By Tracey Ayres, PEO Aviation, and Brandon Pollachek, PEO IEWSFebruary 5, 2018
Whether in an operational environment or in defense acquisition, the Army achieves success through leadership and teamwork. During the annual Army Acquisition Executive's Excellence in Leadership Awards for Product Team of the Year, the secretary of the Army recognized a team comprised of members from the Program Executive Office for Aviation's Fixed Wing Project Office, Special Electronic Mission Aircraft Product Directorate at Redstone Arsenal, and the PEO for Intelligence Electronic Warfare and Sensors' Project Office for Sensors-Aerial Intelligence, Product Manager Manned Aerial Reconnaissance Surveillance Sensors based in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
The team was honored for its success in fielding the newest aerial Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft in the Army inventory: the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System.
EMARSS is a manned aerial ISR system that provides a persistent capability to detect, locate, classify, identify and track targets of interest with a high degree of timeliness and accuracy. This information is processed and actionable intelligence is provided to commanders on the ground. There are 24 aircraft in the EMARSS fleet consisting of four variants -- G, M, S and V -- designated as such based on sensor capabilities.
The unique teaming arrangement of both product offices produces a true force multiplier. The Fixed Wing Project Office is responsible for aircraft sustainment and integration; PM Sensors-Aerial Intelligence is responsible for the sensor mission equipment package and the processing, exploitation and dissemination architecture.
The path to achieving such a successful outcome was more than 30 months in the making, which entailed a complete reorganization of the program of record. After four new aircraft were acquired, language in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act stated that no additional aircraft could be purchased and current quick reaction capability aircraft would be utilized and modified instead.
SEMA Product Director Derek Long commented on the program's change in direction.
"As a result of the NDAA's directive to leverage QRC systems instead of procuring new, the two product offices collaboratively developed an aggressive plan designed to mitigate each acquisition challenge and began turning the program around with the award of the first of four contracts that will ultimately deliver a total of 20 aircraft," he said. "Once the adjustments were made, this incredible team continuously reinforced a mentality of 'perform to plan,' which they achieved."
"It was a complex effort for both product offices to cooperatively balance delivery of the POR while also maintaining support for deployed aircraft," Lt. Col. Sean Smith, the product manager for MARSS, said. "We were challenged since our acquisition strategy relied on bringing QRC aircraft back from theater for induction into the EMARSS modification line. Operational demands did not decrease, which meant the team had to keep capability in theater while also maintaining the POR schedule."
In order to implement the NDAA specified reorganization, the product team effectively executed four contracts, valued at $335 million, for the modification of four initial variant modification aircraft and 16 follow-on variant modification aircraft through which three different model aircraft -- variants EMARSS G, M and V -- were built to host a broad spectrum of aerial ISR capabilities.
The three variants successfully completed follow-on test and evaluation in March 2017. By conducting a combined FOT&E, the EMARSS team was able to achieve a cost avoidance of $4.9 million and more importantly, reduced the burden on the Intelligence and Security Command units supporting the test. A single unit was able to provide the sufficient number of Soldiers needed to execute the FOT&E for all three variants concurrently. The unit scheduled to deploy next was chosen as the test unit allowing the EMARSS product team the ability to communicate in real time with the user and deliver a configured aircraft that capitalized on user input.
"We deployed three EMARSS aircraft to theater just four months after test completion," Smith said. "Both product management offices combined efforts well and created a high-performing team to rapidly deliver capability. We're extremely proud of the product team that successfully delivered the EMARSS POR to the warfighter."
In addition to fielding a high-demand multi-intelligence asset shortly after test completion, the EMARSS team saw notable cost savings efforts realized. By maximizing the use of government furnished equipment, realigning spare parts requirements and collaborating with other programs to share costly satellite time for testing, the team ultimately reduced the overall contract cost by $20 million.
"Today's landscape of limited resources, requirement instability and high customer expectations among multiple stakeholders produces an acquisition environment that is arduous," Long said. "The EMARSS program impressively evolved in that environment from one that senior leaders characterized as one of the Army's most problematic acquisition programs, to now being recognized as the 2017 Army Acquisition Executive's Product Team of the Year.
"This achievement is completely due to the exceptional efforts of the highly dedicated and competent workforce, both government and support contractors, assigned to PM Fixed Wing and PM Sensors-Aerial Intelligence. This team collectively overcame multiple acquisition challenges spanning aspects of program cost, schedule and performance."
The product team faced many challenges with this problematic program but found a way to change its fate by implementing a best practices approach. The team was not only successful in the conversion of multiple variants of QRC systems into the EMARSS program but maintained operational support to deployed aircraft and executed contracts valued in excess of $335 million.
The team's determination to have a successful program resulted in the delivery of the first 12 EMARSS aircraft on schedule. Delivering a multi-intelligence capability to Soldiers down range is the team's greatest reward.