George signals electronic warfare training, industry partnerships as top priorities

By Dan Schere / July 12, 2023

Gen. Randy George told lawmakers Wednesday that continuing to integrate electronic warfare into training exercises, along with bolstering partnerships with industry, will be among his goals if confirmed as the Army's next chief of staff.

George, the current Army vice chief who has been nominated to succeed Gen. James McConville as chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his nomination hearing that the service must continue to incorporate electronic warfare into its combat training centers.

“Some of our exercises have actually linked back to capabilities that we’ve had at the Electronic Proving Ground [at Ft. Huachuca in Arizona], so obviously the Pacific is the expanse . . . and linking all of these capabilities to include command and control is something that we’ll continue to do,” he said in response to questions from Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ).

Advance policy questions submitted to George by lawmakers prior to Wednesday’s hearing note that the war in Ukraine has “shown extensive electronic warfare operations by both the Russian and Ukrainian Armed Forces,” and ask him what the Army is doing to operate in a GPS-denied environment.

George, in his response, wrote that the service has completed its initial testing and evaluation of mounted and dismounted Assured Position, Navigation and Timing systems and has begun fielding them.

“Additionally, we are exploring and experimenting with several alternative navigation systems untethered to the GPS constellation,” he wrote. “All these capabilities are tested annually in a APNT Assessment Exercise, where actual enemy capabilities in this space are replicated.”

George also wrote that the service is “improving our ability to train in realistic combat environments, including GPS-denied environments. These improvements are being incorporated into the modeling and simulation capabilities such as WARSIM and WARFIGHTER exercises.”

Later in the hearing, Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) asked George whether the service’s approach to autonomous mobility is sufficient to meet challenges, and what structural changes he felt were necessary, including the potential creation of a program executive office focused on ground autonomy.

“You can’t let your structure get in the way of how you have to adjust your force and what you’re going to need on the battlefield to win,” George said. “So yes, we’re going have to look at that and see how we’re doing that. And I think that we are.”

George said autonomous systems are an example of an area where the service needs to better partner with the private sector.

“I think what we’re looking at is everything we’re building needs to have open architecture . . . to make sure that we have an open architecture, and that we can easily adapt these systems. I think that that’s the way we have to do this if we’re going to evolve,” he said.

In the advance policy questions, George wrote that the service’s “most significant challenge is gaining access to technological innovations outside of the traditional defense industrial base.”

“The Army needs to be able to tap private sector innovation from firms that may be reluctant to engage with the Army’s complex acquisition system,” he wrote. “The Army also needs the ability to recruit and retain scientists and engineers in areas such as Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning and Biotechnology where competition for talent from the private sector is fierce.”

Nomination blockade means ‘uncharted territory’

During Wednesday’s hearing, several Democratic and one independent senator expressed outrage over Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) blanket hold on more than 200 military nominees over his objection to the Pentagon’s leave and travel reimbursement policies for servicemembers seeking abortion services.

When Sen. Angus King (I-ME) asked George whether the holds are undermining national security, George said he agreed that it was impacting readiness.

“For us, it’s important as we move leaders to get the right leader in the right place at the right time, and especially with the right experience. And so that’s what we’re challenged with right now, with the hold,” he said.

Later, committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) asked George what would happen in the event he was confirmed as chief of staff, but the vice chief role remained vacant. George said the service is “still working through this because we’re still a little bit in uncharted territory.”

“But we would have to look for people across the staff to kind of pick up those duties where they could,” he said.

George said in the event a vice chief had not yet been confirmed, the service might have to consider looking at the G3 or director of the Army staff when considering who would serve on the Joint Requirements Oversight Council -- a body that includes the vice chiefs from each of the services.

The Biden administration tapped Lt. Gen. James Mingus, the director for the Joint Staff, this week for the vice chief role. Reed acknowledged Mingus’ nomination during Wednesday’s hearing, but said he fears the implications of a potential vacancy in the vice chief role.

“He [Mingus] would be waiting to move, and also someone would be waiting to take his place, so we would be in this perpetual ‘who’s on first’ situation. And that affects readiness,” Reed said.