By Lt. Col. Brian C. Stehle, AH-64E Apache Block III Product ManagerJanuary 30, 2013
"Sir! Sir!" my backseater screamed at me. Regaining my faculties, I realized we were already in the thick of it. Lucky for me, the blast shield took the brunt of the blow. My backseater kept it together and eliminated the immediate threat with a quick burst of 30mm. Now I had to assess the situation and take control.
I checked the Tactical Situation Display and saw the battlefield was sectored and prepared to engage. Then it hit me. You're in Army Acquisition now! This doesn't apply to you! Or does it?
Offense -- The Decisive Form of Battle
Since I've transitioned to the Acquisition Corps, I've frequently heard many refer to it as
'Corporate Army'. But this attitude, although visible in some individuals, is absolutely wrong. Everything that goes into making a great attack aviator translates almost directly into acquisition. And if this leadership attitude is spread, Army aviation and acquisition stands to benefit even in the midst of economic turmoil.
Offense is taking action to make things happen. It is up to acquisition leadership to continue to take the offensive. Continuous intelligence preparation of the battlefield is required. And, just as in the operational force, intelligence drives maneuver.
The acquisition corps, however, has a different battle space in which it operates. Different forces, procedures, regulations, rules of engagement, and policies shape our operations. Understanding this process is the foundation for setting up successful systems that provide capabilities to the Soldier.
There are many functions required within the program office. Program management, contracting, logistics, engineering, resourcing, budget, safety and a host of other functional areas are required to succeed as a team. Just as crew chiefs and maintainers, pilots, safety, instructors, armament and the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) combine to bring power to bear; acquisition requires the same diligence from all its members. Some functions support individual areas, while others are interwoven throughout. However, they are all interdependent.
The Apache Development and Modernization Product Management Office (PMO) aligns with the Program Manager for Advanced Attack Helicopter, Program Executive Office for Aviation Aviation, Department of the Army, and Department of Defense modernization strategies. This nesting concept is the same as operational commanders supporting the higher commander's mission and intent. Vertical and horizontal alignment ensures comprehensive coverage of the operation area.
Sectoring the Battlefield
The Development and Modernization PMO is divided into focus areas to help sector roles and responsibilities. Each focus area functions similar to an individual aircraft. Where aircraft perform separate roles within the same basic attack mission, the PMO focus areas perform different roles within the same basic program management/acquisition mission. These focus areas are aligned to support the Apache Modernization Strategy. Whether in a line company or in the PMO, it is just as critical to know left and right limits, team members and priority of engagements.
In the accompanying sketch (Diagram A), individual targets represent technologies and may fall within multiple focus areas. Each target will be assigned a single OIPT lead for tracking and engagement, but have continued surveillance and support from other focus areas.
Technical Expertise and Execution
Two acronyms pertain to attack operations -- RSAILS and SWARM. RSAILS (Recorder, Search, Acquire, Identify, Laze and Store) is used when trying to locate enemy forces. SWARM (Site, Weapon, Arm, Range, Messages) is used for weapons engagement. Acquisition can apply similar mnemonics to help in the execution.
The first acronym, RSAILS, can serve the same purpose with only minor differences. It is used to identify potential technologies used for advancement.
Requirements -- This step is the start point for every acquisition. The TRADOC Capabilities Manager (TCM) is responsible for identifying and prioritizing the requirements. Continuous communication between the TCM and PMO is essential to ensure alignment in the acquisition process. And once identified, requirements need to be recorded to maintain visibility and potential execution to satisfy capability gaps.
Search -- Active pursuit by the program office to determine potential technologies is required. There are numerous sources of potential technologies. Industry Internal Research and Development (IRAD), Research Development and Engineering Centers (RDECs), and other program offices are all pursuing solutions and may be a source of collaboration and synergy. Most of these technologies are identified through research, business development or Requests for Information (RFIs). But without actively seeking them, these opportunities may be missed.
Acquire (find) -- Not to be confused with procuring products, acquire refers to engaging organizations and opening communication.
Identify -- Refers to determining if acquired (found) technologies may be beneficial in covering capability gaps.
Link -- Align technologies with capability gaps.
Store - These aligned technologies and gaps must be stored (recorded) to maintain visibility for execution.
SWARM refers to engagements. In acquisition, engagement refers to management and execution of a project. Instead of SWARM, the PMO can use RUFCAT (Requirements, Understanding, Funding, Contract, Agency, Technologies).
Requirements -- As stated earlier, intelligence drives maneuver. Requirements are the intelligence to help focus the program office.
Understanding -- Just because requirements have been stated does not mean they are understood. It is up to the TCM and PMO to ensure the required capability is understood. This interchange must be continuous. It is imperative to translate capability into materiel solutions.
Funding -- An essential element in acquisition planning, funding requires diligence from the PMO to accurately assess amount, type and need dates of dollars to execute. An analysis of the Program Objective Memorandum (POM) timeline to include execution, budget and POM years shows a similar diagram to the engagement fan of the Apache (Diagram B).
Just as pilots need to prioritize targets, so must the PMO. As can be inferred, nearer targets, such as the execution and budget years are generally a higher priority requiring much more scrutiny. This, however, does not preclude having high priority targets in the out years. In fact, failure to focus appropriately and engage targets at further ranges will eventually create problems the office may not be able to overcome as the engagement range shortens.
Conversely, there are instances when technological advances pop up at close range and require immediate PMO attention.
Regardless of the timing or level of complexity of a project, the PMO is ultimately responsible for ensuring appropriate types and quantities of funding are available.
Contract -- The primary weapon system of the PMO is the contract. The contract enables the government to team with industry partners to convert funding to materiel solutions. Like the Hellfire missile variants, there are many types of contracts and each is used for different targets. Acquisition professionals will be wise to know them and master their employment.
Agency -- Refers to the organization with primary responsibility for the management and oversight of the contract. Some projects span multiple PMOs. Knowing the main and supporting efforts ensures that the effort is not duplicated and funding is not wasted.
Technologies -- The final aspect to providing a materiel solution is to understand the technologies that may provide required capabilities.
Area of Operations -- In Context
This article only begins to touch the surface of how to apply the attack mentality to the acquisition arena. It does not address further concepts such as the entire Area of Operations (AO), supporting functions, and government/industry teaming. Those topics would require several more articles. It is, however, important to note that the PMO is part of a larger operation and understanding the complex relationships can make one more successful.
Winning wars requires a concerted focus by all. It is up to the PMO to maintain the attack aviator ethos. This effort ensures America retains the premier attack helicopter in the world, employed by her greatest resource -- the Soldier.