Army Apps Rattle Requirements

Army Apps Rattle Requirements

Requirements creep. Bloated requirements. Overly ambitious requirements. Few things get blamed as often for rising costs and schedule delays to major weapons as  requirements. So imagine an effort by the Big Army that went from idea to fruition in less than three months.

That was the payoff of the Apps for the Army competition, which also overcame historic military reluctance to run a contest and actually rewarded people for doing innovative and effective work. All those lawyers worried about… well, who cares what they worried about since they overcame the obstacles.

OK, we’re not talking about designing and fielding a new tank, an artillery piece or a new helo, but this must be the kind of effort that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his acquisition czar, Ash Carter [pictured], will smile upon as the Pentagon pursues rapid acquisitions that deliver what troops actually need and want.

During a call to announce the winners of the contest, I asked Lt. Gen. Jeff Sorenson, the Army’s chief information officer, if he hoped the contest would “usefully undermine” the existing requirements process. “I think I’m into usefully undermining,” he replied. “We have a very laborious [requirements] process and the whole point of doing this process was to find out if we could do this without engaging in that process.”

Here are the top five contest winners:

Physical Training Program (iOS) helps Soldiers develop their own PT program based on the Army’s new Physical Readiness Training program. The app provides training plans and videos of exercises. Developers are Maj. Gregory Motes, Cpt. Christopher Braunstein and Cpt. Stacey Osborn of the Army Signal Center, Ft. Gordon, Ga.

Telehealth Mood Tracker (Android/iOS) is a self-monitoring app that allows users to track their psychological health over a period of days, weeks and months using a visual analogue rating scale. Users can track experiences associated with deployment –related behavioral health issues. Developers are Robert Kayl, Scott Swim and Robert Van Gorkom of the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA.

Disaster Relief (Android) is a web-based data survey, dissemination and analysis tool for searching, editing and creating maps viewable on Google Earth and Google Maps. The app assists Army personnel working in humanitarian relief and civilian affairs operations. Clients can be most mobile and handheld devices such as PDAs and smart phones. Developers are Andrew Jenkins and Alex Ly of the Engineer Research and Development Center, Alexandria, Va.

Movement Projection (Android) is a map-routing app for road navigation that allows Soldiers to input obstacles and threats — in addition to stops, start and end points — and calculates the best and fastest route. Luke Catania of the Engineer Research and Development Center, Alexandria, Va., is the developer.

New Recruit (Android) provides information for potential recruits. Features include military rank and insignia, Army news feeds, an Army physical fitness test calculator, and a Body Mass Index calculator. Thomas Maroulis of Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, developed the app.

The Army hopes to start using cell phones with apps as a regular part of the brigade combat in less than a year, Sorenson said. That will mean Android, iPhones, iPads and similar gear on the battlefield, with many of them tied directly into the service’s mobile networks. Data will be shared and, perhaps, UAVs controlled using phones. That will come once the phones meet NSA encryption standards, which is already underway.

But I wondered if the contest participants thought the Army really understood what it was doing and believed in it. One of the contest winners, Maj. Greg Motes, said there are “a lot of people in the Army who do get it. At first, there was a lot of skepticism and doubt and some people who asked us, why do you need applications when you’ve got web-based products.” But there’s a big difference, he said. Web access for something like checking your bank balance with your cell phone requires 18 steps from login to see the balance. Using an app takes six steps, he said.

This whole approach may spread. DARPA, of course, has been working on an apps library. And Sorenson said he was meeting Thursday with Air Force Lt. Gen. William T. Lord, his service counterpart. He’s already spoken at length with Marine Gen. George Allen, director for command, control, communications, and computers.

Join the Conversation

Couldn’t you have found a better illustration for this article than that photo of a smirking Ashton Carter?

Good Evening Folks.

Some good ideas and some not so good.

Not so good.
New Recruit: This obviously the idea of some one who has never been in a Marine Boot Camp or Army Basic Training. The last thing any trainer would want is her/his trainees have phones. This has been done for generations with a simple wire bound TM that fits in a shirt pocket. It’s cheap, can be checked by trainers and works.

Physical Training Program: This is already being done on computers, note books or what ever the Soldier/Sailor/Marine likes. Ask any person in the military how many mile the ran today, how many crunches, how many push ups, sit ups etc. did they do today, they will tell you with out referring to their phone.

Telehealth: What about Robert Heller’s Catch-22 don’t people understand. Other then somebody bucking for an early discharge no body in the military would record this information out especially on a phone. Phones lay around are loaned to buddies, signal hacking is rather common and easy, phones are not good places to have information that you don’t want to share with the world. Medical records are very sensitive and could cost careers, if they fell into the wrong hands. Again the idea of someone who has never been in the military.

The Could work.
Disaster Relief: This was done in Haiti by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey when they saw the paper order for maps of Haiti, which the didn’t have an inventory of. It worked out well for the condition in Haiti. In combat it might not be such a good idea, the enemy could get hold of the phone, not good.

Movement Projection: This might help a scouting element to send back time sensitive critical data on obstructions and enemy location, or in an environment such as existed in Haiti on road information and where people in need of help were gathering. Again securing phones might be more of a problem the what the data is worth.

Also it must be remembered that that wireless data is not secured. It doesn’t take to clever of an enemy to get near a base station and steal signals. The use of data/voice encryption for this low level data/information is just to expensive.

Byron Skinner

So the army is now touting novelty time-wasters as better procurement practices ? Its sad that these are the pretty lame winners — the military version of recipe programs.

1) Procurement Bailout Jackpot — minimize the deliverables and maximize your profits in a fun game about outwitting DoD procurement officers. Features include multiplayer collusion and popular solo monopoly profits mode. In the V22-F35 expansion pack, players in a twist, have to assign pork to important Congressional districts to keep their turkey alive.

2) Marine Mission Statement — randomly puts together phrases including common terms such as: ‘joint’, ‘littoral’, ‘unique’, ‘air-sea’, ‘unknown’, ‘my rifle’ and ‘full spectrum’ to form the latest Marine mission statement. Don’t be caught out ever again with last month’s stale statement.

3) Small arms calibre comparison. A handy calculator that allows a mix of match of small arms calibres and manufacturers, and readily shows how they make no practical difference in the field. Your friends will be amazed. Best seller and comes together with the handy eBook: ‘digital camouflage for the closeted cross dresser’.

4) After the Cyber-Holocaust – Calculate how long you would survive after all computers are destroyed, the electricity supply is poisoned and all puppies die in the unrivalled global calamity called The Cyberwar (started in 1985 apparently). — Product Unavailable at this time due to rumoured exploits. Will be reissued under a different marketing plan.

This is what happens when they bring in out siders. he obviously has no clue what the issues are in acquisition, just as none of these APPS have anything to do with acquisition. Now if someone had come up with on for say vehicle suspension dynamics vs vehicle weight to determine survivability, that might have been useful. Or oh no what if we stream line the acquisition process to mandate research of current available equipment, technology and thier capatability prior to solicitation so there would be no need for modifications after a contract award. Just another high paid buddy system position with no clue of the problems.

The article starts out characterizing the true problem with DoD Acquisition but it is the wrong lead in for the story. The requirements process in DoD acquisition that is messed up is the process of converting the ICD, CDD identified Capabilities into Technical Specifications. The left side of the Systems Engineering “VEE” outlines the process for developing Technical Requirements and the left side of the “VEE” outlines the process for converting these requirements in to Specifications. This is not easy and requires good Systems Engineers with the support of good Subject Matter Experts. 90% of the solution to any problem is understanding what the problem. The Systems Engineering “VEE” process should spit out a precise and accurate depiction of the problem in Technical Terms. The Systems Engineering field suffers from non engineers holding these positions because these are high paying positions with close relationships with the Program Managers so their friends often gets placed into these positions without clear understandings of the critical role that SE play in the program. This is also the first line of defense against abuse because the Contract contains the technical specifications. A poorly written technical specification prohibits the ACTUAL authority on the program the Contract Officer from leveraging demands on the vendors and the Testers get caught with their pants down during testing if they do not have clearly defined Technical Specification based Test Objectives. So when the Vender’s fail to meet poorly defined test objectives you not able to seek remedies. The US Government has been Castrated by the misinterpretation of the Perry Memo — 1994 A “New way of Doing Business” Good engineers know that the intent of this memo was to insure that Good Engineering is being practice. Then in 2001 International Council of Systems Engineering introduce the Systems Engineering “VEE” adopted from Germany that is now found on all Integrated Systems Life Cycle Management poster. They we on the path of revamping DoD Acquisition.
On August 29, 2002, a draft memo was circulated from the Secretary of Defense titled: Operation of the Defense Acquisition System issuing interim guidance for the acquisition community in light of the pending cancellation of the 5000 series of documents. The memo to cancel the 5000.1 D (directive), the 5000.2 I (instruction), and the 5000.2 R (regulation) documents was later issued by the DUSD (AT&L) Paul Wolfowitz on October 30, 2002. Then open the door for no accountability and no defined process or requirement for documenting what the government was buying. Thus tying the hands of the government to vendor provided solutions that require vendor support.
This was highlighted in A GAO report March 2009 that research and development costs of 96 major weapons programs had increased 42 percent more than originally estimated. The collective cost growth of these programs was $296 billion and the average delay in delivering promised capabilities was 22 months, the report found. This is directly related to these changes at the top.
The Weapons Systems Reform Act highlights the importance of good Systems Engineering up front with clearly defined “Technical Requirements” and Configuration Control measures in place to ensure visibility of design changes and mistakes that shine a spot light incompetence and bad decisions.
Fools argue over facts and the truth will always come out and always believe those who seek the truth question those that attempt to define it.…

Well said Boomer, couldn’t have said it better myself.

Everytime I see a great article like this, I see the comments and can tell very clearly by the responses of those who are making money off the pentagon rice bowls and those who are not. Congress and the administration needs to listen to those who see the benefits of changes that are needed. I see comments on this site of those who know this system like I do that see the waste and fraud and useless crap that the services spend money on inside the govt walls and outside the govt walls. Those who are defending the old ways and wasteful spending and want to continue to spend billions on stuff that has no use and is not useful agianst a current sand throwing un educated peasant enemy fighter are making a big mistake in not trying to offfer real solutions. The end result, if we continue on the spending spree of DOD, it is going to destroy this nation. Our fore fathers warned us repeatedly of military power and its destruction of liberty, let it not happen to us now in draining the treasuary and ripping off the taxpayers.

The real problem here is that while requirements are a necessary evil, they don’t need to be an exhaustive burearucratic nightmare that casts its shadow on EVERY DoD piece of equipment. Just like TRADOC doesn’t need to stick its fingers in simple problems like “approving” the use of gear/tactics that have been used by SOCOM/Infantry units for decades.

The fact that tanks end up with 10,000 requirements (and subsequent engineering solitions) and is because you have guys whose careers and livlihoods depend upon making up/delaying requirements. 90% of the equipment in inventory doesn’t need this stuff; or could use the old “requirements” with simple adjustments to ensure it meeds VALID requirements for evironmental, etc. So the next generation vehicle/weapon should SCRATCH requirements that add cost and are never used, and ADD valid requirements (lessons learned) and MOVE ON.….

Another system that is badly broken is COTS (components off the shelf). It was intended as way way to feel an equipment need with items already in production “such as a replacement for the 9mm with more knock down power, accuracy, and does not require special ammo for suppression — the program guys were supposed to identify what is available and meets these requirements and is reliable — Oh gee it’s a 45acp” but they go the other way around and solicit for someone to build something that can do all this and make it commercialy available. Govt can take something so simple and mess it up so badly! We could get gear so much cheaper say an infantry fighting vehicle — the cab needs to be this big for equipment and people — needs to weigh this much for minimum protection and so on, once they have the size and weight what do they want it to do, go off road and be able to sustain this speed, Ok whats out there that can do this with this much weight,

continued: Hey a ford F450 4x4 super cab long bed suspension and drive train will work @ 30K each delivered for suspension and drive line, Cab is another 50K each delivered, cost to build each @ 3rd party assembly contractor 15K ea –cost to government for base model vehicle 95K, (a lot less than 500K to 3mil ea we get charged from single sourceing contractors, and how cots is supposed to work). The government needs to stop complicating everything and making it cost more.

Oblat, love the sarcasm, exactly! We “have” money for this junk but no love for an M-16 upgrade?(The leg “M-4″ is just a shorty M-16 A2, quit the BS)
Hey! Heres a crazy idea: when is DOD going to change its focus to making the infantryman more effective/lethal? What do I mean? Too easy. How about procuring lots of scout dogs? It took the Army how long to “understand” sinper’s, yet a low cost AND effective dog just F’s up people? Well the dogs only as effictive as the handler but that is no reason to continue to ignore their HISTORIC use.
I guess war is an art, and I see too many modern artists. Cull the herd.

Finally an Oblat post that I did not immediately regret spending time on!! The Marine Mission Statement comment begins to make up for the time I have lost skimming Oblat notes.
However, I still gave it a thumbs down on general principle.

Gave me a good chuckle

Naw, it is just perfect that way…

Another B.S. set of comments. This man couldn’t spell “viral”, much less encryption. What’s really funny here is that these were all government engineers, not the contractors, doing the job. Guess that’ll show him, huh ?

This is about the stupidest set of comments I have yet to see on this site. This is “small is beautiful engineering”. Believe it or not, the government has some competent engineers who can build systems and write software. They are much better at this than managing projects. They are engineers because they liked to build things and solve problems, not because they liked managing money or people. So you take a junior to mid level engineer — you let that person loose with a “good idea”, they spec out code to a simple interface and platform, they write and test the software and — THEY’RE DONE. The warfighter loves you because he gets something useful that he doesn’t have. The lab manager loves you because your success keeps his shop going for at least a year. The Pentagon loves you because they get to post press releases on how wonderfully things go when you just stay down on the low end of the S curve. No — this does not solve the problem of designing and managing COMPLEX systems to specification, on time and within budget. But if you try hard enough you can pretend this is not a problem until the chickens come home to roost and prove you were wrong.

My goodness, what a crabby bunch of commenters. Look, it is simple, let the govies do what they can — often not much — and then resort to contractors, a la Thunk, Dunk & Ripper. More bang for buck. However, govies tend not to hustle, but if you have a contractor full of mainly former govies, you may run into the same problem.

So, take a deep breath. These apps, by the way cannot be big news. They are useful, but they are not terribly important compared „ the botched tanker app, the grossly overrun shipbuilding, and the tremendous ripping in Defense intelligence contracts.

If this is all Ashton Carter is gonna ballyhoo about, it is about time he return to Cambridge, Mass., eh?

Bill and Jorge, yes and yes to both your posts. Funny how everyone see the problem(s).. AND NOTHING HAPPENS. Oh. I had another crazy idea, why dont they make an accounting app? How sweet would that be? How many B$ do rumsfeld say they couldnt “account” for 9/10/01? How many B$ did they say that cant be accounted for in Iraq? Yeah, any good ideas die quietly. Anyone see an antri-rpg gizmo for a stryker around here? Oh you did but it rolled over on it? Cull the herd.


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