How fast can counter-IED tools be fielded'
December 16, 2010
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Dec. 16, 2010) -- Rapid acquisition lets the Joint IED Defeat Organization deliver tools quickly to warfighters so they can counter improvised explosive devices
Rapid acquisition, according a JIEDDO official, reduces the buying decision to as few as two criteria: will it work, and how fast can the warfighter have it'
A less-than-perfect solution can be implemented, said Mitchell A. Howell, JIEDDO deputy director for Rapid Acquisition and Technology, if it meets the immediate need.
"We have two main criteria to consider, as we look at technology to help the warfighter," said Howell. "The real environment determines what tools actually can work, so we look at those tools in terms of their performance capability, and how quickly we can get them fielded."
Ordinary military acquisition processes can take several years, consider hundreds of competing capacities and limitations, and keep the ultimate customer waiting. JIEDDO works to develop, acquire and deliver C-IED capabilities within four to 24 months of identifying a capability gap.
One of the major components of rapid acquisition is what Howell calls "expectation management." The Joint IED Defeat Capability Approval and Acquisition Management Process is the organization's "hammer" for the rapid acquisition "nail" as JCAAMP guides tools from the idea stage to the in-hand stage.
"The key to rapid acquisition," he said, "is multiple approaches simultaneously. You have performance-based requirements at the same time you have cost-based requirements."
"With performance-based requirements, any tool that makes the cut gets bought," Howell said. "But you want to use something intuitive. It has to be something we can pursue to improve our current successful human skills."
Rigorous JCAAMP procedures include exploring public and private-sector networks for the best "fit" in the capability gap. Given the dynamics of a modern littoral battlefield, that gap can appear at any time, he said, as need to fill the gap arises.
"You can't just produce technology for technology's sake," said Howell. Demand for appropriate tools useful in C-IED continues to increase as an adaptive enemy finds countermeasures for warfighters' techniques. "We need to anticipate and react to their changes."
Howell cited the example of the victim-operated IED, which he said now accounts for some 70 percent of fatal IED events. He examines such data in his risk analysis, as he explores potential technological solutions, to see if he has the resources he needs, and if the solutions perform as expected.
"We do a facts-based analysis. Sometimes we find the risk of waiting for the 100- percent solution to be too costly in lives," he said.
"You have the same dilemma in rapid acquisition as anywhere else. Do you want it good, or fast or cheap' You can only have two of those," Howell said. "We choose good and fast because that's what saves the most lives."
The deputy director recounted how his International Security Assistance Force coalition counterparts, attending a recent counter-IED symposium in London, agreed with those two acquisition criteria, and that the many partners could learn from one another the best ways to meet the challenges.
"Ours isn't the only approach," he said. "We keep an open mind. We look at trends and the solutions they have, [knowing] we benefit from staying open to new equipment and capabilities."
Howell looks at the benefits of collaborative changes in processes and procedures.
"We can always improve the way we work together [and] a symposium is a place to glean and share information," he said. "You can show where these pay off in terms of lives saved, injuries reduced and a more effective fighting force."
Learning and applying principles of interoperability have helped coalition forces point to some better results on the battlefield recently. Afghan and coalition forces frequently have participated together in operations whose results have included killing and capturing IED facilitators accustomed to operating with impunity.
"Coalition forces leverage what they have learned to fight a low-cost, high-impact weapon, " said Howell. "It works both ways - we and our partners try to leverage what benefits us."
Communication comes first, according to Howell.
"We're still working on that," he said. "We had to build the Afghan Mission Network so we all could communicate. We have our national systems, but we now have better communication using new equipment and techniques."
Cost also is a factor in acquisition. Any funding used for one purchase stops its use for another. This component of JIEDDO's cost-based requirement has been subjected recently to more scrutiny as the Department of Defense anticipates budget cuts.
"I said we could accept less than 100-percent capability if it will save lives," Howell said. "That means we are not looking for the 'silver bullet.' We [need] performance and we [need] it now."
He returned from the London C-IED symposium earlier this year saying he saw more enthusiasm for supporting the warfighter in the field.
"Other organizations and many of our coalition partners do not have all the rapid acquisition techniques we use," he said. "Sometimes they may buy something we use, as a result."
Howell described his practical reason for the collaboration among partners.
"If it benefits the warfighter, that's what we're here to do," he said.