Fiscal Year 2022 Army and Marine Corps Ground Systems Modernization Programs
The United States Army and the United States Marine Corps are two of the world’s premier fighting forces, both branches have earned these titles utilizing their ability to adapt to changing environments and defeat any adversary. Challenges presented by Russia and China have called for ground forces to quickly modernize and move away from counter-insurgency operations into a more traditional, integrated force. President Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget allows for historically high spending on research and development to build more lethal forces, but the topline will not support legacy programs. The FY2022 budget creates hard choices for Army and Marine Corps leadership to balance near-term readiness, sustainment of enduring capabilities, and modernization priorities to develop a more lethal force over the near-term.
On Monday, June 7th, 2021, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces held a hearing with testimony from Army and Marine Corps leadership to assess challenges and find a way forward. Witnesses included: Mr. Douglas Bush, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)), Department of the Army; General John M. Murray, USA, Commanding General, Army Futures Command; Mr. Frederick “Jay” Stefany, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition, Department of the Navy; Lieutenant General Eric M. Smith, Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command and Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration, USMC.
A top modernization priority for both the Army and the Marine Corps is long-range precision fires capabilities. The ability to provide effective long-range fires on integrated platforms will allow for maneuverable space necessary for Army and Marine ground elements to take objectives from the enemy on a multitude of contested platforms. This budget request ensures the long-range precision fire plans are overlapping but not duplicative amongst all branches of the armed services. With the Army and Marine Corps going back to more traditional structures, the modernized fires for the Army will focus more long-range to allow for armored units to maneuver. At the same time, the Marine Corps will be a shorter range force to support a fleet similar to World War II.
The Army’s plans for ground forces modernization are ambitious, and a reduced topline brings concerns if the service’s plan is achievable. The proposed Army budget is $173 billion, with ground forces accounting for $34 billion, or twenty percent of the total, allowing Army leaders to allocate additional resources to this budget area when necessary. One of the Army’s top six modernization priorities is the next-generation combat vehicle, a program that has significantly benefited from freeing up resources and program terminations and reductions. Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicles (OMFV) are being developed to replace the M2 Bradley. While the M2 Bradley will be the vehicle for the near term, the funds to upgrade the vehicle will be used to keep the development of OMFV’s on time and effective. For the Army to achieve its priority and deliver a next-generation combat vehicle, it has mirrored innovative processes from industry to develop the OMFVs by designing the digital platforms and capabilities first, then building the physical frame of the vehicle to complement the technology to deliver the best OMFV to the warfighter.
The Marine Corps is also cutting legacy systems to modernize its fleet as described in the Commandant’s Force Design 2030. Marine ground forces are purchasing 613 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs), 92 Amphibious Combat Vehicles, and 8 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) systems. These systems paired with ground-based anti-ship missiles on an integrated network will cause adversaries to spread out information, surveillance reconnaissance networks, and view all areas as a possible avenue of attack. This approach will allow Marines to bring down billions of dollars of enemy vessels with approximately $1.7 million ground-based anti-ship missiles, opening sea lanes in support of distributed maritime operations, and improving the service’s “cost per engagement.”
A long-time acquisition issue is producing and fielding modern equipment from industry to the warfighter. According to Stefany, the military has waited for industry to produce innovative ideas on their own in the past. Unfortunately, this has resulted in products from small and mid-sized companies getting caught up and lost in the process of working with the Department of Defense, often described as the Valley of Death. The military is aware of the issue and is actively trying to get ideas and products across the finish line. The Department of the Navy has developed an integrative naval prototyping program built to field these ideas faster. The Army is also actively improving its effort to work with industry. Bush stressed the importance of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program with the goals of the Army Futures Command. To keep the relationship between the Army and small businesses strong, the command is working to clarify cybersecurity requirements. It is also looking at supply chain risks to ensure the materials and supplies come from trusted sources to ultimately make it easier for small businesses to work with the services.
The National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) is proud to be at the heart of the mission by hosting upcoming events such as the Tactical Wheeled Vehicles June Webinar, JADC2 & All Domain Warfare Symposium, and 2021 Future Force Capabilities Conference and Exhibition with the goal of enhancing the conversation from all areas of the Defense Industrial Base. NDIA’s Legislative Policy team submitted its legislative priorities to lawmakers on Capitol Hill for the upcoming fiscal year, one of these proposals is an extension and permanency for the SBIR program.