The Army is about a month out from a big announcement about its nascent Futures Command, the service’s undersecretary said Thursday, and there’s already a list of items to tackle when it comes to equipping soldiers.

New night vision goggles and a carbine — to replace the M4 the service has been trying to upgrade for the better part of a decade — are two of the top priorities, Army Undersecretary Ryan McCarthy told an audience at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

“We’ve started conversations with Congress,” he told Army Times. “If we were to move out this spring, we could even start by the end of this calendar year.”

Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei tries on a pair of night-vision goggles used by the U.S. Army 1st Special Forces Group during a visit by the MLS soccer team to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 9, 2016, in Washington state. (Ted S. Warren/AP)
Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei tries on a pair of night-vision goggles used by the U.S. Army 1st Special Forces Group during a visit by the MLS soccer team to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 9, 2016, in Washington state. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

The Army has made more than one attempt to replace the M4 in recent years, including a multiyear competition it scrapped in 2013, after none of the vendors who submitted an idea were able to meet the minimum requirements to justify a new rifle.

Another attempt at an upgrade failed in 2016, when the Army found the costs of proposed new technology didn’t justify the minimal enhances in capability.

“How do we get better, and how do we get faster?” McCarthy said. “We’re trying to reduce the number of layers.”

Under Futures Command management, developing a new rifle — or any soldier equipment — would be governed by a more streamlined process, with tight development timelines and no room to change requirements mid-process.

“We want to fail early and fail cheap,” said Maj. Gen. Peter Gallagher, who is in charge of the cross-functional team tasked with upgrading Army network capabilities.

And when an idea fails, McCarthy added, the accountability for it should be on senior Army leaders — himself, the Army secretary, and the chief and vice chief of staff.

Futures Command includes six cross-functional teams, one each to cover soldier systems, networks, long-range fires, air and missile defense, aircraft, and combat vehicles.

The Army has spent the past four months on a task force to stand up the command, McCarthy said, and the service expects to make an announcement in late March to include newly selected leadership, operating capability timeline and a choice of headquarters.