Army ranking 780 programs to make 'tough choices' about resources

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Sept. 27, 2016) -- This year, as part of a strategic portfolio analysis and review, or SPAR, the Army will "rank order" all 780 or so of its equipment programs -- from helicopters to boots to rifles -- in terms of their impact on warfighting.

The results of that analysis will be made available to Army leaders to help guide them in making decisions on how to allocate dwindling Army modernization funds better.

In the fiscal year 2017 budget request presented to Congress, about $125 billion was allocated to the Army. Of that, about 18 percent, or $23 billion, was earmarked for modernization, including research, development, testing and evaluation, as well as procurement of new equipment. That's about a 33 percent drop in modernization funding from 2011, said Lt. Gen. John M. Murray, deputy chief of staff, Army G-8.

That drop in funding comes because the Army doesn't expect to get an increase in its base budget, and it is prioritizing readiness and force structure over modernization.

"The priority is retaining force structure and readiness -- nobody tells us to do that," Murray said. "That is a deliberate choice by the senior leaders of the Army. They understand the risk we have taken in modernization. And they understand it's a compounding risk."

Still, Murray said, the Army must plan now to provide the Army of the future with the tools it will need to fight, and the Army must take action now to make that happen, despite an understanding that more money is probably not going to materialize.

"It would be irresponsible of the Army, of me in particular, to sit back here and say there's nothing we can do until we get more money," he said.

The idea of the SPAR, which is an idea that originated inside the G-8, is to take a look at all existing Army programs, as well as some concepts or ideas the Army might like to have, and prioritize them in a way that will allow Army senior leaders to make "some very tough choices" about what should be kept and what should be let go.

Working with Army Training and Doctrine Command, Army Forces Command, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, and others, the G-8 will evaluate each of the Army's 780 or so equipment programs to determine their relative worth to the Army.

"[With modeling and simulations] we'll try to measure their contribution to what the chief has talked about, a decisive action, high-end warfight," Murray said. "[For instance] what does an M1 tank contribute to a high-end warfight?"

In this case of the M1 tank, Murray said they would run a simulation with the tank and measure the outcome of that scenario. They would then run the same simulation without the tank.

"When the capability is in, you are going to come to a certain outcome," Murray said. "If the capability is out, that end state should be different. If it's not, then you have to question the value that capability adds to that warfight."

Murray acknowledges that, when it comes to the fate of Army programs, "everything we're doing is important to somebody." Nevertheless, all equipment programs, regardless of their portfolio, will be evaluated as falling into one of four "buckets," that will determine recommendations for Army leaders on how limited modernization resources might be applied to them moving forward:

I: Accelerate or find a way to bring into the portfolio.

II: Sustain at current level of resources.

III: Reallocate resources to invest elsewhere.

IV: Divest most or all resources.

The SPAR process will be completed and the outcome of that process will be presented to the secretary of the Army and the chief of staff of the Army sometime before April of 2017, for use in the development of the 2019-2023 program objective memorandum.

Murray said the SPAR will not be the final decision on the future of Army programs, but is instead meant to provide well-researched material upon which Army leaders can make those decisions.

"One of the intended outputs is to tee up some hard decisions for the senior leadership," Murray said. "And whether those decisions get made or not, that's not my purview but is well within their purview."

Another aspect of SPAR, Murray said, is that it will provide him with some support for the answers he often provides whenever he is asked what he believes the Army could do with additional funding.

"I've been asked 50 times, 'if you had more money what would you do,'" he said. "And when you give an answer, they say, 'show me the analysis.' Well, this is the analysis. If we need to modernize, and we need to get ready for the next fight that is coming, then we need to start laying a mark on the table."

In addition to evaluating existing Army programs, SPAR will be used to evaluate concepts that the Army doesn't currently have as programs of record but might want to become involved in. One such example is directed energy weapons.

"We would make some assumptions of what it would perform like, what kind of vehicle it would be mounted on, and play it the same way in the model, and see if it makes a significant difference in the outcome of the scenario," Murray said.

Evaluation of Army programs with SPAR is already underway. Should the analysis turn out to be valuable, he expects the Army to repeat the process again each year in time for providing input to the following year's program objective memorandum.

"It's all about finding resources within the budget we've been given to accelerate the critical capabilities for our future warfight, or to go after new programs, new technologies, for that future warfight," Murray said.