Gen. Cedric T. Wins is the first commanding general of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC), having assumed that role when the Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) became the CCDC upon transition into the Army Futures Command (AFC) on Feb. 3, 2019. Prior to that, Wins served as the RDECOM commander.
CCDC has the mission to provide innovative research, development, and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation.
Wins graduated from the Virginia Military Institute and was commissioned in the field artillery in July 1985. He is a graduate of the Field Artillery Officer Basic and Advanced courses, Command and General Staff College, and the National War College. He holds a master’s degree in management from the Florida Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the National War College.
Before his assignment as RDECOM commander, Wins served as director, force development in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8. During his 30 years of service, he has held leadership and staff assignments in the 7th Infantry Division (Light), Fort Ord, California; the 2nd Infantry Division, Eighth United States Army, Korea; Headquarters Department of the Army and the Joint Staff, the Pentagon; the 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; Strategic Planning, J-8, U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida; and the Requirement Integration Directorate, Army Capabilities Integration Center, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.
His deployments include Task Force Sinai, Multinational Force and Observers, Egypt, Operations Officers, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 5th Battalion, 21st Infantry (Light); Program Executive Officer, Joint Program Executive Office – Afghanistan Public Protection Force, Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom; and Deputy Commander, Police, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Training Mission – Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom.
His awards and badges include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit (with One Oak Leaf Cluster), the Bronze Star Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (with One Oak Leaf Cluster), the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal (with Two Oak Leaf Clusters), the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Army Achievement Medal (with One Oak Leaf Cluster) and Parachutist Badge, Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge and Army Staff Identification Badge.
Defense R&D Outlook: What is the mission of Combat Capabilities Development Command?
Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins: The mission of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC, is to provide the research, engineering, and analytical expertise to deliver capabilities that enable the Army to deter and, when necessary, decisively defeat any adversary now and in the future.
Following the strategic vision of the U.S. Army Futures Command, CCDC moves at the speed of relevancy, adapting to today’s challenges and preparing for tomorrow’s threats. Through systematic research and development, continuous experimentation and prototyping, and the pursuit of appropriate commercial options, CCDC discovers and develops the innovative capabilities required to meet current modernization requirements and empower a more lethal future force.
The command drives research and development integration and collaboration across the Future Force Modernization Enterprise, to include partners in academia, industry, international allies, and other government agencies. With a global presence, CCDC maintains strong relationships with allied science and technology [S&T] organizations across the world, in order to secure the best technology for American soldiers.
Establishment of Army Futures Command (AFC), which is charged with modernizing the Army and ensuring that it achieves decisive overmatch in future conflicts, has been called the most significant Army reorganization since 1973. In February 2019, CCDC, formerly Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), transitioned from Army Materiel Command (AMC) into AFC. Can you talk a bit about what the transition has been like? How does CCDC fit into AFC organizationally? How has the transition to AFC affected the way that CCDC operates?
The transition has gone very well so far for a couple of reasons. First: leadership. Our leadership when we were part of AMC supported this transition from the beginning. Gen. Gustave Perna, AMC commander, always put a heavy emphasis on leading our way through any challenge, including this transition. It really paid off. Gen. John “Mike” Murray referenced leadership as soon as he was named the first AFC commander when he said AFC is a startup managing a merger. That takes extraordinary leadership, and he has stressed that throughout.
They were both also very clear that we would do what’s right for the Army. So we didn’t lose a lot of time or momentum caused by friction between the two Army commands. There has been a lot of work to do, and a lot remains to be done, but as soon as we came to a shared understanding that Army leadership established a clear set of modernization priorities, that’s the way we all headed.
Another reason the transition has gone well is that we positioned ourselves for change, which started before AFC was announced. There was already a general understanding that improvement was needed in the Army’s science and technology and acquisition spaces. We developed a campaign plan to deliberately deepen and widen our understanding of what – at that time – RDECOM was doing so we could start streamlining, finding points of friction and slippage, and so on. By the time AFC was announced, we had gained a lot of insight that we hadn’t had in the past. We were able to see where we had gaps, redundancies, and at least some blind spots. We also identified a lot of best practices and where we needed more. So when the decision was made that we were to become part of AFC, we were prepared with a depth of knowledge that allowed us to move a lot faster than we might have otherwise.
Our campaign plan made the transition a lot easier, but any change that big is going to generate its share of challenges. There were a lot of big decisions that had to be made, which means some hard questions had to be asked and answered.
For example, one question was whether RDECOM should continue to exist as it had existed for the 14 years leading up to that point. Was there a better way to align the constituent parts of RDECOM for the future? We answered that first question successfully, because the command is still here and now AFC’s largest sub-organization. But we also realigned internally to better focus the existing team and gained the organization that had been known as AMSAA [Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity], now known as CCDC Data & Analysis Center. So CCDC has changed in a number of ways, from our internal alignment, to where we’re investing our funding and how often we’re communicating to the team.
The funding gets most of the attention, but people who were familiar with RDECOM will look at CCDC and see other changes that aren’t as dramatic as realigning almost $2 billion to support the modernization priorities. Everything from how we determine what to fund to how we track our most important projects to how we transition the resulting technology started to change.
It will take us a while to fully integrate all of these changes – we’re a command with more than 14,000 people and a worldwide presence. Furthermore, we know things will continue to evolve as AFC continues to lead this unprecedented merger.
We also had one advantage not everyone had: CCDC was the only command going into AFC. The other parts of AFC were either coming out of an existing command or starting from scratch.
Now that CCDC is part of AFC, we fit between the Futures and Concepts Center [FCC] and Combat Systems. FCC is primarily what used to be known as the Army Capabilities Integration Center. Combat Systems is the Program Executive Office community connected with a dotted line to AFC. FCC develops the command’s concept of how the Army will have to operate in the future. CCDC’s workforce of scientists and engineers helps in that regard, because our experts understand what is technologically possible now and what will be possible in the future. Once the requirement goes through the research and development process, it becomes a program of record with the PEO community. We not only develop technology for their use, we provide a lot of the engineering support they need. So we have deep connections with both these groups and, while our relationships will evolve under AFC’s leadership, I think they will only deepen and get better.
AFC also has the Cross Functional Teams [CFTs], the Army Applications Lab and the Artificial Intelligence Task Force. We already work closely with the CFTs. They have small teams and huge tasks, so we provide a lot of subject matter expertise to help the soldiers in charge understand the science and technology behind the capabilities they’re tasked to shepherd to the field faster. We’ve integrated the CFT leaders into things like our Stage-Gate review process, where we go over every piece of technology we’re working on to meet the CFT’s stated needs for modernization. They are eight different teams and they’re still building those teams. They all have more or less the same tasks in different areas and they have made significant headway.
You can see the wisdom of unity of command at work.
How is CCDC structured? What is its workforce like?
I have the privilege of leading the Army’s largest talent pool of scientists, engineers, analysts, and technicians, many of whom are the world-leading specialists in their field of expertise. Their passion for knowledge and dedication to supporting the soldier is what enables CCDC to discover, develop, and deliver the capabilities soldiers need to fight and win our nation’s wars and come home safely.
CCDC is structured into seven centers and one laboratory that each bring unique expertise and key facilities to the Army research, development, and engineering arena. The CCDC Army Research Laboratory conducts threat-based foundational research with attention to long-term projections on future military technologies. The CCDC Armaments, Aviation & Missile, Chemical Biological, C5ISR, Data & Analysis, Ground Vehicle Systems, and Soldier Centers conduct applied research and development, engineering and analytical support in their respective domains to transition technologies for soldiers today and in the future.
As part of AFC, CCDC is supporting not only the Chief of Staff of the Army’s readiness, future fight, and troop support priorities, but six stated Army modernization priorities: Long-Range Precision Fires; Next Generation Combat Vehicle; Future Vertical Lift; Army Network; Air and Missile Defense; and Soldier Lethality. How is CCDC working to meet the needs of the Army in these areas?
As the scientific and technological foundation of the Future Force Modernization Enterprise, CCDC is committed to supporting Army Priorities and the strategic vision of Army Futures Command in the most efficient and impactful manner possible.
As part of several ongoing reform efforts within the command, CCDC completed a comprehensive workload review to align our science and technology (S&T) efforts to the Army’s modernization priorities.
Each modernization priority is led by a Cross Functional Team as part of Army Futures Command. Early on, CCDC established direct support to the CFTs by identifying a lead S&T representative for each team. For example, our CCDC Armaments Center provides an S&T lead for Long-Range Precision Fires; our Ground Vehicle Systems Center provides an S&T lead for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle, and so on. Our subordinate centers provide key subject matter expertise to the CFTs for basic and applied research, development, engineering and analysis.
The CFTs generate technical program recommendations for the modernization priorities and their associated lines of effort. CCDC plans and executes technology research and development to meet those recommendations. As I mentioned before, we’ve integrated the CFTs into our Stage-Gate review process, where [we] review every technology we’re working on to meet the CFT’s stated modernization needs. Once a new technology matures to advanced development, a transition agreement ensures a seamless transition of the new capability to the acquisition community for delivery to the soldier.
Using one of the aforementioned modernization priorities as an example, can you walk us through CCDC’s process to discover, develop, and integrate/deliver technology-enabled solutions to soldiers?
Let’s look at Soldier Lethality, which includes the requirement that our soldiers have capabilities that increase survivability on the battlefield. Though the constructs of the Soldier Lethality modernization priority and CFT are relatively new, CCDC is focused on incremental survivability improvements for decades. The combat helmet is a great example of a capability we transitioned from discovery, development, and integration to delivery.
Combat helmets have evolved considerably since the Hadfield steel pot helmets of World War II. In the 1960s, industry developed Kevlar, which enabled a leap-ahead capability in synthetic composite material. The Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops (PASGT) was the first helmet to use Kevlar and both vests and helmets made of Kevlar were used by all U.S. military services from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s.
Since then, CCDC and its predecessors have pioneered materials and manufacturing technologies now used in every ballistic protective helmet for the Army, Marines, special operations forces and Navy SEALS.
The next major advance in helmet technology resulted by combining material advances and manufacturing processes. Industry began developing a new generation of ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene fibers. In parallel, a collaborative effort between the Army, Marine Corps, and U.S. Special Operations Command funded new manufacturing technologies, tooling, and hybridization techniques that enabled thermoplastic ballistic composite materials to be affordably formed into complex helmet shapes.
Materials research and manufacturing processes were key assets in pursuit of incremental performance gains in head-protection materials and systems. These performance gains took a capability from discovery through development and into integration which enabled the acquisition and fielding of the Future Assault Shell Technology (FAST) helmet for Special Operations Forces, and U.S. Marine Corps Enhanced Combat Helmet (ECH).
In 2018 Army Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen was serving in Afghanistan when he was struck in the back of his helmet with a 7.62x54mm Russian round at a distance of approximately 20 feet. The ECH he was wearing protected him from the shot and he sustained no injuries and, other than receiving physical therapy to correct some balance issues; he’s had no other treatment related to the incident. The ECH did exactly what it was supposed to do; it saved the life of one of our soldiers.
We look to this as one example of how the discovery, development, integration, and delivery of a capability worked – and it worked as the result of critical collaboration across the Army, Department of Defense, and industry. This collaboration will become even more critical as Army Futures Command leads the Future Force Modernization Enterprise to get after those six modernization priorities.
Does CCDC have its own strategic priorities? If so, how do they align with and/or complement U.S. Army priorities overall?
My command’s mission is to make scientific discoveries through basic and applied research, develop them into technologies, and then incorporate those technologies into capabilities the Army can use now and in the future. We provide a lot of engineering support to the PEO community and the Life Cycle Management Commands. That means we work on everything from spiraling in new technologies to existing capabilities, to delivering urgent upgrades to support readiness, to helping retire capabilities that are no longer needed. Because of that, we have to cultivate a wider view of technology and how it may contribute to today’s readiness, tomorrow’s modernization, and what the future force after that will need.
With that wider view in mind, we develop a pipeline of technology that stretches from those first ideas our scientists at the CCDC Army Research Laboratory have about investigating something that might be important to the Army in 30 or 40 years, to having new technology we can engineer to insert new capability into existing equipment to meet a soldier’s urgent needs. We have priorities outside of the six modernization priorities, but these priorities complement the Army’s current modernization focus. Everyone knows military technology is not going to stop changing in 2028 or 2035. The technologies we’re developing today will be there when the Army fields its current priorities, evaluates what that means to the threat environment of 2028, and inevitably finds new areas that need modernizing.
One example that spans the science and engineering spaces is the CCDC Chemical Biological Center. If you look at the threat from existing and potential military adversaries, terrorists, and criminals, it’s obvious that you don’t want to send soldiers into any situation with the second-best gas mask or chemical-biological detection kit in the world. Chem-bio is also a good example of how CCDC provides foundational technologies for the joint warfighter. Most of the work they do is for the Department of Defense because you obviously want every service member to have the best available equipment and the most effective and cost-efficient way to do that is to have one center that pioneers the technologies and basic pieces of gear that every soldier uses.
CCDC has three regionally aligned elements: CCDC-Americas, CCDC-Atlantic, and CCDC-Pacific. What are the benefits to CCDC of having an international presence? How does the work of each element vary depending on its regional focus?
CCDC’s global engagement efforts are critical to ensuring the Army stays current with the latest technology developments around the world. The command’s three regionally aligned elements – CCDC-Americas, CCDC-Atlantic and CCDC-Pacific – identify opportunities to leverage or acquire state-of-the-art foreign technologies that demonstrate it can fill a technology gap that will be beneficial to the U.S. Army. In addition to providing world-class products to improve military capabilities, other benefits include: creating and strengthening partnerships; enabling affordability; harvesting global innovation; and enhancing interoperability. Interoperability with coalition partners is one of the Army’s top priorities since the Army does not fight alone.
Each element has the same three basic missions: 1) to identify and promote collaborative opportunities in basic and applied research and technological discovery with academia, government research centers, and industry; 2) to support the Army’s International Cooperative Research, Development, Acquisition, Standardization and Interoperability interests; and 3) through Field Assistance in Science and Technology, our advisors to Army Service Components/Commands provide commanders with immediate and reach-back access to CCDC scientists and engineers to resolve capability gaps and expedite technology solutions to the soldier.
In the European theater, however, where the technology and academic maturity level is higher than in other parts of the world, our relationships with these key allies and partners is also much more mature. This means we have more interactions, international agreements and personnel and scientific data/information exchanges between the CCDC Centers/Labs and countries in this region compared to other regions.
Through the integration of our global resources and by leveraging innovation, we will continue to deliver relevant and revolutionary capabilities to the soldier to maintain overmatch against adversaries on the battlefield.
What kind of partnerships does CCDC have with academia and industry? What impact has the CCDC’s transition to AFC had on those relationships?
We work side by side with domestic and international industry and academic partners to develop innovative technologies that will become key capabilities for the Army. A project is often the result of more than one CCDC center and more than one industry or academic partner working together. We actively engage with commercial vendors to leverage commercial products that will meet the Army’s needs. Sharing information and collaborating reduces duplicative efforts and supports our ability to field technologies more quickly, which is critical to the Army’s modernization strategy.
One way that we partner with industry and academia is through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs); these agreements allow Army researchers to exchange technical expertise and share information, facilities, and equipment with industry, academia, and other non-federal parties. While this is true in some cases, the primary purpose of a CRADA is that they allow research and development collaborations and not an evaluation on a vendor’s technologies.
We also gather and share information through requests for information and by hosting industry days and technical exchange meetings. We expect industry to outpace some of the developmental technology space where we’re working, so these meetings give us an opportunity to identify potential technology solutions the Army can adopt or adapt.
Our scientists and engineers are the Army’s experts at operating in the dynamic and rapidly evolving ecosystem of science and technology. Becoming part of the AFC enabled us to partner in new ways and bring our expertise to bear on the Army’s problems faster than ever. We continue to leverage our long history of bringing stakeholders together to allow Army leaders to make better-informed decisions.
This interview originally appears in Defense R&D Outlook 2019.