More stars to come for generals in charge of modernization priorities

WASHINGTON — U.S. Army Futures Command, which is tasked to develop a modernized force, is now more than two years old, and many of its cross-functional team directors have been with the organization since its birth.

Army leadership has stressed the importance of keeping those tasked to develop capability across six modernization priorities rewarded for staying in place longer.

Historically, program managers are swapped out frequently with most serving just two to four years before moving elsewhere. This can be disruptive to progress, especially when it comes to development, so the Army has said it plans to keep CFT directors and program executive officers longer while aligning departures of old leadership and arrivals of new with milestones in the programs rather than in between.

Each CFT director has at least one star. Two generals — Maj. Gen. Peter Gallagher, who is in charge of the Network CFT and Maj. Gen. Maria Gervais, who runs the Synthetic Training Environment CFT — are ranked higher.

For an entire year, the Long Range Precision Fires CFT — the Army’s top priority — was run by a colonel, John Rafferty, who received his first star just prior to last year’s Association of the U.S. Army conference, which took place in October 2019.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told Defense News in an Oct. 8 interview to expect more promotions as a way to reward the tenure of the directors. “I won’t tell you who, but a couple of them are heading in that right direction,” he said. “I’m sure of that, and what you’ll see is they’ll continue to get promoted.”

Along with Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, McCarthy has spoken consistently about ensuring the generals in charge of the CFTs remain with programs long enough to see things move through various gates “so they truly have an appreciation of the weapon system they build, the relationships they strengthen, the culture.”

The Army is also looking for the right windows to replace CFTs. “Find the windows where you can replace these leaders where it doesn’t disrupt the momentum,” McCarthy said.

All the services have this challenge and so do program managers in the Army outside of the CFTs. This means Army leadership at the highest levels will be “very hands on with managing CFTs and program managers” because “these men and women are just critical for our future success,” McCarthy said.

“We’ll find the ways to ensure that it doesn’t hurt them on promotion boards or future opportunities because they’re all doing a great job,” he added.

Meanwhile, Army Futures Command chief Gen. Mike Murray could be approaching retirement. “I will do my best to slow that down,” McCarthy said. ” He’s doing an incredible job.”

But when it comes time for Murray to retire, McCarthy said the “bench is incredibly deep” in terms of “extremely talented” leaders that could fill his shoes.

“We have your groups like ’86, ’88, likely a couple of others, that have six, seven officers that are four-star caliber leaders, and they’re coming up the pipe,” McCarthy said. “This is among the most combat-seasoned maybe in the history of the U.S. Army, and these men and women have been remarkable in their performance at the crucible of combat, and they are all highly educated people and innovative leaders.”

Future leaders of AFC will need to have a high level of “creativity and experience to be able to weigh in about what characteristics and, ultimately, what requirements we need in future capabilities and how it fits in the fighting of new domains of combat like that of space and cyberspace,” McCarthy said.

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