Army Modernization:

Steps Needed to Ensure Army Futures Command Fully Applies Leading Practices

GAO-19-132: Published: Jan 23, 2019. Publicly Released: Jan 23, 2019.

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To keep its technological edge, the Army has started to modernize its equipment, such as long-range precision weapons and next-generation combat vehicles. It created the Army Futures Command to improve the process.

Historically, the Army has struggled to get new equipment on time and on budget. While the Army is following many of our leading practices, one exception is that it intends to move new technologies into weapons systems before testing in a realistic environment. Moving forward without this testing can delay delivery and increase costs as development continues.

We made recommendations to help the Army realize its modernization goals.

 

An Army missile

An Army missile

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Jon Ludwigson
(202) 512-4841
ludwigsonj@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

Since 2017, when the Army announced its initiative to update its forces and equipment with improved capabilities—known as modernization—it has

prioritized six broad areas of capability needs as shown in the table below;

established and assigned eight cross-functional teams to pilot how to address these needs;

established the Army Futures Command as the focal point for modernization efforts, with a four-star general to oversee it; and

realigned over $1 billion in science and technology funding to support modernization efforts within the $7.5 billion expected to be spent over the next 5 years.

Description of Army's Six Prioritized Capability Needs

Army priority

Description of priority

Long-Range Precision Fires

Capabilities, including munitions that restore Army dominance in range, lethality, and target acquisition.

Next Generation Combat Vehicle

Manned and unmanned combat vehicles with modern firepower, protection, mobility, and power generation.

Future Vertical Lift

Manned and unmanned platforms capable of attack, lift, and reconnaissance missions on modern and future battlefields.

Army Network

A mobile system of hardware, software, and infrastructure that can be used to fight cohesively in any environment where the electromagnetic spectrum is denied or degraded.

Air and Missile Defense

Capabilities that ensure future combat formations are protected from modern and advanced air and missile threats.

Soldier Lethality

Capabilities, equipment, and training for all fundamentals of combat—shooting, moving, communicating, protecting, and sustaining. This includes an expansion of simulated training.

Source: GAO review of Army documentation. I GAO-19-132

To date, the Army has generally applied leading practices identified by GAO to its modernization efforts. For example, the cross-functional team pilots generally applied leading practices for determining requirements and technology development and for establishing effective teams. Similarly, as the Army began the process of establishing the Army Futures Command, it has started to apply the leading practices for mergers and organizational transformations by establishing a clearly defined mission and providing a clear consistent rationale for the command. However, GAO identified other areas where the Army has not fully applied leading practices to its modernization efforts including the following:

Under the modernization effort, the Army plans to begin weapon systems development at a lower level of maturity than what is recommended by leading practices. GAO has raised concerns about this type of practice for almost two decades for other Army acquisitions, because proceeding into weapon systems development at earlier stages of technology maturity raises the risk that the resulting systems could experience cost increases, delivery delays, or failure to deliver desired capabilities. Taking this approach for acquisitions under the modernization effort raises similar concerns for the Army's six prioritized capability needs.

The Army has not developed a plan for capturing the lessons learned from the cross-functional team pilots, and therefore may miss an opportunity to leverage the experience of these teams in applying leading practices.

Why GAO Did This Study

In order for the Army to maintain its technological edge over potential adversaries, it plans to invest in near- and long-term modernization efforts. However, the Army has struggled with modernization initiatives in the past. For example, the Future Combat System was canceled after a cost of $21 billion and delivery of few new capabilities.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 included a provision for GAO to report on the Army's modernization strategy. This report assesses (1) the status of the Army's near- and long-term modernization efforts; and (2) the extent to which the Army has applied leading practices to these efforts. GAO reviewed Army directives, procedures, and policies; and compared the Army's efforts with leading practices for requirements and technology development, effective cross-functional teams, and mergers and organizational transformations.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making four recommendations, including that the Army follow leading practices for maturing technologies to a higher level than currently planned and develop a plan to capture lessons learned from the cross-functional teams. DOD concurred with all the recommendations.

For more information, contact Jon Ludwigson at (202) 512-4841 or ludwigsonj@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Army concurred with this recommendation. Army officials acknowledged the importance of demonstrating technology in an operation environment prior to starting system development and stated that they have taken steps to assist in the identification and removal of infeasible or immature technologies. For example, development of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System includes a series of user engagements where soldiers interact with the system in a field environment and provide feedback to guide development and design. To fully implement this recommendation the Army will need to demonstrate that all of the technologies it is developing are matured in accordance with leading practices. Including soldier engagement in the development of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System is a positive step in that it uses operational experience to determine the utility of technologies on the battlefield. However, demonstrating that those technologies function as expected in an operational environment is equally important. Our past work has shown that demonstrations in an operational environment reduce the risk that technologies will not operate as intended or desired. It is important that the Army continue and expand its efforts to eliminate infeasible, or immature technologies across all of its development programs.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should ensure that the Commanding General of Army Futures Command applies leading practices as they relate to technology development, particularly that of demonstrating technology in an operational environment prior to starting system development. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: The Army concurred with this recommendation. According to Army officials, cross-functional teams routinely meet to discuss both successes and challenges. Additionally, senior Army leadership hosts weekly meetings with cross-functional teams to discuss decision points and concerns. Army Futures Command plans to include leadership from all cross-functional teams at future meetings to enhance knowledge sharing and ensure leadership viewpoints are communicated across the enterprise. These actions do incorporate elements of leading practices for cross-functional teams such as open and regular communication and senior management support. To fully implement this recommendation the Army should continue and expand this knowledge sharing as planned as well as ensure other elements of leading practices for effective cross-functional teams are implemented. These include the establishment of well-defined team operations with project-specific rules and procedures as well as appropriate training and learning environments for all cross-functional team members.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should ensure that the Commanding General of Army Futures Command takes steps to incorporate the experiences of the cross-functional teams in applying leading practices for effective cross-functional teams. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: The Army concurred with this recommendation. According to Army officials an analyst from the Center for Army Lessons Learned has embedded a permanent analyst at Army Futures Command who is capturing lessons learned and best practices from across the cross-functional teams. The results of this analysis are provided across Army Futures Command and to other stakeholders. Additionally, Army Futures Command has established the Directorate of Systems Integration to act as a repository and action office for lessons learned. This office hosts recurring coordination events to further the communication of lessons learned .

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should ensure that the Commanding General of Army Futures Command executes a process for identifying and incorporating lessons learned from cross-functional team pilots into the new command. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: The Army concurred with this recommendation. According to Army officials Army Futures Command is applying leading practices for mergers and organizational transformations as it continues to establish the command. These practices include total employee involvement in the transformation process with senior leadership championing the overarching transformation. In addition, the command has worked to identify processes that need improvement as it incorporates the organizations transferred from other commands. It also continues to evolve its staff and functions as needs are identified. According to officials, Army Futures Command continues to select high-performing team members to guide its transformation through selective recruitment and talent management as well as augmenting its growing staff with other Army personnel selected for temporary assignments. The command is also involving employees to obtain their ideas and gain their ownership for the transformation by encouraging them to share their thoughts and ideas. Importantly, according to officials, the command recognizes the need to have an enduring change model to consistently reassess and reorganize the command to consistently deliver products in relevant timeframes. These actions do demonstrate elements of leading practices for mergers and organizational transformations. However, to fully implement this recommendation, Army Futures Command should formalize and institutionalize its authorities, responsibilities, policies and procedures as they relate to these leading practices, especially as leadership within the command and the Army change.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should ensure that the Commanding General of Army Futures Command fully applies leading practices for mergers and organizational transformations as roles, responsibilities, policies and procedures are finalized for the new command. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

 

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