Army research focuses on tech demos, affordable modernization
June 26, 2012
- 'If it shoots, moves or communicates, now or in the future, RDECOM is focused on the research, development and engineering that makes it a reality and keeps it at the leading edge affordably.'
- TECDs are designed to be two- to three-year efforts that encompass technology development, technology demonstration and operational evaluation.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- U.S. Army research and development efforts to support the future Soldier will begin to coalesce during technology-enabled capability demonstrations over the next several years, according to the director of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.
"We all know change is coming, and we are looking to position ourselves for the new environment," said Dale Ormond, RDECOM director, to about 80 representatives of the command and control community from military units, government agencies, contractors and technology service providers attending the 4th annual Institute for Defense and Government Advancement Command & Control Summit.
"[RDECOM is] at the front end of the materiel process, where we're making scientific discoveries and exploiting innovation by turning ideas into technologies we can put in the hands of Soldiers," Ormond said.
"Becoming a trusted agent in the acquisition process is going to become increasingly important. Secretary of Defense [Leon] Panetta has summed up the current climate as a strategic turning point, and the Army Chief of Staff [Gen. Martin Dempsey] has stated that affordable modernization is one of his most important priorities.
"If it shoots, moves or communicates, now or in the future, RDECOM is focused on the research, development and engineering that makes it a reality and keeps it at the leading edge affordably," Ormond said.
The director introduced the concept of Technology-Enable Capability Demonstrations, or TECDs, an initiative of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology, Dr. Marilyn Freeman, and one of RDECOM's primary lines of effort.
"TECDs are designed to be two- to three-year efforts that encompass technology development, technology demonstration and operational evaluation. They are focused on near-term technologies brought together to demonstrate a meaningful operational improvement.
"Once the capability has been demonstrated, a decision is made whether to field that capability, transition it to a program of record, or terminate it," Ormond said.
"TECDs put us in a position in which we are not looking to meet a specific requirements document that leads to an output that may or may not be part of an overall system. Instead, we are bringing our technology-specific expertise and our systems-engineering outlook together to look across the broad spectrum of the challenge to develop and demonstrate truly integrated solutions.
"Taking a systems engineering approach to these challenges gives us the best chance to develop the agile solutions we need while realizing the efficiencies we must to deliver the best return on the Army's investment," he said.
The Army Science and Technology Advisory Group approved nine TECDs in December. RDECOM has a leading role in six of the nine efforts.
"As the RDECOM Director, I am putting significant emphasis on making our TECD's successful," Ormond said.
"We are drafting project plans that will describe the project, to include cost, scope, and technical baselines as much as possible. We will seek to get buy-in from both the Training and Doctrine Command as the writer of requirements and the appropriate program managers and program executive officers for inclusion into their programs.
"It is certainly our intention to support Dr. Freeman's approach that there are, or will be, opportunities for industry to participate in these TECDs. I'm not sure how we are going to incorporate new, emerging ideas, concepts, and technologies at this point as this will be a learning process. I'm sure we will get better as we proceed," he continued.
The director broached the TECDs of Mission Command and Actionable Intelligence and noted that the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., will squire these TECDs through the development process.
Leading the CERDEC effort is John Willison, director, Command, Power & Integration. Willison followed Ormond at the IDGA podium and discussed the TECDs of Mission Command and Actionable Intelligence in great detail for the IDGA audience.
"We are ever mindful not to overburden the Soldier," Willison said. "That includes both the physical load and the cognitive load."
"Secretary Panetta said, 'We are shaping a Joint Force for the future that will be smaller and leaner, but will be agile, flexible, ready, and technologically advanced. It will have cutting edge capabilities, exploiting our technological, joint and networked advantage,'" Ormond said.
"As director of the Army's S&T command, I could not ask for a clearer endorsement of the important role RDECOM plays in the future of our military. There is more specific guidance, of course, but the most salient part is that we have to find a way to succeed in creating this agile, flexible, ready, and technologically advanced force in a time of shifting mission priorities, decreasing resources and increasing emphasis on efficiencies."