Baltimore, Md. --
Bottom-line themes “lighten the load, energy and affordability” resonated throughout the conference. The two days of presentations and discussions in April encompassed the 2010 Advanced Planning Briefing to Industry (APBI) in Baltimore. This was Marine Corps Systems Command’s (MCSC) and Program Executive Officer Land Systems’ biennial meeting between Corps officials and more than 1,000 industry representatives looking to do business with the military.
Lieutenant General George Flynn, Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration, set the tone. “We’re in a period of change, and the Corps is doing well,” said Flynn, who is also the Commanding General of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
During this period, military and industry alliances will be essential, Flynn stated, if the Marine Corps is to meet its missions today and in the future.
"We need to make smart choices," he said. "Get our requirements right. Get the right vehicles at the right cost. We need to move beyond reset and into modernization. We need to get lighter and get smarter about identifying our requirements. We need to lessen our requirements on energy. All that goes to our partnership with industry and where we are."
Getting more specific, Brigadier General Michael Brogan, MCSC Commander, told the industry representatives, "The Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act [of 2009] has an impact on all of you. There is oversight on [Capitol] Hill and in the [Pentagon]. The burden flows down to program managers and is aimed at major acquisition programs. You have to separate the wheat from the chaff and get down to the kernel.
"We need to mature the acquisition process in the government," Brogan said, "and you will all have to respond to it."
As an example, the Commander described the evolution from Modular Tactical Vests to Scalable Plate Carriers, noting the challenges posed when trying to attain maximum protection without weighing down warfighters in armor. Technological breakthroughs, he explained, also require industry concessions to ensure continued protection for Marines under fire.
"If you respond to our requests for proposal and we pay for research and development costs," Brogan said, "we ought to own the data." He said this would guarantee that the Marine Corps retains the best possible products no matter who won future contracts.
"All this is driven by statutes because Congress says competition will drive down overall costs," the Brigadier General said. "At the subcontract level we must include government oversight and surveillance of the process."
Industry representatives were attentive and eager to participate in the proceedings, as shown in active question-and-answer periods, along with overcapacity workshops. Additional sessions covering Commercial Enterprise Omnibus Support Services, Doing Business with Marine Corps Systems Command, Small Business, and the International Program Directorate had to be scheduled to accommodate demand. That might have steeled the participants for more tough messages as the APBI continued.
"Our goals won't be easy to achieve, but they will be met," said Brian Detter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) Expeditionary Warfare. He said his role is to provide priorities and explain how the service is evolving and how Marines excel in acquisition excellence.
In addition to acquisition reform and making the Navy the leader in unmanned systems, Detter addressed “greening” the department. "Energy reform is a strategic imperative," he said. "We want to cut petroleum use in the vehicle fleet by 50 percent by 2015."
The Deputy Assistant Secretary also listed achievements such as expeditionary energy, body armor and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. Detter stated that for "lighter, affordable, high-quality solutions, Marines lead the way."
Supporting that kind of success costs money, and Lieutenant General Duane Thiessen, Deputy Commandant for Programs and Resources, said the Marine Corps faces "a huge fiscal challenge. Operations cost equipment and cost us money. Our equipment shortfall is $5 billion. The cost to reset – the equipment we have to fix – is $8 billion. This is a challenge; it's a Gordian Knot. Modernization of combat equipment has been delayed.
"It's going to take innovation on [industry’s] part to deal with us,” he said. “We won't have a lot of sensitivity or patience for programs that have runaway costs or don't start at all. The credibility of programs is always on the table because the margin is gone. We need to figure out how to get through this with the assets available. We will get through this by all working together.”