Army Buying Needs ‘Big Bang’

Army Buying Needs ‘Big Bang’

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli told a room packed with several hundred U.S Army officers, representatives of foreign militaries and contractors that he is very worried about the service’s acquisition system and believes it may take a “big bang” to fix it.

“I don’t understand how we can take eight to 10 years or even longer and put something on the street and have it be relevant,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m a firm believer that it’s going to take the big bang theory.”

Two reporters — including me — tagged after Chiarelli to ask him about his comment because it certainly sounded as if the general was ready to scrap the existing system and build one that could turn out weapons in a few years instead of a decade or so. But he told us that he didn’t necessarily want to scrap the existing system but that we must have a system that works better and delivers high-quality weapons in a reasonable amount of time.


But if you’d been there you would have gotten the strong impression that Chiarelli is really frustrated with the slow pace of change and the repeated problems with Army programs. If you want to tick off the list of major Army program that have either been cancelled by the Pentagon or “withdrawn” by the Army, it gets pretty impressive: Comanche, ARH, FCS, GCV. That is a huge proportion of the major new weapons programs the Army has tried to get off the ground for almost 15 years.

So when the “modernization panel” Chiarelli led went off to speak with reporters, I asked Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director of TRADOC’s Army Capabilities Integration Center at TRADOC, Lt. Gen. James Pillsbury, deputy commander at Army Materiel Command, Lt. Gen. Robert Lennox, deputy chief of staff, and Lt. Gen. William N. Phillips military deputy for the assistant Army secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology when the Army was going to fix the system, especially given Chiarelli’s statement about it needing a “big bang.” Publicly, they said the system is beginning to turn around. They are doing many more weapons purchases that rely on small steps instead of giant technological leaps. They are trying to be much more careful about their stewardship of the taxpayers’ money by reexamining RFPs and making sure they will produce the systems needed by the Army.

One senior officer told me after the panel broke up that they know the system needs to change and that the Army has taken a very long time to shift to new paradigms.

One of the key new tools, Chiarelli said, will be the service’s “portfolio reviews,” where they compare systems with overlapping missions and compare their costs and benefits, will provide an important part of the new model for the service. Already, they played a key role in helping the Army find $28 billion in those vaunted efficiencies mandated by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in overhead and low-priority programs over the next five years to meet a goal set by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Chiarelli said a “key lesson learned” during the portfolio review is that “requirements have to be revisited much more frequently than they have been in the past.” That will mean more turbulence for programs in some ways, industry observers said at the AUSA show, but it will also mean shorter production times, much quicker passage to initial operational capability and many more upgrades — with their opportunity for value added components — as programs progress.

One of the key tools for the Army and for industry as they plow ahead on this new road, will be the common operating environment standards (which Chiarelli said were released Tuesday), which will show industry and the Army exactly how systems and sensors will connect to the emerging Army network. And the network, as Chiarelli noted, is the service’s top modernization priority, followed by the Ground Combat Vehicle.

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The Gen is right but not giving any instructions on how to fix the problems. One way is just as another mentioned in a previous post — GO OLD SCHOOL, Put the word on the street what you are looking for by what date and let the contractors come to you with thier product and price tag rather than providing funding to them to try and build something along these lines for us. Another old school tactic is ADAPT & OVERCOME, in other words figure out how to use what you have to your advantage. During this whole war on terror it has been “Did you see that — we need to replace all that gear with something that wont let that happen again.” But what we should have done was in reality was adapted our tactics. Our troops all went from relative comfortable and durable LBE’s and fatigues to being dressed like SWAT storm troopers in heavy — cumbersome —

CONTINUED: video game like gear that will never work in a tropical or heavily wodded war zone unless they are driven everywhere they go. Ground combat vehicle — its supposed to be all terrain but the only terrains you see them testing anything on is the woods of Aberdeen, or the deserts in Yuma or 29 palms, How come they are not testing them in Alaska tundra & snow or Louisiana swamps as well? (maybe because they cant build one to do it all, with all the weapons and armor they want??????????). We also need to stop demanding we are the leaders and want everyone to buy what we use and look at what others are using right now that is better than ours already. It can be fixed and cost reduced but not if they keep going business as usual.

Okay — so what this tells me is that the VCSA has moved from denial to anger along the five stages of grief. Next comes bargaining, depression and acceptance. Instead of their continued bizarre attempts to bypass DoD 5000.2, and any sane systems engineering lifecycle, Army leadership needs to look itself in the mirror, and say to itself, “I made this mess. This is my fault, and I’m going to take responsibility for my actions.” Or as General Bruce Clarke said, look for problems in increasingly larger circles around one’s own desk. Its been twenty years the Army has been trying to accelerate the acquisition process, and this story never gets any better. You want it bad, that’s the way you get it.

I sure hope you aren’t attempting to say the DoD Acquisition process works just fine? Then rationalize it by that tired, old cliche at the end of your statement.? I think you are so invested in a broken process you have forgetten why the process was brought into being in the first place, to serve the warfighter’s needs as effectively as possibly. I am really tired of the Engineering community within DoD thinking that timeliness doesn’t matter as long as it goes through “the process”. Almost as if the coveted “process” is the desired result, not getting the capability to thewarfighter.

i think that we need a beger bang

I cant say I disagree with him but I wonder what he means by big bang. I dont see how anyone could start from scratch with a new system and get better results. Perhaps reducng redundant government oversight panels would be a start. Supposedly the V-22 had to deal with something like 17 agencies as opposed to a mear 3 or 4 for the old CH-47.

Get a nick.

A beggar bang?

I disagree profoundly and deeply.This article says that Army leadership thinks the way to solve its problems is by doing the very same things that broke the system in the first place. To the devil with future planning, they’ll change the requirements as they please, and they’ll manage to each crisis as it arises. How do you think these guys got behind the eight ball in the first place ? But this leadership has no vision of the future — other than to say that you can’t have a vision of the future. Maybe if we had a national security strategy worth spit, and a QDR that was more than just an excuse to cut spending, things would be different.. But we don’t. Army leadership needs to grow a backbone and tell the politicians the truth about what’s doable, what isn’t doable, and what are the consequences of the investment decisions they are making — and failing to make. It is really not that hard to do it right, and it is painful to watch my Army mess up in that same old messed up way.

Hmm, bypassing processes is always the first thought of people who don’t understand the intent of what the process is supposed to achieve. I’ve watched developments efforts being done on the cheap, and when failure occurs, the same folks who want to bypass processes are the first to ask “Why aren’t our processes being used.” The problem goes back to requirements, and an unending desire for all bells and whistles, not processes which improve product quality and demonstrate it works in all warfighter environments and scenarios.

I am guessing that was directed to me. Well there is a reason I am not in some sort of management position I suppose, but surely there are some redundant mountains of paperwork and committees. You need oversight, but how many separate groups doing it does one need? Regarding requirements, most of the problems seem to occur when they change them in the middle of a program.

The problem lies with we just dont have anyone that has designed anything from the ground up anymore in the government and the contractor side is not much bettwer off, practicly everything in use in based on old tech that has been reskinned and slightly upgraded. Now that everything thing is joint military only adds to the confusion and all the different groups of people something has to pass through.

I agree with William. I have worked on several programs and the customer often changes requirments in the middle of the design or asks for last minute changes. But I think the biggest mistake is trying to design a vehicle that can do it all. For the DoD to try and build a vehicle that will meet all its needs for the next 30 years is crazy and bound to fail. They should concentrate on building a vehicle which can adapt, and can be up graded, something modular.

The Army needs a vision — this has to come from the top of the Army, in other words, leadership needs to be provided. Do we need to equip the Army with 10,000 robot soldiers? Better defensive equipment? Faster helicopters? How is the Army going to fight in the future? Looking 30 years ahead is not practical, see the JSF fiasco. Ten years from concept to full deployment has to be achieved.
Organizationally, all private contractor soldiers need to be placed under Army control.
The Army needs a vision of the future. I agree with Boomer, lack of trained,experienced engineers, both in Industry and Government, is a big problem.

As a retired AF Lt Col (O-6 select) and writer of the Technology Development Strategy for the Army’s Future Combat Systems program, I believe many career soldiers flinch from facing a fundamental truth. If the requirements aren’t right, then the acquisition never will be. No system should be allowed to enter large scale acquisition whose enabling technologies are not already demonstrated at TRL-6 or higher. Long-term vision should drive technology research and test — not near-term procurement. To make that happen, the process must change at JROC level to force “requirements” onto a foundation of reality instead of dream sheets.

Engineers always seem to blame the requirements changing when in fact it’s typically many of the “flow down” requirements from the Engineers that drive the mountain of changes and not the fundamantal requirements. In fact if fundamental requirements do change usually they are adjusted downward.

The “if it wasn’t designed here, we’ll make sure we re-design it HERE” that comes out of those flow down requirement changes add up to significant costs and schedule delays. Process over product.

CONTINUED: mounted 120mm mortar system, 106 recoiless, twin 50 cals, m19, or what ever. you could also put a cab on the back for a command car, troop carrier or ambulance. You only have to change out tires and ride height to make it adaptable to various terrains. add on armor as needed rather than full time. All of the components are currently avail to build these at a fraction of the cost of all the proposed vehicles meaning you could buy 5 or 10 to 1 of the so called do it alls. The smaller and faster vehicles would be more adaptable to various terrains and urban areas. I’m not an engineer, just a fella who likes to build off road vehicles on weekends and drive them, not just someone who puts ideals on paper and watch from my desk, My weekly job I oversee a DOL responsible for the repairs on all these poorly designed things we have now and I know what constantly breaks and why, not to mention how the 24 yr old engineers wont listen to us on how to fix the problems permanently.

I agree with you boomer they need to get back to the old school way of doing things. The AF still does it that way. They say this is what we want, and companies do show and tell and the AF buys it. That is the way the Army needs to do it, tell the contractors this is what we want and they do show and tell. Then the Army buys the best one, but dont let technicians show it let real soldiers try it out, put a private at the controls of a new tank or self propelled howitzer and they will either make it or break.

a good example of the this is what we want is the MRAP program from paper to battle field in less than 2 yrs.

Boomer… the vehicle you’re describing is the BvS10/Bronco ATTC, except that vehicle has tracks. It makes some compromises, and isn’t really an ideal companion to Abrams tanks, but it’s very effective for most missions being run now. The British have had good experiences with them in Afghanistan, but you can’t do the Thunder Run with them.

Of course, having some BvS10 type vehicles, and some Bradley class (or even Namer class), means more vehicle types, more maintenance — and, if you insist on inventing everything new, more R&D dollars. Which can really eviscerate the dollars available, unless you’re going with low to no R&D specs for at least one of the vehicle types. The USA could easily buy ATTC Broncos (ST Kinetics) off the shelf, and there is no shortage of advanced modern IFVs off-the-shelf, from the Namer to Germany’s Puma, the popular CV90 family, or even General Dynamics’ ASCOD that the British just picked.

Congress is very much in the way of this happening, of course, and is a primary driver of “not invented here.”

Boomer, I’m on your side on this one, however it’s exactly the “all terrain” alaskan testing that makes a 1 million dollar vehicle cost 10. There is no such thing as an optimized artic/desert vehicle. The two are contradictory in design. (on sheds heat, the other traps it)

You are right, we cannot build a combat vehicle that will meet what they want currently and be an effective and reliable vehicle. So what we really need is trade offs, a vehicle that can go almost anywhere and is adaptable. I have a 78 Ford Bronco (solid axles — 4 spd trans — 400M engine) with just tire and height changes I have driven it all over west Texas & Arizona desrts and woodlands, in the rockies and Alaska in the winter, mud bogging in Georgia wetlands, and done many a water crossings with the snorkle system installed. It pretty much gets me where I want to go. That is the type of vehicle we need to build first and be modular, then decide what type of weapons we can put on it and maintain its capabilities.

THE FIRST THING THEY NEED TO CHANGE IS THE FREE INFORMATION POLICY. DARPA MAKE BUSINESS WITH PRIVATE CONTRACTORS WHICH PROVIDE THEM WITH IMPORTANT TECHNOLOGY THAT CAN ENABLE DARPA TO BUILD A COMBAT SYSTEM THAT CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE IN COMBAT. THE PROBLEM WITH DARPA IS THAT THEY DON’T KNOW HOW TO COMBINE THIS PARTS TO BUILD A WEAPON COMBAT SYSTEM. IF SOMEONE TRIES TO SUBMIT A PROPOSAL TO DARPA TO BUILD A WEAPON COMBAT SYSTEM WITH TECHNOLOGY THAT DARPA ALREADY HAVE YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOW TO CLAIM ANY COMPENSATION UNDER THE FREE INFORMATION POLICY. THIS COMBAT SYSTEM CAN BE BUILD AND TEST WITHIN 7 MONTHS.

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Text excerpt: “Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli told a room packed with several hundred U.S Army officers, representatives of foreign militaries and contractors that he is very worried about the service’s acquisition system and believes it may take a ‘big bang’ to fix it.”

(Continued)

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Yet, I wonder how much this General – and maybe a lot of other U.S. Generals too – confuse the MEANS and the ENDS of their budget, as if they were mere civilian, private purchasing managers! I’m tired of always reminding everybody here that if the U.S. Defense budget is as big as all the World’s remaining Defense budgets together, then the U.S.A. should theoretically also have armed forces as big as all the World’s Militaries together… but they haven’t, not by far. Neither in quantity nor in quality. 99 % of all foreign Defense industry workers and soldiers charge even less for their services than U.S. nationals, which only widens the money / money equivalent gap!

(Continued)

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Short of F-22s and a few electronic gimmicks, on which the U.S.A. bet their ENTIRE Empire (why does no one get on the phone in the nuclear missile silos in Wyoming?), most of the World’s best weapons are now found elsewhere! (Aircraft carriers and heavy bombers don’t count: They’re too expensive and too few – even for the U.S.A. ! – and too vulnerable to be pursued by all normal = efficiency-minded Armed Forces)

Hence my proposal: If that General Chiarelli (plus a few beer buddies) really feel that they oughtta reinvent the whole acquisition process inside out, why don’t they

(Continued)

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1) go public with that accusation (but knock on the Secretary of Defense’s door first),

2) cut all the current CRAP programs, to prove his / their sincerity about wanting more bang for the buck,

3) convince the Secretary of Defense, the U.S. President and Congress of the need for an U.S. American “Perestroika” (restructuring),

(Continued)

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4) spend a few yearly budgets to BUY or LICENSE-BUILD ( = technology transfer!) only the best of the best of the best in foreign armament, not even looking at countries of origins and prices (it’s BOUND TO BE A BARGAIN , whatever you pick!!! Or do I have to remind you AGAIN of the the size of the U.S. budget?),

5) subsequently USE the best of the best of the best in armament for sale out there

and

6) gain ≥ 30 years time to clean out that modern Augias stable also known as the “D.o.D.”, before restarting clean, efficiently and 100 % American?

I consider this the U.S. Armed Forces’ … F.I.R.S.T. true acquisition ( = F.oreign I.nexpensive Ready-to-use S.uperior T.echnology) !

(Continued)

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Maybe the meanders of U.S. Defense businesses are so hopelessly awkward and obscure, like Alexander’s Gordian Knot, that the solution can only be political and radical now, no longer managerial and traditional, and with an increasingly critical input from the outer World, too (treaties, redeployments, burden-sharing, imports, joint ventures, foreign arms sales to lower unit prices, etc. etc.). In this case, I ask: Why not see the forest for the trees and reach down to the very root of the problem, and undo the need for such a monstruous Defense budget with an INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL solution? (Most other overstretched U.S. governmental programs WILL NEVER enjoy a similar possibility, so seize it!!!)

(Continued)

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How is that done? By surrendering I mean by completely overhauling N.A.T.O. ( BEFORE EVEN or INSTEAD OF streamlining the D.o.D.‘s acquisitive bureaucracy), and include Belarus, Ukraine and Mother Russia itself in it = placing the ENTIRE North cap of this planet seamlessly under ONE alliance (possible motto: “One parallel to rule them all”), practice an open-sky, open-base and open-port policy with all old + new N.A.T.O. members and constitute mixed East-West structures, units and even crews, like in today’s N.A.T.O., too! (Those bizarre U.S. names for certain ex-Soviet / Russian weapon systems would have to be dropped discretely)

(Continued)

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It may sound a bit esoteric to 100 % domestically-raised = brainwashed, sheepish, myopic U.S. Americans, but I’m sure that this would entail a whole flurry of other pacts and agreements: From opening up the East’s and the West’s internal arms markets to each other (first standardizations?) to supporting the other Super-Power’s wars of decadence, like Russia ( = “your enemy”, whose defeat in Afghanistan you hastened) does now by acquiescing to your very own criminal Afghanistan occupation, by not arming the Mujaheddin with MANPADS and even by allowing your Logistics to roll through its Republics! (“Thank you! And feel free to cross Western nations every time you need it, too!”)

(Continued)

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On the domestic front, this “Northern Alliance” INSTANTLY dispenses

1) unaffordable cutting-edge technology (you don’t have to be Sun Tzu to agree that squeezing China between two Super-Powers from land and sea MORE THAN suffices. Or do you prefer long range strikes across the Pacific?),

2) lots of solo research (work duplication, redundancy. Think PAK-FAs over the White House or F-22s over Lenin’s mausolueum),

3) large standing Armed Forces (less necessary then, sauf China, and inconvenient in a global Recession that hits everybody, too. We Euros already figured that out, even the blood-thirsty Brits: Soon they’ll parade naked around their 3 years young, mothballed aircraft carrier… At least our “Charles de Gaulle”still swims in reverse gear.).

(Continued)

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4) A Northern Power Pact between the U.S.A., Europe and “all Russian countries”, based on the same effective “one for all, all for one” principle as present-day N.A.T.O. does, would not only prevent any hypothetical wars between us (progress…), as well as making it suicidal for the three other B.R.I.C. countries (B.razil, I.ndia and C.hina = the next three Super-Powers) to pick us off one by one. I’m sure that at least when the rest of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization turns openly military and expands, you’ll be convinced of the convenience of my idea: There’s going to be a North-South World War, a melanin war, a real Dawning of the Gods, after all, as an obscure 20th Century politician prophesied, and the hungry, frustrated human waves of the South will also produce more remote-controlled (or even artificially intelligent) toys on all scales than we. Just a vision of the World in 200 years…

(Continued)

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The positive ripple effect of such a military East-West Defense Pact could render the good General Chiarelli and his beer buddies superfluous and jobless, though, and that’s totally inadmissible of course… Deep peace and trust in an entire Hemisphere? Civilians rule? Disarming the World? Downsizing the U.S. Armed Forces? What happened to my M.I.C. perks?? A future that beholds NO conflicts, NO wars, World Wars and nuclear wars – so many years ahead of General Chiarelli’s cozy retirement’s date?! Working in the private sector, taking orders like a FILTHY EMPLOYEE ??! Losing the grips of nationalism, Imperial delusions, fear and estatal securities on the peasants? Is our country in dire risk of becoming a “good, moral, respected” nation on the World stage again???!! NEVER !!! Let’s not take all this introspective, self-regulating heresy to extremes, shall we? Just shed a crocodile tear or two, to cater to the Zeitgeist…

Good god. There’s a reason that you rarely get comments on your posts. I’ve never actually finished one. The length is laughable (start a blog), and your material generally decays into paranoia half-way though.

I wasn’t talking to you specifically. There’s no point to talk to you specifically. If I allow you to peek a bit outside of your blinkers, you’ll only get frightened and dart back behind them again. They’re the limits of your World, and you’re quite happy living with them. How Anglo…

What a bunch of crap! You must really be a general! It’s not the requirements that are the problem, it is the systems engineering bs itself that’s the problem. The goal of systems engineering is to replace the engineer with a process. It is an approach developed by a bunch of retards during a cluster f***k. Nothing but crap has ever been designed by a systems engineering “committee”. It’s nothing more than the old Soviet style politburo design.

Great weapons are designed by engineers, not processes. They had to get rid of the weapon designer postion because people like Kelly Johnson were too visible and they’d never go along with the crap these contractors pull today. First they got rid of the designers, then they put the current “profit on development” procurement in place. Company profits are up to record levels and weapons development costs and schedules have gone through the roof. Weapons designers would be calling bs on this f’ed up approach long before now, but they were eliminated a couple decades back in favor of this moronic “systems engineering” approach. The dumbass generals don’t say anything because they were all bought off by the contractors. I’ve got yer TRL right here ya’ mealy mouth bozo.

I agree that there is too much process and uninformed oversight in modern systems acquisition. But some of the comments here drift into fantasy. Military weapons systems aren’t built by individual design engineers or even small groups. Weapons are too complex, involving too many engineering disciplines and tradeoffs. Thus it is all the more important that requirements be reduced to the real and obtainable, before contractors are sent on a quest for “unobtainium”. Having worked in the FCS program for seven years, I believe that many of its requirements outright violated laws of physics. Contractor engineers knew it, but the Army wouldn’t listen.

This guy is spouting nothing but industry lies! Was the SR-71 too complex to be designed by Kelly Johnson? Hell no! He might not have done it alone, but he was still the designer of that airplane. Now tell me about one single decent design that’s ever come out of this “design by committee” systems engineering process bs? Yeah, there isn’t one. It’s all been crap!

Kelly Johnson led the Lockheed skunk works engineering team. He didn’t know it all. It could also be noted that of the 12 A-12 prototypes that were built, five of them were lost. Of 29 SR-7A aircraft, 11 were lost, several to accidents involving unanticipated design problems. I retired from a second career in industry, but I first served 21 years in the Air Force — which paid for my Ph.D. in engineering systems. So I’ve worked both sides of this street. I stand by my observation: modern systems are inherently complex. Badly written requirements make them more so than they sometimes need to be.

Look dumbass, that airplane was Kelly Johnson’s design. Hell, I’ve designed plenty of stuff myself. I had people help me too, down to the janitor that took out the trash, that didn’t make it his design, that didn’t put his name on any drawings, and he didn’t think it should. You’re nothing but an industry mouth piece. You spout nothing but crap. You’ll get your 30 pieces of silver to sell out your country, but I’ll call your bs what it is.

The industry had to get rid of weapons designers first before they could get paid profit on development because the weapons designers were too big. They were household names. The weapons designers would never put up with the crap that’s going on now. They would have put an end to it. Sucks like this Ph.D. idiot are selling out our nation. It is time we put these asses in jail where they belong and went back to a weapons design and procurement approach that worked and would work again if we gave it a chance.

To piggyback on the requirements and modularity arguments…over the past 40/50 years procurement has morphed into “stuff everything possible in version/model A”. We need to go back to basics, get the initial requirements set, produce version A in 4–7 years, tops. Use it, get feedback, improve with updated requirements in version B, etc. Plan in both obsolescence and modularity to upgrade older models to B, or plan on selling A models to overseas customers. Build in smaller lots (it does not have to be more expensive if you are keeping production lines open for longer periods–start up costs amortized across a dozen models makes the original quite cheap). As far as FMS goes, many overseas customers look to see if there will be U.S. support for the weapon system over the long haul before they buy in. Allowing them to buy slightly used A models while U.S. military get B and C models allows us to get some money back, and establish easier integration of forces when we do have to fight together.

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