By Ray K. Ragan
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (Jan. 30, 2014) – The Army’s Electronic Proving Ground (EPG) recently conducted a large scale technology demonstration of a new radio waveform here.
“We wanted to conduct a full scale, by that I mean an Army brigade’s worth, [demonstration] of radios exercising [and] characterizing the performance of the wideband networking waveform,” said, Joe Sweeney, test engineer for the Army’s Product Manager, Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radios (PdM MNVR).
“We [EPG] have a clear [radio] spectrum, so we provide a real fidelity in testing; there are no other [radio spectrum] factors that can negatively influence our testing.”
MNVR is a radio system that provides a robust, large-scale networking capability within a large unit, like an Army brigade, from the Soldier to the senior leaders. During the demonstration, a new radio waveform was shown capable of both data capacity and the ability to handle many network users. The demonstration showed the waveform was able to communicate between a smaller unit, like a company, and a much larger unit, like a brigade.
“This amounted to 88 radios in ground platforms and one radio in a UH60 Blackhawk helicopter,” explained Sweeney.
To support a demonstration of this scale, EPG was selected because it offers 1.6 million acres of testing space through the Buffalo Electronic Test Range and its accessibility to radio spectrum. EPG is a favorite among testers in defense and commercial industry because of its access to radio spectrum in a very quiet radio spectrum environment.
“We needed an area with the ability to deploy vehicle assets in a large representative geographic area with a lot of allowable bandwidth. We also needed a site with established test capabilities—by that I mean testing networking capabilities,” said Sweeney. “EPG provided all of that.”
EPG, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, is the developmental testing ground for the Army’s communication and network technology. Among test management, planning and reporting, EPG offers other rarer test requirements like radio spectrum and a varied geography, including mountains, valleys and plains.
“We [EPG] have a clear [radio] spectrum, so we provide a real fidelity in testing; there are no other [radio spectrum] factors that can negatively influence our testing,” explained Mark Butler, the test officer at EPG for the demonstration.
“Once you have a clean spectrum, you can add things [interference] to it, or degrade it, but you can’t take a noisy spectrum and clean it up, so that makes EPG unique in that aspect.”
According to Butler, EPG worked with PdM MNVR on other projects and tested for PdM MNVR as early as 2005. This creates the advantage of understanding the program and any unique requirements that a PM may have.
“I’m in a fortunate position, because the PdM [MNVR] brings me into their integrated product team meetings, and EPG was part of the planning staff from concept initiation,” said Butler.
We looked at the requirements between the different PMs [PdMs]. We came up with some of the things we thought the PMs wanted to see, figured how we could put that into a relevant environment to see how it [the waveform] works.”
To date, this demonstration was one of the largest that EPG conducted at Fort Huachuca. In addition to 89 ground and air-based radios, the demonstration also used 104 channels of the wideband networking waveform to show that the waveform was capable of handling a large unit communicating.
“It [demonstration] was a semi-realistic scenario,” said Butler, “we actually came up with a scheme of maneuver that made sense, from staging areas, moving out, your recon people going out, we had all the movements in place to what you’d expect across the range.”
According to Sweeney, EPG demonstrating the waveform was an important enabler for advancing the radio program.
“This was a real teaming effort with a lot of cooperation from the Army ground and aviation community,” he added.
AMC works to preserve OIB capabilities through cooperative arrangements with industry and others
By Mr. Mark L. Morrison
Among the challenges faced by the Army’s organic industrial base (OIB), as it transitions from combat to sustainment, is allocating diminishing workload within the depots and arsenals of the U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC). Capitalizing on private-sector capabilities through public-private partnerships (P3), such as work share, teaming, direct sales, facility use and leasing, is one key way to preserve the OIB’s unique capabilities while ensuring its viability as an enterprise in the near term and its long-term ability to meet surge requirements.
To support the warfighter during the past 12 years, AMC has invested in tooling, specialty equipment, training and the professional development of a deployable, skilled and award-winning OIB workforce. Among the honors AMC has received are 27 of 47 Shingo awards; Lean Six Sigma and value engineering awards; selection as a Reuters Top 100 Global Innovator; Secretary of Defense Environmental awards; and presidential rank and civilian service awards.
P3s enable our partners to take advantage of these investments, capabilities and workforce skills. Partnerships provide access to advanced technology; state-of-the-art equipment; secure AMC facilities that are ISO (International Organization for Standardization)-certified and comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations; the potential use of hard-to-obtain hazardous waste permits; and Lean Six Sigma processes. Partnerships also allow industry to leverage long-term use agreements and reduce their capital investment and overhead costs.
For the Army, P3s offer the benefits of improving operational efficiencies, lowering costs of products and services, accelerating innovation, sustaining critical skills and capabilities, and ultimately reducing our expensing rates, thus making our depots and arsenals more cost-competitive. In FY13, AMC had 205 partnerships, representing total revenue of $203 million while sustaining 1,800 jobs. (See “Conserving Capabilities,” Army AL&T magazine, January-March 2013, Page 160.)
DOD has endorsed the continued use of partnerships as a critical part of President Obama’s national security strategy. In a July 2012 report to the secretary of the Army, the Defense Business Board, tasked with providing recommendations on how to exploit the benefits of these partnerships more fully, noted: “Public-Private Collaborations leverage the resources of the private sector and other collaborating agencies and allies. As the department enters a decade of austerity, collaborations are a cost-wise process that usually results in a significant return on a relatively modest investment.”
The same report also noted departmentwide challenges that can undermine partnership efforts. Top among the challenges DOD faces is that there is no overarching P3 doctrine, no standard approach for industry-DOD partnerships. Consequently the private sector does not know how to go about partnering.
AMC’s experience echoes some of those themes, notably the lack of a standard approach to partnering. Currently, AMC organizations are as diverse in their P3 approaches as each installation’s capabilities. As Gen. Dennis L. Via, AMC commanding general (CG), has observed, “Fostering partnerships calls for a more responsive approach on AMC’s part.” The private sector is a fast-moving entity that calls for a receptive and timely government response.
A STANDARD APPROACH
To address these concerns, AMC is working on a new business development strategy that will focus on the benefits and pitfalls of partnering, to establish a standard approach to attracting partnerships and reaching agreements.
The new business development plan will lay out a standard policy, metrics, tools and training that will enable the OIB to speak with one language when it comes to attracting new business. As the plan is finalized, the focus is on standardizing efforts and applying the required levels of AMC attention and resources at all sites.
In devising this new approach, AMC examined where and how partnerships have worked especially well. The most successful arrangements have developed when the collaboration took a “triad” approach. This method includes a business development professional, legal advisor and contracting officer at the initial stages of a relationship, as follows:
- Business development, to reach out with the concept of partnering, determine scope and garner concept approval.
- Legal, to analyze the environment and bring a solid understanding of applicable law, regulation and policy, with the aim of maximizing flexibility to the business development professional and the contracting officer.
- Contracting, to determine the best interests of the government and thus ensure that the partnering effort achieves its stated goals through rock-solid agreements and supporting documents that define applicable terms and conditions such as direct labor structure and costs.
Not only is integrated coordination a must from the beginning of a partnership, but AMC needs to go even further by looking toward a larger definition of partnership. Beyond the traditional arrangements with industry and small business, partnering should involve a larger concept of “public” that includes other services, the Defense Logistics Agency and other countries as well.
In addition, the continued growth in foreign military sales (FMS) offers a promising venue for partnerships. In FY13, FMS support resulted in $190 million in revenue for the OIB.
Our industrial capabilities and capacities should make us an attractive partner. Ultimately the best, most successful partnerships are those that add value to the OIB and bring profit to the private-sector partner. We must team with industry to create win-win opportunities.
As AMC’s new business development plan advances, its rapid execution will support the preservation of unique OIB capabilities, so that the OIB can remain effective, efficient and poised to provide the timely, high-quality support that our warfighters have come to expect and demand.
For more information, contact the AMC G-3/4 Industrial Base Capabilities Division at 256-450-7087 or Ramon Campos at Ramon.Campos.email@example.com.
- MR. MARK L. MORRISON is the director of industrial base and infrastructure planning at AMC headquarters, Redstone Arsenal, AL. Morrison served for 29 years as an Army Ordnance Corps officer before retiring in 2009. Subsequently, he was selected as a highly qualified expert, and is responsible for leading AMC’s current industrial base optimization assessment. Morrison holds a B.A. in political science from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and an M.S. in national security and strategic studies from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
By Joyce M. Conant, ARL Public Affairs
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Jan. 28, 2014) — Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory go about their business every day working on projects to help better serve the military and its members who protect our country. Sometimes the research inspires commercial companies to do additional research and expand on certain aspects to develop products of their own.
That is what happened with ARL’s research called “Inertial Reticle Technology” where researchers who were then in the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate developed a concept to apply advanced fire control technology to sniper weapons.
As a result of this concept, a modern fire control system for rifles was developed by a Texas-based company, which later partnered with another prominent gun manufacturer. Their partnership allowed for the development of a new shooting system, which they claim may just revolutionize how targets are acquired. It is called the precision guided firearm.
According to an article in American Rifleman, dated Dec. 17, 2013, a new integrated rifle and sighting system was introduced in January 2013, in which a video screen scope with an internal laser rangefinder to measure the distance to the target and, using the latest in digital technology, factors in temperature, barometric pressure, incline/decline, cant, air density, spin drift, target movement and effect drift.
Raymond Von Wahlde, aerospace engineer, Vehicle Technology Directorate, learned about this discovery through his former colleagues Lucian Sadowski and Dr. Stephen Small both from Joint Service Small Arms Program who managed a project in the 1990′s known as, “Project White Feather.”
Dr. Small named the project as a tribute to famed sniper Gunnery Sgt. Carlos N. Hathcock II, also known as “White Feather.” Von Wahlde found that the new rifle was very similar to the technology he had coauthored a white paper on with Dennis Metz from EAI Corporation in August 1999, titled “Sniper Weapon Fire Control Error Budget Analysis,” data from which was included on the company’s website.
Von Wahlde contacted the company to see if those who developed their precision-guided firearms were aware of the SOCOM-sponsored project known as “Project White Feather.”
Von Wahlde said in his message, “…we called it the ‘Inertial Reticle.’ It was the brain child of Dr. Mark Kregel. Might the precision guided firearm trace its ancestry back at least in part to ‘Project White Feather?’”
Von Wahlde went on to say, “Your videos look remarkably like ours did back in the day. I am impressed with your implementation. We utilized actual inertial sensors on the weapon to stabilize the desired aim point. I like your image processing method for doing so. Your solution to trigger pull is elegant. We replaced the trigger with a switch that armed the system. A solenoid actually pulled the trigger. That was one of the least liked features of our prototype by the users. Adjusting the trigger force is brilliant.”
Within a couple of days, Von Wahlde received a message back from the company.
“Thank you very much for your email. I appreciate your work — Project White Feather continues to be the best compilation and serious study of sniper performance data that I am aware of. We make everyone on the team read it. Thanks for your interest, would love to show you the system sometime,” said Bret Boyd, vice president of sales and marketing, TrackingPoint.
Von Wahlde who was project engineer for much of the testing said he gives a lot of credit to his former colleagues.
“The technology was the brain child of Dr. Mark Kregel (now retired) and along with Tom Haug (also retired) and Tim Brosseau from WMRD, they constructed the prototype systems for the IRT (Inertial Reticle Technology),” said Von Wahlde. “I am honored to be part of a team that served as an inspiration for these systems.”
- ARL is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.
RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness–technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection and sustainment–to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.
- ARL is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.
A host of stakeholders speak frankly on what the Army needs to do to preserve its industrial base
By Army AL&T magazine staff
Preserving the unique and often highly specialized skills and capabilities of the Army industrial base is critical to the Army and to the nation. In addition to the organic industrial base, companies both large and small in the commercial base offer critical or hard-to-make products and services that ultimately result in critical systems that help maintain the U.S. military’s superiority.
Yet fiscal austerity is likely to constrain U.S. spending on national security even as the Army faces growing complexities and multifaceted dangers. Some of those companies may be at risk of losing their indigenous capabilities to develop and produce critical goods and services. So, too, may some of the Army’s own organic capabilities be at risk of ramping down to the point that they are no longer readily available.
“Critical Thinking” generally offers the perspective of a single thought leader from outside DOD and the defense industry on issues faced by the Army AL&T community. Our intent is to provide fresh opinion and expertise on difficult challenges. However, for this issue, we took a slightly different approach.
It’s clear that, just as the Army’s industrial base is broad and complex, so, too, are the interests and concerns of those who work in and around it. With that in mind, rather than reach out to a single individual with multiple questions, Army AL&T magazine reached out to multiple individuals with one question:
In your opinion, what does the U.S. Army need to do in the very short term, in the near term and in the long term to protect the skills and capabilities of its industrial base?
Here are the answers from 10 individuals representing a cross-section of big and small defense businesses, think tanks and interest groups. These views are the opinions solely of the individuals and do not reflect the policy or viewpoints of Army AL&T, the U.S. Army or DOD.
Seal Science Inc.
The United States’ ability to provide for the safety and security of its citizenry is being significantly impacted by a silent killer that has received almost no attention—the loss of critical engineering talent and the inability to attract the next generation of scientists and engineers who will make up the Army industrial base.
Misunderstood by many, the industrial base is not just six large prime contractors focused on producing equipment for the Army. The Army industrial base comprises mostly small to mid-sized companies that possess the intellectual property, specialized skill sets and unique technical capabilities necessary to develop the products used by our nation’s military. Small businesses employ most of America’s best scientists, engineers and skilled craftsmen to deliver products that make our military the best equipped, most advanced and most effective in the world.
Fiscal austerity is permanently crippling the Army industrial base, specifically the attraction and retention of the high-tech, highly skilled workforce that is the real foundation of the industrial base. The Army will not be able to be reconstitute that workforce when times require.
The defense industrial base has become the consummate underdog in the competition for our nation’s best and brightest young engineers entering the workforce. Top graduates who historically entered the defense industry were driven by a desire to serve, an opportunity to work on cutting-edge technology and a reasonable expectation of job security—all at a discount in salary to the private sector.
Today’s fiscal crisis is driving an industry drawdown that is different from those in the past. Fewer public dollars means fewer contracts, but it also means less private investment. Investment is needed to hold on to the defense industrial base’s essential infrastructure—its people.
Engineers, as very rational individuals, are deciding en masse to leave careers in the Army industrial base as further cuts in defense and reductions in workforce are forecast. Moreover, because of the already scarce supply of STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] graduates, the heavily recruited best and brightest engineers and scientists are choosing careers in social media and in nondefense-related industries.
In order to attract and retain the technical workforce required by the Army industrial base, resources are required to conduct the research and development (R&D) that allow our scientists to deliver the cutting-edge technology as well as to innovate and deliver future solutions and capabilities that our uniformed military uses in the field. R&D funding is critical in attracting the next generation of scientists and engineers, by providing them with the opportunity to learn on the job from our nation’s elite “retiring” engineers and to work with cutting-edge technology.
The Army industrial base, with its specialized workforce, must be treated as a national asset and insulated from furloughs, job “insecurity” and funding uncertainties. Moreover, DOD must develop a long-term industrial base strategy focused on core capabilities that are critical to maintain technological superiority.
For the first time in modern history, U.S. security is at risk due to the weakness in the total defense industrial base. As a consequence, the nation may no longer be able to produce certain essential military systems and capabilities. Facilities and equipment can be built and replaced relatively quickly—people and skills cannot.
Sikorsky Military Systems
To protect the skills and capabilities of its industrial base, the Army needs to focus on two critical areas.
First: Protect your multiyear commitments to the industrial base, even in this fiscally constrained environment. Multiyear contracts allow the Army to reap significant savings through quantity pricing. And they give companies the short-term financial security to continue investing in new technologies and more efficient manufacturing processes.
Very few significant technologies can be developed in the course of a single year, so a revenue stream over more than one year raises the certainty that companies will fund technology development projects that take longer than one year to mature.
More importantly, multiyear contracts allow prime contractors to provide a high degree of certainty to their own supply base. For many of Sikorsky’s small and medium-sized suppliers, predictable revenue maintains company viability.
Secondly, even with the short-term fiscal challenges, the Army cannot lose sight of its longer-term needs. The Army must clearly define the capabilities needed to prevail on the 21st-century battlefield, and allow industry to compete with innovative solutions and advanced technologies.
Without definition, the danger arises that those who work projects within a constrained budget environment will bring an unprecedented level of influence to a short-term focus.
The long-term view will mean protecting future programs like the Army’s Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) helicopter, or the Joint Multi-Role/Future Vertical Lift (JMR/FVL) program that seeks to replace the Black Hawk and Apache helicopter fleets in the mid 2030s.
Programs like AAS and JMR/FVL stimulate industry’s top technical minds to develop game-changing technologies.
Currently, an entire generation of engineering and technical talent could languish without ever working on a new-start, next-generation rotary-wing program. That is dangerous and shortsighted, and could “level the playing field” as it relates to our country’s current and future combat operations.
A clearly defined long-term view is required if companies are to continue their willingness to speculatively invest millions of dollars in R&D, without which our nation’s industrial base and long-term military superiority are at risk.
GEN Gordon Sullivan (USA, Ret.)
Association of the United States Army (AUSA)
As I reflect upon my time as chief of staff, I can remember an important message I shared with representatives of industry at AUSA’s Winter Meeting two decades ago. It still rings true today: “We must combine forces, leverage our resources and make the best decisions for the welfare of our Army and our nation.” Now, as AUSA’s president, I’m even more convinced that the Army’s partnership with the industrial base is key to success.
Many of the unsung heroes of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan reside within the industrial base, which includes the 23 geographically dispersed government ammunition plants, manufacturing arsenals and maintenance depots that comprise the Army organic industrial base (AOIB), as well as commercial enterprises small and large. Their significant contributions to materiel readiness ensured that members of the joint force had the tools needed to accomplish the mission.
A healthy industrial base with the depth, breadth and diversity needed to support the joint warfighter—today and in the future—remains paramount to sustaining military operations in an uncertain, complex national security environment. Senior leaders face a difficult fiscal environment that requires hard decisions about how to prioritize spending on personnel, readiness and modernization.
A focus on four key areas—capacity, capital investment, modernization and workload—will chart a path for the future of the AOIB. This will allow the Army to leverage best business practices; maintain an experienced, skilled and specialized workforce; make prudent investments in modern, safe and capable infrastructure and equipment; and ultimately provide the capability for the joint force. Likewise, commercial enterprises that best meet the emerging readiness and modernization requirements of the joint force and embody best business practices to maximize return on investment of taxpayer funds will have the best prospects, now and in the future.
The secretary of the Army and the chief of staff of the Army said it best when they testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in April 2013: “The ability to reduce the industrial base in times of peace but surge as required remains essential to equipping the Army, the Joint Force and, in many cases, our allies and coalition partners.”
For more information, see “The Army’s Organic Industrial Base: Providing Readiness Today, Preparing for Challenges Tomorrow,” online at http://www.ausa.org/publications/ilw/DigitalPublications/Documents/tbip-aoib/index.html.
President and CEO
A capable, responsive and resilient industrial base is essential to the national security of the United States. In order to retain the essential skills that underpin the base, there are five fundamental enablers that should be considered and incorporated into the Army’s approach, now and in the future.
First, maintain and expand an open and active dialogue between the Army—particularly acquisition managers—and industry. With data points that include product inventories, consumption rates, potential impacts due to force size reduction, and training or doctrine requirements, industry can make informed decisions that support the preservation of industrial base capability. To assist in the open dialogue, use and improve industrial base tools developed by joint life-cycle commands. One example is the Minimum Sustaining Rate database that helps identify the production and support levels necessary to avoid placing the industrial base at serious risk.
Second, an acquisition policy that incentivizes innovation, preserves intellectual property rights and streamlines contracting practices would improve and sustain the industrial base. Meaningful dialogue on long-term plans, ensuring a steady flow of information to inform industry planning and investment, is a necessary element of this policy. Also, it is necessary to address Army and DOD policy regarding competition and maintaining multiple sources for products. History demonstrates that repeated competitions and smaller awards to multiple suppliers present serious challenges for industry, which can swiftly erode capability and threaten the health of the supply chain.
Third, adequately funded programs and realistic requirements are essential. With clear and concise program requirements and plans, industry not only focuses on delivering key performance parameters and controlling cost, but also can more efficiently identify and develop critical skills to meet current and emerging needs.
Fourth, increasing the Army’s support for international sales could reduce and/or sustain current production costs. The resulting expanded market for U.S. military products would help lower procurement costs to the Army while helping sustain the domestic manufacturing base.
And finally, the Army, along with the other services, should continue to explore new ways to work productively with industry, academia and local communities to support STEM education. Investing in STEM education initiatives will help our nation attract, train and retain the next generation of innovators and skilled workers needed to lead the industrial base of the future.
Michelle J. Lohmeier
Vice president, Land Warfare Systems
Raytheon Missile Systems
I believe the Army and industry face similar challenges associated with sustaining the defense industrial base, and share responsibility for putting together collaborative, forward-leaning solutions that establish the right balance of investments in technology and talent.
In the case of technology, the Army must fully implement the recommendations put forward in its latest industrial base study. For example, the Army has made protection of the Abrams main battle tank industrial base a priority and is investing in key subsystems accordingly. The precision munition and missile industrial base is particularly reliant on technologies that exist in the sub-tier supplier base. Going forward, Army and industry must work jointly to identify critical, at-risk companies and develop roadmaps for sustaining investment in them during the downward trend in defense spending.
In addition, industry must challenge itself to retain a tight focus on evolving core capabilities and products in a way that increases capability and reliability while reducing cost. This aligns well with our desire to further optimize operations and deliver even more value to the Army acquisition customer.
DOD and industry must also face head-on the dual challenge of a decline in new college graduates with technical degrees and the aging of our respective workforces. Companies like Raytheon have launched STEM initiatives, ranging from middle school to university, that encourage young Americans to enter math and science fields. In addition, we need to find ways to make a career in defense more appealing to young, tech-savvy people with lots of career options. We have a compelling story to tell about developing innovative solutions that protect our warfighters and secure America and our allies in an uncertain world.
Combined with a focus on sustaining key technologies, a joint approach to building the defense workforce of the future will be critical to protecting our industrial base.
Dr. Ron Rosemeier
Brimrose Corp. of America
The global battlefield as we know it is changing rapidly, and the American Soldier must be equipped to stay ahead of the enemy. As global technology and information become more commonplace, the ability to stay ahead is becoming more challenging. Therefore, it makes sense for the Army to look to smaller companies as it faces reduced funding allocations, because they don’t require the larger funding leads that bigger companies do.
At Brimrose, we are focused on helping the Army stay ahead in the technology race, to keep its edge in terms of critical battlefield thinking. We place tremendous effort in moving rapidly from concept to instrumentation. If we receive $500,000 to $1 million, that goes a lot further than it would for a larger company, which might require several times that amount to do the same thing.
For example, we are studying our leading-edge unmanned aerial vehicles and exploring innovative ways to use and control them. Further out, we have initiated tests in which drones can literally be controlled by the brain waves of Soldiers in the field. This kind of technology already is being used to help wounded warriors control artificial limbs with their thoughts. Complementary to that, we are studying how a Soldier thinks in the field, how he or she responds to stress, and what he or she can and cannot handle.
Are these at the outer limits of conventional warfare thinking? The answer is yes. But a lot of people thought Thomas Edison was crazy because he was ahead of his time. Smaller companies can move faster and move resources more rapidly, and they are unlikely to have resources tied up by the bureaucracies that plague some larger companies.
Michael E. O’Hanlon
Senior Fellow, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence
Director of Research, Foreign Policy Program
In assessing the health of the national security industrial base, we can take several approaches, each of which has its own value:
- Try to preserve defense employment in general, especially in a time, like the present, of national economic difficulty and need for federal fiscal stimulus. In other words, try to save jobs.
- Seek to preserve the immediate capacity of our industrial base to ramp up production fast in the event of a national security surprise.
- Attempt to keep key manufacturers in crucial areas of industrial capability as healthy as possible.
- Promote ongoing technological advancement by paying special heed to those parts of industry that are also pushing forward scientific and technological frontiers, with linkages to R&D and basic science activities.
Because these industrial base goals are quite different from one another, it is important to be clear about which ones a given policy might support. As a general proposition, the latter two are of greater concern to me than the first two, in light of scarce defense dollars and downward pressure on Pentagon budgets, combined with our generally adequate inventories of advanced military gear today. This is especially true for many ground combat systems, which, while extremely important to our nation, may not always be as technologically sensitive or advanced as, say, stealth aircraft or nuclear submarines or tilt-rotor aircraft.
As such, without disregarding the first two concerns entirely, I would submit that we focus more on advanced, avant-garde and/or endangered technologies. How to do this? In its “Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress” (2012 edition), DOD lists a number of areas of military technology and manufacturing capacity that it deems to be at risk, given trends in overall defense budgets as well as specific developments within the Pentagon’s acquisition accounts. These areas of technology are rather specific in some cases and include the following:
- Heavy forgings.
- Heavy castings.
- High-precision bearings.
- High-temperature and low-temperature co-fired ceramics.
- Rare earth elements.
- Long-range cruise missile propulsion technologies.
- Tri-mode seekers.
- Solid rocket motors.
- Thermal batteries.
- Rayon precursor material.
- Triaminotrinitrobenzene (TATB) explosive.
- Advanced fuzes.
- Ammonium perchlorate.
- Butanetriol trinitrate propellant.
This list is a good place to start. It is not the end of the debate, to be sure. But by mapping various Army-related manufacturing capabilities against the above list, we can perhaps construct a first draft of those technologies that most require our vigilant oversight and perhaps even our nurturing. And then, with that first draft in hand, we can move on to a second draft. But there needs to be a place where we begin.
Lt Gen Lawrence P. Farrell Jr. (USAF, Ret.)
National Defense Industrial Association
The Army, like the other services, is facing a big hill. Continuing pressure from the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA), combined with the sequester, is squeezing needed funds as the Army faces a tough transition from continuous war to the need to reset the force. One major issue in the transition is the health of the industrial base in a downsizing environment. The latest budget deal provides some breathing room in BCA budget caps. How, then, to protect critical capabilities in the base?
A first step is to recognize that company downsizing, defense business exits and consolidation are certain. So we need a way to assess the likely impact on critical suppliers of coming budget levels.
A model program for this already exists in the munitions area. A few years ago, the Joint Munitions Command (JMC) and industry undertook a collaborative project to develop assessment tools for the situation we face today. One of these, the Industrial Base Assessment Tool provides the ability to identify the impact of a given budget on a specific product area. Another tool, the Minimum Sustaining Rate tool, permits the JMC and the Single Manager for Conventional Ammunition to identify the impact on key production facilities (read: businesses).
These methods, if expanded and applied to other Army industrial base sectors, would go a long way toward ensuring the survival of critical indigenous capabilities in the Army industrial base.
In my experience as a former DOD executive and combat veteran, determining and defining an industrial base’s near-term and lasting value was critical to deciding how a requirement was established and to what extent the American industrial market could meet those requirements. There is a misperception in the defense community—both on the procurement side as well as the industrial base—that the commercial or defense market should be able to answer all requirement needs if DOD could just write a better requirement or invest in the necessary infrastructure absent a requirement.
Unfortunately, specifying a better requirement demands that those responsible for authorship are capable of predicting a future threat, and securing infrastructure investment assumes that the need will be imminent or takes years to procure. But the time invested in guessing about the future will not produce a better force structure—nor will it matter, if the nation pays for infrastructure designed for the wrong future.
The alternative approach to ensuring a responsive call to arms is based on investments in the practical sciences—electrical and mechanical engineering, electronic engineering and chemistry—rather than basic sciences. These skills serve to germinate a community that is available for today and is necessary to prepare a workforce for the future. Lasting employment in these science fields occurs through rapid fielding, constant experimentation and iterative designs for the creation of new products over time.
A lasting industrial base, then, is one that can employ and train these skills. It is one that allows for failure through trying, creation through doing, and success by iterating product design—without depending on a single funding source. An industrial base solely dependent on defense funding, making payroll by delivering existing products at a slow, steady rate, will not survive a competitive market.
In my experience as a current corporate leader, making payroll is accomplished by investing in the future through workforce education, steadily delivering new products and participating in or creating new markets. This is not done through reliance on grants by the federal government or by paying the high cost of doing business with the services, but by preserving and reinvesting profits in workforce skills and in new product development.
The question should be: To what extent has a company invested in its own future? How much does it cost to do business with the Army? How long does it take to get on contract? How many innovative, small and agile product-oriented companies are being nurtured?
Disproportionate payments to training serve to secure a workforce for today; service-related contracts solve current problems; and funding laboratory facilities keep bases open. But none of these fuels a future. Perpetuating a current product base made for a threat that is long past, rather than by investing in the future serves only to prolong the inevitable. The best near-term protection against an unknown future is through funding the practical science skills in engineering, and more reliance on industrial commercial standards as a guide.
Associate Professor of Public Affairs
Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
University of Texas at Austin
(Editor’s note: From 2010 to 2012, Gholz served as senior adviser to the deputy assistant secretary of defense for manufacturing and industrial base policy.)
The Army needs a political game-changer. Too many of its proposed acquisition budget adjustments have foundered in Congress. For its part, Congress has seen too many well-intentioned but overambitious investment plans end in technological failures. Representatives are inclined to go with what they know works, which also happens to prop up government spending in their districts. Meanwhile, prime contractors’ experience tells them that continuing production is the reliable way to profits. The industry’s poor working relationship with its DOD customers in recent years makes it hard to trust an alternative path forward.
So when the Army proposes to temporarily suspend the production of tanks, infantry fighting vehicles or trucks—the warfighter has enough right now—the legislative process recoils. Rather than giving the Army authority for targeted investments to right-size facilities, improve the manufacturing process or allow workers to practice critical skills, Congress directs spending for procurement of long-lead items and otherwise ties the industrial base to current production.
The Army and the nation would be much better off with the targeted investments. This alternative would cost less, because it would not require as much material or large-factory overhead. And each dollar spent would be much more likely to go to a critical capability, whether in engineering, facilities improvement or high-end workforce skills. The Army would still allow prime contractors to profit. Critical subcontractors would also work directly with the team.
Everyone wants to help fragile niches in the defense industry. But instead of a three-way working relationship among industry, Congress and the Army, the Army has been the odd man out of the political coalition. The key remedy is for the Army to rebuild trust with its industry partners; if industry and the Army are on the same page, Congress will follow.
The Army has been working on it for several years, but the job is far from done. Badgering industry for short-term overhead savings, blaming industry for program difficulties and trying to shift program risk to contractors all just reinforce industry’s embrace of traditional lobbying strategies. It is time for a new partnership.
By Claire Heininger
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – The Army is introducing a more efficient process to produce the digital “glue” that ties together the network architecture for the Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs).
The new method is not only faster, but also provides greater flexibility as the Army adds industry systems to the network baseline for evaluation and incorporates capability improvements for each NIE event. By automating key parts of the process used to create the data products that enable communications across the tactical network, the Army is also setting the stage to simplify network start-up procedures for users and give operational units more control over their networks.
“We shaved off several weeks of production time while delivering a better result to support the NIE,” said Randy Young, the Army’s project director for Tactical Network Initialization (PD TNI), assigned to the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T). “And it’s only a first step – what we’re doing for NIE will also be a proof of concept informing improvements to how Data Products are delivered and used across the force.”
Data products are a collection of mission data required to initialize the Army’s network, enabling the flow of digital information between different communications systems. PD TNI builds a unique Data Product for each Army unit, taking into account its specific mission, personnel footprint and mix of networked mission command systems.
Building data products for the NIE, however, poses a more complex undertaking than building them for a typical unit. While the Army’s usual 12-week production process was designed to deliver a complete, “set in stone” product – when the interoperability of a deploying unit’s network hinges on it, there is no margin for error – the NIE architecture is, by its nature, always changing. Systems are added to or subtracted from the evaluation list for a particular NIE. Vendors unfamiliar with Army network protocols need time to adapt their systems to Army standards.
“Ultimately, we want to give users more power to build, maintain and adapt their tactical networks”
“The NIE requires a lot of flexibility because it’s an experiment, and also has systems from outside the Army connecting to the network,” Young said. “The network evolves over time as we get closer to each event.”
But the need for accuracy doesn’t go away – it is amplified, given that the NIE provides operational test data for programs of record, validates the Army’s network baseline for fielding and collects Soldier feedback on promising industry capabilities.
“If the data product is broken, there will be major issues at the actual event,” Young said.
For previous NIEs, the PD TNI team took the Army’s network systems architecture or “horseblanket” in NIE parlance, and manually translated it into the data products production environment by essentially re-creating a graphical depiction of the brigade network. Engineers spent weeks on quality assurance measures to ensure they accurately transferred the horseblanket and captured ensuing changes.
The new process, launched for the upcoming NIE 14.2, eliminates the need for recreating the horseblanket by automatically translating the horseblanket data into the production database. Once the initial legwork is complete, changes are detected automatically and can be pinpointed and implemented more efficiently. After the systems are aligned, the tool then automatically generates the address attributes and assigns them the internet protocol (IP) addresses required to actually communicate over the network.
Together, these changes allow PD TNI to produce accurate data products for an NIE in less than 12 weeks and better accommodate the need for flexibility.
“It allows us to start the build later, and for future NIEs we’re aiming to get even faster,” Young said.
The production techniques pioneered for the NIE will inform the Army’s processes used for fielding data products more broadly. The NIE is also serving as a test bed for new capabilities that give units the ability to adjust their network architectures due to operational changes. In the past, requests to change data products would be sent back to PD TNI, and the unit would wait weeks or months for a new set to be sent back to the field.
With the warfighter initialization tool (WIT) as part of their initialization tool suite, units can make updates to data products much faster at the brigade level, improving situational awareness and better enabling the unit to meet its mission. After successful evaluation at several NIEs, the WIT began fielding to operational units in 2013. At NIE 14.2, the Army will build on that progress by demonstrating the ability for a battalion’s worth of upper tactical internet mission command applications to “self-initialize,” or automatically re-create the information that allows them to connect to the network.
These improvements are considered interim steps to a long-term data products solution that will enable full “dynamic initialization of command and control applications,” Young said.
“Ultimately, we want to give users more power to build, maintain and adapt their tactical networks,” he said. “Through the process and capability enhancements shown through NIE, we are absolutely on the right path.”
By Tara Clements
FORT BELVOIR, Va. – If you think the movie “Her” is futuristic, members of the Office of the Army Director for Acquisition Career Management (DACM) have someone for you to meet.
“Ellie” is her name and this virtual human looks and speaks to you just as any human would in the Virtual Acquisition Career Guide (VACG) prototype. The prototype program provides the opportunity for a user to interact with a virtual “person” and receive personalized career feedback and assistance. The Army DACM team presented the prototype to the Army DACM, Lt. Gen. William Phillips on Jan. 16.
“Even though we support and encourage mentoring across the entire community, it is still an activity that is under-utilized by our workforce and particularly so by our newer and more junior professionals,” said Craig Spisak, director of the Army Acquisition Support Center and the deputy DACM. “I believe that the VACG will not only provide that help and basic mentoring that many of that population need today, but will also expose them to the ideas and concept of a mentor-protégé relationship and get them more accustomed to it,” he added.
And while the traditional mentor-protégé relationship has been through human interaction, Ellie provides a similar capability with a few clicks and keystrokes. She won’t help with life experiences, because she has none. What she can do is check files; see where you’ve gone and where you need to be.
Ellie interfaces with the Career Acquisition Management Portal (CAMP), the Army acquisition community’s centralized personnel system, and has the capability to check a user’s file, including individual develop plan status, acquisition certification and glide path, to name a few.
During last week’s demonstration, Ellie welcomed Phillips, checked his file, noting he was “good to go” and current. At that point, Phillips, like any other user, had the opportunity to pose a question, such as, “How can I access the Defense Acquisition University class schedule?”—or anything else that might be related to career development. Ellie politely responds both verbally and in writing right on the monitor, taking the typical FAQs to a new, interactive level.
Through a series of testing and data building, Ellie has increased her ability to answer questions at a nearly 80 percent accuracy rate. “She has the ability to learn and get smarter with additional questions and input, and with time, we’re aiming for a 95 percent accuracy rate,” said Scott Greene, chief, Army DACM Office Acquisition Education and Training Branch.
Bringing Ellie to life and continuing to develop her knowledge is not a small undertaking. The Army DACM team has partnered with the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Simulation & Training Technology Center to bring Ellie to this point, but there’s a long way to go.
“We’re in the very early stages of building the VACG. We’re taking great care to test the prototype and determine if this would be a good career guidance capability for the Army Acquisition Workforce,” said Kelly Terry, project lead. “To date, focus group testing has been on our contracting community and testing the application among members of Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but we are looking to expand into other career fields in the future,” she added.
How far in the future? According to Greene, if the results and feedback from upcoming testing are successful, the acquisition community may have a chance to meet Ellie in an initial version later in this fiscal year.
And from Phillips’ point of view, “this is very exciting.”
Changing times call for Army and industrial base to collaborate on solutions
From The Army Acquisition Executive
The Honorable Heidi Shyu
As we enter a new calendar year, the Army faces challenges of an evolving fiscal reality and the transition from wartime production to peacetime requirements. The Army and its industrial base must work together to address these issues head-on. The hard truth—sustaining readiness in this fiscally constrained environment—necessarily means fewer investments in the future. Budget uncertainty complicates the procurement landscape, but communication and cooperation will allow the Army and industrial base to meet our respective goals.
Although the organic and commercial industrial base sectors are often discussed as distinct communities, public-private partnership at Army depots and essential facilities is a potential core strategy to ensure that parts and materials are available to sustain platforms and equipment at appropriate readiness levels.
Defense spending is projected to make up only 12 percent of the federal budget in FY17, down from 17 percent in FY13. Those numbers are a world away from the 49 percent of the federal budget consumed by defense during the 1960s. At the same time, the budget for research, development and acquisition (RDA) is declining faster than the overall defense budget.
Nothing highlights this more concretely than the Army’s total obligation authority (TOA) for FY14, which, at $129.7 billion, is 15 percent lower than the FY12 Army TOA of $152.6 billion. Compare this to the FY14 Army RDA budget of $23.95 billion, which is down an amazing 28 percent from the FY12 RDA budget of $33.2 billion. A Nov 28, 2013, article in The Washington Post profiled members of the West Point Class of 2014 and gave a compelling description of the challenge. A 22-year-old cadet wisely noted that the key question is not how to do more with less, but how to determine “what we’re going to do and what we’re going to do well.” In other words: What’s going to be good enough?
Procurement budgets naturally contract after a war. The end of the Cold War saw a wave of consolidation, mergers and acquisitions in the commercial base. Although industry consolidation reduced duplication and redundancy, it also resulted in many of today’s critical defense assets being manufactured by only a limited number of firms. As the U.S. manufacturing sector has decreased overall, defense manufacturing has taken on a greater significance for remaining firms. But while there are fewer large players than in previous drawdowns, there has been a proliferation of small businesses working as subcontractors—providing engineering services, doing research and development, and manufacturing specialized components.
Today’s industrial base includes a large population of highly skilled technical and knowledge workers, many of them employed by specialized third- and fourth-tier subcontractors. Keeping these skilled employees within the industrial base has the added benefit of enhancing support for the Army’s small business partners. The rapid decline in our RDA budget creates significant challenges for small companies that must diversify quickly, but the Army has met its 25 percent small business goal for the past three years. This helps small businesses continue to innovate and deliver products and services to our warfighters.
It is just as important to note the opportunities created by the coming drawdown. The Army and industry can begin a new level of dialogue around modernization, which technologies best meet national security needs and how to integrate new technologies into existing infrastructure. Although the organic and commercial industrial base sectors are often discussed as distinct communities, public-private partnership at Army depots and essential facilities is a potential core strategy to ensure that parts and materials are available to sustain platforms and equipment at appropriate readiness levels.
As the Army assesses and identifies capabilities and competencies at its depots and arsenals, the commercial base is a vital stakeholder. The commercial base, in particular, is well-positioned to help the Army better use commercial off-the-shelf products and production techniques that can yield new efficiencies and increase the buying power of the defense dollar.
Consider an example from Program Executive Office Ammunition: Staff implemented a long-term strategy for recurring procurement of artillery and mortar components. A $2.7 billion small business set-aside strategy eliminated the need for more than 100 separate market surveys, synopses and requests for proposals, and reduced average delivery time from 18-24 months to 45-60 days. This efficient new procurement strategy will help the Army avoid $60 million in costs while supporting small business.
Multiyear procurement (MYP) is another proven strategy for lowering cost to the taxpayer while reducing financial uncertainty for industry. The CH-47 Chinook MYP has saved taxpayers nearly $500 million to date while enhancing the environment for sharing lessons learned between the Army and industry, and incentivizing quality assurance.
As President Ronald Reagan observed, “no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.” We remain committed to providing the best equipment to the warfighter at the best value for the taxpayer. Painful choices will have to be made on force structure, readiness and modernization. The Army’s desired end goal is to meet the nation’s and world’s security needs while we invest in emerging technologies to develop the next generation of capabilities.
By Argie Sarantinos-Perrin
Building and sustaining an educated, professional workforce is a key mission for Army Acquisition leaders in order to provide superior capabilities and support to U.S. Soldiers. In support of this mission, the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) recently rolled out a new online training dashboard that tracks training and certifications across its workforce.
The user-friendly dashboard displays the training and certification status of each organization within the PEO, providing leaders with detailed information on military and civilian employees’ development as they work toward completing required education and certification levels.
“The training dashboard is a very well designed, easy-to-use tool that I use to look across the PEO and see where we are meeting the requirements—and if we’re not on track, we can see where we need to improve,” said Mary Woods, deputy program executive officer for PEO C3T. “The training dashboard is a great tool that can be adopted by other groups in the acquisition community, and it can be modified to track training for other parts of the Army, too.”
The Career Acquisition Personnel and Position Management Information System (CAPPMIS) dashboard provides information in three key areas—continuous learning points (CLPs), individual development plans (IDPs) and acquisition certifications. CLPs are earned by attending classes, training courses, professional activities, conferences or symposiums. IDPs map out an employee’s career path, including any training requirements necessary to reach specific goals. Together, these areas round out the skills and education that the Army Acquisition workforce needs in order to support the Soldier.
The emphasis on acquisition certification began in 1990 with the implementation of the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA), which requires all acquisition workforce members to be certified in their career field. A forum made up of general officer and Senior Executive Service leaders, along with the Army’s Director of Acquisition Career Management, Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, monitor, review and champion DAWIA certification for the workforce.
“The training dashboard is a great tool that can be adopted by other groups in the acquisition community, and it can be modified to track training for other parts of the Army, too.”
Ensuring that PEO C3T complies with these standards, the business intelligence team at PEO C3T’s Military Technical (MilTech) Solutions Office developed the CAPPMIS dashboard. The dashboard enables managers to keep employees on track by providing 30, 60 and 90 day windows of when acquisition certifications are due, as well as when IDPs were most recently updated. It also shows whether employees are on track to earn the 80 CLPs that are required every two years.
The dashboard has also been adopted by the Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate, the Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center and the Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors (PEO IEW&S), whose leaders praised the ability to efficiently monitor the records of employees who work at remote locations.
“We have people in Huntsville, Ala., Fort Belvoir, Va., Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. and numerous other locations, so we have to coordinate people in different time zones,” said Patricia San Agustin, management analyst for PEO IEW&S. “Since acquisition training is a very high priority for our organization, the training dashboard is a great tool because of the fine detail that it gives you.”
The tool eliminates the need for individual project managers to request training information, since the dashboard is accessible at any time and updated every two weeks with new information from the CAPPMIS database.
Using the CAPPMIS dashboard enables PEO C3T to efficiently align with the priority to train, build and sustain an educated acquisition workforce, and ultimately provide better support to the Soldier.
By Ms. Susan L. Follett
Some of Jared Higgs’ earliest memories are of time spent with his father in his shop at the Red River Army Depot (RRAD), in Texarkana, Texas. So it’s no surprise that when the time came to determine his own career path, he followed his father and grandfather and became a heavy equipment mechanic. Altogether, three generations of his family have worked at the depot for a total of 60 years.
“My dad has always been a mechanic, and since I was little, I was with him, working and watching. I can remember coming out to the depot to see his shop. I’ve always had some type of interest in it, and I enjoy working with my hands,” said Higgs, 30, a native of Texarkana.
“When I was 8 or 9 years old, we came out for a Christmas event, and I got to take my first ride in an Army tank. That’s a day I’ll never forget,” he said. “When I was older, we had what they called a shadow day, and I was able to come out and spend a whole day with my dad, walking with him to all his meetings and seeing what his job at RRAD entailed day to day.”
Higgs’ father, Eddie Higgs, recently retired from RRAD after a 37-year career that began in 1976. His grandfather, John Woodard, worked at the depot from 1974 until 1994. “He worked on Bradleys for as long as I can remember,” said Higgs. “It’s definitely a family affair. My great-grandfather worked for the depot, too, before I was born.”
A LEGACY OF EXCELLENCE
The mission of RRAD, in operation since 1941, is to conduct ground combat and tactical system sustainment maintenance operations and related support services for U.S. and allied forces. RRAD repairs and rebuilds a variety of mission-essential combat and tactical vehicles and equipment, including the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) and the Bradley fighting vehicle system. The depot is the Army’s only two-time winner of the Robert T. Mason Award for Depot Maintenance Excellence, given by the secretary of defense. The award recognizes outstanding achievements by field-level units engaged in military equipment and weapon system maintenance within DOD.
In addition, RRAD is a Center for Industrial and Technical Excellence for several combat and technical vehicles, the Multiple Launch Rocket System, rubber products and Patriot missile recertification. Its HMMWV recapitalization facility can produce up to 40 vehicles per day, and its Rubber Products Division is the only DOD organization capable of remanufacturing road wheels and track.
SERVING THOSE WHO SERVE
Having joined RRAD in 2004, Higgs has worked on a variety of vehicles, including HMMWVs, Bradleys, the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles and several types of MRAPs. He currently works on the M1117 armored security vehicle. “I’m working on the CROWS, which is the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, checking the weapon systems out, making sure they have firing capabilities and that all the parts are functional.”
Although Higgs’ tenure is short by comparison to those of his father and grandfather, he’s seen his share of changes in the past decade. “I think more than anything, the protective armor has progressed the most. When I first started on the HMMWVs, they were not outfitted with any armor at all, and as our involvement in Iraq continued, I saw things shift, first to up-armored vehicles and from there to the MRAPs.”
In 2008, Higgs volunteered for overseas deployment and was deployed to Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq. Over the next three years, he would also see deployments to Forward Operating Base Speicher in Tikrit and Camp Stryker in Baghdad. “I saw it as an opportunity to help where it was needed, and to serve the warfighter. It was also a chance to serve along with my brothers, who were in the Air Force at the time.”
Since 2001, RRAD has deployed more than 3,000 personnel to various areas in Southwest Asia in direct support of warfighters in the field. The facility, with a government civilian workforce of about 4,500, has deployed more employees than any other civilian organization in the world since the beginning of overseas contingency operations, staffing roughly half of all U.S. Army Materiel Command civilian deployments. It has spearheaded numerous depot-level logistics and maintenance missions in Southwest Asia, including Heavy Equipment Transporter, Stored Theater Provided Equipment – Iraq, Forward Repair Activity and Mobile Maintenance Team.
“Being away from home is always a challenge. I missed my family and friends, and I realized that it was important to make friends quickly and find people there you can trust. Overseas, we’re around our co-workers day in and day out, 24 hours a day, so finding people you can rely on is vital,” he said.
The work itself was a challenge, he said. “Every day, we’d have vehicles coming into us in all kinds of condition—convoys, blown-up trucks, you name it—and the challenge was to get them fixed and back out so the Soldiers could continue on their mission. During my time overseas, I really valued the ability to work directly with Soldiers—to meet them and talk with them, and to know that we were helping get them back out in the field,” he added.
HARD OR EASY, ALWAYS GOOD
“My dad and grandfather didn’t have too much advice when I started working here,” Higgs said. “They said that sometimes the work would be hard and sometimes it would be easy, but it was always a good place to work. Looking back over the past 10 years, I can definitely say they were right.”
His own advice for anyone interested in becoming a heavy equipment mechanic is simple. “Stick with it and be knowledgeable about what you’re working on. Always go the extra mile to learn something more about the vehicle.”
MS. SUSAN L. FOLLETT provides contracting support to the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center for SAIC. She holds a B.A. in English literature from St. Lawrence University. She has more than two decades of experience as a journalist and has written on a variety of public and private sector topics, including modeling and simulation, military training technology and federal environmental regulations.
By Allison Barrow and Joyce Brayboy
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Fuel is the second largest transported item in the field next to water. As a result, fuel truck convoys that deliver fuel are vulnerable to enemy attacks, which have resulted in loss of money, time and lives.
To combat this problem, scientists and engineers from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command are working to lessen the reliance on fuel truck convoys by reducing the amount of military fuel, called jet propellant 8, or JP-8, the Army needs in theater and improving the efficiency of its use.
One way they are doing this is through reforming JP-8 so that it can be used in efficient portable energy systems, like fuel cells and other novel power sources, which primarily operate on hydrogen or other cleaner fuels.
“The goal is to take the logistic fuel that’s already all over the battlefield, that’s there and available to the Soldiers, and convert it to something that can be used in smaller and renewable systems,” said Steve Slane, RDECOM’s communications-electronics center, or CERDEC, Command, Power and Integration (CP&I) Directorate, Power Generation and Alternative Energy Branch chief.
Engineers and scientists from CERDEC, along with RDECOM’s Army Research Laboratory and Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center are working to reform JP-8 and integrate it into systems so it can be converted seamlessly and locally.
“Fuel reforming is one of those leap-ahead technologies that could allow JP-8 to be transformed into valuable fuels that can be used and generated on the battlefield forward. So instead of shipping propane and methanol and kerosene and gasoline, why not reform JP-8 locally to power those systems?” said Slane.
The process of reforming fuel entails high-temperature catalytic reactions that covert a liquid fuel, in this case JP-8, into a lighter, gaseous fuel.
This comes with two main challenges because of the sulfur contained in JP-8 and its complex composition, said Dr. Terry DuBois, subject matter expert in fuel reforming and combustion in CERDEC CP&I’s Power Division.
First, sulfur can deactivate catalysts, which means it can limit the life or poison catalysts during the reforming process and make it inoperable. Second, sulfur can accelerate carbon formation, where solid carbon particles form in the reactor, clog the flow of the reactor or deactivate catalysts and cause it to fail, said DuBois.
“Those are two big challenges for us in reforming; how do we transform JP-8 to a hydrogen-rich stream and deal with the two mechanisms for killing the reactor?” said DuBois.
This fuel transformation effort is a main focus for CERDEC, TARDEC and ARL.
The challenge is developing a practical fuel reformation process for better energy conversion that would have to be portable, quick and easy to use, said Dr. Zachary Dunbar, an ARL fuel cell team member.
Dr. Dat Tran, ARL fuel cell team lead, has tested at least 300 different combinations of materials during the last four years while he has been investigating fuel reforming with the team, he said.
“JP-8 is a complicated and dirty fuel. The sulfur is a huge problem because it can hurt the fuel cells,” Tran said. “Sulfur has many different compounds that behave differently. The compounds in sulfur make it hard to find an agreeable material.”
While ARL conducts the basic research of fuel reforming, CERDEC integrates the basic research into a system and evaluates it, while also performing further research and development of fuel reforming materials.
“Both of the efforts that we have ongoing are focused on addressing desulfurization of JP-8, and ARL is pursuing complimentary R&D on unique materials for sulfur absorption. In addition, ARL is looking at membranes that can selectively separate hydrogen from the gaseous reformed fuel stream so that you have a pure hydrogen stream,” said DuBois.
“CERDEC’s in-house program is looking at catalytic materials. So we have ongoing research work evaluating different catalytic materials and how well they stand up to chemical compounds found in JP-8. We are also evaluating sulfur absorbent materials and processes on a long-term basis,” said DuBois.
TARDEC also works in fuel reforming by integrating it into fuel cell power systems.
“The main applications are combat and tactical vehicle Auxiliary Power Units, silent propulsion for unmanned ground systems and extending the silent range of electric vehicles for scout or reconnaissance missions,” said Kevin Centeck, TARDEC Nonprimary Power Systems team lead.
“TARDEC is also investigating the requirements for a fuel reformation system to be integrated with a commercial automotive fuel cell stack, which could help reduce cost and increase reliability of fuel cell power systems,” said Centeck.
CERDEC, ARL and TARDEC collaborate on their fuel reforming efforts for the Army through fuel cell test and integration working groups with other Defense Department partners through quarterly program and design reviews.
CERDEC is taking fuel reforming one step further by working to integrate its efforts into its Energy Informed Operations, or EIO, initiative, which aims to make power systems “smart” by enabling “smarter” monitoring on the systems as well as integrating them into a smart tactical microgrid.
This smart technology will enable and inform Soldiers with data such as, “How much fuel do I have left? When are the fuel trucks coming next? What’s my energy status?” said Slane.
“The efficiencies gained by using grid data to control power and inform operations will increase availability and reliability of power while reducing the burden of fuel logistics, storage and cost,” said Slane. “CERDEC CP&I is uniquely qualified to cover all this because we have our mechanical engineers who are working fuel reformation and combustion but we also have engineers within the mission command community here working on intelligent micro-grids through EIO.”
RDECOM will continue to work to address the challenges with fuel reforming and integrate it into a full power system that can then be transitioned to the field.
“Reducing the amount of fuel is really a goal of what this organization is about,” said Slane. “Fuel reforming is one of the key technology areas that will enable us to reduce fuel on the battlefield, reduce the amount of truck convoys, the amount of storage needed and the cost of operating in austere environments.”