Program cuts likely under Army secretary’s new Futures Command

April 6 (UPI) — The secretary of the U.S. Army said Thursday he plans to build a more lethal force under the Futures Command.

Secretary Mark Esper described the plans at the Heritage Foundation, and said they will likely include cutting some of the 800-plus Army programs to finance modernization.

The Futures Command is the first Army reorganization effort since 1973 and will use technologies to make the the branch more successful through six tactics that include improving manned and unmanned vehicles, updating missiles and improving helicopter and air defenses.

In order to support production for these prototypes, Esper said he’ll have to free up funds for the new initiatives.

“We can’t continue to ramble along funding 800 programs when we have higher priority needs,” he said. “That’s spreading the peanut butter, as we like to say, and I think the days of spreading peanut butter are over.”

Esper did not say which programs would be shut down, but said he will avoid arbitrary cuts.

The secretary also said while he is not concerned for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years, he wants to start looking ahead to the 2020 and 2021 budgets — that could finance new technologies like directed-energy weapons, hypersonics and cybersecurity

Dan Grazier of the Project on Government Oversight said restructuring initiatives like the Futures Command is a tactic to cut into existing programs to fund larger budgets that use money to unnecessarily upgrade equipment.

“I would hope everyone is careful about what they cut and they actually evaluate things not just on their age but on their effectiveness and contribution to the overall mission,” Grazier said.

Introducing newer equipment can induce extra complicity, Grazier said. He also mentioned that innovative systems can distract from a military mission because newer prototypes do not always equal efficiency.

“We actually spend more time fiddling with our own systems than facing outward, thinking about what we are trying to accomplish and what we are going to do with the enemy,” he said.

Esper said new technologies are necessary to advance military success against adversaries on the ground and in increasing cybersecurity threats.

“We need to make the leap to the next generation of technologies,” he said. “That’s why we want to move things left in terms of prototyping and production.”

Jacob Cohn of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said he agrees with the secretary’s logic to cut programs for the benefit of the Futures Command.

“The choices might not be easy, but it’s necessary to fund the kind of transformation that the Army needs to make,” Cohn said.

Esper also talked about recruiting civilian talent to support technological advancements, saying he plans to headquarter the command in an urban environment where the Army can recruit a team of engineers and other industry forces whose expertise can help predict what future threat environments will look like.