Short-cutting T&E can have big consequences

Short-cutting T&E can have big consequences

Skimping on test and evaluation in defense acquisition is not a recipe for effective reform, it’s a recipe for disaster. by Robert F. Mortlock, Ph.D., Col., USA (Ret.) From 2009 to 2015, the Army conducted the most comprehensive testing of combat uniform camouflage in history, leading up to its selection of the Operational Camouflage Pattern on the Army combat uniform. The testing included a combination of controlled testing—relying on photo-simulation techniques (Soldiers viewing photos of camouflage uniforms on computer screens) that used modeling and simulation—and Soldier field testing. The testing measured the performance of camouflage patterns based on probability of detection and blending, with performance scores depending primarily on distance, […]

Innovation in the Army needs to come from the top down and the ground up

Innovation in the Army needs to come from the top down and the ground up

Culture as an offset Innovation in the Army needs to come from the top down and the ground up, and Soldiers at all levels need freedom, time and equipment to make it happen. by Col. John P. Cogbill Maintaining overmatch against any and all potential adversaries—known as an offset strategy—places a premium on new, potentially disruptive technologies. However, technology alone will not maintain the offset. An effective and enduring offset will require a culture of innovation that enables critical thinking and the application of the myriad emerging military and commercial technologies to address the full spectrum of national security challenges that exist in an increasingly hostile and complex world. In […]

Want faster acquisition?

Want faster acquisition?

PM Perspective Col. Michael J. Thurston Want faster acquisition? Reforming the process isn’t the answer, says a seasoned PM, who recommends instead a greater emphasis and more education on tailoring and risk management. by Ms. Bridget Lynch This column is the second in an 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 these programs? What do they wish they’d known then that they know now? […]

RDECOM utilizes Pacific Pathways deployments to conduct operational tests

RDECOM utilizes Pacific Pathways deployments to conduct operational tests

RDECOM utilizes Pacific Pathways deployments to conduct operational tests on three new technologies. by Ms. Argie Sarantinos-Perrin While the Army began Pacific Pathways in 2014 to build and sustain readiness in the Asia-Pacific region, the multinational exercises have acquired an additional mission: experimentation. The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) recently experimented on three new technologies—Rapid Fabrication via Additive Manufacturing on the Battlefield (R-FAB), Fight Tonight Emergency Fuel Distribution System and Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T)—in Pacific Pathways exercises to see how they performed in operational settings. “Putting equipment into exercises for experimentation allows the technology community to learn early lessons about how equipment performs in a realistic environment, how […]

Strengths and myths of what makes special operations forces acquisition special

Strengths and myths of what makes special operations forces acquisition special

By understanding what the SOCOM acquisition model is, and what it isn’t, the Army can leverage its strengths appropriately for more efficient and effective modernization. by Col. Joe Capobianco and Col. David Phillips “We’ve been fortunate to have an amazingly consistent leadership philosophy for the last 20 years: Clearly communicate your expectations for risk management and empower the team to make decisions at the appropriate level.” James H. Smith, U.S. Special Operations Command acquisition executive, February 2018 When reading about or interacting with the forces assigned to the U.S. Special Operations Command we think of speed, global reach and, most important, operational success. Special operations forces (SOF) routinely conduct critical […]

Weight Kills Programs, Too

Weight Kills Programs, Too

John T. Dillard, Col., USA (Ret.) In the famous Boeing 777 development program of the 1990s, United Airlines was contractually permitted to penalize Boeing at $500 per pound, per airplane, per year for the revenue-producing life of the airliner if Boeing exceeded its weight goal of about 297,000 pounds. For the 777, almost 0.25 of 1 percent of a 297,000-pound airplane can be the “stack-up variance”—caused by the randomness of small weight differences across 3 million or so parts in the airplane (over 740 pounds!). In 1999, the U.S. Army’s Crusader advanced field artillery program’s design-to-weight requirement was halved by then-Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki as the program was […]

Been there, done that

Been there, done that

Been there, done that: The weight thing Those ugly extra pounds—or even grams—can derail your program or product. by John T. Dillard, Col., USA (Ret.) I can honestly say that just about everyone wants to lose weight. A multimillion-dollar weight loss industry attests to this. It’s no different in the armed forces. All defense products typically have that one thing in common: They’re too heavy. From missiles to radios, satellites to submarines, aircraft to land vehicles, heavy weapons to small arms—not just the man-portable items—they all need to weigh less. Over the decades, I’ve seen many system development efforts struggle to attain their weight goals. Often they have weight as […]

From idea to front line in record time

From idea to front line in record time

How to speed acquisition timelines through the power of innovative thinking. by Lt. Col. Mark P. Henderson Through innovative thinking and process improvement, the Army Acquisition Corps successfully transformed airborne operations in just two short years, culminating on Sept. 30, 2017, with the fielding completion of the full Ku-band operational capability of Enroute Mission Command (EMC). Mounted on Air Force C-17s, this revolutionary capability turns aircraft into flying command posts, enabling the Global Response Force to conduct real-time continuous mission command from home station to the drop zone. Other network communications solutions making rapid debuts in 2017 included low-rate initial production for terrestrial radios that provide information superhighways; coalition enclaves […]

An outsider’s take on acquisition

An outsider’s take on acquisition

Army acquires tactical communications equipment; units lack time, resources to train with it; some deploy without it. A PEO’s liaison to the operational force breaks down this dilemma. by Brig. Gen. Karl Gingrich I arrived at the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications – Tactical (PEO C3T) in June 2016 as an outsider to the Army’s acquisition community. Given that I had no acquisition credentials or signal experience, many found the assignment curious, but the Army knew exactly what it was doing and why. It was specifically the lack of credentials and limited knowledge of the tactical communications portfolio that enabled me to do what the Army wanted—bring […]

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. […]