Earning his acquisition wings

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Maj. Daniel Brown

COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Aircraft Survivability Equipment Testing Division, Aviation Flight Test Directorate, U.S. Army Redstone Test Center, U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command
TITLE: Experimental test pilot and division chief
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 4
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 12
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in test and evaluation
EDUCATION: M.S. in aerospace engineering, University of Maryland, College Park; B.S. in mechanical engineering, United States Military Academy at West Point
AWARDS: Bronze Star Medal; Army Senior Aviator Badge; U.S. Cavalry Order of the Spur (Gold, Silver); Army Aviation Association of America Honorable Order of St. Michael (Bronze); Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal


by Susan L. Follett

Maj. Daniel Brown just wants to make things a little better for the next guy. “Getting deployed Soldiers the capabilities they need to do their difficult job and then return home is always the goal, and I remind myself of that every day. I have been that deployed warfighter, and I want to make sure our current and future Soldiers have better lethality, capability and survivability than I did.”

Brown is an Army experimental test pilot (XP) with the Aviation Flight Test Directorate at U.S. Army Redstone Test Center, Alabama, part of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command. As chief of the Aircraft Survivability Equipment Testing Division, he manages and executes engineering and developmental flight tests of various aircraft components and systems, mainly survivability systems incorporated into rotary-wing and fixed-wing Army aircraft. “These technologies aid the warfighter’s threat awareness in flight and greatly increase their chances of avoiding—and even defeating—complex radar, infrared and laser-based threats,” said Brown.

Brown was an aviation officer before coming to the Army Acquisition Workforce and completed two tours in Iraq with the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. After finishing graduate school in 2014 through the Advanced Civil Schooling program, he spent two years teaching in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

While teaching, he applied to be an Army XP. “I thought it was the best way for me to align my personal passion—aviation—with my professional Army aviation experience and my educational background,” he said. Teaching at West Point “was great preparation for test pilot school,” he noted. “Three or four times a year, we took cadets up in Cessnas and Lakotas to gather data for the lab portion of our aerospace engineering courses. Addressing engineering topics while in flight, collecting data and flying within tight parameters—those skills are a big part of learning to be a test pilot.”

The XP application process included being accepted into the Acquisition Corps as a functional area 51A (program management) officer while also completing the multistage selection process to be an XP candidate. “While fundamentally 51As, XPs are branded 51Ts [test and evaluation officers] as well,” Brown explained, “and we must first serve in a 51T position and meet the associated requirements, including Level II certification in T&E [test and evaluation] in two years,” he explained. Brown attended the yearlong U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. Graduating from that school incurred him a T&E officer utilization tour requirement but also counted toward many of his T&E certification requirements.

 

“Since 51T isn’t currently a primary acquisition career field, we also need to get 51A key developmental experience after serving the 51T utilization tour,” Brown said. “Most Army XPs serve 51A time as an assistant product manager after their initial XP utilization, usually in the Program Executive Office for Aviation or Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors. Having to complete two separate key developmental positions back-to-back is challenging in its own right.”

Brown, who’s currently serving in his 51T key developmental position, noted that his work puts him in contact with multiple programs and reinforces the acquisition fundamentals he learned in his courses. “These programs are all different acquisition categories and types: programs of record, QRCs, JUONS, etc. They’re also at different stages in the acquisition life cycle. As a result, I’m getting a very broad look at the acquisition process as a whole—something you might not initially expect from a highly technical XP specialization.” (QRCs are quick reaction capabilities; JUONS are joint urgent operational needs statements.)

The biggest challenge he faces is managing aircraft schedules. “The average battalion might have 24 aircraft, all of which are the same. So if, for example, one Black Hawk isn’t ready, a flight crew can just move to the predesignated identical spare and complete its mission for the day,” Brown said. “But in a testing facility, we might have just a fraction of that number of aircraft of a single type, for example, and none is the same. They’re all in different stages of testing, outfitted with different prototypes or modifications, and have different test instrumentation equipment installed.

“We also have to operate them within the parameters granted by the organizations we’re testing them for. So we use detailed tracking and weekly deconfliction meetings to make sure that if something comes up and one test flight changes, we can minimize the negative effects to any other test programs that are slotted to test using a singular, unique aircraft.”

Brown noted that the most valuable training he has received so far in his career came from his assignment at the Naval Test Pilot School. The yearlong school incorporates more than 100 hours of flight training in rotary-wing and fixed-wing platforms, covering more than 15 aircraft types. “It starts with first principles on aircraft performance, aircraft handling qualities and aircraft systems, then builds over multiple exercises and test reports toward a monthlong, comprehensive evaluation of an aircraft for a specified mission,” he explained.

The final report requires students to combine their aviation expertise with what they’ve learned in training to assess the suitability of an aircraft for warfighters’ needs. “The school teaches us to be a bridge between the tactical and the technical communities, which is right where the Army Acquisition Workforce operates,” Brown said.

Now out of training and part of the acquisition workforce, Brown sees firsthand the importance of serving as that bridge. “The more the acquisition community understands the warfighter’s mission and exactly what’s needed for that mission, the better the product will be. The uniformed acquisition officer is the link to help facilitate that understanding.”

He noted a couple of things Soldiers don’t often think about when it comes to acquisition. “Most Soldiers don’t know that there’s a huge workforce behind them that they’ll never meet. They should take comfort in knowing that these people go to work every day dedicated to giving them what they need,” he said. “And most don’t realize how much never gets to them—that the new capabilities they receive are the culmination of a lot of things that didn’t work. When the system works the way it should, the warfighter doesn’t get something that doesn’t work, and we haven’t spent a lot of taxpayer dollars unnecessarily. Success shouldn’t be measured only by what makes it to the warfighters.”


“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 go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.

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