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As the U.S. military and the nation's commercial industry weather times of fiscal uncertainty and the ever-changing nature of the battlefield, collaboration is more important than ever.
This was the uniting theme throughout the Ground Vehicle Systems Engineering and Technology Symposium (GVSETS), held Aug. 14-16, 2012, in Troy, MI, where several industry representatives discussed their plans to enhance collaboration with the Army and other services, and military leadership revealed needs that could lead to mutually beneficial relationships.
"An important part of our success is the success of our industrial partners. The fact that you work to make a profit and be viable and successful is crucial to our success," stated Dr. Paul Rogers, Director of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC). "Without you, we can't deliver anything to the warfighter. And I'm committed to supporting your access to this community."
DAMC — Coming Together to Support the Warfighter
Officially introduced at GVSETS, the Defense Automotive Manufacturers' Consortium (DAMC) is designed to further strengthen the defense industry's technology base through cooperative research and development. Based on the model set by the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) and organized by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), DAMC will leverage knowledge and expertise from several defense automotive manufacturing corporations to advance military ground vehicle development.
DAMC's key objectives include:
- Accelerating technical development and deployment
- Reducing the cost for pre-competitive or non-competitive technologies and activities
- Providing a common voice to the supply base
- Increasing the value of research investment
Several defense industry partners make up the DAMC and TARDEC will serve in an advisory capacity, highlighting Army needs and requirements for consortium members. "We really commend NDIA and the DAMC for coming together to work on joint problems of interest. We've talked and identified some pre-competitive challenges that we can all face and work together on," commented TARDEC Chief Scientist Dr. David Gorsich. "I'm really happy that we're coming together in these times not to fight for resources, but to work together."
"There is a way to strengthen the Department of Defense's technology base through collaboration. When we were first approached by the NDIA, we were extremely positive about that," remarked Sonya Sepahban, Senior Vice President of Engineering Design and Development at General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS). "There is a lot happening in theater — the enemy is coming up with new strategies and threats all the time, the nature of which are changing rapidly and escalating, so we have to be responsive. In an environment of shrinking budgets — particularly in science and technology — we must work together and pool our resources."
While still in the formative stages, the DAMC is intended to gather experts from several companies to work toward common solutions that will ultimately save lives and enhance ground vehicle capabilities. "We need to look at where we can work together and how that can benefit us and the warfighter," explained Regis Luther, Vice President, Military Products and Initiatives for Navistar Defense. "We are a nation at war; that's going to continue, and, to the extent that we can work together and pool our resources, that's going to make the broader organization more effective."
What the Army Needs
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During GVSETS, Army leaders had a message for the DAMC and other industry partners: we need you.
MG Nickolas Justice, Assistant Military Deputy to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology), remarked that the involvement of several defense manufacturers in DAMC will make collaboration easier and more effective. Justice expressed confidence that the consortium will lead to many new innovations the Army can leverage. "This is powerful," he remarked. "Now, everyone can bring something to the table."
One particular area of focus involves improving vehicle fuel economy. "I think we all appreciate that establishing clear fuel economy measures would help us reduce our requirements ambiguity and, thus, the cost and timelines for developing vehicles," explained Steve Schultz, Vice President of Engineering and Chief Technology Officer for BAE Systems. "This is becoming even more important as we see the need to more clearly and explicitly address the fully burdened cost of fuel in our programs.
"Within the DAMC, we have started to talk about working together to develop a recommended suite of operation and representative drive cycles that we hope to make acceptable to the requirements of the user communities and could then be used to specify and measure vehicle fuel economies. The drive cycles could be basic speed-over-time profiles and they could be simulated and tested in controlled environments to render at a lower cost at a higher rate the results we could use to understand vehicle performance from a fuel perspective."
Scott Davis, Program Executive Officer for Program Executive Office (PEO) Ground Combat Systems, agreed that improved fuel economy, vehicle propulsion and mobility are key Army focus areas, commenting that both the DAMC and partners in the commercial automotive industry have important roles to play as the Army achieves its goals. However, Davis also noted the challenges inherent in taking commercial industry technologies and adapting them for very different tasks in the field. "We tend to lean pretty heavily on industry for propulsion system solutions," Davis remarked. "The challenge is, how do we take something that has a different duty cycle and application, and optimize it for military use and gain some of the efficiencies that the commercial side's been seeing?"
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As PEOs and Army engineers work toward their most important goal — keeping Soldiers safe — industry will also play a key role. The Army's focus on occupant-centric survivability draws heavily from the racing industry's approach to vehicle survivability, leveraging many of the lessons learned that have allowed NASCAR drivers to walk away from high-impact crashes. That same collaboration with commercial industry will lead to greater advancements in vehicle survivability and Soldier protection.
"[NASCAR] was a high-venture sport; somebody was going to crash and get killed. In a 10-year period, NASCAR took those race track deaths down to almost nothing, and they did it with the same kind of concept we're moving toward — an occupant-designed car designed so that everything external to the body in that cockpit takes energy away from the impact. … Not all of it applies to our duty cycles but a lot of great ideas encourage us to ‘think outside of the box,' more than what we've always done and do something different," Justice commented. "We're trying to turn fatal injuries into healing injuries. I'm not going to take injury off the battlefield, but the more of those injuries that I can take out of the fatal category and into the healing category, the better."
How to Partner
To effectively collaborate, Army and industry must communicate their needs and capabilities, understanding requirements and possibilities. PEOs, Justice stressed, must communicate their portfolio needs and look to industry to push boundaries, develop new technologies and work with organizations like TARDEC to integrate them onto platforms. "That's what the Army's challenged to do right now. We go back and challenge requirements, and we'd like industry to help us to do that. Come back and tell me what the state-of-the-art is; I don't want to spend three times the cost on the platform to get five percent more capability," Justice remarked. "I want to know where the knee in the curve is in technologies."
Close communication with OEMs is particularly important for PEOs who depend on commercial off-the-shelf components for vehicles. Roberta Desmond, Assistant Program Executive Officer for PEO Combat Support and Combat Services Support, explained that the PEO leans heavily on the Joint Center for Ground Vehicles (JCGV) — comprised of U.S. Army and Marine Corps (USMC) representatives — to ensure proper collaboration and communication between government and industry. "We're focused and very interested in figuring out how we handle our industrial base. A lot of our equipment is off-the-shelf, which requires a very different look at how we handle these relationships," Desmond remarked. "The JCGV is the place where we all play together. We're doing a lot of work right now with the USMC on modeling and simulation, operational energy, basing and equipment. We're all starting to work a little more hand-in-hand than we ever did in the past."
Dan Pierson, Deputy Program Executive Officer for the USMC's PEO Land Systems, commented that he hopes to see even more collaboration between the military and its commercial partners in the future. "It's very interesting to see what industry's been doing, and we want to bring industry and the JCGV together. Last year our panel challenged industry to throw out new ideas to work with the government. We're doing what we can within what we can control, but we work through our partnerships and we do need [industry's] great ideas," Pierson concluded.
Disclaimer: Reference herein to any specific commercial company, product, process or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation or favoring by the United States Government or the Department of the Army (DoA). The opinions of the authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or the DoA, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes.