Cold War-era gear won't cut it for the battlefield of the future.
18 Jul, 2018FORTUNE.COM
The U.S. Army is establishing a new “Futures Command” to reassess its entire fighting force and technologies and make improvements to prepare for conflicts that won’t resemble prior wars.
“The tactics, techniques, procedures, and capabilities that we had post-cold war may not take us to 2028 and beyond,” Lt. Gen. Nadja West, U.S. Army Surgeon General explained on Tuesday at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference. “If we want to maintain the edge over our adversaries, we need to make sure that we’ve got the right capabilities.” The futures command will look particularly at modernizing weaponry, fighting vehicles, air support vehicles like helicopters, and communications networks, she said.
“It’s about improving the basics of soldiering,” she explained. “What you need to do is shoot, move, communicate, and be sustained.”
The army has also been growing increasingly concerned about the declining level of health of the country’s young people. With an all-volunteer army, the military is dependent on finding enough physically fit recruits to defend the country, West, the first black Army Surgeon General, said. Today, only about 25% of all young people are fit enough to meet military entrance requirements, she said.
“Most of our youngsters now are very good at doing this,” West said, miming looking down at her phone. “But not so much at doing this,” she said, imitating running in place. Some in the top ranks of the Pentagon have said the biggest threat to national security is the health of young people, according to West. “It’s really surprising,” she said.
That’s led to a change in basic training for new recruits. “In our first entry in basic training we found that we’ve had to be very deliberate in making sure that we don’t get them started too quickly in strenuous activities, just because they’re not used to doing that.”