The site War on the Rocks recent published a thoughtful piece from by Benjamin Jensen (a faculty member of the Marine Corps University and American University) and Neil Hollenbeck (an Army infantry officer and Fellow with the Army Futures Studies Group).
The two discuss the Army’s announced plan to create a modernization command. They cite three steps as being critical to this effort.
Step 1: Unify the Army’s Modernization Enterprise Under a New Futures Command
The authors point out that the Army’s modernization enterprise is presently split across several commands and offices without a common, empowered commander. They recommend that the Army establish a unified command with the authority to “articulate a single, coherent strategy driving modernization.”
Step 2: Change the Operating Model to Enable a Culture of Experimentation
The Army needs a culture in which “failing early and often” is encouraged, in order to find interrelated problems and potential pitfalls with new solutions that can only be revealed through experimentation. Specifically, the authors suggest that the Army should develop new materiel systems to the point of a working protoype before making final decisions as to whether to pursue them.
Step 3: Developing Concepts and Technology Together.
For decades, the Army’s approach has been to assume that conceptual notions of capability development should drive technology, rather than the Army developing new technologies and then deciding how to fight with them. Instead, they suggest an approach closer to Britain’s experiments with tanks and America’s experiments with aircraft carriers between the world wars — in each case, experimentation with technology informed conceptual development, which in turn drove the next iteration of technological development.
The two offer their vision of what could be achieved if the Army is successful in implementing a unified modernization strategy::
Success is an Army that, in any area of competitive innovation, can reliably turn inside of any adversary. That is, if militaries around the world experience a near-simultaneous (e.g., within the same one to three years) recognition of an important development in technology or the strategic environment, the U.S. military’s response should almost always be the fastest and most appropriate.
Any way we accomplish it, the ability to deliver better solutions to America’s soldiers faster will be a source of advantage. But so will be the ability to turn resource inputs into military capability with greater efficiency than our adversaries. No warfighting solution, whether delivered in war or during preparation for it, is resource-unconstrained. To the extent that efficiency means more capability faster, efficiency is a kind of effectiveness in its own right.
Editor’s note: You may also be interested in learning about the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental, an Department of Defense office which seeks to accelerate the acquisition of new technologies in order to solve national defense problems.
featured image originally from U.S. Army