I have just returned from Phoenix, Arizona where I believe I was witness to a portend of biblical proportions, “Cats and dogs, living together, mass hysteria!” (Thank you, Dr. Venkman). In an auditorium of a satellite campus of Arizona State University, I observed a Colonel of Operations, who actually knew the first name of a Colonel of Acquisition! Those of you who understand the previously chasm between operations, training and doctrine, and the acquisition community will appreciate the implications of this sea change. Where previously these two communities threw things over the wall to each other, it now appears that they are executing Manning –like (Eli, not Peyton) handoffs. Perhaps rapid equipping has come of age. This hastily arranged, low cost meeting, not without its warts, set the standard for energy conferences.
The Army, Academia, and Industry gathered to conduct a series of briefings on processes and technologies. The doyenne of operational energy, Sharon Burke, opened the conference entitled, “Net Zero at the Tactical Edge”. Despite being harangued for not getting her Operational Energy implementation plan out in a timely manner and for failing to get the new SecDef to include energy in his priorities, she set a positive tone for the conference. Anybody who can reference Jane Austen and Carl von Clausewitz in the same sentence gets a little latitude. In her defense, the relatively new SecDef may not get it ... yet.
The hand on the tiller for this ship was the director of the Rapid Equipping Force, Colonel Pete Newell. I interviewed Newell previously about the role of the REF in operational energy. Newell looks and sounds like a warfighter and he understands the complexity of the Requirements and Acquisition processes. His take is that OE is nothing special, just another challenge commanders face on the battlefield and that it is his organization’s mission: to find the technology solutions. What is different is his recognition of the need to bring together the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and the Program Managers so that requirements can be expedited and the PMs can satisfy those requirements. This is the path to long term, secure OE.
The team is together, but TRADOC has yet to produce the Capability Development Document necessary for the PMs to begin their acquisition process. This is still on the shoulders of the Army Capabilities Integration Center (sorry to classmate, Keith), Combat Arms Support Command (CASCOM) and TRADOC Capabilities Manager, Soldier. These organizations are responsible for describing the requirements for operational energy from the individual soldier to the Forward Operating Base level.
The speakers' materials were superb, although they all prepared PC PowerPoint briefings that were butchered by the Macintosh computer used to display them. The information they provided on the four different venues and four different processes for bringing technologies into the Army’s experimentation effort was a bit mind numbing. I challenged COL Newell on this, and, in a surprisingly glass half full way, he pointed out that they should be thought of as four paths to success. The REF’s Bill Garland promised to publish a simple document helping industry understand what path would suit them best. Will let you know when and where that is available.
The best aspect of the conference was the fifteen minute meetings that industry could schedule with program managers and the REF. The chance to sit down one on one and present technologies and receive advice in a small, dare I say, intimate setting was unparalleled. More on this, the pathways, and advice to conference hosts in the next post. Dan Nolan