When 5th Graders Run the Army
The grade schoolers of today are the company and battalion commanders of tomorrow, and the U.S. Army already is preparing the network they will use. Lt. Gen. Keith Walker, USA, deputy commanding general, futures, and director, Army Capabilities Integration Center, talked about that technology during his luncheon address at TechNet Augusta this afternoon. Soldiers are examining what they will require in 2030 and beyond, decisions that will be important for determining where to invest science and technology dollars.
Gen. Walker said that for 12 years life for soldiers has been simple. They were going either to Iraq or Afghanistan, returning for about a year, then deploying again. In that time, personnel found a way to enable rapid acquisition that worked around traditional systems to send soldiers the resources they needed to succeed in the field. That knowledge will serve the Army as it moves into a situation of reduced resources. The Army’s situation includes a complex environment in which even identifying threats can be difficult. Additionally, conventional and special operations troops are now combined in unprecedented ways. “We can never go back,” Gen. Walker stated.
According to the Army’s official planning guidance, the service has many roles moving forward, ranging from defeat and deter to humanitarian assistance. The general says people are coming to soldiers and saying, “We need you to do everything.” He added, “When you think of it, historically this is what the Army has done for the nation.” To meet challenges, the Army must modernize its technology. “We’re living off our investments [during] the '90s in terms of the network,” Gen. Walker explained. To provide the nation what it needs, the service branch must upgrade. “What we have now is a network that works great if you’re a motorized ground unit in Afghanistan,” he said.
The Army’s Network Capabilities Review aims to adjust the baseline of network requirements. “A network that’s integrated has all got to fit together,” Gen. Walker stated. “We have to reset.” Returning to science and technology, the general said the Army is looking for that area to push critical advancements. “If you get some kind of breakthrough, you can change the nature of the force,” he explained, and there are many imperatives demanding innovation. The Army must move beyond the digital. The future is systems integrated with soldier cellular operations.