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 […]

Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre: Army Challenges

Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre: Army Challenges

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 challenges to automation and artificial intelligence (AI). Army AL&T: If the Army’s main challenge is finding the right places to use robots, automation and AI … what are those places? Scharre: The fundamental problem with automation is that it’s brittle. You can design really specific machine intelligence tools to solve very specific problems, like playing […]

Been There, Done That Preparation for Operational Testing

Been There, Done That Preparation for Operational Testing

Rapid and evolutionary acquisition bring some change to OT, but some things will remain constant—like surprises. by John T. Dillard, Col., USA (Ret.) Many years ago, Dr. Philip E. Coyle III, the long-experienced, former DOD director of operational test and evaluation, cautioned program managers (PMs) about program risk in the new era of evolutionary acquisition, fielding capabilities in sequential increments. What he suggested back then was that even with evolutionary acquisition, we would likely be fully testing each of the system capability blocks individually. In that vein, he presented some salient points about past programs’ readiness for what he called the binary or pass/fail environment of operational testing, and how […]