US Army official reveals watercraft, networks as logistics focus areas

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military will focus on developing watercraft, power generation capabilities, and a more effective command and control network as part of its newly formed modernization team intended to facilitate the movement of equipment, weapons and people in harsh environments, according to the service’s undersecretary.

While he won’t go into specifics about who will lead the new cross-functional team focused on contested logistics, Gabe Camarillo told reporters at an Association of the U.S. Army breakfast on Tuesday that he would prioritize modernization in key areas necessary to operate in the Indo-Pacific region.

“You think about everything from intra-theater elevator requirements to everything we do on personal watercraft our ability to provide supplies, water, Electric power,” he said.

“Some requirements have been on the shelf for a while,” Camarillo added, but the team will try to bring them “into the 21st century.”

Additionally, the team will likely focus on improving command and control capabilities, he said.

The challenged cross-functional logistics team will be the first of its kind implemented since the inception of Army Future Command. This organization, created in 2018 to meet the modernization needs of the army, has created eight emblematic cross-functional teams. The service tasked each with advancing one of the six modernization priorities, or a capability considered to cut across several of them.

The disputed logistics focus areas match what the Pacific-based company’s chief 8th Theater Support Command, Brig. General Jered Helwig, told Defense News last month. In particular, the commander said he wanted a better common operational picture “from factory to foxhole” across the logistics tail.

This common operational picture should be common, Helwig stressed. “I know I will be spending more time resupplying the Air Force and Navy than we will for the Army, at least at some phase of the operation, so we have to make sure we build something they can use as much as we can.”

Chief of Army Materiel Command, General Charles Hamilton told Defense News in a separate interview last month, he wants to establish better “real-time” information on the status of equipment and weapons in the field.

“The way it works now is that when something happens on the tactical side today, it doesn’t inform the strategic side. It could take a day, or it could take a few days, for the information allow me to react,” Hamilton said. “The must-do is when it happens at the tactical end; it has to inform a decision on my part.

Helwig also said the army needed new craft. The service recently experimented with this capability at its Experience of the Convergence project last fall.

“We learned a lot about what watercraft can do, but more importantly what they can’t do right now in terms of fleet age,” Helwig noted.

Army Futures Command representatives plan to attend some upcoming exercises to better hone the capabilities they wish to pursue within the new cross-functional team.

The Army hasn’t embarked on a new personal watercraft program since the mid-1990s, “so this is a pivotal time for Army personal watercraft,” Brig. Gen. Luke Peterson, director of the combat support and combat service support program, told Defense News in an interview last fall.

The service reached a milestone on October 10, 2022, when it released its first new prototype of the Maneuver Support Vessel (Light) in the water in Portland, Oregon.

The Army is also running life extension programs on its Utility Landing Ships used to transport equipment and troops ashore as well as on its Modular Causeway Systems, a bridge capability connecting a ship and a dock.

The service is also working on a requirement for Maneuver Support (Heavy) Vessels and a draft document outlining capability development plans.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering ground warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in Journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.

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