Army wants bullets to hit from miles away and its new acquisition office will help

The Army’s biggest acquisition modernization since the Vietnam era will begin setting up this March.

The Army’s Futures Command, which was announced last fall, is supposed to involve soldiers in the acquisition process from beginning to end.

In doing that, the Army is focusing its sights for 2018 on long range precision small arms, next generation vehicles, vertical lift and communications upgrades.

“Our Army here today and our military emphasizes, accentuates and uses precision fires to a great extent. We in the Army have a major part in that. We already have relatively good long range fires. But I’m not talking about the ranges that currently exist today. I’m talking about a 10 times capability for ground forces to really reach out and touch not with missiles, but with bullets,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said Jan. 17 during an Association of the United States Army event in Arlington, Virginia.

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Milley said the long range precision fires are the number one priority for the Army. The 10 times capability refers to rifles that have greater range, accuracy and lethality.

While firearms are on the top of the Army’s list, they are not the only investments the service wants to make.

Milley said the Army wants to continue investing in soldier lethality by developing exoskeletons — think the Iron Man suit — and synthetic training.

Communication is another big part of the Army’s future investment portfolio.

“The reality is the command, control, communications systems we have are very, very capable and they are good to deal with a certain type of war and a certain type of environment. But it is my assessment and it remains my assessment that there is a massive amount of improvement that is radically and quickly needed in order to have a command, control, communication system that is effective against a competitor that has high end capabilities in electronic warfare, cyber and so on,” Milley said.

The Army seems to be turning its sights away from competing with low end competitors like terrorists and more toward “near-peer adversaries” like China and Russia.

To prepare for the change in strategy, the service is completely reorganizing its acquisition and modernization structure.

The Army has too many organizations that own some small piece of the Defense Department’s famously complex acquisition process, making all of the procedures that happen between the time a need is identified and the point at which the service buys a solution more complicated than necessary, and more to the point, too slow.

The Army also feels previous efforts have asked for feedback from end users far too late in the acquisition process, prompting changes that are difficult and expensive to make once a system has progressed too far into its development lifecycle.

“With a few exceptions, what we have is essentially a linear process — going from an idea, writing up a big requirements document and then vetting it through multiple steps — it takes years, and it’s just not going to be effective going into the future,” Milley said last fall. “So we’re going to re-engineer the corporation.”

Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, the director of the Office of Business Transformation, is heading a task force to look at the current Army modernization bureaucracy and will return with final recommendations on how to structure the new modernization command sometime in the near future.

At the end of the process, the Army wants to have all of the organizations that currently have a hand in developing and fielding new capabilities under “one roof,” Ryan McCarthy, then-acting secretary of the Army, said last fall.

“We want to enable rapid prototyping, accept failure early, insert the end-user early in the process and keep them engaged throughout,” he said.