The chance to hear how they might be able to work with Army Futures Command drew people from near and far to an Oklahoma business and academia recruiting event hosted by Great Plains Technology Center and the Fires Innovation Science and Technology Accelerator (FISTA) Wednesday.
The main draw was Lt. Col. James Swinney from Army Futures Command’s Initiatives Group in Austin, Texas. A Ph.D., he wrote his doctoral dissertation on transformation of the Army after Vietnam.
Wednesday’s seminar was apparently the first of its kind, but Swinney said the plan is for the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Fourth Region to take this model elsewhere around its four-state area — places like El Paso and Dallas, Texas, and Little Rock, Ark.
Although its eight Cross-Functional Teams (CFTs) are scattered all over the U.S., Army Futures Command (AFC) hasn’t even begun to look beyond the Oklahoma-Texas-Arkansas-Louisiana region. It began here by building on existing relationships, Swinney said.
“What we’re doing is not only spreading the story about AFC but really telling people that we need partners to meet the Army’s modernization goals, especially small- and medium-sized businesses,” Swinney said.
“And then also this is a promotion event for what really is going to be AFC’s open house and AUSA conference in Austin, June 23-25, 2020. We’re going to have a lot of the Army’s modernization stakeholders or small business advocates. The point is really to help demystify working with the Army, provide those access points, provide that information, build those relationships that we really need to modernize the pace of technology,” he said.
Swinney’s message Wednesday was how broad opportunities are to partner with the Army.
“It’s more than just materiel. We’re really talking a holistic modernization of doctrine, concepts and facilities, and that’s all contained in the 2019 Army Modernization Strategy,” which he advised attendees to read up on.
“It’s an open-source document. A quick Google search will get you there. And that really lays out in sort of broad strokes by year the Army’s modernization roadmap. It’s a good resource for anyone wanting to know more about what their Army is doing,” Swinney said.
The seminar proper included overviews presented by representatives from the two CFTs based at Fort Sill. First up was retired Col. Rob Picht, deputy director of the Long-Range Precision Fires CFT, who noted that it was two years ago this month that the CFT’s first meeting occurred at Fort Sill.
“When this team first started there were four of us,” he said. Each CFT is authorized to have 26 people, and each position requires a unique skill set. His team has 23 right now and is working to fill the other three positions.
“What we’re working on is very diverse and robust,” he said.
Picht touched on three lines of effort — the strategic edge with the Strategic Long-Range Cannon team at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., and a role in the Huntsville, Ala., CFT’s work on a Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon; the operational edge with the Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) soon to have its full flight test, and the tactical edge with the Extended-Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) system.
Col. Johnny Brewer, chief of staff for the Integrated Air and Missile Defense CFT, provided the equivalent on its four modernization efforts: Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense, which would pull together various command and control systems into a single battle command system that anyone on the battlefield could see; Maneuver – Short-Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD); Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC), a Patriot-SHORAD capability based for the interim on Israel’s Iron Dome system, and the Lower-Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS), a new radar for the Patriot missile system.
Brewer said he came to this job from the Mississippi National Guard, where his old unit was fielded with the Avenger weapon system mounted on humvees. Unfortunately, the humvees are too slow to keep up with the brigade combat teams they’re supposed to support and they don’t provide much in the way of protection for their crews.
The active Army divested itself of these about 20 years ago and is seeking to restore a new, improved M-SHORAD capability to the active force.
“We went from concept to prototype in two years,” said Brewer, venturing his opinion that it could have taken 8-10 years using previous acquisition methods.
Then Swinney was up with helpful hints on where to look and who to contact. He advised checking out Army Research Labs at arl.army.mil, which will tell you what you can start working on.
Locally, you can get in touch with FISTA by calling James Taylor at 405-595-8430 or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He works in the Economic Development Center at Great Plains Technology Center. For additional help, Swinney advised contacting the Army Applications Lab at aal.army. Beth Scherr in Army Futures Command’s Office of Small Business Programs is another important contact.
“I think some people think that to partner with the Army you’ve got to be big and (have) a lot of start-up capital and it’s focused on the next big piece of equipment. But what I want to stress is it’s more than that,” Swinney said.
“You know, if you look across the Army’s labs, through the Army research lab, the Army research organizations, the Army research office, there’s a whole host of ways that people can get involved, and I think it’s a great opportunity for them business-wise. But also, the Army’s actively seeking them to help our modernization goals,” he said.