Army experimentation: key to the future force
FORT MONROE, Va. (TRADOC News Service, June 24, 2005) – “Experimentation” may evoke images of mad scientists in white labcoats hunched over bubbling beakers, but it’s critical to Transforming the Army.
Gen. Kevin P. Byrnes, Training and Doctrine Command’s commander, outlined Army experimentation as a major program that must be in operation to ensure Transformation. “A rigorous experimentation program allows us to take the good ideas and the first pieces of the Future Combat System, put them in the hands of our Soldiers and let them push (the equipment) to failure,” Byrnes said. “(By doing this, they can) tell us what works, what doesn’t work and let us redesign it, then put it back out.
“The continuous spiral of the experimentation will get us better,” he explained. “So that when we develop the future force, (it has) been ‘Soldier-certified’ so we have what we believe is the right Soldier, the right organization, the right training, the right leader development and the right equipment in the hands of the world’s best Soldier.”
Since TRADOC’s commanding general is the Army’s architect of the future, TRADOC is a key player in Army experimentation – which is not at all of the bubbling-beaker-watching variety. Byrnes’ executive agent for building the future force is the Futures Center director, who designs, develops and integrates – from concept to capability and development – all aspects of that force.
Within the Futures Center, the task of synchronizing experimentation efforts across the Army, and especially within TRADOC, belongs to the Joint and Army Experimentation Division.
“We get from idea to reality through experimentation – that is, experimentation allows concept and capability developers in the Army to ‘test’ new capabilities before making huge program investments or placing those capabilities in the hands of Soldiers,” said Col. Arnold N.G. Bray, JAED’s director since August 2003. “Experimentation mitigates risk for the nation, and it’s a key enabler for developing the future force.”
With hundreds of development-related activities occurring across TRADOC centers, schools and battle labs, as well as in other Army agencies such as Research, Development and Experimentation Command and Army Test and Evaluation Command, the task of synchronizing and integrating experimentation is an important one.
“It would be impossible without communication – we use two or three planning workshops a year, in addition to biweekly videoteleconferences, to plan, direct and monitor experimentation efforts across the Army,” Bray said. “In fact, we just hosted the Army Concept Development and Experimentation Plan Planning Workshop.”
The three-day conference which Bray chaired – held May 23-25 in Suffolk, Va., and hosted by the Futures Center – brought together key innovators from the experimentation “community of practice,” which includes TRADOC schools and centers; TRADOC’s battle labs; “sister services” Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps; Army agencies such as RDECOM and ATEC; U.S. Joint Forces Command; and industry, academic and multinational partners.
The conference’s purpose was to assess organization objectives for the rest of Fiscal Year 2005, set priorities for the next FY and continue work on the ACDEP for FY07 out to FY17, according to Bray.
JAED’s director said he was able to see the benefits of the Army’s experimentation program in combat. “Having left combat 18 months ago, I look back to the fact that I only pulled out a map on two occasions because I had Blue Force Tracker,” said Bray, former commander of 2nd Brigade (Falcon Brigade), 82nd Airborne Division, in Iraq. “Blue Force Tracker is a direct outcrop of the early advanced warfighting experiments that are part of FCS’ future combat command-and-control system.”
Blue Force Tracker provides a means to track friendly-force movements, see updated information about the adversary and look at digital maps linked via satellite that cover the area of operation and area of influence, according to Bray.
“We can use updated maps, scan out, scan in and see real ground in moving a brigade-size force,” Bray said. “I was very comfortable in using that, so much so that I got rid of the analog liferafts: that paperwork you pull out to manage the fight.”
The Army is now taking the BFT capability, which required a platform, and is putting it into Soldiers’ hands via personal-digital-assistant-sized navigational aides.
Building on BFT’s success, Bray said JAED is trying to find ways to reduce risks to U.S. Soldiers in their day-to-day operations.
“That means giving them the best equipment and the capabilities to do things better – even if it isn’t a technology fix such as a doctrinal or organizational solution,” Bray said. “If my son should ever go to war, he will do so being part of the best equipped, best trained and best prepared army in the world, as we are today, tomorrow.”
(Editor’s note: This article and accompanying fact sheet is based on the TRADOC Public Affairs Office’s Web special on TRADOC’s “leadership of futures,” http://www.tradoc.army.mil/pao/Web_specials/Leadership_of_Futures/index.htm, and an article by TRADOC News Service’s Hugh C. Laughlin, with further work by Glenn E. Gutting, a Joint experimentation analyst with the Center for Army Lessons Learned, Joint and Army Experimentation Division, TRADOC Futures Center, Fort Monroe, Va.)