September 27, 2013 -- By Jim Katzaman, MCSC Corporate Communications
“An opportunity to position yourself for success” was the proposition for industry leaders Sept. 26 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. They came to hear the annual Report to Industry at the Modern Day Marine Military Exposition.
Brig. Gen. Frank Kelley, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, presented and moderated a panel discussion that offered insights from key Marine senior officers to companies exhibiting at the expo.
“We’re looking for your feedback and questions,” Kelley told the industry representatives. “At Marine Corps Systems Command we work for and serve every one of the panelists here today. We have highly dedicated people with one thing on their minds: serving our Marines. These are the kinds of folks you want to do business with. We want you to share your perspective with us.”
The Modern Day Marine Military Exposition is sponsored by the Marine Corps League and hosted and supported by Marine Corps Base Quantico and Marine Corps Systems Command. MCSC is the Department of the Navy’s systems command for Marine Corps ground weapon and information technology systems. It is also the Marine Corps commandant's agent for acquisition and sustainment of warfighting systems and equipment.
In addition to Kelley, the Report to Industry panel included Brig. Gen. John Jansen, assistant deputy commandant for Programs and Resources; Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck Jr., deputy commandant for Combat, Development and Integration; Lt. Gen. William Faulkner, deputy commandant for Installations and Logistics; and Bill Taylor, program executive officer for Land Systems.
“Right now we’re at great risk of being a nation with our capability eroding out from underneath us,” said Jansen, referring to budget restraints affecting the federal government. “There are challenges to our warfighting capabilities across the board.”
He noted how the Marine Corps and the rest of the Department of Defense has had to come to grips with continuing resolutions, sequestration and the threat of government shutdown, all while trying to maintain a viable military force.
“Our commandant’s priorities are to maintain our forward presence and current readiness,” Jansen said. “To do that, we will have to accept risk in major combat operations.”
That acceptance has led to the Marine Corps lowering its projected fighting force much below its planned 182,200 basement.
“We’re building a 174,000-man and -woman Marine Corps,” the general said. “That’s the force the commandant thinks the nation needs right now. It’s the force the nation can afford.”
He noted that “the competition for resources is always a Darwinian environment. Sequestration is hyper that. It all comes down to cost and performance. Our ability to adapt and perform is the recipe for success in this environment.”
Faulkner echoed Jansen’s words. The deputy commandant for Installations and Logistics said of the current fiscal climate, “That’s the harsh reality.” He also said “the commandant commented at length about industry as an enabler” for the Marine Corps to meet its mission in constricted times.
“What is certain is that the Marine Corps will continue to be ready, fully employed and credible,” Faulkner said. “Tight resources are our incentive to make changes we need to make in the Corps.”
Paring down to the 174,000 warfighter force will place an even greater emphasis on lightening the load – long a goal of senior leaders who will take long, hard looks at cutting the fat at every opportunity.
“We must offload excess equipment,” Faulkner said. “We need to trim the numbers and size of equipment that’s not necessary. We need to be agile, flexible and get there early without any excess equipment.”
To that end, he said in the last 18 months the Marine Corps reduced its equipment footprint in Afghanistan by 67 percent. He said the commandant “has a sense of urgency” to get equipment out of Afghanistan, back to the depots and off to the Pacific as soon as possible.
“We have a priority of effort,” Faulkner said. “But in the near term we’re going to have to live with what’s good enough.”
What is “good enough” will depend heavily on what visionaries at Marine Corps Combat, Development and Integration believe will do the job.
“We develop concepts,” Glueck said. “From concepts we develop capabilities, so we have concept-based requirements. We’ve gone from being expeditionary to ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now we’re going back to expeditionary. We really are going back to the future.
“The mission the commandant gave us is to respond to today’s crisis with today’s force and do it today,” the general said. “That means for every month deployed our Marines will be home two months. That will be hard on our career force, but that’s what’s required.”
The commandant’s focus on readiness comes at a price, according to Glueck, which is why partnering with industry will be even more crucial going forward.
“We need to become smarter in our procurement,” he said. “We will continue to do the same level of effort – if not more – but with a smaller force. We’ll need support and sustainment to carry out operations. We’ll need to work with industry to determine what will be good enough to help us meet the mission.”
AT PEO LS, Taylor said his portfolio is small with some significantly large programs.
“We act as a consultant and collaborate with headquarters Marine Corps on how to handle reductions,” he said.
He gave a snapshot of the PEO LS portfolio of programs as it stands today, citing the command’s budget authority in excess of $5 billion. In the PEO LS organizational view, Taylor said the command helps MCSC be agile and responsive to budgetary pressures. He concentrated on progress in major programs such as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle; Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar; Common Aviation Command and Control Systems; and others. Then he turned to business opportunities available mostly in fiscal 2014.
“When we factor in continuing resolutions and restrictions of laws and policies, it takes an average of 270 days to complete the procurement process,” he said. “That’s why we constantly award contracts in the fourth quarter.”
The key for going forth at MCSC is preparation, according to Kelley.
“In the last year, Systems Command has emphasized plan, plan, plan, plan and plan again,” he said. “We need executable plans. This does not get done without industry.
“How does this end?” he asked about current fiscal concerns. “It doesn’t end. If you look at our ups and downs since the 1940s, you’ll see we were due for a turndown.”
Then Kelley addressed the industry representatives who want details about future programs, advising them to watch and react to real-world conditions.
“When you get the answer, ‘I don’t know,’ see that as an opportunity,” he said. “If you see us going back to the sea, don’t try to sell us a 70,000-pound vehicle that doesn’t fit aboard a ship. We have time to work with you. This is an opportunity to collaborate.”