Money to burn

Money to burn

Making sure your ‘burn rate’ doesn’t overheat can be the difference between a successful program and toast. by John T. Dillard, Col., USA (Ret.) I still remember how it went that day in November. It was way back in the 1990s, and at the time I was a major serving as the assistant project manager for the development of the Javelin anti-tank missile system. We were right in the middle of our 36-month engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) effort. The boss assembled a few of us in the conference room. He said, “We have to call for a DAB [Defense Acquisition Board]—this program is going to need a formal re-baselining. […]

Start the fire

Start the fire

As it has done in the past, the Army needs to leverage innovation for modernization success. by Col. Joseph Capobianco A spark, fuel and oxygen. As simple as these elements are, if one is missing, fire won’t exist. Similarly, there’s a triad of elements that must come together for innovation to occur. The Army is now trying to leverage this “fire” of innovation to solve the modernization problems of the past two decades. Achieving innovation requires much more than looking at resource use, assigning prioritization or adjusting organizational constructs. It demands addressing the driving force (the spark), building talented teams (the fuel), and fostering a supportive environment (the oxygen). Real […]

Communications readiness: ‘Can you hear me now?’

Communications readiness: ‘Can you hear me now?’

PM PERSPECTIVE COL. CHARLES M. “CHARLIE” STEIN by Mr. James Christophersen This column is the first in a new Army AL&T series, PM Perspective, which looks at acquisition from the viewpoint of the program, project or product manager. These are big programs—generally acquisition category I and II— not only in terms of their importance to the Soldier, but also in terms of sheer dollars. How do PMs deal with the complexity of the teams that staff these programs? What do they wish they’d known then that they know now? What lessons can other PMs take from their experiences? Col. Charles M. “Charlie” Stein started his military career as a U.S. […]

Been There, Done That: Think ready, be ready

Been There, Done That: Think ready, be ready

What if multiple brigades of deploying Soldiers suddenly needed combat uniforms? Meeting challenges such as this one, strategically and creatively, before a conflict arises is the true test of readiness for Army acquisition.  by Robert F. Mortlock, Ph.D., Col., USA (Ret.)  In late 2004, at a town hall with Soldiers deployed to Southwest Asia, then Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld responded to Soldiers’ questions about the availability of vehicle armor by saying that they had to go to war with the Army they had, not the one they wanted. The backlash from Soldiers, Congress and the American public was intense—they questioned the Army’s commitment to readiness and its budget […]

Been There, Done That: Want A High Return?

Been There, Done That: Want A High Return?

Invest in more business education for PMs, and reap returns in the short term—good products at an appropriate price—and long—repaired credibility for defense acquisition. by Robert F. Mortlock, Col., USA (Ret.) “I don’t care how much it costs, we need it now!” At the height of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, getting the warfighter the capabilities they needed as rapidly as possible was always the top priority for the defense acquisition community—and who could argue against it? Delivering effective, suitable warfighting equipment as fast as possible was the focus—often at the long-term expense, literally, of the services’ and DOD’s budgets. Maintaining the focus on urgent needs was possible because […]

Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre: How to Manage a Swarm

Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre: How to Manage a Swarm

Our interview for the April – June Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre—he’s a Ranger vet who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan who is now a robotics expert at the Center for a New American Security—covered so much good material, but we didn’t want to leave it on the cutting room floor. Here’s Scharre on how to manage a swarm. Scharre: [You could see] area coverage in this way where there are super rules—like don’t get too close or too far away from other agents. And that uses a swarm of agents to cover an area. Those sort of work for all sorts of military problems, whether it’s reconnaissance or […]

Collaborative Autonomy: A Tactical Offset Strategy

Collaborative Autonomy: A Tactical Offset Strategy

ARL intelligent systems S&T is leading to a tactical offset strategy for operations in a range of challenging settings. by Dr. Brian M. Sadler The desire for a third offset strategy has been a major focus of DOD science and technology (S&T) discussion for the past few years. While the Navy and Air Force primarily face issues related to large-scale, extended-range operations, the Army must address a different set of long-term challenges in complex operational scenarios. These notably include megacities and other perplexing domains such as subterranean and jungle environments. It is not difficult to envision a megacity in a developing nation facing a quicksand of natural disaster, failing infrastructure, […]

Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre: Humans Out of the Loop

Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre: Humans Out of the Loop

Our interview for the April – June Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre—he’s a Ranger vet who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan who is now a robotics expert at the Center for a New American Security—covered so much good material, but we didn’t want to leave it on the cutting room floor. Here’s Scharre on humans out-of-the-loop. Army AL&T: What work is being done on armed unmanned systems (without a human in the loop)? Scharre: There’s a very robust discussion going on internationally and within certain sectors of the U.S. defense community, particularly among lawyers, about this idea of autonomous weapons that would do targeting on their own and are […]

Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre: Predicting the Future

Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre: Predicting the Future

Our interview for the April – June Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre—he’s a Ranger vet who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan who is now a robotics expert at the Center for a New American Security—covered so much good material, but we didn’t want to leave it on the cutting room floor. Here’s Scharre on how DOD should pick which advances in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to pursue. Army AL&T: It’s a high-stakes game of predicting the future, better testing and lower barriers to entry and innovation for the work of research labs and outside industry. Scharre: It’s just so hard to predict what technologies are going to matter. […]

The Jungle Boot

The Jungle Boot

A good jungle boot is one of a Soldier’s bare necessities—and the system for providing those necessities would make Mowgli’s head spin. Mowgli had to deal with jungle cats; he never had to deal with an ACAT III. Unfortunately, Soldiers do. by Donald Schlomer, Lt. Col., USA (Ret.) Mowgli, the hero of Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 classic “The Jungle Book,” did perfectly well without boots or even shoes. U.S. Soldiers, however, have different needs. Soldiers in the U.S. Army have not had a new jungle boot since the Vietnam era, and with the request for a new jungle boot—well, therein lies a tale, but a tale far less straightforward than Kipling’s […]