THEN & NOW QUIZ SHOW

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As the new decade begins, we look back at predictions about what Army acquisition would look like in 2020.

 



By Steve Stark

We as a species are uniquely able to collaborate, communicate and dream the future that we want to make. But, as the saying goes, the future looks a lot like the past. The hard part of predicting the future is understanding what to pay attention to in the past.

Army AL&T has been publishing since 1960, which gives us a substantial archive to browse. We did so with an eye toward creating a quiz to start the new decade (even if you’re of the opinion that the new decade doesn’t begin until 2021). As a species, we seem to be more hopeful about the long term than the short. Things looked more hopeful for 2020 in 2000 and earlier. We now have multidomain warfare, but AirLand Battle was multidomain (and a more descriptive name). The saying goes that every good idea needs to be reinvented.

Remember Joint Vision 2020 and the Global Information Grid? Remember the Objective Force? How about Future Combat Systems and Brigade Team Modernization? They’re all in the past, and yet, who would argue that multidomain warfare isn’t network-centric warfare?

In predicting the future, our predecessors in Army acquisition were as spectacularly right as they were wrong. What’s most evident in looking back at the last 50 to 60 years of Army AL&T is how the same issues and themes arise again and again. Cost overruns. The need to modernize. The need to professionalize and continue to professionalize the acquisition workforce. The quest for new and innovative technologies. The need somehow not to treat the Soldier as a “Christmas tree,” as then-Col. Bruce D. Jette and Bill Brower wrote in the magazine in 1998. The desire to somehow institutionalize innovation. The thirst for more and more energy. The tension between technology development and program management. The sense that we in danger of falling behind our rivals and losing our technological edge. The need for reform. And, of course, crippling bureaucracy.

All of the answers to the quiz are based on content from Army AL&T and its predecessor publications, Army Research and Development, Army RD&A Bulletin and Army RD&A (the name changed each time the name of the office for the Army acquisition executive changed).

One of our witty acquisition colleagues here at the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center dubbed 2020 “the year of hindsight.” And so, a brief quiz on Army acquisition history.

The Quiz

1. Starting in about 1985, the Army was fully invested in something called MANPRINT, which was written up in the magazine several times. What was it? (MANPRINT was an acronym, of course, short for “management and personnel integration,” which really doesn’t provide much of a clue).

A. The integration of management with rank-and-file employees.
B. A process that imposes human factors, manpower, personnel and training considerations across the entire materiel acquisition process.
C. A form of biometrics that never fully matured before being abandoned.
D. A full-body equivalent of a fingerprint.

2. When did the first Army artificial intelligence system come online, based on mentions in this magazine?

A. 1997
B. 1967
C. 1987
D. 2007

3. Army Futures Command’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team recently announced Soldier Centered Design. What other efforts to make “the Soldier the Centerpiece” has the Army undertaken?

A. MANPRINT
B. Soldier as a system
C. Human factors engineering
D. All of the above.

4. Power- whether that means gasoline, kerosene, batteries, natural gas, electricity generation or even food—has always been a factor in the success of the Army. That is especially true of remote and austere locations. The MH-1A was intended to help with that. What was it?

A. The first mobile, shipborne solar panel farm, which generated approximately 3 megawatts of power.
B. A ship designed to harvest wave energy from the ocean waves, which was said to be ahead of its time and ultimately failed.
C. A World War II-era ship with its propulsion system removed and replaced with a nuclear reactor sufficient to power thousands of homes.
D. An award-winning technology from the 1960s that converted waste paper to glucose.

5. The Army killed the mule in the summer of 2011—that is, it killed the MULE program (Multifunction Utility Logistics and Equipment vehicle). That MULE was one of the systems within the Future Combat Systems. It just killed another one—more accurately, it decided to recompete for the squad multipurpose equipment transport (SMET) vehicle. Still, the idea of a mule vehicle continues with the Next Generation Combat Vehicle program. “The Army has long desired a robotic mule,” noted a National Defense Magazine article on Jan. 8. Despite having killed at least one, the Army still likes mules. Which of the following was not among the Army’s mules?

A. Gama Goat
B. Actual mules
C. The Modular Universal Laser Equipment (MULE) program
D. The M274 Mule
E. All of the above.

The Answers

1

Starting in about 1985, the Army was fully invested in something called MANPRINT, which was written up in the magazine several times. What was it? (MANPRINT was an acronym, of course, short for “management and personnel integration,” which really doesn’t provide much of a clue).

A. The integration of management with rank-and-file employees.
B. A process that imposes human factors, manpower, personnel and training considerations across the entire materiel acquisition process.
C. A form of biometrics that never fully matured before being abandoned.
D. A full-body equivalent of a fingerprint.

Answer: B.

The MANPRINT program was intended to live up to what Gen. Creighton Abrams, Army chief of staff, said about equipping Soldiers: “The difference between us and the U.S. Air Force is that they man equipment and the Army equips men.” It was, according to the author, Col. John Tragesser, the forerunner of “people are our most important resource.” MANPRINT was going to provide the Army of 2020 the materiel it needed. By 2003, the concept had been narrowed to “human/system interaction.”

2

When did the first Army artificial intelligence system come online, based on mentions in this magazine?

A. 1997
B. 1967
C. 1987
D. 2007

Answer: B. The Human Resources Research Office of George Washington University, which was the Army’s principal training research agency and was terminated in 1975, launched project IMPACT—an acronym for the tortured name of the program, Instructional Model Prototypes Attainable in Computerized Training—in 1967 (roughly). The project was “intended to incorporate proven principles of the learning process into a single pattern or model” and was expected to be of “vast significance to the education community as well as to its primary beneficiaries—Army personnel seeking advanced skills.” Another program, PLATO (Programed [sic] Logic for Automatic Operations), which Army RD&A wrote about in 1965 and was later profiled in the early 1970s as an offshoot of IMPACT, morphed into a “proprietary mainframe based training system marketed by Control Data Corp.,” which supported MALOS-QDX (Quick Decision Exercise), a training system that used PLATO.

The Army will always train, and always look for ways to do it more effectively and efficiently.

3

Army Futures Command’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team recently announced Soldier Centered Design. What other efforts to make “the Soldier the Centerpiece” has the Army undertaken?

A. MANPRINT
B. Soldier as a system
C. Human factors engineering
D. All of the above.

Answer: D. An article in the May-June 1991 issue of Army RD&A Bulletin extolled the use of MANPRINT in the development of the Patriot Air Defense Artillery System. The authors, John R. Erickson and Gary L. Kurtz, wrote that “The HEL [the U.S. Army Human Engineering Lab, not high-energy laser] facilities and their mission funding posture provided a bridge over fluctuations in project funding caused by normal technological perturbation in the program. This led to major contribution to the air defense community, which included the development of the first simulation of the operating console for Patriot and the application of [human factors engineering] to the total Patriot system.”

The Soldier-as-a-system concept first appeared in the magazine in the November-December 1992 issue, in an article by Dr. Madeline Swann about “The Soldier As A System (SAAS) Symposium/Exposition,” an event held by the U.S. Army Materiel Command that drew “more than 700 attendees from government and private industry.” Six foreign governments also sent representatives—Japan, Great Britain, Spain, Australia, South Korea and Israel. The January-February 2000 issue noted that “COL Bruce Jette, PM Soldier, and COL Henry L. Kinnison. TRADOC Systems Manager for the Soldier, received special MANPRINT Achievement Awards for their work in refining and clarifying the requirements for the Land Warrior System.”

4

Power- whether that means gasoline, kerosene, batteries, natural gas, electricity generation or even food—has always been a factor in the success of the Army. That is especially true of remote and austere locations. The MH-1A was intended to help with that. What was it?

A. The first mobile, shipborne solar panel farm, which generated approximately 3 megawatts of power.
B. A ship designed to harvest wave energy from the ocean waves, which was said to be ahead of its time and ultimately failed.
C. A World War II-era ship with its propulsion system removed and replaced with a nuclear reactor sufficient to power thousands of homes.
D. An award-winning technology from the 1960s that converted waste paper to glucose.

Answer: C. The Army contracted for the MH-1A Sturgis in 1961 and accepted the shipborne nuclear reactor, built into a Liberty class ship from World War II, in 1967. At that time, it was moored in Gunston Cove at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, near the SM-1, the land-based electricity-generating nuclear reactor once used for Army nuclear training at Fort Belvoir. The Sturgis had its propulsion system removed and was essentially a barge. The power plant traveled to the Panama Canal to help make up for electricity shortages, where it remained until the mid-1970s until it was towed back to Fort Belvoir to be denuclearized and deactivated. Disposal of the ship was finally completed in 2019. There was a program in the 1960s that turned waste paper to glucose, but it wasn’t the MH-1A.

5

The Army killed the mule in the summer of 2011—that is, it killed the MULE program (Multifunction Utility Logistics and Equipment vehicle). That MULE was one of the systems within the Future Combat Systems. It just killed another one—more accurately, it decided to recompete for the squad multipurpose equipment transport (SMET) vehicle. Still, the idea of a mule vehicle continues with the Next Generation Combat Vehicle program. “The Army has long desired a robotic mule,” noted a National Defense Magazine article on Jan. 8. Despite having killed at least one, the Army still likes mules. Which of the following was not among the Army’s mules?

A. Gama Goat
B. Actual mules
C. The Modular Universal Laser Equipment (MULE) program
D. The M274 Mule
E. All of the above.

Answer: A. The Gama Goat—a six-wheeled articulated vehicle named for the inventor of the articulated joint that enabled it (Gamaunt) and its sure-footed mountain goat-like performance in rough terrain—was a vehicle in its own right. Actual mules are about as surefooted as goats but better at hauling. Maybe that’s why they’re used in the Grand Canyon.

The M274 was a mule, but not an actual one. It was developed by the same folks (Willys) who gave us the original Jeep, and it not only could be ridden like a truck, the steering wheel could be flipped over, as an article in the magazine in 1988 about Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) noted. “In the 1960s YPG tested an Army and Marine Corps cargo hauler propelled by a ’20-mule-power’ air-cooled cylinder engine. It could be driven from a hard little seat, or after flipping the steering wheel around, from the ground when the terrain was too rough to ride.” That’s according to the author, Fran Northon, who was the Automotive Systems Engineering Section chief from October 1983 to May 1988 at YPG. He mentions a fair number of other interesting concepts demonstrated at YPG, which included 130-pound bulletproof tires that achieved their ballistic protection with some kind of foam. As Northon tells it, the tires seriously altered a vehicle’s handling, turning the wheels into gyroscopes. During the Apollo program era, the M274 was considered as a potential vehicle platform for the lunar rover in the Army Vehicle Lunarization Study, released in April 1966.

The laser program was an outlier in mule terms, but still a MULE.