I recently attended the Ground Vehicle Systems Engineering & Technology Symposium & Advanced Planning Briefing for Industry (GVSETS; check it out here.)
Wow, what a show. This was without a doubt the preeminent event of its kind for the U.S. Army. Three days jam-packed with speeches, presentations and panels. Panelists and presenters were from industry and the Army and were of the highest order. With a keynote by the Honorable Ms. Heidi Shyu, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition (whom I had the pleasure to meet many years ago), I knew this would be an important learning experience. I wasn’t disappointed. I came away with a clear understanding of what our Army faces and what we in the industry that supports the Army must do to keep our forces strong.
The first takeaway is that the Army is struggling with the crush of an ever-more uncertain world and a significant loss of funding (the 2015 level is only 22% of the 2008 funding level). The result has been the total realignment of our ground forces along these lines (priority order):
Downsize: The Army has already divested over 27,000 vehicles
Reset / sustain: Improve near-term readiness
Incremental modernization: for Abrams, Bradley, Stryker
New systems: JLTV and AMPV only
Science & tech focus: “Vehicle Platform Excursions”
Phase 1: SWaP-C reduction
Phase 2: Maturing technologies
Phase 3: Concept studies (FY’19 and beyond) to develop requirements
So, as you can see, the big programs that we think of as the drivers for companies like GE to develop future technology products simply don’t exist (and are not projected to exist for at least the next 10 years).
“Doing more with less” is the watch word.
The result will be a transformed Army; a smaller, lighter, more mobile force capable of rapid deployment anywhere in the world. As Major General Hix (Deputy Director, Army Capabilities Integration) puts it: “Prevail in a complex world; Engage regionally, respond globally, develop situational understanding.” Paraphrasing Dr. Paul Rogers (Director of TARDEC); Army 2025 will be smaller, lighter, faster and more expeditionary, relying mostly on existing assets that are lighter in weight and more agile with layered protection and autonomy enablers like 360 degree situational awareness and driver assistance.
What does this mean to Industry?
Here at GE, these changes come as no surprise. While funding reductions limit our revenue potential, the clear focus on SWaP (Size, Weight and Power) with increased situational understanding fall right into our bailiwick. We have, for many years, worked diligently on producing products that do more with less; greater processing power, using less electrical power (look at our ADEPT3100 automatic video tracker, and watch for our Tegra K1 product), and smaller packaged systems such as the CRS-D5i COTS Rugged System and MAGIC1 rugged display computer). Along with these innovative products, we are reaching out with new solutions (ImageFlex is a key software package for improved situational awareness for helicopter pilotage, AXIS software enables the complex multi-core processing needed for performing analytics on complex data sets leading to improved situational understanding). By investing strategically - in those things that matter most to our Army customer - we ensure future relevance and growth. As a “BD guy” I get excited anytime a real need is exposed - but seeing a path to supplying that need is where the real excitement lies.
The Army has spoken and GE is on board to help the Army face the challenges ahead. As a GE employee it makes me proud. And as an American, it makes me feel secure.