Meeting rooms stand empty at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, while the Center professionals utilize maximum telework and adhere to social distancing guidance while continuing to accomplish the mission. The government planned to conduct face-to-face industry days in Huntsville, Alabama. To maintain the program schedule, the IFPC team quickly shifted to virtual industry days with numerous vendors. (Photo by Catherine Carroll, U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville)
By Lt. Col. Juan R. Santiago, Jr.
Federal, DOD, Army, state and local authorities have issued various directives limiting access to government installations and industry facilities. These proactive measures are necessary to protect and preserve the force and the civilian population and they move much of the materiel enterprise into a telework posture. Nevertheless, the Army is leveraging collaborative sites and other technologies as it strives to maintain the momentum of its crucial weapon system developments to provide a qualitative edge to both current and future warfighters. Continuing force modernization efforts also engage a highly skilled workforce and support the economic vibrancy underlying American democracy.
The Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space (PEO M&S) and the Cruise Missile Defense Systems (CMDS) project office anticipated the crisis and provided their workforce the tools, training and authorities to continue the mission uninterrupted.
Beginning in early March 2020, CMDS updated property passes enabling all personnel to use government-issued laptops offsite, conducted virtual private network (VPN) system checks, trained its entire workforce on telework procedures and coordinated with the Army’s Contracting Command to ensure a seamless transition from onsite to offsite contractor support. Leaders also proactively identified the individuals most susceptible to coronavirus and took steps to minimize their risk of exposure as a top priority. As of early April 2020, more than 90 percent of the PEO M&S and CMDS workforce continues business as usual from offsite locations. The entire organization displayed great resilience transitioning to this posture in less than a week from what was an almost exclusively onsite workforce.
The PEO M&S workforce has utilized a variety of tools to stay connected and collaborative. Approximately 1,800 personnel log onto the VPN daily while conducting hundreds of teleconferences and virtual meetings via Defense Collaboration Services (DCS). Both internal and external stakeholders remain closely engaged and connected. Additionally, security professionals oversee limited access to classified networks while maintaining social distancing practices. Access has been granted only to those efforts necessary to provide uninterrupted support to the deployed warfighter and priority Army modernization programs.
Regarding Major Defense Acquisition Programs, the Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) program within CMDS serves as an example of carrying on with the mission despite pandemic-imposed constraints. It is one of the Army’s high-priority materiel developments, given the need to protect fixed and semi-fixed strategic assets and enable future multi-domain operations. The enduring IFPC program will close capability gaps in the air and missile defense domain against cruise missiles, fixed and rotary wing aircraft, unmanned aircraft systems, and rockets, artillery and mortars. As such, the Air and Missile Defense cross-functional team (CFT) sponsors and closely monitors the development.
The Army delivered a report to Congress on Feb. 28 outlining the updated IFPC strategy. The first phase of the program requires interested industry participants to bring relevant capabilities to a government-sponsored shoot-off in the third quarter of fiscal year 2021. A no-cost bailment agreement—which involves the transfer of possession and not the property’s ownership—serves as the contractual mechanism for phase one. Following this event, the government will enter phase two by issuing a formal request for proposals to competitively award a development contract. A single vendor will deliver 16 launchers and 80 interceptors by the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2023 via an other transaction authority (OTA) agreement. During phase three, the government will competitively award a production contract to fully satisfy the Army acquisition objective for IFPC launchers and interceptors.
The government entered the first phase of the IFPC program by releasing a request for information on March 2 to pulse interested parties regarding potential offerings. Several vendors responded, prompting the Army to issue a formal sources sought announcement on March 23. It outlined the requirements and set the conditions for industry to participate in a shoot-off demonstrating relevant launcher and interceptor integration with the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System.
Before social distancing and offsite work requirements imposed in response to the pandemic, the government planned to conduct face-to-face industry days in Huntsville, Alabama. To maintain the program schedule, the IFPC team quickly shifted to virtual industry days with numerous vendors on April 7 and 8.
Participants included industry partners, the CMDS and IFPC teams, Army Contracting Command, the Air and Missile Defense CFT, the Army Capability Manager for Air Defense, and experts from the PEO M&S Integrated Air and Missile Defense program.
Interested industry representatives were provided the IFPC industry day presentation and the critical capabilities document for assessment. They were also able to formally submit written clarifying questions. The government team then hosted separate one-on-one engagements with each interested vendor via DCS. Each team was given 60 minutes to present its solution and to open the forum at their discretion to the government team to ask clarifying questions. These well-attended virtual engagements set the stage for vendors to submit their final technical information papers to the government by April 24. The government will use these papers to select vendors for the IFPC shoot-off demonstration, which includes modeling and simulation activities and hardware-in-the-loop testing, and culminates with a live-fire event at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, during the third quarter of fiscal year 2021.
The PEO M&S, CMDS and IFPC teams displayed great creativity and tenacity by holding virtual industry days to maintain the momentum of a crucial Army force modernization effort. Industry teammates also merit recognition for finding ways to participate despite their similar hardships. While no one could have predicted the broad impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, organizational flexibility is essential to mission accomplishment. As the nation continues to stand down most onsite operations, effective and efficient teleworking must bridge the gap. The PEO M&S team provides an excellent example of how best to keep calm and carry on. Adapting to the situation allowed the PEO M&S team to live up to its motto, supporting “Any Warfighter – Anywhere – All the Time!”
Lt. Col. Juan R. Santiago, Jr. is the product manager for Indirect Fire Protection Capability
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