When the National Guard Bureau (NGB) Civil Support Team (CST) needed new systems to replace an aging fleet, the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND) revised their modernization strategies to deliver three years ahead of schedule while saving millions of dollars in the process.

Background

The Analytical Laboratory System (ALS) is a C-130 air-transportable system that uses commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) and government-off-the-shelf (GOTS) equipment to analyze chemical warfare agents, toxic industrial materials, toxic industrial chemicals, and biological warfare threats. Originally fielded to the National Guard Bureau (NGB) in 2008, the ALS is used by the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, and the United States Marine Corps to provide detection and identification capabilities to Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Civil Support Teams (CSTs) to conduct analyses of unknown or potential agents at an incident site and to transmit that information electronically to the First Responder Incident Commander. By 2018, the ALS was reaching obsolescence at an alarming rate - nearly fifty percent of the fleet were no longer even able to be moved. With over 1,350 missions supported by CSTs in FY19 alone, losing the capabilities provided by the ALS would drastically degrade mission readiness. An update to the ALS called the Common Analytical Laboratory System -- Field Confirmatory Integrated System (CALS FC IS) would not have reached Full Operational Capability until FY25-26. "The National Guard came to the JPEO and informed Mr. Bryce that they were having some readiness issues with the current ALS, and the current schedule they were on would not have been producing or fielding any of the new ALS until the FY22-23 time frame. The Guard was not in a position where they could wait that long," said Major Chanquale Jefferies, the Assistant Product Manager for Joint Product Manager Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNe) Analytics and Response Systems.
Mr. Bryce, Joint Program Executive Officer for CBRND, and the team decided to pursue a Modified Work Order (MWO) approach in order to execute a rapid fielding plan for the ALS. The MWO strategy allowed the team to use the existing ALS Capability Production Document (CPD), which authorized the modernization of current capabilities, while enabling an accelerated schedule and saving approximately $44M. "Because of how the MWO works, we're not giving [the ALS] any new capabilities, we're addressing the readiness issue with the capabilities it already has," MAJ Jefferies said. In order to meet the accelerated schedule, the team had to get concurrence from the end-users to forgo new capabilities provided under the more recently signed CALS requirements document. This shift in the direction of the program was essential and innovative. This approach required working with multiple stakeholders within the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the National Guard Bureau to accelerate the program of record. By using the MWO and foregoing new capabilities, the schedule was able to be moved three years ahead. Now, 70 ALS MWOs will be fielded and at Full Operational Capacity by 1Q FY22.

Improvements to the System

Not pursuing new capabilities did not mean leaving behind vast improvements to existing system capabilities. One of the first improvements to the existing capabilities was the basic outer structure of the unit. The old shelter design of the ALS was one of the causes that left many of the vehicles immobile and unusable. "There are teams that cannot even move their ALS anymore because of the shelter that's attached to the truck," said Timothy Karpich, Logistics Support Lead for the Joint Product Manager CBRNE Analytics and Response Systems. "[On the ALS MWO], the shelter can be de-attached from the truck. If the truck has a catastrophic failure, you can swap them out." User feedback was a main driving force behind the design modifications of the ALS MWO. These multiple operator-touchpoints were critical factors to ensuring proper system design of the modification work order. Enhanced human factors and engineering controls optimize the users' ability to analyze data. Further end-user feedback drove the fundamental shelter design from a fold-out shelter to a slide-out shelter, making the confined work area larger in order to operate more efficiently. Not only can more operators use the space at once, they can do so more comfortably. In addition to the larger work area, many users remarked that the added height makes simply standing more comfortable in the ALS MWO. Feedback also resulted in additional, more spacious gloveboxes (sealed containers used for manipulating objects safely) inside the ALS MWO, allowing space for two-person analysis as opposed to just one. Other renewed capabilities included upgraded software, more extensive databases that help identify previously unknowns, modernized chemical and biological instrumentation, improved process flow integration, and an onboard generator, which has been noted to be much quieter than the previous equipment.

Speed of Collaboration

The true success of the MWO approach was modernizing these capabilities in such an exceptionally accelerated manner. The team brought potential stakeholders to the table to gain momentum on the modified approach, which included the expertise from organic defense facilities to include Pine Bluff Arsenal, NAVAIR-NAWC-AD, Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center (CCDC CBC) CCDC CBC, as well as the Joint Requirements Office (JRO), Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC), Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), and Industry partners. In a mere twelve months, the team coordinated, redesigned, produced, and delivered. Achieving such an ambitious goal was the result of extensive collaborative effort between interagency organizations, industry, and end-users. The JRO coordinated with the Services in order to verify requirements early in the process. The rapid fielding approach leveraged the expertise of CCDC CBC to reverse engineer an existing prototype laboratory from the Engineering and Manufacturing phase of the CALS FC IS program. The joint product office within JPEO-CBRND coordinated extensive testing efforts and combined the technical skill and production capacity of Pine Bluff Arsenal (PBA) to integrate and produce the system blueprint provided by CCDC CBC. The Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) and the test community worked closely with the JPEO-CBRND to design a modified test plan. Prototype systems were immediately provided to ATC to test for survivability around the tracks. The Naval Air Warfare Center-Aircraft Division (NAVAIR-NAWC-AD) worked with the JPEO-CBRND team to ensure that the communication systems on the vehicles met the network connectivity and cyber requirements. On the industry side, Battelle was a key player. With previous experience working on the CALS FC IS effort, Battelle provided technical manuals, images and drawings. Main components of the ALS MWO each came from different members of industry: the shelters came from Gichner, the gloveboxes were from Baker, and the prime movers from Kaffenberger. Veteran Corps of American provided the New Equipment Training (NET) for the ALS MWO on an accelerated schedule to ensure operator readiness on the equipment as soon as fielding is complete. This collaborative effort was a positive experience for the people working on the project, as well. "I really enjoyed expanding my network and meeting people who can be resources for similar projects in the future," said Chika Nzelibe, Branch Chief of the Engineering Design Analysis Branch CCDC CBC. Not only did the MWO approach save time and money while solving readiness issues, it have laid the groundwork for more highly collaborative efforts in the future.