Helicopters from the Polish 1st Army Aviation Brigade, 25th Air Cavalry Brigade, and the U.S. 12th Combat Aviation Brigade "Task Force Griffin," are staged for a battalion size air assault of over 400 Sky Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during exercise Anakonda 16, June 10, at the 21st Tactical Air Base in Swidwin, Poland. Anakonda 2016 is a Polish national exercise that seeks to train, exercise and integrate Polish national command and force structures into an allied, joint, multinational environment. (Photo Credit: Spc. Antonio Ramirez (12th Combat Aviation Brigade))

This year, as part of a Strategic Portfolio Analysis and Review, or SPAR, the Army will “rank order” all 780 or so of its equipment programs — from helicopters to boots to rifles — in terms of their impact on warfighting.

The results of that analysis will be made available to Army leaders to help guide them in making decisions on how to allocate dwindling Army modernization funds better.

In the fiscal year 2017 budget request presented to Congress, about $125 billion was allocated to the Army. Of that, about 18 percent, or $23 billion, was earmarked for modernization, including research, development, testing and evaluation, as well as procurement of new equipment. That’s about a 33 percent drop in modernization funding from 2011, said Lt. Gen. John M. Murray, deputy chief of staff, Army G-8.

That drop in funding comes because the Army doesn’t expect to get an increase in its base budget and it is prioritizing readiness and force structure over modernization.

“The priority is retaining force structure and readiness — nobody tells us to do that,” Murray said. “That is a deliberate choice by the senior leaders of the Army. They understand the risk we have taken in modernization. And they understand it’s a compounding risk.”

Still, Murray said, the Army needs to plan now to provide the Army of the future with the tools it will need to fight, and it needs to take action now to make that happen, despite an understanding that more money is probably not going to materialize.

“It would be irresponsible of the Army, of me in particular, to sit back here and say there’s nothing we can do until we get more money,” he said.

The idea of the SPAR, he said, an idea that originated inside the G-8, is to take a look at all existing Army programs, as well as some concepts or ideas the Army might like to have, and prioritize them in a way that will allow Army senior leaders to make “some very tough choices” about what should be kept and what should be let go.

Murray said the G-8 — working with agencies like U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, U.S. Army Forces Command, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, the Army G-3, and others, and with the help of the Center for Army Analysis — will evaluate each of the Army’s 780 or so equipment programs inside a specially developed modeling and simulation program, to determine their relative worth to the Army, in terms of contribution to the warfight.

“We’ll try to measure their contribution to what the chief has talked about, a decisive action, high-end warfight,” Murray said. “What does an M1 tank contribute to a high-end warfight, through modeling and simulations?”

Murray said they’d run their simulation with the tank, for instance, and measure the outcome of that scenario. Then they’d run the same simulation without the tank.

“My fundamental thought is, when the capability is in, you are going to come to a certain outcome,” Murray said. “If the capability is out, that end state should be different. If it’s not, then you have to question the value that capability adds to that warfight.”

While Murray acknowledges that with Army programs “everything we’re doing is important to somebody,” as part of SPAR, all equipment programs, regardless of the portfolio they are in, will be evaluated as falling into one of four “buckets,” in order to make recommendations on how limited modernization resources might be applied to them moving forward:

I: Accelerate or find a way to bring into the portfolio
II: Sustain at current level of resources
III: Some resources can be taken away for investment elsewhere
IV: Take most or even all resources away

The SPAR process will be completed and the outcome of that process will be presented to both the secretary of the Army and the chief of staff of the Army, sometime before April of 2017, for use in development of the 2019-2023 Program Objective Memorandum, known as the POM.

Murray said the SPAR is not itself a final decision on the future of Army programs, but is instead meant to provide well-researched material upon which Army leaders can make those decisions.

“One of the intended outputs is to tee up some hard decisions for the senior leadership,” Murray said. “And whether those decisions get made or not, that’s not my purview, but is well within their purview.”

Another aspect of SPAR, Murray said, is that it will provide him validation for the answers he often provides when asked what he thinks the Army could do with additional funding.

“I’ve been asked 50 times, ‘if you had more money what would you do,'” he said. “And when you give an answer, they ‘say show me the analysis.’ Well, this is the analysis. If we need to modernize, and we need to get ready for the next fight that is coming, then we need to start laying a mark on the table, and that’s the intent of doing this.”

Murray said both existing Army programs, as well as concepts that the Army doesn’t currently have as programs of record, but might want to become involved in, will be evaluated through SPAR. One such example is directed energy weapons.

“We would make some assumptions of what it would perform like, what kind of vehicle it would be mounted on, and play it the same way in the model, and see if it makes a significant difference in the outcome of the scenario,” he said.

Murray said evaluation of Army programs with SPAR is already underway. If the analysis turns out to be valuable, he said, he expects the process to be repeated again every year, in time for providing input to the following year’s POM.

“It’s all about finding resources within the budget we’ve been given to accelerate the critical capabilities for our future warfight, or to go after new programs, new technologies, for that future warfight,” Murray said.