WASHINGTON — The head of U.S. Army combat vehicle modernization was approved by the Senate this week to become deputy commander of Army Futures Command.

Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman received his third star and will take over as deputy of a command formed less than five years ago. The next commander of AFC has not been nominated; Gen. Mike Murray, its first chief, retired late last year.

Lt. Gen. James Richardson, who was deputy commander of AFC, has been serving as acting AFC commander since Murray’s retirement.

Last month, the Army Secretary issued a directive on modernization that put new boundaries around AFC and reasserted the role of the service’s acquisition shop. Critics have argued Army Futures Command has had too much control over modernization, including considerable power over the acquisition enterprise.

Coffman gained attention in his job as the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team lead when he spearheaded the Project Convergence exercise, now a well-known event conducted annually to assess where the service needs to focus its technological development.

Coffman initially ran a smaller version of Project Convergence dubbed Project Quarterback, which paired automated target recognition with future combat vehicles. This idea served as the inspiration for the larger campaign focused across all of the modernization efforts.

He was the lead architect of the first round of the larger exercise, putting together a kill chain that stretched from ground assets to the aerial tier to space assets.

“The bullets flying through the air and exploding is interesting,” Coffman said at the first Project Convergence, held in summer 2020. “But that’s not what’s compelling about Project Convergence. It’s everything that happens before the lanyard is pulled, the trigger is pulled. We didn’t come out here for a precision fires exercise. What we came here to do is increase the speed of information between sensing the target and passing that information to the effector.”

When AFC was established, it laid out six top modernization priorities: Long-Range Precision Fires, Next- Generation Combat Vehicle, Future Vertical Lift, the Network, Air-and-Missile Defense and Soldier Lethality. The service established cross-functional teams and named leaders to separately tackle the development of these key capabilities, designed to prepare the Army for near-peer adversaries in the 2030s and beyond.

The Next-Generation Combat Vehicles portfolio includes the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, an effort to replace the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. The OMFV program got off to a rocky start when the first round of competition required industry participants to produce a working bid sample.

Only one company was able to submit a bid by the deadline, so the Army decided to rework the entire competition and designed a phased approach. Under this strategy, the Army planned a concept design phase followed by detailed design and prototypes phases followed by testing and production.

Coffman’s successor to lead the NGCV CFT has yet to be named.

The CFT is in the midst of a busy month as requests for proposals for both the detailed design phase and the prototype phase for OMFV are expected to be released. Additionally, the Army is expected to soon name the winner for the Mobile Protected Firepower program, a light tank competition.

Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.

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