2017-08-11 / News Update

Successfully planning for installations of the future

BY DENNIS K. BOHANNON
Director of Strategic Communication

CRYSTAL CITY, Va. — The Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, J. Randall Robinson, spoke to the Army Engineer Association about installations of the future and successfully planning for them, saying the outcome is paramount to the warfighting readiness posture of our Army.

He made the remarks during AEA’s Engineer Regimental Information and Training Seminar in Crystal City Aug. 3. The audience included industry executives from a broad spectrum of engineering and energy service firms affiliated with the AEA that support military installations, combat engineering, geospatial engineering and a wide variety of other specialties.

Robinson told the group that installations are a crucial component of Army readiness, noting that each installation has a unique ecosystem - an integrated system of activities aimed at one outcome – a ready Army.

He said installations exist to produce, deploy, and project combat power. They support the Chief Staff of the Army’s priority of ensuring facilities that enable the speed of assembly and deployment. He said this makes planning for installations of the future crucial for future generations of Soldiers, civilians and families.

“I have been advocating for installations through different roles over many years now. I’ve seen periods of austerity and prosperity, an uncontrollable pattern that will likely continue. I believe we need a different, more deliberative approach for Army installations. Specifically, we need to stretch our planning horizon and look out to the deep future and set conditions today that will weather the budget elasticities to come. The Army must undertake a deliberative process to consider what installations should do and how to smartly invest in changes today…..for needs or requirements in the future,” Robinson said.

He notes this process is similar to cities around the world that are deliberately planning for their own future, “They are studying demographics, politics, economic patterns, and emerging technologies to design attractive and resilient cities for their citizens. The Army must adopt such a deliberate approach while remaining cognizant of the Army’s purpose and future, the warrior ethos, and culture.”

What is the future, he asks. “We should not be asking what installations should look like. But, what do we want our installations to do?”

“While Army installation communities play a key role in attracting, training, and retaining the force, we have not developed a comprehensive means to plan for installation modernization. We must address this gap.

“In accordance with priorities, the Army has taken risk in installations to fund training and unit readiness; thus, resourcing installations has not been at the forefront of the Army’s focused investment strategy. Looking forward, we plan to resource our Base Operation Support services at 94.5 percent of critical need.

“The funding situation in fiscal year 2018 is a marked improvement over prior years. We are able to fund significant inroads in key readiness areas including improving barracks, enhancing our munitions organic industrial base and storage, and increasing our investment in Test Infrastructure. Additional restoration and modernization funding in fiscal year 2018 to support increased end strength will help mitigate facilities maintenance risk. Congressional marks have been very supportive of our operations and maintenance, and military construction budgets in fiscal year 2018, even recommending funding and projects beyond our budget request.”

Robinson pointed out that currently 22 percent of Army facilities are in poor or failing condition, “We have been behind in restoration and modernization as well as military construction recapitalization. Our goal is to invest using a deliberate strategy that maximizes installation support of readiness.”

“We need a deliberative strategy that maximizes the positive impact that available resources have on readiness. We are instituting a number of analyses and assessments, to prioritize and identify specific facilities, on selected installations that have the greatest impact on unit readiness – mobilization facilities, housing and community facilities, operations and training facilities, maintenance and production facilities. … Note, I’ve make multiple references to readiness. It’s all about warfighting readiness.”

“Additionally, we are examining whether new, more flexible building designs can be used to reduce total life-cycle costs and to preclude additional, expensive modifications. When the Army designs for flexibility, such as multi-purpose buildings that can be converted and repurposed with changing requirements, we lower future restoration and modernization costs.

“The installation community is also examining whether we need to make more radical changes to how we characterize and make resource investment decisions for our installations. The Army is exploring a ‘futures’ process modeled on institutional methods that leverages the Training and Doctrine Command’s (TRADOC), future ‘operating environment,’ as well as activities being used by cities and urban designers to adapt to an evolving environment. TRADOC is a tremendous partner in this endeavor. Army doctrine is fundamentally one of maneuver; across five domains. If the enemy can constrain this maneuver, starting on our installations, it undermines our ability to perform our mission.”

Maneuver begins on our installations. Well-planned and rehearsed maneuver gives us superiority. Be assured, installations are part of and key to the readiness equation.

Just as the Army has an established process to examine the future operating environment and the weapons, formations, and training we need to prevail in that environment, we need a similar process for our installations – one that is integrated in the Army’s established process and strategic plan. This is critical, especially as our installations are included in the “battlespace” of current and future fights.

With an established process, the Army will have a framework to look through three lenses:

• Army is looking at a new battlefield framework that’s centered on a multi-domain battlefield. Installations, initial maneuver and battle platforms are considered part of the strategic support area. A key component to warfighting readiness.

• Threats are ever-evolving. Operational environment trends, cyber and insider threats, UAVs/drones, energy shutdowns, social media hacks/ leaks, physically disrupted pre-deployment/deployment, C4ISR operations, Russian New Generation Warfare implications are some examples that pose emerging threats to Soldiers, installations, units and missions.

• There will be opportunities born of technology. Artificial intelligence, big data, internet of things, sensors, robotics, autonomous vehicles, and the evolution of smart cities not only maximize our management of installations, but are a crucial enticement for future recruitments as young Soldiers in the future will be evermore connected.

This process will be have five key characteristics:

• Modeled. Just as TRADOC integrates capabilities into the force design, we will have a similar process to determine what we want installations to do. To start this process, we expect, in FY18, to conduct and evaluate internal and external scans that will help us identify and prioritize gaps for the Army. We will use our newly-created Installation Readiness Board of Directors to gain Army leadership endorsement for strategy, testing, and eventual adoption.

• Flexible. It will consider stakeholder input and offer choices to those who work, train, and live on Army installations. It should allow the Army to adjust its footprint depending on conditions and requirements, while adhering to Army standards. This could include encouraging local leaders to further explore local community partnerships that provide services and capabilities that meet the needs for the installation such as internet access, education opportunities, or select municipal services.

• Collaborative. It will be informed by academic research and will benchmark with private sector best practices, particularly involving tech development. It must partner with local communities to help deliver services for our military communities following the public/ public partnership model.

• Systematic. It must be iterative, with regularly occurring activities and predictable outputs informed by research and analysis.

• Usable. And finally, the process must be orientated towards measuring outcomes that influence future programming and allocation of resources.

We recognize that without a consistent approach, our risk increases; but with predictability comes opportunity to reduce certain risk, in areas such as:

• Technology risk -- minimize obsolescence of Army facilities and systems. Leverage community, private sector, and other Federal agency initiatives that enhance connectivity and data analytics.

• Mission risk – provide flexibility to meet changing mission requirements

• Financial risk – maximize investments & reduce operating costs

• Human capital risk – maximize the ability to recruit and retain human talent

“(We) are committed to support and help provide the best readiness platforms for the Army, and the best communities for our Soldiers, families and civilians. Creation of premier Army installations and communities begins with a solid process for looking into the future and bringing it into the present,” Robinson said.

Robinson stressed that installations are part of and key to the readiness equation. He concluded by adding, “Readiness is the foundation that keeps our nation free. Our great Soldiers, civilians and families are the blueprint to this foundation. They are most deserving. Our future depends on them.”

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