TARDEC Director Dr. Paul Rogers (standing) and his executive staff discussed how TARDEC will pursue technology that disrupts the evolution of the Soldier experience in war at the fifth annual GVSETS. Joined by Rogers are (L to R): Systems Integration and Engineering Executive Director Magid Athnasios, Chief Scientist Dr. David Gorsich and Research and Technology Integration Executive Director Jennifer Hitchcock. (U.S. Army TARDEC photo.)
Over the past decade of conflict, the science and technology (S&T) community has concentrated on delivering immediate solutions to a constantly evolving battlefield and helping our forces maintain their technological edge. Now the focus is shifting to a longer-range arc, and TARDEC Director Dr. Paul Rogers and his executive team are thinking about the generation in grade school today.
Those students' primary concerns may be their next soccer game, sleepover party or the funniest YouTube video ever. When TARDEC leaders think about them, however, they must focus on how to develop game-changing technology that disrupts the evolution of how Soldiers experience war. When those preteen kids grow up and join the Army or Marines, they should have technology that offers unmatched adaptability.
"If we are successful as a science and technology [S&T] community, we will fundamentally change the capabilities those Soldiers have to give them overwhelming superiority," Rogers stated in a recent speech at the Ground Vehicle Systems Engineering and Technology Symposium (GVSETS) in Troy, MI. "The experiences of our fathers, mothers and grandfathers in war have too many similarities to what Soldiers in this period have experienced over the last 12 years. It's our goal to produce a strategy that fundamentally changes the way the next generation fights and the experiences they take away from that fight. We are here to change that equation."
Rogers explained that the goal of TARDEC's 30-year strategy is to give those future Soldiers such a technological advantage that their adversaries know they have has lost before they enter the battlefield.
"When we started talking about a 30-year strategy, people asked, 'How can you possibly predict what we'll need 30 years from now?' I'm here to tell you I can't," he admitted. "But I'm also here to insist that if we don't try, we're not going to fundamentally change the equation for the next generation. I know that's why we're all here and I know that's our true motivation."
Rogers made his comments at the fifth annual GVSETS conference, which is organized by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) Michigan Chapter to build and enhance collaborative relationships among government, industry and academic partners. The TACOM Life Cycle Management Command, which includes TARDEC, considers GVSETS to be a critical event in its mission to engineer, field and sustain the best ground systems in the world.
TARDEC leaders explained that programs will be organized in value streams that focus efforts in three areas of expertise:
- Shaping requirements of future programs of record (PORs)
- Developing new capabilities for current ground systems
- Providing engineering services and support
The value streams depend on each other to achieve the desired outcomes, and each stream involves lines of effort (LOE) that define program priorities for the organization. For instance, Value Stream 1 contains research-related LOEs to develop autonomy-enabled systems, common and open architectures that allow rapid upgrades, protected mobility, power density and energy efficiency.
Within this functional composition, TARDEC hopes to achieve a balance between two objectives: maintaining support for today's warfighter, and investing in future developments that, as Rogers puts it, "really change the game — that's what we're trying to challenge ourselves to do."
The inspiration for these groundbreaking developments can be found in TARDEC's own history. For instance, engineers here tested an unmanned vehicle prototype called Little David in 1956, experimented with a four-legged walking machine in 1965, and created an individual flying device that traveled 30 minutes at up to 60 mph in 1979. "This was novel, innovative, fresh thinking, and industry partners were involved in each one of these. Think about the innovation that exists in this community with the government-industry relationship and academia underpinning our research. The innovation has always been here."
Whether the next breakthrough happens in the air on the ground, TARDEC's vision includes vehicles designed to be modular, flexible, adaptable and smart. "This strategy is shifting us from technology developments for specific solutions and a bolt-on approach toward a more systematic approach for system level demonstrations that add capabilities for warfighters," Executive Director for Research and Technology Integration Jennifer Hitchcock stated. "We're driving toward a more balanced approach for future opportunities."
TARDEC would provide the disciplined engineering skills to pursue those opportunities with proven, cost-conscious methods. "We're looking at SWAP-C [size, weight, power and cooling] because we have to buy back the space and weight we consumed in the integration of new equipment on each of the platforms." Systems Integration and Engineering (SIE) Executive Director Magid Athnasios explained.
Each year, the GVSETS Warfighter Panel conveys actual ground-level experiences with vehicles and technology to government and industry attendees. The panel of Soldiers and Marines continues to be one of the most gripping segments at the conference. (U.S. Army TARDEC photo.)
Chief Scientist Dr. David Gorsich pointed out that success relies on exceptional facilities, tools and experts with the skills sets to achieve solutions: "At the very heart of this strategy is our technical staff and people — and the development of those people to make sure we make the right decisions and do the right things now and in the future. Hopefully, everyone can see their place in our core strategy."
Both Gorsich and Rogers emphasized that leveraging the entire community's skills and knowledge will guide future innovation.
"The true value of our S&T investment is to buy down risk, shape expectations and help define requirements," Rogers commented. "If we're doing it right, we're setting the conditions for successful programs of record. I'm not just talking about setting up [Army] program managers for success, I'm talking about setting up industry for success. The invitation to engage is always open."