HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Nov. 21, 2015) -- Getting to the finish line starts with a contract award.That was the message from the program executive officer, or PEO, for aviation that resonated with the audience and was echoed by many of the other speakers and panel members during the annual Army Aviation Association of America, or AAAA, Aircraft Survivability Equipment Symposium and Aviation Product Symposium here.Speaking at both AAAA events in the Von Braun Center, Brig. Gen. Bob Marion emphasized the need for discipline in the acquisition processes and to "execute that mark on the wall.""There are so many people and organizations that rely on us executing that program and that schedule that we can't afford to mess that up," he said.The start of the line is when the Army obligates and disburses dollars, and what is reported at the Department of Army headquarters level, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, or OSD, and to members of Congress. Army aviation gets marked and when execution reviews are conducted, funding is taken away when the Army cannot obligate and disburse on time, according to the schedules the Army submitted."Contract award is when we can get those dollars obligated … which is really the start line. The finish line is when we get capability into the hands of the Soldier. That's the finish line," Marion said.
AAAA symposiums are rare opportunities to communicate and get together in one venue with other members of the aviation enterprise and their industry partners. Marion encouraged everyone to take advantage of the forum to talk with the Soldiers."We have Soldiers attending the events this week who have dedicated a lot of time and sweat equity living and fighting with the systems that you in industry are responsible for, so take the opportunity to talk to them for the next few days," he said.Twenty-five percent of the Army's equipping budget is pegged under Army aviation, with the majority of it falling in the PEO Aviation portfolio. "When you throw the OCO [Overseas Contingency Operations] piece into it, it jumps up to about 30 percent. It's a huge responsibility, and we entrust all of you especially in industry, to execute those programs," Marion said.While PEO Aviation is entrusted with the mission of executing the life cycle management of all assigned Army aviation programs, the organization is not an island."We couldn't deliver system level capabilities without the help of everyone else," Marion said. "It really is a team sport.""We've had great working relationships with all PEOs and our stakeholders. Our ability to get together and deliver capabilities in the hands of Soldiers is due to the great leadership and collaboration across the acquisition community and the aviation enterprise partners."One of the areas of concern discussed during the symposium was the growing capabilities of U.S. adversaries."The enemy gets a vote," Marion said. "Threat matures in ways we don't always expect and on timelines we don't always control. We have to get capabilities to the field as quickly as possible. The process of developing the capabilities … is not held up by the materiel development process but works hand in glove with our ability to budget, provide funding and define requirements. All those things have to happen together."He emphasized the need to balance performance and capability with sustainment. The requirements span all three. "We control that balance through requirements, KPPs [key performance parameters], KSAs [key system attributes], whatever it might be, and then we also control that balance with how we develop the performance work statement that we ask industry to do."Marion spent some time giving the audience a snapshot of the status of each of the programs within PEO Aviation. He spent additional time discussing two programs in which the acquisition community has done and is going to do some things completely different.Degraded Visual Environment, or DVE, is a high priority for Army aviation. PEO Aviation has been tasked to develop a capability to enable aviators to successfully conduct operations using pilotage DVE. The first step is to develop a frontal sensor pilotage capability to focus on the aircraft induced environment of brown out, also known as Brownout Enhancement System, or BORES."We're leveraging work that has been done with other services and within industry. The third leg of the stool is the synthetic piece, and that is what we're going after in BORES," Marion said."The question is, what we're going to qualify to pilotage. We're talking about takeoff and landing, limited hover at the X. That's what we're going to do initially. But we're going to grow that capability over time. We're talking about using a DVE to our advantage."The Request for Information, or RFI, for BORES was released on Nov. 17, and PEO Aviation is looking forward to industry's response.The Limited User Assessment, or LUA, a critical piece in the process, will take pilots of all skill levels and demonstrate their piloting capabilities with a system that has synthetic vision, and the ability to operate flight controls similar to a CH-47F Chinook's Digital Flight Control System."That LUA is going to inform us - along with the response from the RFI and the capability development document - on what our RFP [Request for Proposal] will look like in October 2016," Marion said. "We're going to jump into a Milestone B at that point because we believe that there is going to be enough industry investment - and there has been already - so that we don't have to go through a technology maturation phase. It's about getting a capability to the field that will handle the vast majority of the DVE issues that we've run into over the last 10 years and we'll get to the other environments later."And since at MS B, you have to be funded, our intent is on June 2017, we'll be set up to fund this program."The other program Marion focused on was the Improved Turbine Engine/Future Vertical Lift, or ITE/FVL. The PM ITE/FVL is the ninth and newest office to be stood up within PEO Aviation and is tasked to manage one of the Army's key modernization programs.From a survivability perspective, the other element that ties to BORES is power, and that means ITEP. "If you're in a situation and you have to get out of that situation and you need power, in many cases today, we don't have it," Marion said.ITEP is a key enabler and is the number one development priority in Army aviation. "We've had great success linking the science and technology work that was done to bring about the program of record. This is a big win for Army aviation, and most notably now that OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] has delegated the Milestone Decision Authority to the Army. A year ago I never would have imagined we would be as far along as we are," Marion said.PEO Aviation has received approval to make the office a colonel-level centralized selection list position, which means a board select PM in fiscal 2017. "Our current PM, Rich Kretzschmar, is doing a great job in that position," Marion said.He praised the team for all the hard work and persistence to get to the current point in the program."We're going to keep this motor for a very long time. I don't have any doubt that we're going to meet the requirements for power and range. We also need to focus on reliability, which means reducing life-cycle costs at the beginning so we can maximize our savings over the next generations of systems and aviators that fly this," he said. "And it will be at the minimum risk reduction on what we're going to do in FVL on the lower end of the scale."