WASHINGTON – May is Military Appreciation Month, when we honor those who serve in the nation’s armed forces, both past and present. The reality, however, is that military appreciation is a year-round, actionable task, and the U.S. Army xTech Program contributes to this effort by uniting innovation with an Army that is constantly evolving and modernizing.
Sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, the xTech Program is a unique mechanism for the Army to identify and accelerate new science and technology solutions into their workstreams. The program hosts prize competitions throughout the year for non-traditional entities – such as small businesses, academia and startups – to submit proposals on their innovative solutions and how they can solve critical Army needs.
Finalists and winners can earn cash prizes and possible follow-on contracts, such as small business innovation research awards. The program aims to build a bridge between the commercial market and the Army, both of whom stand on common ground when it comes to enhancing Soldier readiness.
Army innovation leaders understand how novel technologies and ingenuity are vital to Soldier readiness and modernization, and how programs such as xTech are bringing meaningful action to military appreciation.
Lt. Col. Marcus White, Deputy Director, Office of Army Prize Competitions and the Army Applied SBIR Program
Lt. Col. Marcus White has served in the Army for 20 years and has known since his days at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point that he wanted to serve as an acquisitions officer. During his junior year at West Point, White held an internship with the Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, where he was introduced to the world of acquisitions and product management. White was ultimately accepted into the Army Acquisition Corps.
His skill set in acquisitions and years of hands-on Army experience brought White to his current role: deputy director of Army prize competitions and the Army Applied SBIR Program. In this position, he is responsible for helping the Army identify and adopt commercial, dual-use technologies that offer enhanced capabilities to Soldiers.
“New technology fits in the Army ecosystem by enabling Soldiers to increase lethality and survivability on the field. This includes technology that can provide them increased situational awareness so they can make better, more rapid decisions,” White said. “Instead of trying to understand or fight a system, Soldiers can fight the battle itself.”
Col. Blaise Zandoli, Contract Analyst, Army Applied SBIR Program
Army Reserve Brigade Commander Col. Blaise Zandoli’s tenure in the Army and civilian background in finance has led him to many roles, from the National War College in Washington, D.C., where he helped the Army access private-sector technology, to assisting with the stand-up of the Army Futures Command, and even to Hawaii as the commander of a civil affairs brigade. Zandoli was then brought to ASA(ALT) as a contractor to support the Army Applied SBIR Program, using his skill set to help the Army access talent and technology from the commercial industry.
Zandoli knows that an emerging commercial technology market exists, and that this market has the potential to fulfill the Army’s technology needs. According to Zandoli, xTech and Army Applied SBIR are bridging the gap between the supply of commercial technology and the demand of Soldiers’ technology needs. In order to merge the supply with the demand, the Army uses these programs to put money and potential follow-on contracts in the hands of small businesses, so their technologies will ultimately be in the hands of Soldiers.
“If there’s a practical technology delivered and it’s feasible for the Army, we want to make sure the tech solution fits for the Soldier,” Zandoli said. “This is in terms of the physical impact that the kit will have on their bodies, endurance, and the mental capacity to operate the equipment under garrison or combat situations.”
Capt. Lorin Smith, Medical Service Officer, Energy and Materials Portfolio, U.S. Army Reserve 75th Innovation Command
Capt. Lorin Smith knows that a competitive Army requires innovation, and as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve 75th Innovation Command, she uses her military and private-sector experience to provide expertise to the Army xTech Program. She has served as a competition moderator, recruited judges from the 75th IC, and is a champion of the program’s unique approach to scouting new technologies.
The 75th IC, which supports the Army Futures Command, has the mission to drive operational innovation, concepts and capabilities to enhance the readiness and lethality of the future force by leveraging the unique skills, agility and private-sector connectivity of America's Army Reserve. Designated in 2018, the unit has a strong mission alignment with xTech when it comes to bringing innovation into the Army workstream.
“xTech has provided a clear line of effort for 75th IC Soldiers to do what we’re meant to do, which is to find potential technology and get that closer to the hands of our warfighters,” Smith said. “xTech has allowed us to see potential technologies right in front of us.”
Military Appreciation with an xTech Edge
Army innovation leaders agree that when it comes to S&T, small and non-traditional entities can be a major source of cutting-edge solutions that the Army is looking for. When the Army has the proper means to identify and accelerate these solutions, the results can be invaluable for Soldier readiness.
“Accessing the talent and technologies of small businesses is a principal means by which the Army seeks to address these challenges and ensure our Soldiers have a superior edge in any future conflict against any foe,” Zandoli said.
In honor of Military Appreciation Month, xTech is proud to support the Army and the innovation leaders who are propelling S&T into the programs necessary for readiness and modernization. For more information on the program, visit the xTech website www.xtechsearch.army.mil.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology provides the American Soldier with a decisive advantage in any mission by developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining the world's finest equipment and services, and by leveraging technologies and capabilities to meet current and future Army needs.