The Army’s 2021 budget request has been submitted and the $178 billion proposal will probably endure some shake-ups as it has in previous years due to a process known as ‘night court’. Even though it seems as if nothing much has changed, a request for augmented reality headsets stands out in the new budget. With an increased focus on modernization, the army has requested AR infused night goggles called IVAS. Lt. Gen. Thomas Horlander, Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army mentioned that such investments are ‘deterrence factors and that adequate research has been done which shows the potential benefits.
The Army is aiming to develop 40 219 integrated visual augmentation system units that include map displays and simulated images for training. The heads-up display is also connected to the soldier’s weapon sensor. Maj. Gen. Paul Chamberlain, the Army’s budget director, told sources that the units are expected to go to 100,000 close combat forces. They will use the AR systems as part of their training. The Army has been testing the technology since 2018 but no units will be available for purchase until 2020. The final version will be based on the Microsoft HoloLens 2.
Huge tech investments like these are usually dependent on other transaction agreements which is a way for the Department of Defence to save money & quickly buy technology. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy stated that it may require more latitude work if a contractor is involved especially when analyzing prototypes but he says that they have a better outcome than the Army does with the technology. He stated that they tried doing things the old fashioned way but it didn’t work out even though they learned a lot. They managed to spend $23 million instead of $2.3 billion they would have a decade ago.
As for the rest of the budget, the Army’s research, development, and acquisition portfolio for fiscal 2021 risen slightly but $30 million was cut from the Distributed Common Grounds Systems, an intelligence-based system aimed at helping commanders visualize environments and possible threats. The biggest increase went to personnel pay raises at 4.8% and 3.6% in operations and maintenance. Horlander mentioned that this amount will have to increase with 3% every year to keep up with readiness needs.
Horlander commented on the ‘night court’ process and audits, saying that it should be standard so that taxes are well-spent. He mentioned further that there are difficult decisions on the horizon especially when the modernization programs are put into place and launched. There are already 34 signature programs and most of them, according to Horlander, are on a good course. Prototypes are scheduled to come out in 2023. The Army also stated that it had $1.4 billion reforms in savings which matched the Pentagon’s requirements and more than $1 billion in other savings thanks to processes like the night court. The Army said that its savings will be reinvested to fund modernization systems.