Concerns about the effects of the looming loss of almost $500 billion from the U.S. defense budget dominated discussions at TechNet Land Forces–South in Tampa, Florida, in July. As government and industry prepare to focus harder on efficiencies in the face of tighter fiscal constraints, many participants also extolled the need for better communications between the two groups.
Lt. Gen. Bradley A. Heithold, USAF, vice commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), explained the effect of cost measures on special operations forces (SOF). Because of the predicted need for their unique skills, SOF actually will see increased funding. Gen. Heithold played a key role in building the SOCOM budget and took part in mapping the larger defense budget. He told listeners that decision makers made choices carefully and deliberately, weighing cuts against the future defense strategy.
The military will look even more to industry to develop technologies and to help troops find economical ways to field necessary capabilities. The role is not particularly new for the private sector. John A. Wilcox, director of communications systems and chief information officer (CIO) of SOCOM, stated that the military does not lead innovation and turns to the private sector as well as academia for advances.
Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr., ANG, the adjutant general for Florida, spoke about the many dangers inhibiting border security, but stated that “Our biggest threat right now is the budget.” Drug smuggling organizations earn hundreds of billions of dollars each year, which they can use to acquire new resources to destabilize life on land or in the maritime environment. Terrorists often engage in drug running to fund their operations.
Col. David W. McMorries, USMC, the recent Regional Command Southwest C-6/II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) G-6, said that the United States and its allies accustomed to having large budgets can learn from coalition partners who regularly experience monetary shortages. Tighter resources, he added, can lead to better control. Col. McMorries soon will assume command of the Marine Corps Network Operations and Security Center.
The U.S. Army is placing renewed emphasis on efficiencies, conducting thorough cost-benefit analyses before procurements. Michael Krieger, deputy CIO/G-6 of the Army, said soldiers want to collaborate more with companies, urging them to follow procurement rules, use open systems and be good stewards of defense dollars.
Most of the on-stage presentations offered some hopeful notes about how reductions in funding can help forces and those who support them by compelling closer examination of procurement methods. Brig. Gen. Mike Lee, USAF (Ret.), partner, National Security, Blue Canopy Group. LLC, stated that upcoming budget cuts could help alleviate some of the policy problems currently common in defense acquisitions.
Maj. Gen. Dennis Moran, USA (Ret.), vice president of government business development, Harris RF Communications, touted the Army’s Network Integration Evaluations as powerful forms of acquisition reform. He stated that “buying faster, more often” is a good way to avoid becoming locked into a specific technology. He also supports indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts because they serve as a means to allow innovation within an agreement. Gen. Moran stated that the Army must want to change procurements to affect real reform, and it cannot step back from agile acquisitions.
The retired general added that companies must offer their wares worldwide to bring true value to the Army. Customers in the Pacific region and nations such as Brazil are buying technologies to improve security capabilities. “It’s still a pretty vibrant market out there,” he stated.
Another key topic of the event was interagency and coalition operations. Constraints on information sharing, usually a result of policy instead of technology, are a major concern, the experts agreed. The Afghanistan Mission Network and All Partners Access Network both received plaudits for their success in connecting various partners. U.S. Central Command is moving forward with a similar project of its own. Maj. Gen. Karl Horst, USA, chief of staff of the command, said the technology will create an enduring partner network.