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Army Focused on 2020 Despite Dire Budget Environment

by Kris Osborn on October 21, 2013

size0Army leaders said they haven’t lost focus on advancing future technologies for 2020 in spite of the major budget hurdles the service is facing with sequestration and gridlock on Capitol Hill, officials said Monday at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.

“The focus beyond 2020 is where we have to redouble our efforts,” said Gen. Robert Cone, the commanding general for TRADOC.

Cone addressed at crowd at the trade show on the same day that Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said the service’s current portfolio of modernization programs is in serious jeopardy.

McHugh said every modernization program will be affected to include the Ground Combat Vehicle – the service’s top vehicle modernization program. The service’s top civilian said the service must decide whether to delay the program or kill it as leaders figure out what the Army can still afford.

The Army’s modernization strategy aims to remain cognizant of a handful of trends, such as globalization, urbanization and the growth of Asian militaries such as China, said Dr. Kathleen Hicks, director of international security programs, Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“The U.S. will remain the preeminent military power beyond 2020,” she said.

The Army’s top acquisition executive, Heidi Shyu, said Monday that the service will invest in S&T programs as it looks to advance armor systems and active defense systems for vehicles.

“I’m not aware of a particular technological game changer out there right now but we have to be continuously looking for it,” McHugh said.

However, industry executives described the Army’s Joint Multi Role aircraft program as having potential to offer a revolutionary change to the defense industry. Shyu agreed with the possibility, although the JMR isn’t expected to deliver an aircraft for the Army fleet until 2030.

Also, experts maintain that the rapid pace of technological change and the flow of information is a trend that’s likely to continue shaping the global environment.

Rickey Smith, Director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center—Forward, said the Army’s S&T investment strategy is focused on three main areas: human performance, advanced computing and material sciences.

Smith said basic research is a key area of emphasis because it looks to identify technologies or systems which could change the technological landscape 20 or 30 years down the road.

“We’re coming out of Afghanistan and drawing down. In a time of declining resources, thinking is free. Now is the time to go for that next level of innovation and look for some breakthroughs,” said Smith.

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim October 21, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Heck, the Tank Automotive Research, Development, & Engineering Center (TARDEC, not to be confused with TRADOC) is working on a 30 year strategy. I just wish I felt somebody was working on a 30 DAY strategy…


blight_ October 21, 2013 at 9:31 pm


Could the Wright Brothers have predicted the 30-year strategy of pressurized high altitude bombers to carpet bomb cities over a thousand miles? Would it have been relevant to holding off Moro rebels?


@Magnetism86 October 22, 2013 at 12:25 am

Damn, good point.


guest October 22, 2013 at 3:40 pm

a. if i may be a nitpick, a 30-year strategy from 1903 would have led to 1933; no "pressurized high altitude bombers".
b. Aviation platform progress has slowed, as the technology matured and more emphasis is given to avionics, sustainability and C4I integration. long term strategy is possible, if not essential. Damn, platform costs are so high that a 20-year service life would be a waste.


blight_ October 22, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Good point. Academically, Douhet was a decade after the Wright Brothers, and correctly theorized about strategic bombing… or did he?

If invoke Douhet and the WW1 years, 30 years onward his predictions re. airpower would be interesting; but would ignore the difficulty the 8th AAF had in subduing Germany. Even today, we probably cannot quite meet the lofty idea of ending wars solely through bombing. We can certainly do lots of damage, but…


Don Meaker October 22, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Serbia was forced to surrender through merely air. Japan surrendered without invasion of the home islands, though a combination of Fire bombs, nuclear bombs, and Soviet invasion of Manchuria and Saklin islands with the personal intervention of Emperor Hirohito was required.

hibeam October 21, 2013 at 8:11 pm

The solution is simple. We need to form free-loading fools with free phones brigades. That's where we are putting all our money these days.


dr. agreeable October 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Eternal vigilance is the price of victory against the Onslaught of the Predacious Straw Man.


Bernard October 22, 2013 at 8:54 am

2020? Still looks like Cold War thinking to me. When will the Army catch up to 2013?


blight_ October 22, 2013 at 5:27 pm

1980: Bigger tanks!
1990: Bigger tanks, with modern rangefinders!
2010: Bigger tanks, with modern rangefinders, and network capabilities!
2020: Bigger tanks, modern rangefinders, network capabilities…and…well…hrm.


tmb2 October 22, 2013 at 6:06 pm

I still use this example in my grad school papers. In 2006, the QDR specifically stated "this document will not be about tanks, ships, and aircraft" and instead about training for irregular warfare. It then spent 3/4s of the document outlining how we needed to keep buying tanks, ships, and aircraft. All of the irregular warfare stuff was pie in the sky and almost none of it made it into DoD programs.


blight_ October 22, 2013 at 7:18 pm

I should correct my 2020: Lighter tanks, modern rangefinders, network capabilities, higher-all-situations-survivability and V-bottom hulls!


hibeam October 22, 2013 at 9:30 am

The Army does not need to build manned transports. They can use Southwest Airlines to Las Vegas.


Lance October 22, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Id say how about a new Tank? Russia T-95 is being worked on South Korea playing with an new design. The M-1 is a great tank but wont last forever!


tmb2 October 22, 2013 at 4:53 pm

The Air Force built a bomber which has endured for 50 years. The M1 has been around for about 30 and has proven to be damn near indestructable. The only tanks that come close belong to our friends. It might not last forever, but I don't see why it can't last another 20 years.

Besides, your raison d'etre is to complain about a Bradley replacement you say we don't need, but now you're advocating to replace the Abrams?


Don Meaker October 22, 2013 at 5:27 pm

I would suggest a bradley replacement organized around a 2 man mounted crew and the capability to dismount a fire team. Rather than 20, 25, or 30mm pea shooters, I would suggest a tracked vehicle with chassis mounted 120mm mortar/launcher and .50 caliber coax and turrent guns. That could give long range capability with a small vehicle, permitting dispersion against future proliferating nukes, building penetration against urban terrorists.


tmb2 October 22, 2013 at 6:10 pm

We already have a tracked mortar carrier. It's called the M1064. It's basically a modified M113 with an 81mm mortar in the passenger compartment. Recon squadrons have them.

I'm not sure what you mean by "turret guns." I don't know if you've ever seen a 25mm fire, but it's hardly a "pea shooter." Are you suggesting a single vehicle have a massive mortar tube, direct fire cannon, and infantry?


FormerDirtDart October 22, 2013 at 6:58 pm

The M1064 carries a 120mm mortar, not an 81mm.

Hunter76 October 22, 2013 at 8:35 pm

All weapons systems eventually become obsolete. MBTs have some clear problems. They're big and expensive. They're vulnerable to plunging fire. Anti-tank weapons are constantly improving. They're manned. Air -transportability is extremely limited.

Otoh, any serious improvement of the MBT would require a radically new armor system. If such a system comes along, they're not going to remove the old armor– they're going to build a new tank. If that happens, don't expect a 50 yr history for the M1 outside an ordinance museum.


blight_ October 22, 2013 at 10:39 pm

"Before forcefields, tank designers employed passive armor protection such as Chobham and depleted uranium…"


Jeff October 22, 2013 at 9:48 pm

I'm afraid America won't financially make it to 2020 without some very painful cuts to the military budget.

No two ways about it.


LoSul October 23, 2013 at 7:59 am

Thats assuming the US continues with its insistance on entitlement spending. The cuts could easily come from elsewhere, where the ROI on what was cut was zero to being with.


Jeff October 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm

The entitlement spending will be the last one to be cut, I'm afraid. When it comes to vote bank politics, even the military is easily sacrificed.


Hunter76 October 23, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Beware projects with "Joint" in the name.


SJE October 24, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Lets get real: a big part of the problem is that the US military pays too much. The XM29 OICW (combined airburst weapon and rifle), and the XM25 were developed by the US but shelved. Part of the problem is that the XM25 was insanely expensive: the planned cost was 35K for the weapon, and $55 for the round. (Right now the rounds are handmade at about $1000 ea).

Meanwhile, the South Koreans already made their own airburst weapon-rifle combo in 2008 and planned to give one to each squad in 2010. The weapon is est $14000. A total of 4000 are being made for widespread distribution in 2014. The UAE is already doing their own evals.

It might not be as good as the XM29 or 25: I really don't know. But if its decent its better than what most units have: single shot 40mm grenades. Is the US doing its eval, or are we not going to look because its not made in the USA, or because we can still rely on airpower? The ROK doesnt have that sort of luxury, with the crazies on the other side of the DMZ.


blight_ October 24, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I'm curious how they did it. People on this side may argue that "their engineers are cheaper", but generally compensation is decent for skilled trades on a global level, especially in terms of purchasing power parity.

What are the major differences between the K11 and the American OICW? Didn't see a whole lot.


SJE October 24, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I think the existence of millions of DPRK soldiers a few miles away tends to focus the mind. The Israelis are similarly quite innovative, for similar reasons.


blight_ October 24, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Perhaps we should put the South Koreans in charge of all of our procurement. At least it'll get done on time. K11 was apparently deployed to Afghanistan, which is also somewhat of a shocker. I suppose we can have that 25mm vs 20mm discussion…


SJE October 24, 2013 at 9:53 pm

I'd rather be having a 20 v 25mm discussion than asking where are the airburst weapons.

tmb2 October 22, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Japan surrendered after all of their land holdings but the home islands were taken from them in combination with much of the home islands being burned to the ground. Douhet believed ending a war only required enough tonnage of bombs. He didn't even consider the threat of a ground invasion to be needed, which also contributed to Japan and Serbia acquiescing.


tmb2 October 22, 2013 at 7:10 pm

It sure does. Thanks for the correction.


blight_ October 22, 2013 at 7:19 pm

I wonder how aware the Japanese were of Operation Downfall. I suppose they were aware enough to even prepare to defend the islands in a bitter fight in the first place….


Kruno April 2, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Well Serbia was never threathed with ground invasion. They simply crumbled after a couple of months of precision bombing. Imagine what would carpet bombing in a total war style do??


blight_ October 24, 2013 at 11:36 pm

Haven't they deployed limited quantities of the XM25 already? 39 fielded in 2011, 4,000 intended.


SJE October 25, 2013 at 2:24 pm

The South Koreans alreaded fielded theirs in 2010 and have moved ahead to 4000. A few XM25 were fielded in 2011, and the program was cancelled in June 2013 after one of them blew up during a demonstration.


blight_ October 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Well, that sucks.

Any chance we'll buy K11 for American forces?


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