WASHINGTON — The Army secretary has issued a new directive on modernization that sets new boundaries around Army Futures Command and reasserts the role of the service’s acquisition shop.
The directive rescinds the language of previous directives from 2018 and 2020 that establishes Army Futures Command as “leading the modernization enterprise.” It also says the Army’s science and technology arm will fall under the control of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology),or ASAALT, as opposed to under Army Futures Command.
“With the initial establishment of Army Futures Command, the Army issued a number of policy directives to accelerate its development and address AFC’s role in the Army modernization,” Ellen Lovett of Army Public Affairs told Defense News in a statement. “While well-intentioned, this guidance had the unintended consequence of creating ambiguity in long-established acquisition authorities. This administrative change eliminates that ambiguity with clearly defined roles consistent with statute, and will better facilitate collaboration in our modernization and equipping enterprise.”
The directive suggests the service is still working out the kinks following the 2018 formation of Army Futures Command, tasked with leading the service’s major modernization efforts.
Critics have argued the command has had too much control over modernization, including a high level of power over the acquisition enterprise.
ASAALT is responsible for “the overall supervision of Army acquisition matters,” Lovett added. “This responsibility includes the oversight of Army research and development, to include science and technology efforts and associated resourcing decisions.”
According to the May 3 directive, signed by Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, establishing Army Futures Command was an “essential step in accelerating our modernization efforts, helping to drive focus and attention on experimentation, prototyping, concept development, and requirements generation for the Army of the future.”
While previous directives intended “to build momentum, this guidance primarily addressed roles arising early in the equipping lifecycle, when requirements are evolving and experimentation takes place,” she wrote. “It did not adequately account for the shifting roles and functions as requirements move into development as programs of record through production, fielding, and sustainment.”
The previous directives also “created ambiguity regarding the primacy of acquisition authorities vested in the Army Secretariat that preserve civilian oversight and control in acquisition matters,” Wormuth said.
To get capabilities delivered to soldiers, the Army needs input and contributions of a variety of organizations, “not the unitary direction of one Army command,” she said.
Now as modernization programs move through the lifecycle, different Army organizations will assume primary roles, Wormuth noted.
Retired Lt. Gen. Tom Spoehr, now with the Heritage Foundation, told Defense News the directive “returns the Army to the way things were pre-2018 with a few exceptions. Army Futures Command exists but does not share or drive any acquisition efforts.”
“AFC clearly still develops requirements and concepts, but now has a much more limited role in the acquisition of capabilities,” he added.
The directive recertifies Army Futures Command as an enduring command and notes the commanding general of AFC is “responsible for force design and force development, and is the capabilities developer and operational architect for the future Army.”
“AFC assesses and integrates the future operational environment, emerging threats, and technologies to provide warfighters with the concepts and future force designs needed to dominate a future battlefield,” according to the directive.
While ASAALT is responsible for research and development, AFC will be responsible for the operation of the service’s research laboratories and centers, the directive states.
Just before he retired, then-Army Futures Command chief Gen. Mike Murray told Defense News he was comfortable with the relationship between ASAALT and his command, but that it did not come without rocky patches. “There are some people out there that said pieces of ASAALT should be part of AFC,” he said, “I don’t agree with that.
“When you have people looking at things from two different perspectives, I think that tension is good,” Murray said.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.