FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Army News Service, Feb. 23, 2012) -- The U.S. Army is immersed in a series of ongoing efforts to find fiscal efficiencies while continuing to harness needed innovation, in many cases, to deliver life-saving technologies to Soldiers in Afghanistan, said the Army's top acquisition official.
Heidi Shyu, acting assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, spoke Feb. 22 to military and industry attendees at the Association of the United States Army Winter Symposium and Exhibition in Fort Lauderdale. She outlined efforts to save money in a constrained budget environment, instill more rigor into the acquisition process, and synchronize requirements with resources and technologically mature solutions throughout the entire procurement process.
"The Army has utilized this process as an opportunity to strategically refine, adjust and adapt to the continuing future demands of our national security. This does not only mean a smaller, leaner force structure. It means that the Army will take this moment to do what it does best -- adapt to changing conditions and demands as we simultaneously support THE decisive land force in the world," Shyu said.
The themes, priorities and specifics cited by Shyu in her remarks were closely aligned with the Pentagon's recently released Defense Strategy, which, among other things, calls for a continued effort to locate efficiencies in a more constrained fiscal environment while preserving the U.S. military's global superiority with a leaner, more agile, technologically advanced force.
Speaking enthusiastically about the need to "seize the moment," Shyu described the new Defense Strategy and resulting budget as an opportunity for Army acquisition to build on its successes and further codify vital improvements made to the acquisition process, such as continuing to work with industry, academic and laboratory partners to keep pace with commercial innovation through a so-called Agile Process approach designed to blend programs of record with promising emerging technologies and, in some cases, commercial off-the-shelf products.
"There's no question that we have entered a new era, presenting both difficult choices and tremendous opportunities. We've reviewed our ongoing programs to mitigate risk by embracing competition, adopting sensible acquisition strategies that reflect more realistic assessments of what a program will cost, and address technological maturity," Shyu said.
While emphasizing the top priority of identifying, developing and leveraging emerging technologies able to provide essential equipment, gear and services to Soldiers, Shyu also cited the Army's role in assisting the Pentagon to save $487 billion across the Department of Defense over the next 10 years.
Along these lines, Shyu said the Army's procurement strategy is engineered to align with the "cost-conscious" culture described by Pentagon leaders such as Frank Kendall, under secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
With this "cost-conscious" approach, the Army continues to institute contract incentives, identify areas of cost savings and cost avoidance in managing and tracking programs, while establishing clear schedule and affordability targets, and making progress with efforts to manage programs according to cost-saving "Should Cost" goals, Shyu said.
Shyu cited several examples of recent, ongoing acquisition programs which have benefited from the Army's new procurement approaches, such as the Ground Combat Vehicle, or GCV, and Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, known as JLTV.
"On the requirements side [for the GCV], we took a critical look at the planned vehicle capabilities to prioritize them with an eye on performance and affordability. The goal was to meet cost and schedule targets by giving industry the necessary trade space to meet Army needs," Shyu declared.
With the JLTV, the Army took steps to ensure that the program was executable and affordable by synchronizing requirements with the Marine Corps and shortening the Engineering Manufacturing and Design, or EMD phase, resulting in improved capability and substantial cost savings for the program, Shyu said.
"We've acknowledged that the right foundation for success is based on sound planning -- we can't succeed unless achievable requirements are matched with stable and well-planned resources under sound program management. This necessary collaboration does not end when programs are launched," she explained.
The Agile Process, which is grounded in a series of semi-annual exercises at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M., called Network Integration Evaluations, or NIE, are helping to streamline the integration, development and procurement of promising new systems, Shyu explained.
Improvements to the Nett Warrior program, for example, are a testament to the NIE process, Shyu added.
"Based on valuable feedback received through the Network Integration Evaluation at Fort Bliss, Texas, the Nett Warrior program was revised last year. We achieved substantial cost savings and additional weight reductions improving Soldier mobility by incorporating hand-held, mobile technology. The program adjustments ended up producing $800 million in savings and the weight was reduced from more than seven pounds to just over three pounds," Shyu said.
In addition to the emphasis upon sound program management and properly aligning requirements and resources with technological maturity and "achievable" goals, Shyu also heavily stressed the need to continue investment in science and technology in order to harness and deliver crucial next-generation Soldier technologies.
For instance, Shyu recounted a recent trip she took to the Natick Soldier Center, Mass., where she described being very impressed with the testing of state-of-the-art fire-resistant Army Combat Uniforms.
"This important gear, now provided to every deploying Soldier, is specially engineered with flame-resistant fabrics safe-guarding our troops for flames, wind and extreme temperatures. Each of these uniforms can provide direct-fire protection and prevent 2nd and 3rd-degree burns. This is one of the many instances of technological innovation which can help protect our Soldiers," Shyu said.
Shyu ended her speech with an inspirational story about how technological innovation in the form of Pelvic Protection Systems -- is saving Soldiers' lives in Afghanistan.
Citing the commitment of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army to protecting Soldiers, Shyu explained how the Army has fielded more than 400,000 Pelvic Protection Systems, or PPS, to Soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. The gear was developed and sent to theater in response to a request for increased protection from blast events impacting the pelvis, femoral arteries and lower abdominal organs.
Near the end of her speech, Shyu recalled a recent visit with wounded warriors in hospitals in Afghanistan, and spoke with great emotion in her voice upon recounting the story of one Soldier who had one of his legs blown off by a huge bomb, but was grateful to be alive.
"He was alive because of the PPS," Shyu said.