Army AL&T magazine is USAASC’s quarterly professional journal, comprising in-depth, analytically focused articles. The magazine’s mission is to instruct members of the Army AL&T community about AL&T processes, procedures, techniques and management philosophy; it is also to disseminate information pertinent to the professional development of workforce members and others engaged in AL&T activities.
Faces of the Force: Michael Doney
COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Project Manager for Distributed Common Ground System – Army; Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors TITLE: Product director, Machine Foreign Language Translation System YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 33 YEARS OF SERVICE IN MILITARY: 2 DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in program management and engineering EDUCATION: M.S. in engineering management, George Washington University; B.S. in civil engineering, Virginia Tech AWARDS: Meritorious Civilian Service Award; Superior Civilian Service Award; Commander’s Award for Civilian Service (multiple); Achievement Medal for Civilian Service (multiple) Product director puts translators in Soldiers’ pockets by Mary Kate Aylward “There will never be enough human linguists to meet the Army’s varied translation requirements.” That’s the problem Michael Doney’s team works to solve. The solution it’s building is the Machine Foreign Language Translation System (MFLTS), a family of software applications that will translate spoken and written material in any foreign language, anywhere in the world. Commercial translation apps and services solve the general problems a Soldier trying to speak with a local vendor might encounter. But they stumble over DOD-isms, and they generally don’t work without internet access. “Moreover, the Army often requires translation of uncommon languages and specific dialects that are of little or no interest to commercial users and thus not typically available on commercial platforms,” Doney said. His team is integrating military-specific language into apps that will be hosted locally on a Soldier’s smartphone or similar device. In effect, it’s a pocket translator that can go to the most remote corner of the world, a neat solution to the impossibility of having an Army linguist or local translator on hand at all times. “Developing innovative and creative solutions to complex problems is always professionally very satisfying,” said Doney. As product director of the MFLTS team, he leads a diverse group of acquisition professionals and is responsible for all aspects of the program, he said, “ranging from building the program team to the development of acquisition, contracting and sustainment strategies that result in the fielding of a required capability to Soldiers.” MFLTS is a case in which an Army-built solution was appropriate and necessary, but Doney’s three decades in acquisition have given him an appreciation for the importance of “mutually beneficial and productive relationships with our industry partners.” During the run-up to the first Gulf War, “I saw how American industry could achieve previously unthinkable levels of production of complex high-tech equipment, and rapidly deliver capabilities to deployed Soldiers that were critical to mission success,” he said. “Greening” has also been an important, and still continuing, part of his career. “I was fortunate to have an opportunity to work alongside NCOs early in my career,” he said. “Learning and understanding how the Army is organized provides the foundation for the development of POR [program of record] concepts, programmatic strategies, product requirements and testing methodologies, as well as development of fielding, training and sustaining approaches.” The MFLTS undergoes testing during the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment 2016 at Fort Benning, Georgia. Soldiers used the MFLTS 2-Way translation app on the Nett Warrior device to speak with Soldiers from the 52nd Translator-Interpreter Company who played the role of Iraqi interlocutors. MFLTS translated on the spot from English to Iraqi Arabic. (U.S. Army photo) Listening to Soldiers at field events is critical, he added. “It is equally important for acquisition personnel to gain an understanding of how Soldiers perform their individual and organizational tasks. If we understand the use cases for our products, which includes the usage environment that dictates constraints and limitations, as well as [understanding] the operators who will employ the capability, we are more able to provide a new or improved capability that easily transitions into service and achieves a high level of Soldier acceptance.” When it comes to leadership, Doney espouses a “shovel the coal” philosophy: Shovel the coal yourself, that is, before you get to a position where you supervise others who do. Doney specifically emphasizes the importance of future program managers (PMs) participating in “as many source selection boards as possible.” He also recommends the PM course at Defense Acquisition University (DAU). “The staff instructors at the DAU PM course stand out as being particularly memorable,” he said. “These instructors created an experience that I continue to value greatly, as it thoroughly prepared me for the next steps in my career.” Doney’s parents were in public service. Their example, and three college summers as a temporary hire with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, led him to federal service. He joined the acquisition workforce immediately after graduating from college, working in the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command community of scientists and engineers. “After 10 years of leading [research, development and engineering] projects, I was asked to support a program management office and found a natural alignment of my personal and professional abilities with program management tasks that I found extremely challenging and rewarding.” Though he has been working in program management for the last 20 years, Doney can still recall one formative moment when he went “into the cauldron early.” As a relatively new GS-7 engineer, he briefed the three-star deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC) on the status of an AMC-wide project that “had been experiencing some significant implementation challenges.” This drove home “the importance of organizing information and effectively communicating, very early in my career.” Related articles Army language translation system assists Soldiers’ readiness “Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-664-5635. This article is scheduled to be published in the July – September issue Army AL&T magazine. Subscribe to Army AL&T News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce. Related posts: Army AL&T’s 2016 ‘ALTies’ are in, and the winners are… A case study in acquisition centralization Making Innovation Happen New Army AL&T magazine targets defense acquisition reform
Zero to full manpower in 8 hours
Predictive Resource Staffing Models make staffing a program office easier and faster. A model for the program management community is available now; models for contracting, R&D, T&E and logistics are in development. by Ms. Rebecca Meyer You’ve just been selected as the program manager for an up-and-coming system. Congratulations! Its capability promises to revolutionize the way the Soldier operates on the battlefield. It checks all the buzzwords: Lean Six Sigma, cost efficient, auditable. There’s just one problem—a program management office (PMO) has not yet been established to carry out the mission, and you’ve been charged with developing the workforce requirement. Where do you start? How many people will you need? What skill sets will your staff require? Anyone who has been in this situation can tell you that the thought of standing up a program office is daunting. You’ve asked around, and your fellow program managers relayed to you that they developed their staffing requirements through something called a concept plan. They mentioned that the timeline they experienced for development and approval was quite lengthy, averaging 12 to 18 months. And that doesn’t include using your requirements to request resources in the program objective memorandum (POM). One program manager even told the story of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle. MRAP followed the concept plan process to establish its program management office and did not receive approved workforce resources until after the program was already in sustainment. You find yourself asking, “What is this concept plan and why does it take so long?” “Army Regulation 71-32, Force Development and Documentation” defines a concept plan as a detailed proposal to create or change units at specified thresholds. The purpose is to ensure that requirements are thoroughly reviewed and support Army objectives and priorities, and that HQDA understands the changes. In 2010 guidance, the deputy chief of staff (DCS) G-3/5/7 laid out an eight-step approach to developing, analyzing and presenting manpower staffing requirements through a cost benefit analysis (CBA). Those eight major steps would need to be completed whenever a new program was established or a current program changed significantly. After the CBA is completed, the U.S. Army Manpower Analysis Agency (USAMAA) and DCS G-3/5/7 validation and approval are required before the requirements can be used in the Army’s resourcing processes. Although the concept plan process works, it does not provide flexibility or time-sensitive results. You begin to wonder why a more streamlined process has not yet been established. Well, you’re in luck. Your program executive office (PEO) notifies you that in 2013, the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)) began work on a new approach to developing workforce requirements. This approach stemmed from the need to provide flexibility for different levels of programs, identify future requirements and accommodate human resource challenges. From this, the Predictive Resource Staffing Model (PRSM) was born. DATA IN, FORECAST OUT PRSM is a suite of five functional-based models developed to provide Army leaders with validated tools to inform resourcing decisions at both the organizational and agency levels. The model outputs, based on sound statistical analysis and input from functional communities, forecast the manpower requirements needed to support Army acquisition programs. Functional areas include program management, contracting, research and development (R&D), test and evaluation (T&E), and logistics. Each functional PRSM is developed individually, based on the critical factors and workload drivers most relevant to the population being modeled. Workload factors and drivers are determined based on the organization’s mission, input from functional subject matter experts, policy, business processes and workload trends. Remember those eight major steps required to build the concept plan? They’re completed on the front end of PRSM, during model development, allowing the user to employ a simple process and receive outputs in minutes. Like the concept plan, the models are validated by USAMAA and outputs are approved by DCS G-3/5/7. Best of all, once a PRSM model has been validated, it replaces the need for a concept plan. “The PRSM – Program Management model has greatly improved the process of obtaining approval for manpower requirements,” said Vincent Dahmen, a cost analyst at the PEO for Ammunition. “Because the output of the model is accepted and respected by all of the stakeholders, the user doesn’t have to start from scratch with new analysis every time there is a change to the organizational structure.” Models predicting the workforce for contracting, R&D, logistics and T&E are in development; the model for program management was completed and validated for use by USAMAA in 2015. Your PEO’s manpower analyst sends you a copy of the model and mentions that you’ll need to provide the outputs by close of business today. The PEO is getting ready to submit manpower requirements for this POM and wants to make sure your requirements are included. This gives you less than eight hours to provide the staffing requirement that took your peers 12 months to develop. You also have some concerns that the model won’t work for your program, as it’s a new start developing a previously unseen capability. Teresa Gonda, director of organizational development and competency management at the PEO for Ground Combat Systems (GCS), has encouraging news on this point: “The real value of PRSM is in seeking requirements for new starts. PEO GCS is kicking off several programs in the next two years and has started using PRSM, with some innovative new processes in the Army, to help justify the requirements.” Normally with a new start, there is no analogous system to compare staffing baselines, so PMOs struggle with deriving manpower requirements. You hope this PRSM model is as simple and effective and provides results as quickly as advertised. WHAT DRIVES THE MODEL When you open the model, you find PRSM – Program Management (PRSM-PM) is built around a list of program management tasks and a set of workload drivers developed by the PEO community. You remember hearing about this back in 2014, when a sample set of users in the PEOs was asked to record workload time (actual time spent completing a task) against the task list for three months. Regression analysis performed on this data was used to develop the model you’ll be using today. Working with the model is straightforward: You answer a series of questions based on program schematics, including acquisition category, life cycle phase, use of government-furnished equipment and system type, among others. (See Figure 1.) These questions are the workload drivers—pieces of information that combine to tailor the model to your program and are changed to meet emerging mission requirements. Within 10 minutes, you’ve entered all the required information into PRSM and have computed your manpower requirement. FIGURE 1 TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PROGRAMBy providing responses to a series of questions related to program specifics, PRSM users can compute manpower requirements in 10 minutes—a dramatic improvement over the 12 months it used to take to complete the task. (Graphics courtesy of the author) You scroll through the various output reports PRSM-PM provides, viewing the results by labor class (contractor, civilian, matrixed personnel—functional support provided by another command—military, and other government agency personnel); function (business management, engineering, program management); task list; and combinations of all three. (See Figure 2 and Figure 3.) You can see the number of man-years you’ll need in your PMO as well as the functional divisions and the tasks each will need to carry out. You feel relieved. Not only have you been able to calculate your manpower requirement, but you’re confident that you’ll be able to match the right people to the required skill sets. All that’s left to do is submit your requirements. Your PEO provided a PowerPoint template to package your outputs. You copy and paste a few of the output reports, provide some narrative about your program and submit your requirements to the PEO analyst. FIGURE 2 KEEPING UP WITH THE LABOR POOLPRSM-PM provides results by labor class, as shown here, and by function, task list and combinations of all three. The system will be updated in 2019, with subject matter experts working to ensure that the tasks and workload drivers still accurately reflect the community and the model still accurately projects program workforce requirements. Over the next few months, you find that this validated requirement has been approved by DCS G-3/5/7, used in the Army’s civilian Total Army Analysis processes, submitted to the Program Evaluation Group for resourcing, and later used to develop your program’s Table of Distribution and Allowances and matrix personnel support agreements. In roughly six months, you developed the requirement, had it approved and received resources for the upcoming POM years. The PRSM timeline proved to be much more streamlined and efficient than that of the concept plan. FIGURE 3 NEW PROGRAM? NOT A PROBLEM.Each functional PRSM is developed individually, based on the critical factors and workload drivers most relevant to the population being modeled. The sourcing model has proven easily adaptable to new programs, overcoming the challenge of not having comparable manpower requirements to serve as a baseline. ANNUAL UPDATES This isn’t the last time you’ll see PRSM. Every year you’ll use it to update your requirements as your program transitions. “PEO GCS uses PRSM both in the annual forecasting process and in standing up new programs,” Gonda said. “At the beginning of the annual forecasting process, PEO GCS looks out seven years at the budget cycle and uses PRSM to anticipate fluctuations in programs. Then, supervisors perform a detailed troop-to-task estimate in each program and come together in functional competency groups. They compare results to PRSM, look for trends and issues and see where they can find efficiencies across the PEO.” You may not use the same in-depth review process as PEO GCS, but you’ll definitely be using PRSM to approve your manpower requirements on an annual basis as part of the POM. Furthermore, you’ll have a chance to share your thoughts on the model and enhance its capabilities: You’ve received word from your PEO that PRSM-PM will undergo an update in 2019. Another group of subject matter experts from the PEOs will come together to ensure that the tasks and workload drivers are still representative of the community and that the model still accurately projects program workforce requirements given the current environment, and to provide recommendations on how the model can better support PMO reporting requirements. CONCLUSION The PRSM models might look different for each functional community, but the usability and incorporation into Army processes remain the same. This is good news across the Army for those doing just what you’re doing. For the first time, the Army is able to develop consistent and reliable workforce requirements in a timely manner, reflecting the most current Army strategy. The requirements can be updated at any time to support what-if drills and programmatic changes. There are still many conceivable refinements to the PRSM suite to make it a more robust set of tools, and the Army needs your help in making those improvements. The models require your subject matter expertise in Army missions, processes and community operating procedures to develop successful outputs. For more information, contact the author at email@example.com. MS. REBECCA MEYER is a program support specialist for the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for plans, programs and resources. She holds an M.S. in cost estimating and analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School and a B.S. in mathematics from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. She is Level II certified in program management and business – cost estimating. This article is scheduled to be published in the July-September 2017 issue of Army AL&T Magazine. Subscribe to Army AL&T News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce. Related posts: Col. 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Center of the storm
‘Trail bosses’ in evolving NIE, JWA seize the chance to grow professionally as their roles expand in planning and executing the large-scale exercises. by Ms. Nancy Jones-Bonbrest The Army’s Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs) and Joint Warfighting Assessments (JWAs) were meant to be fluid and flexible, adaptable to current demands. In keeping with that design, both events are undergoing sweeping changes that will improve the integration of emerging technologies and meet the call for readiness in an ever-changing global threat environment. As the Army shakes up the process, the people who conduct the NIEs and JWAs are also adapting their roles and responsibilities—and making the most of the opportunity to burnish their skills. The NIE and JWA are Soldier-led, complementary exercises designed to integrate and mature the Army’s tactical network and emerging capabilities in an operational environment. Through simulated combat missions, including combined arms maneuver, counterinsurgency and stability operations, the Army has been able to integrate, assess and improve hundreds of government and industry technologies using Soldier feedback. Since its inception, the combined NIE and JWA process has made possible the evaluation of more than 270 capabilities with the execution of more than 130 other demonstrations and risk reduction events. At the center of it all are the NIE and JWA trail bosses, acquisition professionals who serve as the vital link between the operational units that put on the events and the many government and industry stakeholders that provide capabilities for evaluation. Trail bosses communicate the operational intent of the various systems, ensure that the proper training and equipment are in place, and conduct end-to-end integration and planning to execute successful exercises. From a talent management perspective, trail bossing is a rare and valuable chance for a junior or midcareer acquisition officer to interact with multiple capabilities and stakeholders in a high-profile setting. ACQUISITION AMBASSADORThe new evaluation construct of NIEs and JWAs has elevated the trail bosses’ interaction with the test unit, making them “more of a planner to senior leadership” than before, said trail boss Maj. Carlito Flores, right, shown talking with Soldiers during the VALEX phase of the NIE 16.1 at Fort Bliss in October 2015. (Photos by Vanessa Flores, SoSE&I CPD) Indeed, as the NIE and JWA evolve, even the term “trail boss” no longer describes the full scope of these officers’ duties. What began as an assignment to guide the unit through the validation exercise (VALEX) and operational evaluation has evolved to include a heightened level of planning, preparation and coordination akin to the job of a program manager responsible for guiding a portfolio of products through development and fielding. Reflecting this change, some trail bosses now have the formal title “assistant product manager” (APM). “It used to be about getting the unit through the validation exercise that shows how the network works prior to an NIE,” said Maj. Carlito Flores, APM with the System of Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate’s Capability Package Directorate (SoSE&I CPD). Previously, Flores served as the APM for Nett Warrior with the Program Executive Office (PEO) for Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. “Now, we are able to see the larger operational picture by being part of the whole planning process. We’ve stepped up our role in interacting with the unit, and serve as more of a planner to senior leadership.” This year, for the first time since the inception of the NIEs in 2011, the operational test unit will no longer be the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. Instead, the Army will rotate in other formations to meet readiness goals and provide fresh perspectives on new technologies. At NIE 17.2, to be held in July at Fort Bliss, Texas, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (2/101), a light infantry unit based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, will serve as the test unit. Next spring, JWA 18.1 will take the changes a step further when the event moves to Europe and features the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division along with a large cast of joint and multinational partners. And that’s only the latest twist. In 2016, the Army changed the NIE from a biennial event to a yearly event and introduced the newly established Army Warfighting Assessments (AWAs, now called JWAs), which also take place once a year. While the NIEs focus primarily on formal system test events, the JWAs’ primary focus is on concepts and prototypes. Together, they pack a one-two punch of operational assessments that provide Soldier feedback on emerging concepts and capabilities to improve the combat-effectiveness of the joint force. SETTING PLANS IN MOTIONTrail bosses, from left, Maj. Carlito Flores, Maj. Paul Santamaria and Maj. Alicia Johnson review plans for JWA 18.1 during an April meeting at Fort Bliss. JWA 18.1 is scheduled for May 2018 in Europe. Trail bosses are tasked with developing schedules and budgets, as well as leading design, integration and VALEX coordination efforts with a variety of partners, including Army and joint organizations. MAKING THE RIGHT CONNECTIONS Amid all of these changes, the trail bosses serve as ambassadors for the acquisition community. They link the acquisition side of the house—including the cost, schedule and performance constraints that project managers must abide by—with the operational effects of introducing new technology to training scenarios, while also meeting the needs of other stakeholders, such as the test community and industry. The change in operational units means that they are no longer working in established relationships, said APM Maj. Alicia Johnson of the SoSE&I CPD. Before taking this assignment, Johnson worked as an administrative contracting officer for the Defense Contract Management Agency in Springfield, New Jersey. “It’s really about getting out to those installations, educating the units because they may or may not understand what the NIE is, and explaining how they are going to participate. We also let them know the importance of what they are doing,” she said. Trail bosses also serve as the glue that binds the many pieces of the exercises. Because the units are operational brigades with their own missions in addition to the NIE mission, trail bosses must balance resources and time. They work to ease the burden on the units that are learning new systems being evaluated as part of the NIE while meeting traditional unit training requirements. Trail bosses can often be found chairing a meeting, conducting close coordination with stakeholders on when and where equipment will arrive for training and integration, performing cost analysis, briefing leaders or managing direct support to units. They work regularly on future requirements for upcoming exercises, including developing schedules and budgets. They spearhead efforts for design, integration and VALEX coordination with partners that include the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command, Army Rapid Capabilities Office, U.S. Army Europe, U.S. Army Forces Command, Army PEOs and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s capability managers. “You speak both languages by translating operational requirements and objectives to the technical requirements and objectives,” Flores said. Maj. Paul F. Santamaria, SoSE&I CPD APM, said the role has a distinct rhythm. “When it comes to execution of each exercise, our scope gets less wide and more deep in order to drill down into a unit’s needs to successfully accomplish the exercise,” said Santamaria, who previously worked as an assistant professor in the Department of Systems Engineering of the United States Military Academy at West Point. “At the conclusion, we then widen our aperture and coordinate with all external organizations for the next one.” MAXIMUM MULTITASKINGTrail boss Maj. Paul Santamaria inspects a vehicle during the VALEX phase of AWA 17.1 at Fort Bliss in October 2016. Trail bosses have broad responsibility at the NIEs and JWAs, which gives them a better understanding of the larger operational picture. That, in turn, enhances their acquisition expertise. NOT YOUR AVERAGE APM Unique to the trail boss role is the scale of exposure. While traditional product managers focus on one portfolio of individual systems, trail bosses consider their portfolio to be the tactical network and the system-of-systems capabilities that interact with it. Trail bosses see the latest technology first, understand where the Army is heading with capabilities and absorb leadership priorities. Working with so many different capabilities—and so much operator input—provides a wider perspective when they move on to future assignments in the Army Acquisition Corps. “At the NIEs, we are exposed to so many different concepts and see them work together as a system of systems,” Johnson said. “With [this experience] comes a larger concept of understanding of where modernization is heading. As we look to future assignments or look at what is going on in the acquisition community, we can see the direction we are heading, which is really a unique opportunity.” CONCLUSION Originally designed to focus on the tactical network, the exercises are evolving to look at a wide variety of capabilities, such as advanced tactical power, counter-unmanned aircraft system capability and cyber and electronic warfare technologies. This continuous cycle of NIEs, and now JWAs, helps the Army keep pace with the speed of technology while incorporating Soldier feedback into system design and training. The exercises inform tactics, techniques and procedures for using the technologies in the field. As the NIEs incorporate new units and the JWAs new partners and locations, the trail bosses are embracing their expanded roles. For example, they are now planning multiple exercises at one time and starting the process earlier than ever to coordinate with rotational units. “I’m capturing all these lessons learned from what we are doing at Fort Campbell, and I’m trying to apply them not just with an operational unit but with one with an operational mission in what seems to be an operational theater,” said Santamaria, who recently returned from a trip to Germany to plan JWA 18.1. “The role of trail boss has evolved from having a static unit conducting exercises with new technology, to a not-so-static unit conducting an exercise in a different environment—and how do you bring all those forces to bear? So bringing all those pieces together is something really unique.” GETTING AN EARLY STARTTrail boss Maj. Carlito Flores exits a command post during NIE 16.1 at Fort Bliss in October 2015. Trail bosses are embracing expanded roles as NIEs incorporate new units. They are planning multiple exercises at one time and starting the process early to better coordinate with rotational units. For more information, go to http://rapidcapabilitiesoffice.army.mil or email the Army Rapid Capabilities Office at firstname.lastname@example.org. MS. NANCY JONES-BONBREST is a staff writer for Data Systems Analysts Inc., providing contract support to the Army Rapid Capabilities Office. She holds a B.S. in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park. She has covered Army modernization for several years, including multiple training and testing events. This article is scheduled to be published in the July-September 2017 issue of Army AL&T Magazine. Subscribe to Army AL&T News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce. Related posts: Army advances mid-tier radio for battlefield network Col. Michael Thurston, Project Manager for Mission Command, lays out the essentials Area Denial Developing Afghan Force Managers
Then and Now: Not Your Daddy’s (or Granddaddy’s) Tactical Vehicle
JLTV, Army’s and Marines’ newest wheeled asset, follows in the venerable tracks of Jeep, HMMWV Mr. Robert Coultas Over the past few decades, the character of military conflict has changed substantially as “front lines” and “rear areas” have blurred into a single, full-spectrum operational environment. That increasing complexity is reflected in the tactical vehicles that commanders need to address that spectrum of operations. When the Army looked to replace the venerable Jeep, the July-August 1981 issue of RD&A magazine, Army AL&T’s predecessor, described the new vehicle it sought to acquire, the High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), this way: “The HMMWV will be diesel powered and have an automatic transmission. It will carry a 2,500-pound payload, have a cruising range of 300 miles, accelerate from 0 to 30 MPH within 6 to 8 seconds and achieve a maximum speed to 60 MPH. Since the HMMWV will be operated in forward areas, it will feature run-flat tires and ballistic protection up to 16-grain fragments traveling at 425 meters per second, as well as explosion-proof fuel tanks for some models. The vehicle will use off-the-shelf civilian hardware and military standard parts wherever possible.” It was, essentially, a better Jeep. There was nothing in that description about blast resistance or networking. It would have been hard to imagine a tactical network such as today’s in 1981. Nor was any consideration given to improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Contrast that with the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), which is currently in low-rate initial production. JLTV is an Army-led, joint-service program designed to replace a portion of each service’s light tactical wheeled vehicle fleets while closing a mobility and protection gap. The intent is to provide protected, sustained, networked mobility for warfighters and payloads across the full range of military operations. DOORS NOT INCLUDEDWillys-Overland was awarded the contract for the 1940 Willys Quad Original Pilot, the Jeep’s precursor, which began production in 1941. The vehicle underwent countless modifications and upgrades, and remained in service for the next 44 years. (Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) PROGRESSIVE CAPABILITY During World War II, the Jeep was considered the workhorse for logistical and support tasks. The early vehicles were used for laying cable and hauling logs, and as firefighting pumpers, field ambulances and tractors. However, the vehicle didn’t include armoring, a radio, seatbelts—or even doors. After the war, the Jeep went through many modifications and upgrades and remained in service for the next 44 years. The HMMWV was fielded in 1985, a couple of years later than anticipated back in 1981, and they have been used since as troop carriers, command vehicles, ambulances, for psychological operations and as weapon platforms. In the early 2000s, HMMWVs faced an entirely new threat in the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—the IED—and they proved vulnerable. DOD responded with up-armoring and the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, which was designed specifically to resist and deflect IED explosions. JLTV gives the current warfighter significantly more protection against multiple threats while increasing mobility, payload and firepower, something that Soldiers and Marines from past conflicts could only envision in their wildest dreams. “The JLTV has been designed to keep pace with the fast-changing nature of today’s battlefield,” said Dave Diersen, vice president and general manager of Joint Programs at Oshkosh Defense, which won the JLTV contract. Diersen added that JLTV offers “a leap forward in performance and capability that can only come from a vehicle that is purpose-built for a spectrum of light vehicle missions.” BIGGER, STRONGER, SAFERArmy leaders from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command tested a production model of the JLTV, right, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, on May 2. The JLTV bridges the capability gaps in protection, performance and payload of the HMMWV on the left. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland). The JLTV has two variants, to cover the requirements of both the Army and Marine Corps, and can be transported by a range of lift assets including rotary-wing aircraft. It can traverse rugged and dangerous terrain including urban areas, while providing built-in and supplemental armor against direct fire and IED threats. The JLTV features advanced networking, by being wired for current and future command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. JLTV was purposely built for the Army’s tactical network and designed to have MRAP-like protection, but also to improve fuel efficiency, increase payload and provide greater maintainability, reliability and performance—and the potential for continuous improvement to meet future mission requirements. The first production vehicles are intended to serve as the first assets for JLTV’s performance and operational testing programs. Roughly 40 vehicles have been delivered to test sites thus far, and will undergo complete reliability, transportability, survivability, network and other testing to verify the production vehicles’ ability to satisfy the program’s requirements. The most important outcome of this testing is to ensure that Soldiers can effectively interact with the JLTV and all of its integrated equipment. As the Jeep and HMMWV did on past battlefields, JLTV will no doubt face challenges of 21st century military operations that the Army and DOD can scarcely imagine today, as well as provide a much-needed tactical vehicle capability for the Army and Marine Corps that doesn’t compromise among payload, mobility, performance or protection. For more information on JLTV, go to http://www.peocscss.army.mil/. For a historical tour of Army AL&T over the past 56 years, go the army AL&T magazine Archives at http://asc.army.mil/web/magazine/alt-magazine-archive/. This article is scheduled to be published in the July-September 2017 issue of Army AL&T Magazine. Subscribe to Army AL&T News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce. Related posts: DRIVING SMALL BUSINESS SUCCESS Yoga for Data No One Would Be More Proud Simplifying SATCOM
Riding the Experience Curve
There’s a proven way to drive down defense acquisition costs, and it works especially well for the complex, high-tech platforms prone to big cost overruns. You’ve heard of it: the learning curve. It drives down defense acquisition costs the old-fashioned way. by Mr. Sudhakar Arepally Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs waited 108 years to finally win the World Series championship in 2016. It has not been that long—30 years or so—since the Army launched a major combat ground vehicle program, but the drought is conspicuous and frustrating nonetheless. The Army’s “Big 5”—the M1 Abrams main battle tank, the Bradley fighting vehicle, the UH-60 Black Hawk, the AH-64 Apache and the Patriot missile system—all date to the 1980s. The Army’s initiatives to introduce major ground combat vehicle platforms over the past 10 years—for example, Future Combat Systems and the Ground Combat Vehicle—have not succeeded. The Army terminates acquisition programs for a variety of reasons. Tectonic shifts in the operational capability requirements, while rare, can put the brakes on an otherwise well-managed program. So can external factors, such as political indifference and bleak economic circumstances. However, the irrevocable damage more commonly stems from unwieldy performance requirements, program schedule slips and cost overruns. Mostly, the underlying causes are unanticipated vehicle engineering, developmental and manufacturing roadblocks and inadequate measures to mitigate risks of unproven and complex technologies. Eventually, these issues escalate to create unbearable program costs. Fortunately there are promising approaches to manage program costs more strategically, employing pragmatic economic principles and enforcing a long-term business view. One of these principles, recognized in the 1940s and widely used in the manufacturing industry today, is the experience curve, sometimes referred to as the learning curve. Put simply, it describes this economic advantage: A firm that produces a complex product over time learns the process and thus is able to improve both productivity and performance across its functions and operations. This learning, in turn, enables the firm to reduce the unit cost of the product, as its cumulative production volume doubles over time. In general, firms that perform complex design, engineering development and manufacturing activities derive the most benefit from the experience curve. THE ITEM IN QUESTIONA U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, taxis down the flight line before takeoff at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Dec. 8, 2016. The high lifetime and per-unit cost of the fifth-generation fighter plane have drawn criticism, including from the Trump administration. Each aircraft in the most recent batch cost less than $100 million, the first time per-item cost has dropped below that threshold. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III) HOW THE CURVE WORKS There is ample and compelling evidence of the benefits of the learning curve in the manufacturing industry. As far back as World War II, aircraft manufacturing costs fell by roughly 20 percent because of decreases in labor hours each time the production volume doubled. Numerous generalized studies of other industries have corroborated the experience curve’s ability to reduce costs by anywhere from 5 to 30 percent. More recently, a report on the F-35 Lighting II, a fifth-generation fighter aircraft recognized for its advanced stealth capabilities, speed and agility, states that more efficient manufacturing methods and processes will help drive down the per-unit cost of the fighter plane by $10 million by 2019. The manufacturer, Lockheed Martin Corp., attributes the improved methods and processes to continuous improvement initiatives. In a validation of the experience curve, Lockheed Martin stated that for the low-rate initial production (LRIP) 8 contract award, the average unit price of the airframes for the three F-35 variants was 3.6 percent lower than the previous LRIP 7 price. Analysis of the cost data reinforces the merits of the economic concept. Plotting the actual F-35 cost data released by Lockheed Martin against the production run, a steep reduction in the unit cost is evident early in the production run but gradually levels off. (See Figure 1) Such a trend indicates not only the immediate impact of economies of scale—another economic principle that states that doubling the input more than doubles the output—but also exhibits the tremendous learning potential in a nascent production facility. However, as operations become mature and streamlined over time, the possibilities for realizing efficiencies decline. FIGURE 1: STEADY DECLINE IN UNIT COST This experience curve shows the average per-plane cost reduction for the F-35 Lightning II from LRIP 1 to LRIP 8. The more units produced, the less each unit costs, as the manufacturer gains expertise over time. (SOURCE: Sudhakar Arepally, DASA(DE&C)) But it is worth highlighting the general shape of the downward sloping curve in Figure 1, a signature characteristic of the experience curve. It can be reduced to a mathematical function known as the power or multiplicative law, represented as follows: A practical application of the model allows estimation of the average unit cost curve for future production units within reasonable bounds. (See Figure 2) Figure 2 shows the actual F-35 cost data (blue) versus the cost data estimated or predicted (red) by the mathematical model. Even though the curve profiles are similar, the differences in the absolute values are magnified in the initial production phase. It is possible that real-world situations, with effects on operations that the simple and approximate mathematical model does not reflect, might have contributed to the variation. The 15.5 percent degree of decrease in the unit cost for the F-35 case is a noteworthy output of the model. In other words, every time the F-35 production output doubles, the average unit cost decreases by 15.5 percent. (In theory, this specific curve is denoted as the 84.5 percent experience curve, 84.5 being the difference between 15.5 and 100.) This reinforces empirical evidence from numerous studies supporting cost reductions from 5 to 30 percent. FIGURE 2: PREDICTED VS. ACTUAL DECLINEThe F-35’s actual cost over time, in blue, and predicted cost over time in red follow roughly the same downward path, but the absolute numbers are different, especially at the outset. Why the disparity? The mathematical model that generates predicted data is just that—a model—and can’t take into account some real-world events that can affect labor and part costs. (SOURCE: Sudhakar Arepally, DASA(DE&C)) THE EXPERIENCE CURVE AND ACQUISITION As with the F-35 fighter aircraft, the Army, too, should be able to harness the cost benefits of the experience curve. The experience curve is all the more inviting to embrace because its advantages extend beyond labor hours saved to other functions across a firm’s (or service’s) operations. Both fixed and variable costs offer possibilities for lowering the cost structure with organizational learning. For instance, high-volume batch orders and long-term contracts could lower procurement costs. The Army can accelerate the cost savings by routinely deploying industry best practices for achieving efficiencies: continuous improvement initiatives such as value analysis, value engineering and Lean Six Sigma to continually reduce or eliminate waste and cut costs while improving product quality. Even management and administrative functions, the “overhead” regarded as a necessary evil among customers, tend to shrink and become minimally burdensome when these practices are rigorously applied. With reference to the Army’s acquisition process, the experience curve is most adaptable to the production and deployment phase marked by milestone (MS) C. To a lesser degree, it could benefit the system development and demonstration phase, denoted by MS B. But its prospects for the activities preceding MS A are projected to be marginal. If we apply the experience curve approach to Army acquisition, as an integral part of the broader acquisition strategy for new Army programs, then program cost management over the long term is anticipated to be more disciplined. As a routine process, the acquisition team currently prepares an internal cost estimate before releasing the request for proposal (RFP) to defense equipment manufacturers before MS C. Along with several other performance criteria, the team weighs the cost parameters in the overall evaluation of contractors’ bid proposals. FIGURE 3: WHAT WILL THE NEXT ONE COST?With an estimate of what the first item will cost, a series of curves can be generated to show how the per-item cost could drop over time, assuming a decline from 5 to 30 percent. Studies have observed the experience curve’s ability to lower per-item cost by those amounts. (SOURCE: Sudhakar Arepally, DASA(DE&C)) Given an estimate of average unit cost of the first article produced (e.g., the first unit of LRIP), a series of cost curves, henceforth called iso-experience curves, can be generated using the power law model. (See Figure 3) As Figure 3 shows, the iso-experience curves illustrate average unit cost reductions ranging from 5 to 30 percent (or conversely, the 95 percent experience curve to 70 percent experience curve). (See Figure 4) Figure 4 shows the experience curves for a notional production run of 10 units. To understand the calculations, let us consider the values pertaining to the 95 percent experience curve. It is assumed the cost for the first unit is 1,000. To calculate the cost for the second unit using the model, the values of 1,000 (first unit cost), 2 (second unit), and -0.07 (slope coefficient corresponding to the 95 percent experience curve) are assigned to the variables ‘A’, ‘X’ and ‘b’. Using this information, the model produces a ‘Y’ value of 950. Similar calculations are employed to generate all the other ‘Y’ values in Figure 4, including the predictions for the 100th unit associated with the iso-experience curves. Following contractors’ bid responses to the RFP, when the source selection evaluation board begins the evaluation process, is where the novelty of this notional approach becomes clear. Instead of rating a manufacturer’s proposal on a single and fixed cost estimate (along with other performance criteria), the manufacturers should be required to provide projections of unit cost reductions for the future production units. The government then would compare these against its own reference iso-experience curves generated before the RFP. Without a doubt, the data would provide an indication of the contractors’ motivation to manage costs over the long run. For instance, if a contractor’s proposal indicates only a 5 percent average unit cost reduction for every doubling of production output and another contractor’s proposal demonstrates a 30 percent reduction, such a glaring difference in cost structure would require further scrutiny. It might also reveal how determined contractors are to pursue innovative approaches to lowering costs. Both insights are a win for the Army acquisition process. FIGURE 4: EVALUATE THE ESTIMATEThe calculations that underlie the notional cost curves in Figure 3, assuming a production run of 10 items. One way to make the source-selection process more rigorous would be to evaluate not just the absolute cost that manufacturers propose, but how much they could lower the per-item cost over time. The manufacturers’ estimates could be compared to model-generated estimates, to evaluate whether or not the manufacturers are prepared to fully exploit the experience curve’s ability to save money over time. (SOURCE: Sudhakar Arepally, DASA(DE&C)) CONCLUSION Defense industry manufacturers need to be aware of cost-cutting opportunities and should create an environment in which the workforce wholeheartedly embraces best practices for efficiency and effectiveness. Only then will opportunities for cost reduction come to fruition. The defense acquisition community, in turn, should recognize the long-term benefits of the experience curve in galvanizing the industrial base. To that end, the acquisition community should take necessary measures to maintain continuity of production operations. One such approach is to balance the demand for defense articles, stretching production over longer periods as opposed to intermittent bursts of production to avoid generally exorbitant costs of manufacturing start-up and shut-down costs. In December 2016, President-elect Trump voiced his concerns about the high acquisition costs of defense products and singled out the F-35 aircraft. While a price drop for the F-35 was already in the works, according to defense market analysts, Lockheed Martin credited Trump with accelerating the reduction. In February 2017, the company announced an average cost reduction of 7.5 percent, or $455 million, for the government’s purchase of 55 planes, compared with the previous lot. Notwithstanding Trump’s conversations with Lockheed Martin, it is no surprise that the overall savings were a dividend of the experience curve. Considering the economic concept’s financial implications, future Army programs should consider the calculus early in acquisition planning. As old-fashioned as it may be, the experience curve method is a source of optimism for cost management of large and complex Army programs. Just like the Chicago Cubs, whose extraordinary preparation and performance resulted in their long-awaited victory, the Army should posture now for a win when it embarks on a new major platform. It is time to put an end to the long dry spell. For more information, contact the author at email@example.com or (703) 545-9102. BIG TANK, BIG COST, BIG LEARNING-CURVE POTENTIALThis Abrams tank from the 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, shown here in a December 2016 aerial drone image at Fort Stewart, Georgia, is one of the Army’s “big five” combat platforms, all of which date from the 1980s. Several attempts to launch a new ground-combat platform have fallen victim to soaring costs; the learning curve could offer a simple, time-tested way to control the cost of big, complex manufactured items like the Abrams or its successor. (Photo by Master Sgt. Erick Ritterby, 3rd Infantry Division) MR. SUDHAKAR AREPALLY is on a one-year developmental assignment in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Defense Exports and Cooperation, Arlington, Virginia. He is tasked with developing internal strategic plans. A graduate of the Senior Service College Fellowship program in May 2016, he served previously as associate director for systems engineering and analytics at the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, where he was responsible for planning, directing, reviewing and coordinating efforts in computational modeling and simulation. He also has extensive private industry experience, having worked as a senior project engineer for General Motors Co. and as a senior project engineer and program manager for what was then TRW Automotive Systems. He holds MBA degrees from Lawrence Technological University and the University of Michigan, an M.E. in industrial engineering from Tennessee Technological University and a B.E. in mechanical (production) engineering from Andhra University. He is Level III certified in engineering and a member of the Army Acquisition Corps. This article is scheduled to be published in the July-September 2017 issue of Army AL&T Magazine. Subscribe to Army AL&T News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce. Related posts: Calibrating collaboration with industry Recalibrating Requirements A Green Machine Success Ground Truth: Talent Management in Lean Times
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