Soldiers with the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion prepare their equipment to deploy in support of U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Army North’s request for defense support of civil authorities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic March 27, 2020 at Fort Stewart, Georgia. The 63rd ESB’s capabilities provide command and control assets to military units, so commanders can employ military capabilities to partner U.S. Government agencies for the whole-of-government effort in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. “We are assisting with 12 teams ready to respond to requests for communication support,” said Capt. AJ Mangosing, 63rd ESB’s Bravo Company commander. “Our Soldiers are motivated, trained, and ready.” (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jason Greaves)
By Michael Bold, Steve Stark and Margaret C. Roth
The Army’s efforts on acquisition, modernization and readiness are moving forward despite the day-to-day difficulties caused by COVID-19, Dr. Bruce D. Jette, the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)), and Gen. John M. Murray, commanding general of the Army Futures Command, told a media roundtable Friday.
The Army is “fairly close to being on track,” Jette told a group of about 20 reporters on a conference call, though he likened it to “running in formation … sometimes there are hills that bunch us up.”
Murray noted that several Army commands are on the front lines in responding to the COVID-19 crisis, including the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Army Materiel Command, the U.S. Army Testing and Evaluation Command and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities and Development Command.
Jette said it was important not to put workers at risk, while acknowledging that not everyone is able to work from home. “Welding can’t be teleworked,” he said. But it’s more important than ever to focus on what is most critical, he urged. “Get down to the important parts of what has to be done to complete the mission,” he said.
For the longer term, the COVID-19 crisis is likely to yield lessons learned of a kind the Army could hardly have foreseen, from contingency planning of supply chain alternatives to design consideration of safe distances between occupants of combat vehicles.
“When we first started, the Department of the Army came out with maximizing telework. I’ve been convinced that we have not taken full advantage of teleworking. … So we’re, at least from an AFC headquarters and an AFC-writ large perspective, we are very much focused on learning the lessons that we can. We do a weekly lessons-learned, best-practices … and actually not seeing as much of a degradation as I thought we would. There’s some things you can do teleworking, like Dr. Jette was talking about, but we plan on maximizing the lessons that we’re learning, at least this first initial couple weeks, and then applying that as we move forward in the future. Whether it’s we have to, which I think we probably will, or whether we don’t have to, I think we have to take full advantage of this opportunity to learn from it.”
Jette said that ASA(ALT) “is doing very similar things, trying to understand how can we do things better. It’s been interesting that, when we’ve had a lot more people available to us to answer questions, it was easier to get questions from an inefficient system. It’s causing us to have to be much more efficient in how we manage our information and how we exchange it, how we share it. So all of these things, they’re making us reflect on it, and on our methodologies of management. I think in the long run its going to make us do better at our job overall.
Meanwhile, “safety, security and the health of our workforce” is the No. 1 priority, Murray said.
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