LTG Patricia McQuistion (U.S. Army TARDEC photo.)
The ground vehicle community faces the unique challenge of transitioning systems from production to sustainment while at the same time balancing end-strength, modernization and readiness with declining budgets. To make the right investments and ensure a dominant force that can operate in any global environment, collaboration is the mandate.
More than 700 government, industry and academic representatives from across the automotive engineering and research and development (R&D) communities recently gathered to discuss future collaborations, help set program agendas and leverage ground vehicle R&D resources during the fifth annual Ground Vehicle Systems Engineering and Technology Symposium (GVSETS) held by the National Industrial Defense Association (NDIA) Michigan Chapter.
U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) Director Dr. Paul Rogers stressed that long-term success for the ground vehicle community will be achieved through the execution of parallel goals and strategies. "I have the utmost respect and regard for this community, and through mutual collaboration and mutual exchange of information, we will form a strategy that's not a TARDEC strategy, but a [ground vehicle] community strategy," he explained. "Industry will have as much ownership of it and incentive to work toward it as we do. That would be success in my book."
In a letter seeking the Secretary of the Army's support for this event, MG Michael Terry, Commanding General, TACOM Life Cycle Management Command, declared the conference "mission-critical to build and enhance relationships with industry in order to acquire, develop, field and sustain key weapon systems for our forces." Terry explained that GVSETS offers a vital opportunity in southeast Michigan, where the TACOM LCMC, major defense manufacturers and the auto industry can form productive partnerships.
"This unique forum brings together the entire ground vehicle community to discuss our common challenges and to begin working together to generate solutions," Terry commented. "The event is the Army's opportunity to gain new insights and learn about the latest technological developments that help us provide Soldiers with the most advanced ground vehicles possible."
Deputy Commanding General Army Materiel Command LTG Patricia McQuistion discussed how future collaborative partnerships maximize the strength of the public and private industrial base and share limited modernization and sustainment dollars. "I believe we have the opportunity to reduce each other's risks and take advantage of each other's strengths. Sure it will be difficult... but it can't be any harder than what we have all been doing for the past 20 years."
As the community enters a transitional period, Kevin Fahey, Program Executive Officer for PEO Combat Support & Combat Service Support (CS&CSS), expressed the importance of continued growth and partnership within the community, as well as seeking new and unique avenues of success. "It's more important than ever that we are transparent with everything we know or we think we know," Fahey stated. "It is really important that we maintain our dialogue and have that communication, and that is why I think these forums are so important."
Many event speakers called for more concerted efforts by government and industry in specific technological arenas. "There's just no way to know what problems we're going to face 10, 20 or 30 years from now," Dr. Paul Zablocky, the Director of Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate of the U.S. Army's Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) stressed. "What we can do though is design and architect products with the ability to change them rapidly without throwing out the previous technology."
Tom Bagwell, Deputy Program Executive Officer Ground Combat Systems (GCS), said that there are several major challenges facing today's military that will require the skills and capabilities of the entire community to properly solve, including: the ability to maintain skills across industry and government; how to effectively bring equipment home; and how to modernize for future conflicts. "In the last 10 years we have seen a great response from industry when the Army came to get things done," he stated. "We have given a lot of capabilities to Soldiers to protect them and to be effective in war. How do we continue to use that partnership and the lessons learned from that to move forward? We really need your help to continue to work together to achieve these things."