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Heidi Shyu Relays Long-Range Objectives: Work Smarter to Fill Capability Gaps

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Heidi Shyu conducted a Town Hall last month and told TACOM LCMC associates, "I have a world of respect for what you're doing." (U.S. Army photos by Karen Nemeth.)

The Army's top acquisition executive, Heidi Shyu, told TACOM Life Cycle Management Command (LCMC) associates that the Secretary of the Army's toughest challenge will be balancing priorities and filling capability gaps in an uncertain fiscal environment. She also praised associates doing the research and development that keeps the Army mobile and vehicles survivable.

"I have a world of respect for what you're doing. You're doing such an awesome job," commented Shyu, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASAALT) and Army Acquisition Executive, during an April Town Hall address in the TARDEC Auditorium. "It's so important for us to work together toward the same goals — it's the only way we will be successful. We're all here to support the Soldier. There is no other reason for us to be here."

Shyu made the two-day trip to hold discussions with leaders and hear program status updates from Program Executive Office (PEO) Ground Combat Systems (GCS) and PEO Combat Support and Combat Service Support (CS&CSS). The Town Hall gave her an opportunity to also communicate with TARDEC and address a cross-section of TACOM LCMC associates.

To perform its mission effectively, the Army has to identify potential capability gaps, carefully establish systems engineering priorities in anticipation of constrained budgets, and think more strategically about how to provide enhanced capabilities while harnessing new technology and developing long-range sustainment plans for current and future ground vehicle platforms, she explained. This challenge is forcing everyone in the Department of Defense to reassess program requirements, capabilities and sustainability.

"We're forcing ourselves to think things through differently," Shyu stated. "What's the cost associated with each capability? What are my alternatives? Is that the only solution or is there a lower-cost solution? I'm challenging our folks to think through all that."

Because all acquisition executives' budgets are shrinking, the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are seeking more opportunities to develop technology jointly. "For example, we have our own robotics, the Marines have robotics, and the Air Force and Navy have ideas for robotics. We can develop common platforms and a set of common requirements. After all, the JLTV [Joint Light Tactical Vehicle] program does that. We have to leverage each other more. And that's exactly what we're doing."

Shyu added that the joint service acquisition executives are planning monthly meetings focusing on a particular technology solution each time — starting with the Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) tactics to provide vital information to Soldiers if they're denied GPS satellite capability — and seeking more joint opportunities.

"We have to ask: 'What are the technologies each service is developing and what is DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] working on?' We are sharing that technology across the board when it makes sense. That is the smart thing to do. We're looking at all these things to drive down cost."

Shyu's top priorities in the short term are:

  • Continue to support the current fight in Afghanistan
  • Meet the Afghanistan retrograde deadline (December 2014)
  • Reset vehicles and equipment as they come out of Afghanistan
  • Modernize platforms and aging equipment

Even with the coming strategic shift to the Pacific Region, Shyu acknowledged that the United States has many global interests and allies, and will continue supporting them with superior technology and forces. "The reality is, we are a worldwide Army. We're in more than 160 nations," Shyu emphasized. "Even if we pivot to nations in the Pacific, it doesn't mean we're getting out of the other 159 places. Our mission requires a diverse set of capabilities we must develop and sustain to enable us to clearly be the No. 1 land force in the world."

Shyu stated that the new vehicle programs, such as JLTV and GCV [Ground Combat Vehicle], have taken lessons learned from the most recent operations "to enhance mobility and survivability." Click to enlarge

Shyu reiterated her office's commitment to a 30-year strategy to equip and sustain that dominant force. The approach involves looking at vehicles and aviation — not just as operational assets the Army needs today, but as platforms that have to be sustained and modernized to engage future threats.

"We ought to know as programs evolve, there are usually multiple generations of the program with multiple spirals. Look at the Apache helicopter — we are on Apache version E now. You continue to add more capabilities, as we do with combat vehicles. I know all of you are working very hard to understand the sustainment plan. We need to look into the details to determine the average age of systems and the utilization."

The Army regards greater mobility, lethality and survivability as the guiding principles for its ground forces. The 30-year plan has prompted the PEOs and TARDEC to make investments with long-range vision to enable next-generation capabilities.

"One of the key things I want to do is make sure we focus on a long-term strategic plan that's not just driven by the POM [Program Objective Memorandum] because you only look at one year at a time and sub-optimize your plan based on the budget this year. But what about the POM after that? We need to look at the potential S&T [Science and Technology] to link us into greater capabilities and make smarter decisions. This is why it's so critically important to link these pieces together into an overall cogent strategy moving ahead," Shyu concluded.