U.S. Army Futures Command held a virtual roundtable with more than 1,250 participants across industry and academia to discuss the Army’s Project Convergence, Dec. 1, 2020.
“There’s a lot of smart people in the Army, but there’s a lot more smart people that are outside the Army helping us solve problems and thinking about how to solve problems in different ways,” said Gen. John M. Murray, AFC’s commanding general. “We want your help in helping us solve some of these problems.”
Murray stressed the importance of developing strong partnerships with a focus on Project Convergence as a top priority for the Army and its persistent modernization.
This project was described as a campaign of learning, designed to create interoperability between all elements of the Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control using new networks and artificial intelligence algorithms to support warfighters.
“Project Convergence is about people, weapon systems, C2 information and terrain,” said Lt. Gen. Thomas Todd, AFC’s deputy commanding general for Acquisition and Systems and Chief Innovation Officer. “It is certainly positioned around terrain as the land component force and the problem sets that we seek to resolve.”
Central to the project is the concept of innovating to overmatch, not just parity.
“It’s about the future operating environment,” Todd said. “It’s not just a technology event, although we are looking for technologies that create a 10-x factor advantage inside our lethality chain.”
But the Army cannot do it alone. This is where industry and academia can play a role, as well as Joint Force partners, as the project rolls into 2021 and beyond.
“We have the Air Force, the Marine Corps and the Navy, as well as all of our Army programs participating,” said Lt. Gen. James Richardson, AFC’s deputy commanding general.
“We’ve established a board of directors at the three-star level,” Richardson said. “So, everybody has a vote, and I will tell you that the Navy and the Air Force and the Marines are coming with their technologies and the key is, how do we converge these technologies? How do we talk? Because we’re going to have to fight together as a Joint Force in the future.”
This full-team approach will require industry and academic partnerships to develop ideas and implement them at the speed required of today’s global operating environment. The new partnerships will require interoperability and cannot become stove-piped technologies.
“It has to be formations based, has to be much larger than just the technology itself,” Todd said. “It has to be connected. It has to be interoperable. We will become dependent on it.”
“So, as you think about how to work with not only your company’s capabilities, but how your company’s capabilities can help us in issues that our leaders and our soldiers deal with each and every day inside of those formations you may have solutions for other systems we’re looking at,” Todd said. “They might not be one of your systems, but you might have some good suggestions and ideas.”
AFC’s open-call for corporate ideas includes potentially mutually-beneficial arrangements between AFC and selected partners. These range from patent licensing agreements to cooperative research and development agreements, or CRADAs, as well as educational partnership agreements in order to protect intellectual capital and property while supporting Army innovation.
“Hopefully, throughout this session you got the impression that No. 1, Project Convergence is a campaign of learning,” Murray said, “…and there is room for industry—industry from a sense of the major defense primes, [but also] from small business to entrepreneurs.”
Project Convergence is expected to be a long-term and iterative initiative, going out several years.
“There’s [fiscal years] 20, 21, 22, 23, 24 and as far into the future as we decide to go,” Murray said. “But it is about learning from one experience to the next.”