By Ms. Elizabeth Behring (AMC)March 14, 2017
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Before the great ideas are formed, prior to the blueprints being drawn or the prototypes being built, the very first step in the innovation process is to determine potential shortfalls and the best way to circumvent them, said Army Materiel Command Deputy Commanding General Lt. Gen. Larry D. Wyche at the start of a panel during the Association of the U.S. Army's Global Force Symposium, March 14.
"We are working hard as a team with academia and industry to overcome many barriers that slow up getting materiel into our Soldiers' hands; we've identified about 50 such," Wyche said as panel chair of "Partnering with Academia and Industry to Field Innovative Materiel Solutions."
These barriers, many of which are considered insurmountable by developers and scientists, are something panelist Jim Young, the federal account manager at Google Cloud, said can be solved by changing the avenue of approach.
"We don't start with cost performance and schedule. We start with the end user and reverse engineer from there. There is a direct correlation between collaboration and innovation. Often I hear in the military, a 'mother, may I' for permission to knowledge, but the more knowledge that is shared, the more exponentially valuable it is," Young said.
That knowledge is something that is not always tapped into, right at the source: the Soldier, said Wyche.
"We are investing a great deal in our Soldiers to advance their education. We have to ensure as we look forward that we are focusing on education in the right discipline. We have to make sure they are focused on the right things," Wyche said.
That education doesn't necessarily need to start with those already on active duty, but to the future engineers and scientists at the college level, said Dr. Daniel Ragsdale, a Texas A&M engineering professor and retired Army colonel.
"We need to engage not just with ROTC -- their doors will always be open -- but to engage with folks who are bringing innovation from their perspective. We're going to get there, but it is going to require more aggressive engagement. We can do that by looking for institutions that have a track record of embracing service and contributing to the national security mission," Ragsdale said.
One way to do that is to include more students in industry events and collaborations, Ragsdale said.
"We need to bring academia into the tent of the military industrial complex. [One idea] is to invite academia to more industry days, and host equivalent events, uniquely at universities," Ragsdale said.
The prospective future engineers, scientists and inventors certainly benefit from opportunities like this, but industry and the Army do, as well, said Young.
"There is an immense amount of talent here in the Army; you need to unleash that talent and let these folks accomplish great things," Young said.
Other panel participants were Maj. Gen. James Simpson, commanding general, Army Contracting Command; retired Lt. Gen. J.D. Johnson, vice president of Raytheon and panel moderator; Thomas Russell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology; Doug Wiltsie, Army Rapid Capabilities Office director; and Jim McAleese, principal, McAleese Associates, P.C.