World-Class Technology, According to Plan
Information-gathering drones swarm the air as unmanned Army vehicles push just ahead of infantry Soldiers into a mega-city overflowing with people, vehicles and high rises. Army cyber warriors fight a silent battle for the city’s internet of things while an unmanned warship shoots down an aircraft, which explodes in the air, creating a massive fireball and a barrage of fragments that plummet to the ground. Meanwhile, the first artillery crew to the battle is trading targeting and friendly forces information with Air Force bombers and Navy gunners.
The technologies in this future multi-domain battle scenario may seem far-reaching, but the Army’s primary science and technology arm, the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), is developing many of them now. As the link to Army readiness today and for the future force, RDECOM is overhauling how it does the business of science and technology (S&T) to posture itself to make a reality of The Secretary of the Army ((A) SecArmy))Ryan McCarthy’s and Army Chief of Staff (CSA) Gen. Mark Milley’s six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, Future Vertical Lift (FVL), Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV), air and missile defense, the network and Soldier lethality.
“The range of threats the nation faces has prompted the CSA to mandate a change to the way the Army modernizes its forces,” RDECOM Commanding General Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins said. “That means RDECOM will have to change the way we do business to support a new focus. Our Campaign Plan is the roadmap to do that.”
The goal of the plan’s four Lines of Effort (LOEs) is to focus the 24,000-strong command more tightly on the capabilities the (A) SecArmy and CSA have made their top priorities while maintaining the balance it needs to make the new discoveries and develop the new technologies that will become the capabilities the future force needs to maintain dominance.
The four LOEs reach into every corner of the organization because it takes a global science and technology ecosystem to turn the state-of- the-art into capabilities the Army needs. The LOEs are: integrated technology development and engineering services; talent management and infrastructure; business process and resource optimization; and strategic communications.
Leveraging the Campaign Plan, RDECOM – a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command – is optimizing its resources and collaborating across the Army community and with industry, academia and international partners to inform science and technology requirements and execute research and technology that will deliver required capabilities for Soldiers. RDECOM also works closely with its fellow Army S&T partners, Space and Mission Defense Command, Medical Research and Materiel Command and Engineer Research and Development Center to round out its portfolio. By sharing information and synchronizing efforts the larger S&T community integrates across key echelons to define and solidify capabilities achievable in part through technology.
RDECOM Commander Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins dons advanced holographic glasses — the Hololens from Microsoft. Researchers use the glasses to virtually explore simulations and gain new understanding of how blast injuries affect Soldiers. (Photo credit: Conrad Johnson)
The integrated technology development and engineering services LOE is intended to focus the command on identifying and inserting the right research and technology to fill gaps in current and future capabilities, as well as synchronizing RDECOM’s major S&T efforts to align with the CSA’s six modernization priorities. A number of RDECOM’s efforts that currently link directly to the Army’s priorities include robotics, artificial intelligence and autonomy. These technologies will enable the NGCV and FVL to perform both manned and unmanned operations, which will be required for the joint force in future air and ground domains. Other technologies RDECOM continues to develop are technologies that provide assured position, navigation and timing and cyber and electronic warfare, which are critical components for both long range precision fires and the network.
Integration across its six Research, Development and Engineering Centers (RDECs) and Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is an important component of this LOE. It involves significant collaboration among a variety of stakeholders in the development of programs and the critical sequencing of this work as described in technology roadmaps that define the future work, deliverables and transitions. Continuous collaboration will be even more critical in the future as the materiel being developed and fielded crosses more of the traditional RDEC domains.
For example, plans for the FVL will leverage multiple areas of expertise within RDECOM that include engineers who can produce technology that allows platforms to perform complex navigation and communication system that will operate in anti-access and aerial denial environments. Because of anticipated future threats, FVL platforms will also need active protection system for maneuver and enhanced weapon systems for lethality. As stand-alone efforts, these systems are impressive, but maintaining the dominance the Army needs requires a fully integrated suite of capabilities that allow the Soldier to focus on the mission, not switching back and forth between technologies.
“Integration is one of RDECOM’s charter missions for a reason,” Wins said. “Recent modernization efforts focused on adding new capabilities to existing platforms. That allows Soldiers to regain loss capabilities, but not being fully integrated imposes a cognitive load on the Soldier. Multi-domain battle will only add to that. We need to take a cue from industry. They’re proving every day that when you integrate technologies – in their case the phone, the tablet, the computer, the TV, the cloud, etc. – you give the end user capabilities beyond what each technology can offer. We need to do that for our Soldiers.”
Many of those technologies highlight the need for a robust, resilient, protected network.
“Among the top three technologies RDECOM is focused on include sensors and electromagnetic technologies that will enable robust network, long-range precision fires and an integrated air and missile defense system; technologies that will enhance the capabilities of the NGCV and FVL such as active protection systems, aircraft survivability and robotics; and technologies that will enhance the lethality of our Soldiers’ combat vehicles, missiles and artillery,” Col. James Dzwonchyk, RDECOM programs and engineering director said.
RDECOM plans to conduct technology demonstrations in 2018 that showcase robotics and autonomy, as well as efforts involving precision fires and network C3I. Also, planned for FY18 is the Cyber Center of Excellence Cyberspace Battle Lab’s annual Cyber Quest, which will demonstrate cyberspace electromagnetic effects technologies being developed by Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center. Exercises in the Pacific theater will allow the new Multi-Domain Battle Task Force to evaluate specific technologies.
While the goal of these demonstrations is often an early assessment of how to apply the technology for military use, RDECOM works closely with the Training and Doctrine Command’s Army Capabilities Integration Center (TRADOC ARCIC) to inform the requirements. TRADOC uses a “campaign of learning” approach to determine the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, facilities and policy implications of the capability. As technologies mature and transition into a program of record, the program manager uses the data collected from the demonstrations to chart a less risky path for fielding the equipment and thereby providing capability to the Warfighter.
A Stryker vehicle commander interacts in real time with a Soldier avatar that is participating remotely from a collective trainer. The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies, Combined Arms Center-Training and Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation are developing the Synthetic Training Environment, which will link augmented reality with live training. (Photo credit: U.S. Army)
The human capital team within the Talent Management and Infrastructure LOE is responsible for maintaining the right mix within RDECOM’s global workforce of almost 24,000 civilians, military personnel and contractors, with nearly 10,000 scientists and engineers. The human capital team is ramping up its efforts to attract and hire the next generation of technology leaders by visiting colleges and universities and holding conferences to recruit students who may be interested in careers in science or engineering.
“Recruiting is an on-going effort within RDECOM because scientific breakthroughs create new opportunities to advance the state of the art, which means having scientists and engineers at the forefront of their fields is essential to ensuring U.S. capabilities remain ahead of any potential adversary,” Wins said. “RDECOM also teams with academia and industry, but having the right people within the command is key to bringing new capabilities to the force.”
To reach the right mix of people, the human capital team created a centralized process to determine which recruiting events the command should attend, as well as metrics for measuring the return on investment from those events. The team also initiated a speaker series aimed at keeping employees current in their fields, engaged and motivated, which will help in employee retention.
“Many people outside of RDECOM don’t realize we have six RDECS and ARL, and sometimes it’s confusing when multiple groups exhibit at the same event. If it is a recruiting event for students, we match them with the correct RDEC, according to their area of study,” Deborah Dawson, RDECOM human resources director said. “We often need to explain to students that they do not have to join the Army and be a Soldier to work for RDECOM.”
RDECOM leaders found that the different perspectives inherent in having a more diverse workforce helps teams avoid group-think and becoming stale. The command has mapped out visits to a number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and minority institutions where Wins discussed career opportunities with students and partnership opportunities with the universities. The human capital team will also lead recruitment and outreach efforts at the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference, the Society of Women Engineers and the Becoming Everything You Are conference.
As part of its recruitment effort, RDECOM offers incentives, such as funding to pursue research opportunities, leadership development, educational and publication opportunities, as well as the opportunity to work in state-of-the-art labs around the world. These labs are integral and vital to RDECOM since they are often where new ideas turn into next-generation technologies.
Having the right facilities for new technological undertakings is also important to success.
“The right number and mix of buildings is a moving target. When a new initiative develops, such as the Soldier and Squad Performance Research Institute, my team works to ensure we have adequate space,” Carl Boquist, RDECOM facilities, logistics and environmental director said.
RDECOM is looking to build the Soldier and Squad Performance Research Institute facility, which will consolidate five laboratories into one and provide direct readiness to Soldiers with projects that improve their cognitive, physiological, physical and nutritional performance. The lab will be part of the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts and build on research already completed.
Computer scientists at the Army Research Laboratory’s DOD Supercomputing Resource Center use high performance computing to increase mission effectiveness through test and experimentation savings and discovering lethality and protection solutions through technology. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)
Operationalizing the command and delivering technology quickly, which Wins calls “speed of delivery,” requires close collaboration and planning between the command and its research and development centers and labs because the command has personnel in more than 100 locations, in 11 countries and across five continents. By standardizing the command’s financial processes, the Business Process and Resource Optimization team is improving processes and identifying more efficient ways to conduct business.
“When we get an urgent request for information or work to be done, we want to be able to move quickly,” Wins said. “One key to doing that is having visibility on what everyone across the command is doing and standardizing business processes so we can move at the speed of the technology, not the speed of the bureaucracy.”
To maintain consistency and transparency across the command, the Business Process and Resource Optimization team issued specific guidance to the RDECs and ARL before the FY18 budgets were developed. Once the budgets were finalized, they were added into an internal RDECOM system, the Financial Integrated Reporting Environment (FIRE). One of the benefits of loading detailed budget information into FIRE is that it is automatically fed to the government financial accounting system so it can be extracted easily if a customer needs more detail or supporting information. The final step before the budgets were sent for approval was a robust review process.
“With all of the changes that the team has added, we have a more transparent system that will allow us to troubleshoot financial challenges that arise,” Paul Dunaway, RDECOM resource management director said. “We are also looking at reimbursable activity across the command and making sure it aligns with Army priorities.”
Communication is important to RDECOM, which is not only large but which also relies extensively on collaboration and partnerships to bring the best technology to Soldiers.
“Our science and technology doesn’t do the Soldier any good if nobody knows about it,” Wins said. “Strategic communications helps us develop the ecosystem we need to remain at the forefront of the many areas we work in, both internally and externally. It helps us tell Soldiers and battlefield commanders what we can do for them.”
It is a command goal to increase outreach efforts by attending more S&T and recruiting conferences, exercises and technology demonstrations to demonstrate RDECOM’s latest technologies and receive feedback from its stakeholders. These events offer opportunities to collaborate with industry and demonstrate how innovative technologies and experimental prototypes can transition to program executive offices and program managers for further development and fielding.
By collaborating across the command and working with academic and industry partners, RDECOM maintains a steady stream of world-class technology, which is necessary for Soldiers to fight and win. Going forward, these technologies will not only fill current and emerging capability gaps, but they will also mirror the (A) SecArmy’s and CSA’s modernization priorities and enable RDECOM to continue developing and delivering capabilities that empower, unburden and protect the Warfighter.
“We will use our Campaign Plan as a guideline while we determine which technologies to focus on and how fast we can make them available for Soldiers. Speed of delivery is key to our mission,” Wins said.