very, very good the enemy is. They truly are formidable adversaries."
Meanwhile, he said, the Army struggles to put the latest technology into the hands of Soldiers due to the difficulty of pushing the latest tools through antiquated procurement processes.
"In this age of rapid innovation we are constantly pushing technology to stay a step ahead -- or at least in step," he said. "Unfortunately our ability to keep pace has declined significantly in recent years. In many ways our outdated procurement system has become the albatross around the Army's neck."
Chiarelli said bringing technology aboard using the Defense Department's "DOD 5000" process, for instance, means satisfying some 41 statutory and regulatory requirements required to have a production decision for any acquisition program. That includes, he said, 65 separate documents to comply with the requirements.
"The more difficult the program, the more difficult achieving all these requirements becomes," he said. "We must change the processes to change that time to less than four years. Even more quickly, in information technology -- from concept to fielding."
The current system, he said, requires that products move through unique increments of development.
"This often becomes a problem when a new technology emerges," he said. "When this occurs, rather than inserting in a technology into an existing program of record, often times we are forced to create a new separate increment, leveraging that capability -- but delaying its delivery to the field anywhere from 18 to 48 months."
By the end of that process, he said, the technology is either irrelevant or too late to meet the needs of Soldiers.
"What I really need, is I need help," the general said. "Not from the three stars on the Army staff, but from the folks in the field -- the program executive officers, the program element managers -- in trying to do things a little bit differently."
Chiarelli also discussed the Army network, and reducing redundancy in capability portfolios.
"The network represents the centerpiece of Army modernization," he said. "Successes in this critical endeavor can only be achieved if we all work together. Whether in updating our processes, developing requirements, building common operating procedures, or identifying redundancies or outdated requirements or fielding systems in theater."