Blog: How Can Industry Introduce Innovative Technologies to Warfighters Faster?

June 19, 2008
By Henry Kenyon

The snail's pace at which capabilities are moving into current operations is a frustration for both military and industry leaders, and members of the final panel of the Joint Warfighting Conference agreed that lessons can be learned from the commercial sector. From outlining the requirements faster and more succinctly to having the courage to break the rules to meet needs faster, deep changes are needed from the Halls of Congress to the commanders in the field, they said.

Art Fritzson, vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton, suggested that perhaps it is time for the military to take a lesson from industry. For example, one dot-com company called for ideas, then called on its users to come in and review them. Many of the ideas were implemented and led to the company's success.

Sometimes it's just a matter of organizations encouraging their personnel to be open to discussing ideas and using social media to do it. And sometimes, an idea implemented by Dell Corporation may offer the solutions. The company decided to add a user forum to its help desk offerings, and users were eager to solve each other's problems. These models could be some of the ways that the military solves its acquisition problems, Fritzson said.

Because so much innovation is coming from small businesses, Yogesh Khanna, vice president, chief technology officer, IT Infrastructure Solutions, CSC, suggested that perhaps it is time for government change the requirements for small business involvement in contracts. Rather than just allowing companies to add small business to their contracts to do "grunt work," perhaps they should be required to include some of the new innovative solutions in their total solutions.

But at the end of the day, it is going to take courage-from Congress, from military leaders and from industry-to speed up the process of getting capabilities into warfighters' hands, many panelists agreed. "I think about what our enemy does. They don't have RFPs. They go to the store and buy it and get an 80 percent solution, but they work with it," Fritzson said.

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Some of the discussions in the Signal magazine and your on-line blogs give
me the impression that there are areas which could bear discussion. One
example is the blog How Can Industry Introduce Innovative Technologies to
Warfighters Faster? By Maryann Lawlor, dated Jun 19th, 2008. During the
Vietnam war I was assigned to the Electronic Warfare Directorate at what was
then Hq Air Force Logistics Command. We were responsible for Quick Reaction
Capability (QRC) acquisition and fielding of ECM pods and RHAW equipment for
Wild Weasel aircraft. Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) was described as a
special management and requirements process usually applied by the Air Force
to designate Electronic Combat (EC) programs to provide rapid response to
technical or tactical surprise by an enemy, new intelligence, or changes in
our own systems or tactics. We did not use RFPs. TOO SLOW! Check with
AFMC.

A recent example of a QRC program is the Apr. 14, 2008 $38,465,000 cost-plus
incentive fee contract for the acquisition of eight extended range
multi-purpose quick reaction capability unmanned aircraft vehicles and
assorted support equipment. I think this is an Army program. Another Army
QRC program at
http://www.army-technology.com/contractors/computers/parvus-corp/press1....
is an order for rugged ethernet switch subsystems for an Army AH63 Apache
helicopter modernization program.

Please review the pdf document at www.dtic.mil/descriptivesum/Y2008/OSD/0603826D8Z.pdf
It provides QRC guidance. Does the Air Force Materiel Command have an
organization capable using QRC procedures to shorten the acquisition of
urgently needed equipment? Or has a gap in corporate memory of the Air Force allowed the
knowledge and use of the QRC option to lapse? I hope not. It can be very
useful.

The July issue of Signal announced that Maj. Gen Peyer has been nominated to
commander, Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, Robins Air Force Base,
Georgia. Since WRALC is responsible for so much of the equipment needed by
Signal users, perhaps she could be requested to direct someone to work with
AFMC headquarters to provide Signal an overview of QRC (if they are using
it) and the wholesale support functions related to acquisition, management,
wholesale supply functions, configuration control, system modification,
overhaul, and any other services they provide. That may be helpful to your
members. Warner Robins handled the Wild Weasel equipment when I worked with
the Electronic Warfare organization.

Hey Tom! When you look at the blog home page, you'll see a features bar that has links to some of the stories in each issue, June, July, August etc. I'm inclined to think that we could use those pages to discuss any article in any issue, but I'm also wondering if we should make our discussion pieces happen more often than monthly and broaden it to include other articles, perhaps with one category per blog post? I'd be happy to submit these ideas to our editorial team and see what we come up with.

Let me know what you think!

You posted a blog comment to me on August 19th, 2008 in response to my input which mentioned that I had worked in an Electronic Warfare organization that used "qrc" procedures in support of wild weasel aircraft during the Vietnam. If I had seen your query I would have responded immediately to try to work up something which would be interesting to your readers.

The way I found your post was almost bizarre. There was a television news report today about Secretary of State Clinton's response to the President of Mexico's question concerning why it was taking so long to provide Black Hawk helicopters we had promised his government. It was said that she told him the our acquisition methods were complicated and slow. I did an internet search on QRC and found your posting to me. Maybe you can help. How can we find a way to get the existence of QRC accelerated acquisition procedures to her attention. I'm sure she could get the buy expedited if she knew it was possible. An "out of the blue" message would get me a polite standard email thanking me for my interest.

Looking back, I realized my posting was not responsive to Helen Thompson's Mar 25, 2009 suggestion concerning discussion pieces. I feel that she was right. If there is any way I can help, please let me know.

When I worked at AFLC Headquarters, I was the Air Force representative for 2 joint service groups, one concerning Combat Identification (to avoid friendly fire incidents), and another addressing communication securiy, which also included the National Security Agency.

The September 2009 issue of Signal highlighted the Army's armed ground robot and the Navy's smart unmanned surface vessel. If your magazine has published an updated picture of the Air Force drone program, Boeing's investment in the Phantom Bay technology rounds out the ground sea and air trilogy. The fact that it is company funded reinforces my feeling that the pilot will in the cockpit for some time to come.

I presume the Army, Navy and Air Force have a joint group looking into how these capabilities can best be used together. If the answer is no, the pentagon should task the services to get with it.

My response can be seen above.

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