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Back to the Future


Evaluating U.S. Army Futures Command’s Modernization Efforts

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Are you telling me you built a time machine, out of a DeLorean?1

In the time travel classic Back to the Future, Dr. Emmett Brown (Doc Brown) converts a DeLorean sports car into a time machine. As Doc Brown explains the DeLorean’s features, he tells his friend Marty McFly, “This is what makes time travel possible: the flux capacitor!”2 After first traveling to the past, Doc Brown and Marty harness 1.21 gigawatts of electricity from a lightning strike to power the flux capacitor and send the souped-up DeLorean speeding at eighty-eight miles per hour back to the future.

In July 2018, the Army established U.S. Army Futures Command (AFC) to transform Army modernization and ensure future Soldiers have what they need to fight and win on a future battlefield. Is the establishment of AFC more than just a reshuffling of organizations and a reassignment of acquisition-related responsibilities? Or does it bring something innovative and new to Army modernization, such that the Army can bring its industrial age system into the modern information age? This article will use the movie, Back to the Future as a metaphor in order to evaluate and explain what AFC may contribute to the transformation of Army modernization. In particular, this article will discuss the remodeled DeLorean: the reassignment of modernization organizations to AFC; and the flux capacitor: the innovative combination of AFC responsibilities and relationships. With these components, will AFC put the Army on the road to future military success?


In 1986, Congress passed the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act (P.L. 99-433), enacting sweeping reforms of the organization of the services and the way they performed acquisition. “The Goldwater-Nichols Act sought to streamline the acquisition system by reducing the number of management layers separating program managers from the civilian acquisition executives, and removing the Services’ uniformed leaders from the acquisition chain of command.”3 Because of Goldwater-Nichols, the U.S. military now routinely fights as an integrated joint team.4 The law also implemented the important American principle of civilian control over the military.5 While Goldwater-Nichols brought reform, the results contributed to concerns of “a growing divide between a military-run requirements process and a civilian-run acquisition process.”6

Review and reform of defense acquisition has been an ongoing effort. In 2010, then-Army Secretary John McHugh commissioned a study of the Army’s acquisition system, seeking “a blueprint for actions . . . to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Army acquisition process.”7 The commission realized “[t]he Army continues to need modern equipment for [S]oldiers to be decisive on the unpredictable, asymmetric battlefield of today and tomorrow.” Among other things, the commission noted,

The Army has been quick in dealing with urgent needs, bypassing the laborious acquisition process. However, the ‘normal’ process is anything but rapid. The current process is not collaborative, but sequential with multiple opportunities for oversight staffs to question and challenge requirements. The mean time to approve an Acquisition Category (ACAT) I8 system requirement is 15 months with an ACAT II taking 22 months and an ACAT III taking 18. When these requirement approvals and their associated acquisition milestones are not synchronized with the Program Objective Memorandum and budget cycles, program starts can occur two and three years after the operational need was identified.9

More recently, Army senior leaders determined that the establishment of a four-star Army Command would help “reform of our industrial-age Acquisition system,”10 with the idea that AFC “will bring all acquisition activities under a single responsible commander. This will bring unity of effort to acquisitions, speeding [up] the process, producing better materials and weapons, and saving money.”11 Before it established AFC, the Army began a pilot program involving Cross-Functional Teams (CFTs) in October 2017 as “an innovative organizational construct to integrate and synchronize processes across multiple stakeholders,” expecting the CFTs to “develop capabilities faster and in a less costly manner to enable our Soldiers to fight and win.”12 Then in November 2017, the Army established a task force led by a three-star general to “explore all options to establish unity of command and unity of effort that consolidates the Army’s modernization process under one roof,” with the idea that reform would require “establishment of a new Army Command.”13

Thus, then-Secretary of the Army, Dr. Mark Esper, established AFC, effective 1 July 2018, as the Army’s fourth Army Command,14 standing on equal footing with U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM); U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC); and U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC). In his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on 20 March 2018, Dr. Esper characterized the establishment of AFC as “the most significant organizational change to the Army’s structure since 1973.” In setting out the basis for establishing the new four-star headquarters, he stated,

Over the past decade, the Army made necessary but difficult choices to defer modernization in order to support combat operations. We upgraded current weapons systems rather than acquire new or next generation technologies. However, we can no longer afford to delay modernization without risking overmatch on future battlefields. . . . [W]e will establish the Army Futures Command to reform our acquisition process through unity of command, unity of effort, and increased accountability. . . . The Army must adapt quicker than our adversaries to maintain our competitive advantage. This is the rationale for the Army Futures Command. . . . The new command will consolidate the Acquisition process under one organization with a mission to deliver integrated solutions for increased lethality and capabilities to the Soldier when and where they are needed.15

With the foundational documents establishing AFC,16 Dr. Esper asserted that “[t]he establishment of AFC marks a fundamental change in the Army’s approach to modernization.”17 He directed AFC to lead the future force modernization enterprise18 with responsibility to “assess[] and integrate[] the future operational environment, emerging threats, and technologies to develop and deliver concepts, requirements, future force designs, and support[] the delivery of modernization solutions.”19 As part of this mission, he directed AFC to “posture[] the Army for the future by setting strategic direction, integrating the Army’s future force modernization enterprise, aligning resources to priorities, and maintaining accountability for modernization solutions.”20 Dr. Esper further clarified, “The purpose of AFC is to improve future readiness by ensuring Soldiers have the weapons, equipment, and tools they need, when they need them, to deploy, fight, and win future conflicts.”21

In order for the AFC commander to lead and integrate the future force modernization enterprise (hereafter “the enterprise”),22 Dr. Esper reassigned certain modernization organizations to AFC that were previously assigned to TRADOC and AMC; and permanently established and assigned to AFC the eight CFTs previously established as pilot organizations.23 While program executive officers24 and program managers25 are an essential component of the enterprise, the Secretary specifically did not assign them to AFC. Instead, he created a framework to set organizational relationships between AFC and program executive officers and program managers “on a case-by-case basis as the mission and situation requires.”26


In addition to the history, it is also important to understand the difference between two uses of the term “acquisition”: the conduct of the function of acquisition, which is sometimes referred to as “little a” acquisition; as compared with the defense acquisition system process, which is sometimes called “Big A” acquisition. The conduct of the function of acquisition, “little a” acquisition, generally refers to the management of a program to achieve specified cost, schedule, and performance parameters using a business approach.27 We generally look to officials who are specially trained and certified in business, contracting, and procurement to conduct the function of acquisition.

In contrast, “Big A” acquisition generally covers the entire defense acquisition process and involves the collaboration of warfighters, scientists, engineers, and the acquisition professionals. The defense acquisition process, “Big A” acquisition, “starts with development of requirements, continues through development, procurement and fielding of systems and products that meet approved requirements, sustainment of fielded systems and products, and the ultimate disposition of systems and products that have become obsolete.”28 The warfighters identify capability gaps in their ability to conduct military operations, and that feeds the requirements process. The scientists and engineers mature the concepts to develop refined materiel requirements. These refined materiel requirements feed the program executive officers, “who are charged with the development and procurement of systems in response to the [warfighter] user’s needs.”29 The program managers, supervised by the program executive officers, manage the cost of the program, the timeline or schedule of the delivery of the materiel solution, and the responsiveness or performance of the solution as measured against the requirements. The acquisition professionals then deliver the materiel solution to the force.

Current Statutory and Regulatory Framework

With this reorganization of the Army and the establishment of AFC, the Army has effectively named the collective of organizations that participate in the “Big A” acquisition process, the “future force modernization enterprise.” The enterprise is focused on the Army Acquisition System, the Army’s “Big A” acquisition.

As a part of that enterprise, the program managers, program executive officers, and the Army Acquisition Executive, perform the technical function of acquisition—“little a” acquisition. In the Army, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ASA (ALT)) is designated as the Army Acquisition Executive.30 “The chain of management responsibilities for acquisition programs runs upward from the [program manager], through the [program executive officer] to the [Army Acquisition Executive]. The responsibility and authority for program management, including program planning beginning at the materiel development decision and life-cycle execution, is vested in these individuals.”31

This technical function of acquisition is the specialized management of programs where the program managers are responsible for ensuring the cost of the programs is appropriate, the programs are kept on a timely schedule, and the program performs according to the requirements established by the warfighters that need the weapon system. For major defense acquisition programs, the Army Acquisition Executive (AAE) has the authority to make decisions at the established milestones, and is thus the statutory Milestone Decision Authority.32 With this decision authority, the AAE provides guidance and direction regarding the technical performance of acquisition (“little a” acquisition) to program executive officers and program managers. While others in “Big A” acquisition may influence the program managers and program executive officers pursuant to their acquisition-related functions and responsibilities, this is still limited to “Big A” acquisition performance. On the other hand, only the AAE, the program executive officer, and the program manager provide technical guidance, decisions, or direction related to the specific and technical performance of the function of acquisition, the “little a” acquisition. 

Additionally, other members of the enterprise, like engineers and scientists, contribute to and support the program managers and program executive officers as they perform “little a” acquisition, but the engineers, scientists, and others are part of “Big A” acquisition. The entire enterprise, as part of “Big A” acquisition, delivers the materiel solution for fielding to the force. In this system, the principal duty of the ASA (ALT) is the overall supervision of the Army’s “Big A” acquisition.33

In the “Big A” acquisition process, the program managers drive their programs forward, but their success has been limited by other actors and stake holders in the process. In one common metaphor used to describe the acquisition system, not perfectly related to Back to the Future, the program is a bus, and the program manager is the bus driver. The driver has the steering wheel and controls the gas pedal and brakes. The problem is, the bus is filled with too many passengers without program accountability, but with their own brakes and steering wheels and who can delay, stop, or get a program off course. As noted by the 2010 Army study,

[t]he pre-[milestone] B process has become bloated with numerous reviews and deliverables appealing to a growing collection of interests that add little value. This hampers thoughtful trade studies, trustworthy cost and risk analyses, sound analysis of alternatives and sound [milestone] A and B decisions. There are too many staffers issuing ‘guidance’ or ‘direction’ who are not accountable for the impact they have on a program.34

Although the ASA (ALT) has the statutory authority to conduct the function of acquisition, Congress has extended responsibility for acquisition-related functions to the Army Chief of Staff (CSA). Pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 2547, the CSA “assist[s] the Secretary of the [Army] in the performance of [certain specified] acquisition-related functions.”35 This includes the development of requirements for equipping the Army and decisions regarding trade-offs, requirements creep, termination of programs, and career paths for Soldiers in the acquisition field and serving as contracting officer representatives. Further, the ASA (ALT), acting as the AAE, may not grant approval at Milestones A, B, or C without the CSA’s concurrence.36

Additionally, the ASA (ALT) is statutorily vested with “sole responsibility . . . for the function of research and development,” and that function may not be assigned outside the Office of the Secretary of the Army.37 The Secretary of the Army, however, “may assign to the Army Staff responsibility for those aspects of the function of research and development that relate to military requirements and test and evaluation.”38 Thus, current statutory authorities allow for acquisition-related functions and aspects of research and development to be assigned outside the Office of the Secretary of the Army, but not the conduct of the acquisition function (not “little a” acquisition).

Unique Authorities, Responsibilities, and Relationships

“The way I see it, if you’re going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”39 The establishment of AFC brings three transformational elements to Army modernization. First, it brings unity of command over certain enterprise organizations. Second, it allows for the AFC commander to exercise unique acquisition-related authorities. Third, it establishes a mutually beneficial supporting relationship between AFC and the program executive officers and program managers to generate unity of effort, essential to the commander’s responsibility to integrate and lead the enterprise.

The DeLorean

Reassigning modernization organizations from two of the other Army Commands to AFC is the remodeling of the DeLorean. The reassignment of Futures and Concepts Center (formerly Army Capabilities Integration Center) from TRADOC to AFC; the reassignment of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) (formerly Research, Development, and Engineering Command) from AMC to AFC; and the assignment of the CFTs to AFC bring several important pieces of the Army’s “Big A” acquisition system under the command of AFC. Although this reassignment does not bring the program executive officers or program managers under the command of AFC, it does contribute to Futures and Concepts Center and CCDC working in concert, with both responding to one single Army Command commander. It also creates unity of effort in that the program managers can focus on one functional customer, the AFC commander, rather than two different four-star commanders with missions beyond just future force modernization.40

The CFTs bring collaboration and focus to eight modernization priorities, and provide their own efficiency to the system. They are each collocated with their corresponding program executive office, tying together the important stakeholders from start to finish of a project, concept, or program. In the Back to the Future metaphor, the CFTs are the modification to the DeLorean seen at the end of the first movie that allows the car to fly. While a fast, fancy car is nice, it will be sitting in rush hour traffic the same as an old clunker. The CFTs, each focused on a modernization priority, give their associated programs the ability to fly out of “Big A” acquisition traffic.

Thus, what AFC offers is an opportunity to remodel the bus as a DeLorean. This DeLorean then combines other organizations of the enterprise under one command authority, and gives the program manager the ability to respond to one functional customer. With this unity of command, the AFC commander, in coordination with the ASA (ALT), has the ability to remove the extraneous bureaucratic brakes.

The Flux Capacitor

Doc Brown, however, did not just build a time machine out of a DeLorean so he could “do it with some style.” He chose the DeLorean for the design because “the stainless steel construction made the flux dispersal”41 possible; the design of the machine as a DeLorean was critical to the flux capacitor. In this case, AFC’s flux capacitor is the careful construction and assemblage of already existing authorities within the responsibility of a single four-star commander, combined with the unique structured relationship with the program executive officers and program managers. This careful construction capitalizes on the speed and style of the DeLorean—the unity of command over Futures and Concepts Center and CCDC; and provides a means to focus and concentrate the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity—the structured and mutually supporting relationships, that will propel the DeLorean into the future, transforming Army modernization and achieving unity of effort for the Army’s enterprise.

The construction of the AFC flux capacitor begins with the ability of the commander to exercise the acquisition-related authorities previously reserved to the CSA. While the statutory framework of Goldwater-Nichols and the DoD acquisition policy limits the ability of a military commander to order and direct the day-to-day “little a” acquisition functions of program managers, the Secretary of the Army has allowed for the AFC commander to exercise certain acquisition-related functions, when delegated by the CSA. With these acquisition-related responsibilities, the commander will have the ability to influence the progress of programs and contribute to unity of effort.

In the General Orders establishing AFC, the Secretary of the Army specifically directed that the AFC commander will have responsibility and authority related to the performance of acquisition; the commander “will coordinate with the [ASA (ALT)] on all matters pertaining to research, development, and acquisition.”42 While the ASA (ALT) continues to have statutory responsibility for the overall supervision of acquisition (“Big A”), and is responsible for the performance of the function of acquisition (“little a”), the Secretary of the Army has carved out a role for the AFC commander, provided he coordinates with the ASA (ALT).

In Army Directive 2018-15, defining the AFC relationship with the office of the ASA (ALT), the Secretary of the Army permitted the CSA to delegate the acquisition-related functions to the AFC commander, and designated the AFC commander the Army’s chief futures modernization investment officer (CFMIO).43 Then, in Army Directive 2019-35, describing the funding flow in the enterprise, the Secretary of the Army specifically assigned to the AFC commander the “responsibility for those aspects of the function of research and development that relate to military requirements and test and evaluation,”44 pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 7014(d)(2). The directive further provides that, “[i]n consultation with the ASA (ALT), the [AFC commander] as the CFMIO will prioritize, direct, integrate, and synchronize the execution of science and technology efforts, operations, and organizations across the Army.”45 In describing the funding flow, the directive establishes that “for all science and technology efforts, the ASA (ALT) and [AFC commander] will jointly conduct project reviews before submission of the Program Objective Memorandum.46 Thus, the commander has responsibility for acquisition-related functions, when delegated; and has specific responsibilities for science and technology, and aspects of research and development, in coordination and consultation with the ASA (ALT). These authorities and responsibilities are essential to the commander’s responsibility to lead and integrate the future force modernization enterprise.

The next critical component of the AFC flux capacitor is the structured relationship with the program executive officers and program managers. As noted above, the commander does not command these acquisition professionals, but relies on their success in managing programs critical to the future force. While the commander may have tools to influence acquisition decisions as the customer, the framework of Army Directive 2018-15 is to establish a formal relationship with the program executive officers and program managers who complete construction of the flux capacitor and make it capable of capturing and channeling the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity when lightning strikes.

The process established by Army Directive 2018-15 requires the commander to first identify to the ASA (ALT) what program executive officer or program manager support AFC requires in order to accomplish its mission.47 The commander and ASA (ALT) then jointly recommend to the Secretary of the Army the organizational relationship and structure of the support on a case-by-case basis. The directive suggests the nature of the support could be “operational control, direct support, general support, or other relationships.”48 These terms, however, are commonly used to describe operational command relationships, useful in relating two or more operational units, but may not adequately apply to the business functions of the Army. Instead, the Army should recognize that the relationship will likely be mutually supporting. The commander relies on input and status updates from the program managers in order to be able to see the enterprise and effectively lead and integrate the enterprise. Additionally, the program executive officers and program managers rely on touchpoints, feedback, and guidance from the commander as the customer with acquisition-related authorities to ensure their decisions on cost, schedule, technical feasibility, and performance will earn the commander’s concurrence at the milestone decisions.

Army Directive 2018-15 also designates that an officer in the office of the ASA (ALT) “will have additional duty as the AFC Director [of] Combat Systems and will advise the [AFC commander].”49 Importantly though, this officer “will also ensure that [program executive officers and program managers] in support of AFC prioritize Army modernization efforts and maximize cooperation, urgency, and unity of effort.”50 The directive further makes clear that even when program executive officers or program managers have been designated for a special relationship with AFC, they will continue to be assigned to the ASA (ALT) and that program managers “remain responsible for, and have authority to accomplish, program management and the ability to deliver materiel capabilities and solutions to meet the Army’s operational needs.”51 With the roles and responsibilities clear, the Army has created a nuanced and intricate web of responsibility and authority to achieve unity of command and unity of effort in the delivery of materiel solutions. Thus, the mutually supporting relationship, the commander’s acquisition-related authorities, and the connectivity of the AFC Director of Combat Systems closes the circuit, and comprises a functioning AFC flux capacitor ready to receive the jolt of power.

One counter argument to the AFC solution is that the end result is just a fancy, fast sports car; the commander may just be exercising the acquisition-related functions previously performed by the CSA or other members of the Army Staff. Also, the sports car is not even new, it is vintage; the Army has done it before, and there is no reason to believe fancy packaging will yield a different result. The program executive officers and program managers have always been responsive to the customer and have always sought input from the user. If that is the case, then this new structure may merely provide efficiencies for modernization, but it is not innovative.

On the other hand, the concentration of responsibility and authority in a four-star commander focused on leading and integrating the enterprise, provides its own method of harnessing 1.21 gigawatts. The CSA and the Army Staff have other responsibilities beyond modernizing the Army. The CSA’s involvement in the requirements process, and in contributing to decisions on trade-offs, termination of programs, or concurring with milestone decisions was always necessarily in competition with the multitude of other responsibilities of the CSA, the highest-ranking military position in the Department of the Army. Also, formalizing the relationships between the single four-star commander leading the requirements and development community with the technical experts responsible for procurement generates tremendous power. The commander does not need to command every aspect of the enterprise, and does not need to be the milestone decision authority to exercise leadership of the enterprise. As designed, the commander’s authority and responsibility to integrate the requirements, acquisition, and resourcing communities is substantial enough to ensure he is able to exercise unity of effort over the Army’s “Big A” acquisition. Accordingly, the commander will effectively lead and integrate the future force modernization enterprise to deliver modernization solutions to the Army.

Going Forward

“Hey Doc, we’d better back up. We don’t have enough road to get up to eighty-eight.”52 The establishment of AFC represents the Army’s all-in best effort to transform Army modernization. The Army senior leaders have made clear they do not merely intend to stand-up a new four-star Army Command; they intend to take the Army’s industrial-age modernization process into the information age.

With the re-design in place, the AFC commander, in coordination and consultation with the ASA (ALT), has the opportunity and responsibility to lead and integrate the modernization enterprise. Achieving the full potential for modernization depends on the CSA clearly delegating acquisition-related functions to the AFC commander, and depends on the Army establishing the relationships between AFC and the program executive officers and program managers. Until then, AFC is no more than the remodeled DeLorean, with unused blue-prints for a flux capacitor.

Once the authorities and relationships come together, the success of AFC and the Army to modernize depends on receiving the appropriate focus and resourcing from senior Army leaders, as well as support from Congress. Earning the trust of Congress will likely require more than demonstrating a more rapid delivery of materiel solutions to meet operational needs; it will require an ongoing demonstration of the responsible and fair use of public resources. The commander must then synchronize the enterprise’s efforts so AFC is up to speed, traveling eighty-eight miles per hour, right as lightning strikes the clock tower. With its flux capacitor of authorities and relationships the hope is that it will be able to harness the 1.21 gigawatts and propel the Army into the future with the next generation of weapons, vehicles, and equipment it will need to fight and win on future battlefields. With leadership, the right approach, and enough space, AFC will put the Army on the road to future military success. But, then again, it may be that, “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!”53 TAL


LTC Dietz was previously assigned as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, U.S. Army Futures Command, Austin, Texas. He is currently the Executive Officer of the Department of the Army Office of General Counsel in Washington, D.C.


1. Back to the Future (Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment 1985) (quoting Marty McFly). Doc Brown responds, “The way I see it, if you’re going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” Id.

2. Id.

3. Sec’y of Army, Army Strong: Equipped, Trained and Ready, Final Report of the 2010 Army Acquisition Review 25 (Jan. 2011) [hereinafter 2010 Army Acquisition Review Final Report].

4. Clark A. Murdock et al., Beyond Goldwater-Nichols: U.S. Government and Defense Reform for a New Strategic Era, Phase II Report 14 (2005).

5. The reform of Goldwater-Nichols was in response to recommendations of the Packard Commission: “to establish civilian control over a fragmented military system (particularly by using civilians with business experience); to provide clear, direct chains of command between program managers and senior officials; to centralize and standardize acquisition procedures; and to create a system that could catch mistakes in order to minimize political embarrassment.” Id. at 90.

6. Charles Nemfakos et al., The Perfect Storm: The Goldwater-Nichols Act and Its Effect on Navy Acquisition iii (2010).

7. Murdock et al., supra note 4, at vii (quoting then-Secretary of the Army McHugh).

8. An Acquisition Cateory (ACAT) I is generally also a major defense acquisition program (MDAP), and ACAT II and below are generally non-major defense acquisition programs. See U.S. Dep’t of Def., Instr. 5000.02, Operation of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework para. 5a(3) (23 Jan. 2020) [hereinafter DoDI 5000.02] (discussion of the program acquisition categories and types). “All defense acquisition programs are designated by an ACAT (i.e., ACAT I through III) and type (e.g., MDAP, (Major Automated Information System) (MAIS), or Major System).” Id.

9. Nemfakos et al., supra note 6, at iii.

10. Statement by the Honorable Mark T. Esper, Secretary of the Army Before the S. Comm. on Armed Services, 115th Cong. 1 (2017), https://api.army.mil/e2/c/downloads/500971.pdf.

11. Posture of the United States Army, Hearing Before the H. Comm.on Armed Services, 115th Cong. (2018) [hereinafter Hearings] (statement of Mark. T. Esper, Secretary of the Army), https://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS00/20180320/108047/HHRG-115-AS00-Wstate-EsperM-20180320.pdf .

12. U.S. Dep’t of Army, Dir. 2017-24 Cross-Functional Team Pilot in Support of Materiel Development 1 (6 Oct. 2017).

13. U.S. Dep’t of Army, Dir. 2017-33 Enabling the Army Modernization Task Force 1 (7 Nov. 2017).

14. An Army Command is the highest level of command, designated by the Secretary of the Army. U.S. Dep’t of Army, Reg. 10-87 Army Commands, Army Service Component Commands, and Direct Reporting Units (11 Dec. 2017).

15. Hearings, supra note 11, at 4.

16. See Headquarters, U.S. Dep’t of Army, Gen. Order No. 2018-10 (4 June 2018) [hereinafter DA GO 2018-10]; U.S. Dep’t of Army, Dir. 2018-15 U.S. Army Futures Command Relationship With the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) (27 Aug. 2018) [hereinafter AD 2018-15]; Headquarters, U.S. Dep’t of Army, Execution Order No. 176-18 Establishment of United States Army Command (6 Sept. 2018) [hereinafter HQDA EXORD 176-18].

17. AD 2018-15, supra note 16, para. 3.

18. See HQDA EXORD 176-18, supra note 16, definitions

The Future Force Modernization Enterprise (FFME) encompasses all Army entities with missions to assess the future operational environment and threats, identify and prioritize problems in future warfighting, conceptualize and prioritize solutions to those problems, allocate modernization resources according to priorities, and develop solutions through experimentation, prototyping and acquisition, and field innovative solutions that deliver the overmatching lethality necessary to sustain our competitive advantage in ground combat against current and potential adversaries.


19. DA GO 2018-10, supra note 16, para. 1b.

20. Id.

21. AD 2018-15, supra note 16, para. 3.

22. See supra note 18. See HQDA EXORD 176-18, supra note 16.

23. DA GO 2018-10, supra note 19, para. 2.

24. A program executive officer is “[a] military or civilian official assigned program responsibilities for Acquisition Category (ACAT) I and IA and sensitive classified programs, or for any other program determined by the Component Acquisition Executive (CAE) to require dedicated executive management.” DoDI 5000.02, supra note 8, glossary.

25. Program managers, under the supervision of program executive officers and the Army Acquisition Executive, are, among other things, “expected to design acquisition programs, prepare programs for decisions, and execute program plans.” DoDI 5000.02, supra note 8, para. 5a(4)(c).

26. AD 2018-15, supra note 16, para. 6.

27. See DoDI 5000.02, supra note 8, encl. 2, para. 6.

28. 2010 Army Acquisition Review Final Report, supra note 3, at 6.

29. Id. at iii.

30. Headquarters, U.S. Dep’t of Army, Gen. Order No. 2019-01 para. 13 (15 May 2019) [hereinafter AGO 2019-01]. Pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 101, the Army Acquisition Executive is a “civilian official.” 10 U.S.C. § 101 (2018). Pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 2546, the Army Acquisition Executive “shall be responsible for the management of elements of the defense acquisition system in [the Army] and shall exercise such control of the system and perform such duties as are necessary to ensure the successful and efficient operation of such elements of the defense acquisition system.” 10 U.S.C. § 2546 (2018). Pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 7014(c)(2), “The Secretary of the Army shall establish or designate a single office or other entity within the Office of the Secretary of the Army to conduct [the] function [of acquisition].” 10 U.S.C. § 7014(c)(2) (2018). Further, “[n]o office or other entity may be established or designated within the Army Staff to conduct [acquisition].” Id.

31. AD 2018-15, supra note 16, para. 5b (paraphrasing DoDI 5000.02, encl. 2, para. 2). In Department of Defense (DoD) policy, this “chain of management responsibility” is referred to as the “acquisition chain of command” and “Program Management.” See DoDI 5000.02, supra note 8, encl. 2, para. 2.

32. See 10 U.S.C. § 2430(d)(1) (2018).

33. “The principal responsibility of the Assistant Secretary [of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology] shall be the overall supervision of acquisition, technology, and logistics matters of the Department of the Army.” 10 U.S.C. § 7016(b)(5)(A) (2018) (note the statute uses “Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics” whereas the Army documents use “Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology”); AGO 2019-01, supra note 29, para. 13.

34. 2010 Army Acquisition Review Final Report, supra note 3, at xv.

35. 10 U.S.C. § 2547 (2018).

36. 10 U.S.C. § 2547(a) (2018).

37. 10 U.S.C. § 7014(d) (2018) (emphasis added).

38. 10 U.S.C. § 7014(d) (emphasis added).

39. Back to the Future, supra note 1.

40. Pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 2546a, the Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff of the Army are the customers of Army MDAPs. 10. U.S.C. § 2546a. “The customer of a major defense acquisition program shall be responsible for balancing resources against priorities on the acquisition program and ensuring that appropriate trade-offs are made among cost, schedule, technical feasibility, and performance on a continuing basis throughout the life of the acquisition program.” Id.

41. Back to the Future, supra note 1.

42. DA GO 2018-10, supra note 15. The General Orders use language similar to the statute for the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology’s (ASA (ALT)) Navy counterpart who is responsible for “research, development, acquisition, and sustainment” (See 10 U.S.C. § 8016(b)(4)(A) (2018)). In contrast, the statute for the Air Force counterpart, like the Army, uses “acquisition, technology and logistics” (Compare 10 U.S.C. § 7016(b)(5)(A) (2018) with 10 U.S.C. § 9016(b)(4)(A) (2018)).

43. AD 2018-15, supra note 16.

44. U.S. Dep’t of Army, Dir. 2019-35 Funding Flow for Future Force Modernization Enterprise (20 Nov. 2019) (implementing 10 U.S.C. § 7014(d)(2) (2018)).

45. Id.

46. Id. Consider also that this consolidation of authority and responsibility responds to one of the issues identified by the Final Report of the 2010 Army Acquisition Review regarding the broken requirements process. 2010 Army Acquisition Review Final Report, supra note 3. “When these requirement approvals and their associated acquisition milestones are not synchronized with the Program Objective Memorandum and budget cycles, program starts can occur two and three years after the operational need was identified.” Id. at iii.

47. AD 2018-15, supra note 16.

48. Id.

49. Id.

50. Id. For this position, Army Directive 2018-15 identifies the Principal Military Deputy to the ASA (ALT), a lieutenant general position established in 10 U.S.C. § 7016(b)(5)(B), nominated by the President, and confirmed by the Senate. Id. The Army, however, has instead assigned a two-star acquisition corps officer to this dual-hatted position of Director, Combat Systems. Id.

51. Id.

52. Back to the Future, supra note 1.

53. Id.