Professional Notes

I MEF deployed elements to Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Arizona, while the division deployed portions of its headquarters to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC), Twentynine Palms, California, where they assumed the role of I MEF Forward. The 7th Marine Regiment was the ground combat element for the combined arms live-fire and maneuver portion of the exercise in the high desert. The 3d Marine Aircraft Wing and Carrier Air Wing-14 provided the bulk of the air support, and 1st Force Service Support Group provided combat service support.

The exercise emphasized Maritime Prepositioning Force missions from start to finish—recalling the actual units that perform specific tasks, such as the offload preparation party and the survey, liaison, and reconnaissance party; simulating the deployment of a fly-in echelon; and using pre-staged equipment to conduct a simulated offload of an MPF vessel.

Tracking MPF equipment is critical. Since Desert Storm, the Marine Corps has improved its capabilities significantly in this regard by employing such technology as the Logistics Automated Information System, which includes a family of systems used to build a database. Marines now track equipment easily, using handheld scanners that read the markings on each piece of cargo. The MPF portion of the exercise proved especially valuable. In addition to exercising the actual units, the exercise required the organizations of the Landing Force Support Party to operate from the field under the same conditions that could be encountered during an actual deployment. It also helped validate and refine Unit Deployment Lists and Timed Phased Force Deployment Data.

On the ground, 5,000 Marines from five maneuver battalions, supported by an artillery battalion of four batteries, conducted extensive operations over five days. By 8 December, the GCE was conducting final preparations. On D-Day, 9 December, it conducted a deliberate attack against the forward elements of an enemy corps along multiple corridors.

Units planned and executed a full range of offensive and defensive operations, integrating all the battlefield operating systems. Numerous passage-of-lines operations and cross-attachments tested units' coordination.

Infantry units conducted live-fire assaults using small arms during numerous dismounted attacks, armored units fired 349 tank main gun rounds; and the artillery fired 1,150 rounds during 173 fire missions in coordination with 74 fixed wing and 22 rotary-wing close air support (CAS) sorties. Combat vehicles included 119 Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs), 61 Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs), 44 M1A1 tanks, and 12 M198 155-mm howitzers. Ground forces in direct support of the 7th Marines averaged 133 miles per unit and traveled approximately 150,000 total vehicle miles.

Planners emphasized realistic nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) training.

Instead of limiting the NBC focus to a representative sample or stopping all forces for a brief period of NBC play, they concentrated on a mechanized battalion and an artillery battery. The regimental NBC officer supervised the establishment of a regimental decontamination site manned by teams from numerous units organized into two equipment decontamination sites, two personnel decontamination sites, and one chemical casualty decontamination site. In the early morning hours of 11 December, the 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, and Kilo Battery, 3d Battalion, 1I th Marines, were hit with simulated FROG-7s, containing persistent blister agent. Exercising the two Fox NBC detection vehicles attached to them along with their own NBC detection teams, the infantry battalion sent the initial NBC reports and moved to a location in order to start operational (hasty) decontamination. This included vehicle washdown and mission-oriented protective posture (MOPP) gear exchange.

Both units then moved to the regimental site where, over the next seven hours, 702 personnel, 48 AAVs, 35 HumVees, 4 M198 howitzers, one Logistics Vehicle System loaded with ammunition, and 8 five-ton trucks were subjected to thorough (deliberate) decontamination. Personnel decontamination tested the new leap-frog technique in comparison to the buddy-team technique. As the day ended, both units were back in the fight—and 2/7 was preparing for a heliborne assault.

Demonstrating a capability that has not been exercised regularly in the Marine Corps, helicopters from Marine Aircraft Group-16 lifted 553 troops and 24 vehicles using 10 CH-46s and 13 CH-53s in three waves. Actually, the move could have been executed in two waves, but peacetime safety constraints precluded the CH-53Es from carrying troops and external loads simultaneously. Four AH-1Ws and two UH-1Ns provided escort and command and control.

Detailed planning sessions involving the senior (regimental) Fire Support Coordination Center (FSCC), the mission commander, and the helicopter unit commander; the pairing of unit leaders with flight and section leaders for route reconnaissance, and a helicopter familiarization training session with the assault force were conducted prior to the actual assault—a necessary precondition because the group, realistically, was in general support and not collocated with the battalion it was to lift. On 13 December, after extensive preparatory fires, 2/7's first wave landed at L-Hour; the final wave landed two hours later.

In compliance with the Commandant's Planning Guidance to use "creativity and innovation to ensure that we train an adaptive and flexible naval force . .," Steel Knight VII employed several new concepts and technology:

  • The Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS), which is designed to integrate rapidly ground and aerial fire support into the scheme of maneuver. An AFATDS link was established between division and regiment using frequency-hopping Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCCARS) tactical radio nets.
  • The Tactical Combat Operations (TCO) system that provides the ability to receive, fuse, select, and display information from many sources, and disseminate selected information throughout the battlefield. The system was linked between Regiment and Division and provided the capability to update both friendly and enemy positions digitally via the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET) without tying up tactical radio circuits with long, tedious message traffic, freeing them for more important traffic.
  • The Division Combat Camera Team's prototype man-pack Secondary Imagery Dissemination System that provides realtime imagery support. This featured photographs taken by heliborne photographers using hand-held digital cameras and by photographers with the 3d Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) Battalion's forward screen units that were sent over SINCGARS tactical nets and downloaded to a laptop computer at the regimental combat operations center. The photos were used at sandtable briefings in preparation for offensive operations.
  • Two prototype Helicopter Transportable Tactical Vehicles that were tested under a Naval Warfare Test Center program. These vehicles, which use standard HumVee engines, were designed to be transported internally by CH-53Es and MV-22s.

In addition, several Marine Corps Systems Command programs were introduced, including reversible utilities, pocket sandwiches, an off-the-shelf snack supplement (cookies, dried fruit or candy), and a mobile combat operations center housed in two HumVees, fitted with an accordion extension tent.

Steel Knight VII was successful because of the investments committed in terms of in money, time, and resources.

Several key points emerged:

  • Just as we attempt to synchronize fires, maneuver, intelligence, command and control, and logistics on the battlefield to maximize our combat power, we must continue to bring together all the assets. If an exercise is structured correctly, it is much more cost effective to integrate air, artillery, AAVs, LAVs, tanks, infantry, engineers, and combat service support assets in a single endeavor, where multiple units benefit, rather than in individual exercises. While the overall investment is greater than for any individual exercise, we must not be shortsighted— the return is a significantly more capable combat force.
  • We should continue to invest in major live-fire and maneuver exercises like Steel Knight, but we must constantly search for ways to reduce costs. AAV and engineer assets that deployed from Camp Pendleton to support Combined Arms Exercise 1/2-98 at Twentynine Palms, for example, also played in Steel Knight before returning to their home base. Future exercises could reduce transportation costs by using a battalion heliborne assault to get the troops up to the high desert, thus combining training and transportation.
  • We must evaluate ways to shorten work-up periods and streamline the process of establishing a ground combat element using MPF. In contrast to Operation Desert Shield-Desert Storm, the next conflict may not provide such a benign port and airfield situation or allow six months of preparation. (See the author's "Defending Inlandia," Joint Forces Quarterly , Autumn-Winter 1997-98, pages 130-134.)

In addition to these overall observations, comments on several specific areas are appropriate.

Combined Arms Exercises, which normally involve only one maneuver battalion—as opposed to Steel Knight VII's five—rate a dedicated aviation combat element including a full Direct Air Support Center (DASC) and Tactical Air Command Center (TACC), complete with current and future operations sections. The air support arrangements made for Steel Knight VII, however, were more ad hoc and characterized by a shortage of wing planners at many lower-level or working group planning conferences. Lack of coordination resulted in aircrew briefing guides with conflicting and inaccurate information, problems with the launching and routing of aircraft, trouble in assigning frequencies, and numerous difficulties with the Air Tasking Order (ATO).

Coordination problems did not mean a lack of support. In addition to the battalion heliborne assault, Marine air flew 47 fixed-wing and 20 rotary-wing CAS sorties, 39 assault support sorties, and 13 aerial refueling sorties. Much of the success can be attributed to the decision to collocate the air support element with the regimental combat operations center, which enabling them to maintain close contact with the fire support coordination center. Without a complete DASC, the element was unable to man two sections at once and experienced numerous communications problems. Nevertheless, these Marines managed to control professionally a high volume of air traffic. To illustrate just how good a job they did—not one check fire was initiated because of friendly close air or assault support crossing a gun-target line, a mistake commonly debriefed on nearly all combined arms exercises—which are shorter in duration, use fewer sorties, and have fewer firing batteries to deconflict. DASC/ASE integration with their ground counterparts at the regimental FSCC yielded great dividends.

Navy F/A-18s added to the exercise by flying 27 fixed-wing CAS sorties from the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). The 7th Marines' decision to send an air liaison officer out to the carrier facilitated coordination for the Navy sorties. Obviously, learning how to integrate carrier air is important for MPF operations, as it may be the only source of fire support initially available.

If the MPF force is to train as a true Marine air-ground task force, however, air support for Steel Knight cannot remain ad hoc—it should be formalized. Navy and Marine Corps aviation should be incorporated into the MPF training, exercise, and employment plan; the DASC should be fully manned, and planners should consider establishing a dedicated aviation combat element that participates from the early planning stages of the exercise.

While this exercise boasts of establishing AFATDS, digital camera links over tactical nets, and Tactical Combat Operations over the SIPRNET, units are far from having the capability to rely on these systems consistently. Transmitting data over SINCGARS generally requires a dedicated frequency—of which fewer and fewer are available. The SIPRNET is dependent on a multiplexer that condenses several channels of data into one. Unfortunately, during Steel Knight the multiplexer link was down approximately half the time. In addition, our forces still lack the expertise to exploit the full potential of these systems.

The force was unable to establish the Contingency Theater Automated Planning System (CTAPS). As we rely on sending data over local area networks, networking configurations and addressing schemes become just as important as frequency assignment—and need more attention. During Steel Knight, network connectivity was delayed by approximately 12 to 18 hours, while regimental and division planners worked out discrepancies.

Our obstacle and minefield breaching capability is antiquated. Because the M1A1 tank does not have a blade that can knock down berms and breach tank ditches like the older M-60 did, our capabilities in this area have gone down—not up. The problems experienced in minefield-breaching operations during Steel Knight VII are not new to the Marine Corps. The Mine Clearing Line Charge has a failure rate of almost 50%, clears a lane of only 100 meters, often wobbles when deployed resulting in a crooked lane of less than 100 meters, does not clear mines in the skip zone located .75 to 1.5 meters on either side, and is not effective against magnetic, non-pressure sensitive, or double-impulse mines that are properly buried or placed with an anchoring device. As a result, even if the line charge detonates, the lane must be proofed by clearing the unaffected mines. Unfortunately, proofing means using the track-width mine plow and track-width mine roller—which clear only very narrow lanes that accommodate a tank's tracks, leaving a gap down the middle. This gap must be cleared before follow-on tanks begin to compress the lane and bottom out on the gap, and before wheeled vehicles with a dissimilar axle width can pass through the lane.

Extra time must be spent using a second tank to proof an offset lane to produce a path wide enough for all vehicles to use. All of this must be accomplished in an area inevitably obscured by smoke and covered by enemy fire. The solution to these problems is long overdue. The Combat Breacher Vehicle (CBV), also known as the Grizzly, may be one answer. The Grizzly is a full-tracked, heavily protected vehicle with a full-width mine clearing blade and a power-driven excavating arm. The U.S. Army is testing it.

The exercise featured extensive NBC operations, but Marines should not jump to false conclusions based on such narrowly circumscribed operations. Had the artillery battery and the infantry battalion that were hit with an NBC weapon been separated by a great distance, had more than one battalion been hit, or had a battalion-size unit been hit before the regiment consolidated and augmented all NBC decontamination assets, the results would have been different. In addition, had this operation been conducted during summer rather than winter, the amount of water available and the length of time Marines could conduct strenuous operations in full MOPP gear would have decreased significantly. Neither the infantry regiment nor the combat service support element has the trained personnel and equipment necessary to conduct complete decontamination operations under such circumstances, none of which is unusual.

A final observation has to do with operating on a grand scale. Whatever the criteria—duration, distance, number of maneuver elements, amount of fire support, logistical requirements, or the integration of battlefield operating systems—Steel Knight VII was an enormous exercise. Sleep plans, military police traffic control points, movement orders, retrograde orders; the interrelationship between the reconnaissance and surveillance plan, the target list, and the assault support requirements for reconnaissance, surveillance and target analysis, and retransmission teams and communications with higher headquarters and other units—and numerous other issues often overlooked in smaller operations became profoundly important.

This exercise truly tested our logistics capability: the refueling operation conducted by 3d LAR using CH-53s configured with the Robinson Aerial Refuel System is but one example. The coordination required to establish maintenance collection points, maintenance contact teams, and repair and replenishment points in order to service and rearm the ground combat element's vast array of vehicles had the attention of all commanders and staff members, not just the S-4. The inventory and weighing of Authorized Medical Allowance List blocks brought up to 100% readiness during the MPF phase and the mass casualty drills incorporating the use of doctors and corpsmen in the Force Service Support Group's shock trauma unit were but two examples of the level of training that was achieved by the scope of this exercise.

Steel Knight is one of the few exercises that allows Marines to practice the ability to deploy forces, enter mock combat, and conduct a sequence of tactical actions on a grand scale. While a regiment is normally associated with tactical operations, the initial deployment and combat operations of an MPF take on a greater significance. Steel Knight focuses on this level of warfare and provides a rare opportunity to exercise the operational art.

 

Take a Tip from the Coast Guard

By Commander Red Smith, U.S. Navy and Lieutenant Joseph DiRenzo, U.S. Coast Guard

Recent Navy and Marine Corps changes regarding the Navy Achievement Medal (NAM) have made the award more personal. Commanding officers now are authorized to award more NAMs, which makes for quicker, more meaningful recognition at levels ranging from middle grade petty officer through first or second tour division officers.

The change, however, does not always provide meaningful recognition of the often overlooked, yet often most deserving members of the Navy and Marine Corps team: junior personnel.

Scope of responsibilities and performance of duties are both criteria for an award, and commanding officers (COs) often find it tough to shoehorn into one award all deserving personnel from seaman to lieutenant commander. Some commands may award too many NAMs while others may reserve the award primarily for senior personnel.

The solution is to provide some form of recognition that ranks below the Navy Achievement Medal but above a Letter of Appreciation or Commendation. In this case, someone has come up with an answer: our nation's sister maritime service, the United States Coast Guard with its Commandant's Letter of Commendation ribbon.

Lest your reaction be, "Oh no, not another ribbon!"—read on.

According to the Bureau of Personnel, only 30% of all first-term sailors are reenlisting. The senior career counselor on the staff of a surface type commander told us that the common threads among reasons given getting out are lack of recognition and personal communication; a common refrain was "No one asked me to stay."

For years, junior personnel have watched more senior members of their commands honored, rightly so, with the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal, or even in some rare instances, the Meritorious Service Medal, When a junior sailor departs after up to four years with a ship, a squadron, or a Fleet Marine Force unit, however, it is to the tune of a pat on the back or perhaps a Letter of Appreciation—no tangible recognition.

Simply put, they can't wear a letter on their uniform and the letters often end up in a scrapbook or hanging on the wall in a family room-theirs or their parents'. We need to do something better for sailors who daily are being asked to give more and more each day as the overall force shrinks.

A 13 April 1998 Navy Times article described ships deploying with fewer than the number of sailors required to operate and maintain the ships. Retention problems have contributed to this state of affairs.

Commanding officers can't hand out bonuses and advancements have slowed to a trickle. Given these circumstances, it would be helpful for the CO to have more than one personal award in his toolbox to pin on a sailor's uniform and provide the recognition that is currently lacking.

Enter the Coast Guard, which has made a Letter of Commendation ribbon a formal award. The Coast Guard Awards gives commanders the authority to issue this brown and yellow ribbon to "a military person serving in any capacity with the Coast Guard for an act or service resulting in unusual and/or outstanding achievement, whose performance is lesser than that required for an achievement medal." The award itself is among the oldest presented by the Coast Guard; the accompanying ribbon bar was established on 17 March 1979.

A similar ribbon in the form of a Chief of Naval Operations or Commandant of the Marine Corps Letter of Commendation would provide a definitive alternative to the current Navy and Marine Achievement Medal, allowing greater end-of-tour recognition for deserving junior personnel or recognition for a specific event.

To ensure the new ribbon's immediate acceptance into the fleet, the following specific actions should be taken:

  • Grant COs, ashore and afloat, the authority to award an unlimited number of these ribbons, presented on behalf of the Chief of Naval Operations.
  • Provide one point towards advancement, placing the new ribbon's value on a par with a Letter of Commendation signed by a flag officer.
  • Rank the new ribbon's precedence immediately following a Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal. The ribbon would be ideal for junior personnel departing for a new duty station.
  • Allow commands to use this new ribbon for specific events such as deployments or special events or projects—similar to today's "command" Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal. This would enhance the luster of the Achievement Medal by providing the CO another award option.

Those who state that all these ribbons make us look like "a 57 Chevy with all the chrome," also will argue we should follow the example set by the United Kingdom. where even senior flag officers have but two or three ribbons. Anyone who feels that way has the option, under uniform regulations, to wear just the top three awards. Ribbons allow a CO checking out a new sailor to read at a glance a career history worn with pride on his chest.

A Letter of Commendation ribbon for the Navy and Marine Corps team, similar to the Coast Guard's Commandant's Letter of Commendation is another positive step that the leadership could adopt to help recognize and retain good people, especially those who are considering leaving the service after their first enlistment. Acknowledging hard work and superior performance is a top priority for every leader from petty officer to flag and general officer. This modest proposal is one step in that direction.

Letters of Commendation are fine—but who sees them? The Navy should pick up on the Coast Guard's practice of awarding a ribbon along with the paper work.

 

 

A Better Way to Buy Complex Systems

By Stephen Sacks

The U.S. Navy is 0 for 2 in the Lightweight Exo-atmospheric Projectile (LEAP) Demonstration Program—a ship-launched interceptor effort intended to destroy incoming theater ballistic missiles. Our friends in the Army are not doing any better. Through 12 May 1998, they are 0 for 5 in the much larger ongoing Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) program, another missile-defense effort. While it is our greatest hope that the success rate for the Army improves, and that the Navy gets off to a 100% start in its follow-on Aegis-based Theater Wide Missile Defense Program, one wonders whether we are taking the best approach to acquire these and other complex systems.

The Navy acquires systems in fundamentally the same manner regardless of whether the procurement is for the most advanced theater missile-defense systems or for replenishment ships. Planners write requirements, request and budget funds, develop performance goals and specifications, solicit proposals, select the winning bidder, monitor the contract, and evaluate the finished product. If the project gets in trouble, the government may augment funding to correct problems, or issue a stop-work order. Such an order may, however, be an undesirable option when the threat is imminent and other alternative systems are not available.

Certainly, there are differences between advanced technology and more routine acquisitions. Advanced technology programs, for example, may have significant direct supporting research that may contribute only marginally in the average acquisition.

Does this approach give us the best product? As proposal readers know, it often is difficult to select the best technical approach to a problem—many varied approaches seem feasible—paper and view-graph descriptions cannot always pinpoint performance advantages. On a larger project composed of multiple subsystems and components, one subsystem or component may be judged superior in a particular proposal; however, a preponderance of other factors may make another proposal superior overall so that this better subsystem technology is not realized in practice.

The winning contractor has a rather straightforward goal—to meet the requirements of the contract. If there is a tradeoff between exceeding performance requirements, or simply meeting required performance with reduced design risk and cost, it is the latter path that will usually be followed. Indeed, from the point a contractor is selected, the mindset of all parties is that all required operational goals are being met and nothing better is possible. Within this framework, program offices find themselves reluctant to fund alternative technologies, and instead will focus limited dollars in other directions. Alternative ideas, even ones that result in a better system, often are locked out.

There is not really a shortage of ideas for addressing today's tough problems. Obviously, the U.S. Treasury would go bankrupt if one attempted to build multiple versions of total systems to address critical needs. When, however, one takes a more careful look, it becomes apparent that in many cases there are a few critical subsystems of the larger system that define optimum performance or even success versus failure. These can be the most technically challenging components, the ones that are most unforgiving, simply the ones that experience has shown tend to fail, or the ones that can make the cutting edge difference. The sensor on the front end of a missile is one such example. Often these critical subsystems have a window of only a few seconds for their one chance of success. The problem is to assure that these showstopper subsystems are predicated on the best technical approaches and the most robust designs giving choices that result in the best possible overall system.

Typically, the performance of these showstopper subsystems are specified as part of the larger contract. This is usually determined by the program office on a best estimate of what technology can reasonably offer in contrast to attempting to exceed status quo by stressing the technology marketplace. My hope is to put on the table an alternative approach that could lead to superior subsystems and systems. In many cases it is quite possible for showstopper subsystems to be interfaced to the rest of the weapon system in an open architecture. For example, when it makes technical sense, one could specify that a sensor fits into a defined shell with specified attachment points and electrical connections to the remaining components. By contractually requiring where appropriate an open architecture, opportunity may be made available for alternative designs that could significantly improve system performance. Also, system upgrades may be more readily obtained during the operational life of the product. There is nothing in the contracting process that prevents specification of an open architecture. Significant issues are identifying technology insertion opportunities, determining where alternative technologies will come from given constrained budgets and choosing between subsystem alternatives built to conform to the architecture.

Programs already exist that could give a shot at cutting edge alternatives in an open architecture. Technologists may even be chomping at the bit to get involved. Independent Research and Development (IR&D) is a multi-hundred million dollar industry discretionary program where funding derives as a percentage of awarded procurements. In many cases, industry uses IR&D to keep current or to get up to speed in a technology so as to be more competitive in future bidding. While these are worthy goals, some companies would undoubtedly prefer to ascertain whether superior technology would permit them to make a bigger difference by taking a crack at building a better subsystem for something now in the development pipeline. The Navy Applied Research and Technology efforts clearly do excellent work; getting a product to the fleet in these programs is called transition. Transition can be a struggle for showstopper systems locked into a development contract; open architectures and insertion opportunities would benefit these programs. The Small Business Innovative Research Program, having recently been granted additional funding that brings its program to 2.5% of other obligations, also could play a part for certain lesser components.

There are other possibilities. A consortium of government and industry could bring to bear complimentary capabilities. Indeed, other corporate funding may be applied, and venture capitalists may even see opportunities. It must be emphasized that increased flexibility that could derive from increased R&D funding is probably the best means to achieve the proposed paradigm. Since this is not likely, other possible but less desirable approaches have been postulated.

An additional critical requirement for developing better subsystems leading to more capable and robust weapon system products is subsystem test and evaluation that will spotlight the best designs. The overall value of subsystem test and evaluation was made clear by the recent NASA Hubble Space Telescope experience. Ground testing of the Hubble optical system was slipped to save several million dollars. After launch, it produced out-of-focus images that required a very risky but fortunately successful repair in space to fix-an effort many times more expensive than a ground fix.

There are several possible approaches for filling the subsystem test and evaluation gap. Contractors can certify subsystem performance. The problem here is that one is asking the contractor to develop an expensive testing capability and expertise which may not be needed on a continuous basis. There also could be objectivity concerns. A better choice is to make subsystem testing in the present context a routine government function. The Navy now has an extensive test and evaluation program; however, the focus is operational evaluation of complete weapon systems. What would be needed here would be significant developed capabilities ranging from "shake and bake" type testing that has served engineering for years to performance testing of showstopper technologies. Decades ago, Rear Admiral George Melville, Engineer-In-Chief, U.S. Navy, went up to Congress to successfully obtain funding for the Engineering Experimental Station in Annapolis. The motivation for this facility was an earlier act of Congress that mandated that a Navy engineering board certify before purchase patented marine engines submitted to the Navy. The certification process was not working without objective test measurement capabilities in the Navy—in itself an interesting analog to what is being discussed in this article for addressing today's generation of technology. This Annapolis facility, which later became a detachment of the David Taylor Model Basin, focused on hull and mechanical testing, hardly the kind of problems we are addressing—but it was a start. The facility is, as I write, in the process of being disestablished, with its functions shifted elsewhere. In the current climate, it will clearly be a challenge to establish new facilities to address showstopper technologies.

Using technology funding in order to explore subsystem alternatives has significant drawbacks. One drawback is that this may result in a reduction of effort in projects that genuinely address innovative far-future ideas, thereby eating the seed corn of tomorrow's Navy. Navy directed technology programs, in particular, may require funding augmentation to account for this. Technology programs discussed are more proof-of-concept oriented, and may not provide the finished product required in a weapon system. While some of these technology programs can undertake research in a very efficient and cost-effective manner, the products of research may not be weapon system quality. Timing will be an issue; if a better concept is identified, fine tuning of the concept would have to be accelerated so that the timetable of the larger system is maintained. The prime contractor would be responsible for baseline performance, but responsibility in a hybrid multicontractor design isn't as clear. A way would have to be found to keep the prime contractor motivated in the event major subsystems become the responsibility of another contractor. Experimental verification of superior subsystem performance may, however, ease aspects of the contracting process. Another potential problem is that not every party with an idea demonstrated in proof-of-concept testing would be capable of manufacturing a product—teaming may be necessary.

Clearly, cost matters. Inherently, the process incorporates diverse drivers, however, which would lead to reduced cost. In general, there is not a fundamental conflict with various acquisition initiatives now in process. A conflict may, arise, however, if an acquisition program were to have an up-front, first-order, design-to-cost requirement, since such an approach may not allow for a reasonable and balanced iterative identification of the best technology.

Capable management will be important in implementing the new approach. To define showstopper issues, construct an open architecture, identify interfaces, spotlight timely insertion opportunities, and develop subsystem test and evaluation criteria will require a motivated and appreciated headquarters and laboratory government staff with significant science and engineering expertise and hands-on understanding of technology.

The proposed paradigm will not be applicable to all situations. Open characteristics and showstopper qualities vary in degree. Many aspects of proposed new Navy ships, e.g., the new destroyer (DD-21) and the proposed new carrier (CVX) for example, are not showstoppers. It merits reiterating that the concept of using technology funding to explore alternative subsystem approaches is problematical and out of the box. An open architecture and a means to identify superior subsystem technology may be adequate in itself given that, with opportunity for new ideas, the marketplace, from whatever source, may provide the requisite technology. The approach, where appropriate, is to replace individual, subjective, judgmental technology decisions with objective decisions based on empirical, experimental information.

For any organization, new ideas in both technology and process are troublesome. It has been said that all good new ideas are first thought of as insane. Nevertheless, looking backwards, it is clear that the Navy has been sustained by the introduction of ideas. The challenge in these faster moving times is to provide the mechanisms and means that will ensure an openness to the timely introduction of ideas that address the tough problems now on the horizon.

 

 
 

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