Army Warfighting Assessment informs rapid capabilities
By Vanessa Flores, U.S. Army
Fort Bliss, TX (November 7, 2016) -- Technology worldwide is advancing at a rapid pace. Similar to upgrades on modern devices, such as smartphones or tablets, the Army must provide Soldiers upgrades to their tactical equipment -- and do it faster than the adversary.
To be adequately postured for the future, Fort Bliss hosted the Army Warfighting Assessment, or AWA, 17.1, the first in a series of Soldier-led assessments on emerging technologies. Introducing Soldiers to capabilities and concepts early on during the developmental process is what makes the AWA different from the Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE. The AWA is derived from the NIE construct, minus the formal testing environment, allowing for materiel developers to explore new ideas.
Concepts and capabilities assessed at the AWA included robotics, electronic warfare, defensive cyberspace operations, expeditionary mission command, counter-unmanned aerial systems, and autonomous vehicle operations. Soldiers executed decisive action training scenarios against an opposing force that attacked in multiple domains, using live cyber, electronic warfare and unmanned aerial systems.
As the AWA was prepping Soldiers for the future force, Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, director of operations for the Army Rapid Capabilities Office, visited to gain insight into the annual event. The Secretary of the Army established the Rapid Capabilities Office this past summer to expedite the fielding of critical technologies in a one to five year time frame, in order to meet urgent and emerging threats.
"What we are using today [and] four years from now is going to be completely different, but our acquisition process takes a little longer than that, so the Rapid Capabilities Office is leveraging existing technologies and emerging technologies," Piatt said. "It's going to take exercises like this Warfighter Assessment to inform us that we are on the right path and that we are going to put the right capabilities in the hands of the Soldiers at the right time."
Piatt said taking lessons learned from the AWA will help inform the Army Rapid Capabilities Office on training and the current state of modernization. He also stressed the urgency to accelerate technologies for the military, since commercial technology can be developed within 30 days or even overnight. Early and prominent Soldier involvement helps the Army move faster at a time when it faces budget constraints, he said.
"We don't have the luxury of time or money, so we have to use our brain power and we have to use our best assets, and that's our Soldiers," Piatt said. "Our Soldiers can think smarter, they are adaptable, and we've got to focus on what we want to do based on the real threats of the environment."
Overall, the AWA included more than 5,000 personnel from the Army, Joint Force and Multinational partners coming together in an effort to develop solutions. The Army's future force development priorities emphasize Joint and Multinational interoperability and integration. To prepare for interoperability, the AWA provides large scale live, virtual, and constructive Joint training for Army units.
In addition to an emphasis on interoperability, industry partners were heavily involved in the AWA in order to gain an understanding of the Army's warfighting challenges and receive Soldier feedback to collaborate on solutions.
"We don't know what the future is going to hold," Piatt said. "We have to fight an enemy, we may not even know who that is yet, with methods that have not even been developed, with means that are not even invented. So how do you get after that in an efficient way? You create a very tough environment. You think, 'This is what our adversaries are capable of doing or will be capable of doing' and we have to create an overmatch and an offset to all those capabilities."