The US Army has identified its priorities for equipment to support Afghanistan and future warfare ahead of the ratification of the Army's fiscal year 2014 Equipment Modernisation Plan.
Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence (C4I) systems rank high among the technology identified as a high priority. These include the US1.3 billion Warfighter Information Network-Tactical programme, Family of Networked Tactical Radios, Joint Battle Command-Platform, Distributed Common Ground System-Army, and the Nett Warrior system.
With the survivability of ground troops still a concern as operations wind down in Afghanistan, modern armoured vehicles remain a priority. These include the Ground Combat Vehicle programme, the Armoured Multi-Purpose Vehicle, the Paladin Integrated Management system and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. Helicopters also get a look-in, with a focus on Kiowa Warrior.
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno has laid out three priorities to use as guidelines while hammering out the details of the plan. Despite ever-increasing budgetary cutbacks, supporting the solider and the squad through providing advances in lethality and protection must remain the main focus; next is enabling mission command through a robust communications network, and the third is the US Army's duty to always be prepared to fight and win a major conflict, "because that's what the Army's all about."
However, because of the US budget control act and sequestration, there is no guarantee that any projects recommended in the modernisation plan will receive funding. According to one of the architects of the plan, Brig. Gen. John G. Ferrari, director, joint and futures, Army G-8, any purchase must carefully consider three factors: the strategic environment, a staggered procurement approach and smarter investing.
The strategic environment means that any programmes must support both current operations in Afghanistan and a shift in focus towards the Asia Pacific region. A staggered procurement approach could see more frequent, smaller equipment purchases, timed so that the delivery coincides with old equipment being retired. Finally, the main aim of smarter investing is to reduce spending on developing new technology that is already available in the private sector.
While all these factors will make the Pentagon accountants happy, Ferrari says a soldier focus remains key - after all it is the combatant who will be using the equipment in theatre. User testing by soldiers not only saves money but also ensures it's the right choice for the job.
This article was first published on the Strategic Defence Intelligence website. For more information, please click here.