ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND (July 13, 2016) -- With just three weeks into their new positions leading Army acquisition programs, two lieutenant colonels say that they are bringing a holistic perspective to their organizations because of their previous posts in the research and development community.Lt. Col. Michael Baker, the new Product Manager for Handheld, Manpack and Small Form Fit, and Lt. Col. Shane Sims, now the Product Manager for Joint Battle Command-Platform, held positions in the Army Materiel Command's Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center as a directorate deputy director and the center's acting military deputy, respectively."Experience in the research and development realm has provided perspective on the enormous challenge of predicting and leveraging technologies within the needs of the Warfighter in order to maintain overmatch despite an uncertain future," Baker said. "I believe I'm better able to visualize how my program might evolve technically within the system of systems and invest in areas that can pay huge cost, capability, interoperability and sustainment dividends in the future."Baker is charged with developing and fielding the next generation of software-defined tactical radio systems. Sims, once the assistant product director of Strategic and Tactical Mission Command, is in charge of delivering the Army's JBC-P and Blue Force Tracking system."The S&T [science and technology] community provides huge risk mitigation to programs by helping clearly define technical requirements and addressing concepts early in the process," Sims said. "My CERDEC assignment enlightened me as to how we could take advantage of this valuable asset."While Baker and Sims are bringing their combined S&T and program of record experiences to their programs, Baker noted that an assignment with a product-specific linear progression could be a viable option to best advance technologies from concept to fielding cutting-edge solutions."It would be great to see opportunities for officers to first champion and prove a concept within the R&D community, then develop and transition with the program across the fence to the procurement community," Baker said.Other leaders from both sides of the equation are leveraging their experiences to ensure the best product reaches the Soldier in the least amount of time."When you are on the PM-side, you are completely engaged managing cost, schedule, and performance and meeting written requirements," said Christopher Manning, CERDEC Command, Power and Integration Directorate acting director. "Pursuing innovative ways to meet or exceed those requirements doesn't always fit nicely into a defined program plan."The challenge in S&T is to find those innovations and work with the PMs to figure out where they can effectively transition into a POR, Manning said.In addition to refining requirements, POR and S&T partnerships are speeding up the acquisition process, which traditionally can take up to seven years. Faster builds and deployment equate to substantial monetary savings."Ideally, the S&T community uses its funding to provide the drawings, specs and even demonstrators or prototypes," Sims said. "Through an iterative development process and by teaming with PORs, they can efficiently transition the technology to the PM. It's also going to be incumbent upon the PORs to take time to collaborate and team with their S&T partners to lean ahead in their program timelines to innovate future solutions."This process allows a capability to grow from concept to low-rate production much faster, sometimes in less than a year, and allows for substantial cost savings versus going through the traditional acquisition route, Sims said. Once the capability is proven, CERDEC transitions the work to an industry partner or Army depot for full-rate production."Government-developed and owned solutions have the benefit of enabling programs to open products to competition that might otherwise end up locked to a single vendor," Baker said. "The organic engineering expertise and capability in the R&D community also provides tools to help PMs negotiate from a position of knowledge and strength when championing realistic user requirements and assessing the value of commercial products and proposals."Baker and Sims say they plan to capitalize on every S&T resource available to help their teams envision and produce leading-edge Soldier systems.
"In the budget constrained environment we are living in, PORs need to start viewing their S&T organizations as partners and not vendors or other contract options," Sims said. "It's all about relationships and knowing how the Army has set up and funded these separate organizations so that we can quickly deliver the best capabilities to our Soldiers."-----The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.