March 14, 2014 -- By Jim Katzaman, MCSC Corporate Communications
Counter-improvised explosive device systems come in many shapes and sizes, all of which have saved lives in Southwest Asia. Now the changing face of the fight and budget constraints demand paring down the array of C-IED systems to those that prevent the most bang for the buck.
The task for taking a hard look at the explosive detectors is in the analytical eyes within the C-IED War Room formed at Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va. There, specialists ranging from cost analysts, systems engineers, database developers and C-IED analysts take inventory of what systems best protect Marines and merit carryover to future conflicts.
Together they faced a challenge: Given the significant funding reduction after Operation Enduring Freedom and the rebalance to the Pacific, the team had to develop a way to assess paths forward from what had grown into a huge array of counter-IED equipment.
Out of more than 90 C-IED systems used in OEF, fewer than 35 types of programs remain in the budget, according to Kyle Ratliff, a cost analyst with MCSC Programs. Cutting out unneeded or redundant systems is the war room’s task.
“We identified systems the Marine Corps was using regardless of whether they were used jointly or just by Marines,” Ratliff said. “Some Marines didn’t think of some equipment as C-IED systems because they were used for other reasons. That’s where we stepped in and used funding constraints to prioritize what to keep and what not to keep.”
As much as possible, the team worked from the perspective of Marines on the ground.
“The war room’s job is to make sure we identify the best mix of systems that will work for Marines,” said Dave Karcher, project officer for Energy and C-IED systems.
The war’s room’s work is complex—and essential—because the Marine Corps and Army have different schedules and support structures as they withdraw from Afghanistan, Karcher added.
“We’re mapping our capability to the priorities of the Marine Corps, “he said. “We came up with a tool set and process to give recommendations and assessments. These provide technical justification for decisions to be made on the overall C-IED system.”
One of the tools is the C-IED War Room itself, situated next to MCSC headquarters at Quantico, Va. From their work, which fills four walls, the group will issue a series of recommendations over time, according to Jeff Kent, C-IED War Room lead.
“We want to be agile because the threat is changing,” he said.
One thing not changing is the weight the average Marine can bear. Here, too, the C-IED War Room has done its part to lighten the load.
“A lot of the C-IED equipment is heavy,” Kent said. “This was our opportunity to lighten things up for the Marine Corps. Rather than buy one more item, maybe we could use two pieces of equipment already in use to make the system work.”
To help the C-IED team make the best recommendation, they have tapped into the Framework for Assessment of Cost and Technology modeling and simulation server. A C-IED tool will run on FACT to verify the group’s proposals.
Although the war room team has almost finished two phases of assessments and prepared recommendations, their work will continue in some form for the foreseeable future.
“We accomplished what we set out to do, but the effort continues,” Kent said. “We’ll always need to enhance and maintain our database. Wrapping up what we’re doing here is actually ramping up to build upon our work.”