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Photo Information

At Marine Corps Systems Command’s (MCSC) 25th anniversary commemoration, Brigadier General Frank Kelley, MCSC Commander, addresses “Plankowners” and members of the Command. For the anniversary, MCSC considers Plankowners as those employees who have continuously worked for the Command since its establishment in November 1987.

Photo by Bill W Johnson-Miles

Silver Anniversary: MCSC celebrates 25 years of acquisition excellence

16 Nov 2012 | By Bill Johnson-Miles, Marine Corps Systems Command

QUANTICO, Va.   — Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) is celebrating a quarter century of acquisition excellence during November. MSCS traces its beginning to the Marine Corps Research, Development and Acquisition Command (MCRDAC), which the Marine Corps established Nov. 18, 1987, as required by the Goldwater Nichols Act.

"I congratulate Marine Corps Systems Command on the occasion of their 25th Anniversary," said General James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps. "Since General Gray [General Alfred Gray, then-Commandant of the Marine Corps] established the Marine Corps Research, Development and Acquisition Command in November 1987, MCSC has streamlined the systems acquisition process, incorporated the operating forces in identifying deficiencies and established clear lines of authority, responsibility and accountability."

Before MCRDAC, the acquisition process did not work as well as the Marine Corps wanted. General Gray discussed this inadequacy 25 years ago.

"The current process, which has evolved over a number of years, is less responsive to the needs of the operating forces than desired, is not well suited to the streamlining initiatives occurring within the DOD  [Department of Defense] and is slow to exploit emerging technology,” Gray said in an all-Marine message (ALMAR) to the fleet on the day MCRDAC was established. “Greater involvement of the operating forces in identifying deficiencies in existing systems and in defining new requirements is required. The time it takes to translate a requirement into a developmental effort must be shortened to ensure that technology advances are not encumbered by a lengthy staffing and review process. The number of entities involved in the research, development and acquisition process must be kept to an absolute minimum to ensure that combat systems are fielded to meet the threat and are logistically supportable, affordable and acquired in a timely way."

“Commandant General Al Gray recognized the requirement to formalize our acquisition process and provide career status for our acquisition specialists, which resulted in MCRDAC,” said General John Dailey (retired), MCRDAC Commanding General from October 1989 to July 1990 and the former Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Mr. James Webb, then-Secretary of the Navy, approved the CMC’s request to establish MCRDAC.

"You have my best wishes for every success in this new and significant endeavor,” Webb said in a memorandum for the CMC dated Nov. 12, 1987. “It holds much promise for improving the way we develop, procure and support equipment for our Fleet Marine Forces."
In addition to improving the acquisition process, MCRDAC was organized to comply with DOD and Department of the Navy initiatives, according to the Marine Corps History Division. MCRDAC took the majority of the following separate activities and integrated them into one: the Development Center at Quantico, Va., the current Headquarters Marine Corps staff of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Research, Development and Studies, and the Acquisition Division of the Deputy Chief of Staff of Installations and Logistics. A little more than four years later, as directed by Marine Corps Order 5000, on Jan. 1, 1992, the Corps re-designated MCRDAC as MCSC.

“Marine Corps Systems Command has responsibility for those processes and functions that involve system acquisition and life cycle management formerly assigned to HQMC [Headquarters Marine Corps], MARCORLOGBASES [Marine Corps logistic bases] and MCRDAC," said General Carl Mundy, then-CMC, in an ALMAR on Feb. 3, 1992. “The establishment of MCSC is intended to streamline the acquisition and LCM [life cycle management] processes in such a way as to improve readiness of the Fleet Marine Force [FMF], increase responsiveness and support for the FMF, and reduce costs."

Throughout its 25-year history the Command has taken on more and more responsibilities. In 1990 the assault amphibious vehicle program transferred from the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). In 1995 automated manpower and logistics support systems migrated from HQMC and mission requirements for Total Life Cycle Support emerged. In 2001 the Application Support Branch transferred from HQMC, and the Command implemented a new realignment. Two years later MCSC moved into its remodeled facility at Hospital Point. In 2007 the Marine Corps established Program Executive Officer (PEO) Land Systems, fully supported by MCSC. In fact, the Command currently supports multiple PEOs within DOD. In 2011 the MCSC completed its transition to a competency-aligned organization, and this year the Command changed its program management offices and evolved to its current structure.

Over the years and through all the changes the Command has continuously been the Commandant’s agent for acquisition and sustainment of systems and equipment used to accomplish the Marine Corps warfighting mission.

"Marines around the globe appreciate MCSC's often unsung efforts in providing the Corps the right equipment at the right time to accomplish the mission," Amos said. "MCSC enables a technological advantage that helps Marines shoot straighter, move faster and communicate more effectively so they can continue to win the Nation's battles in every clime and place, every time."

The Command reports to the CMC for in-service support, operating forces support and the execution of logistics sustainment. For research, development and acquisition matters, MCSC reports directly to Mr. Sean Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (ASN) for Research, Development and Acquisition (RDA). The Command serves as the Department of the Navy's systems command for Marine Corps ground weapon and information technology system programs in order to equip and sustain Marine forces with full-spectrum, current and future expeditionary and crisis response capabilities.

“Marine Corps Systems Command continues to provide invaluable support to the Marine Corps by its relentless focus on equipping our warfighters with the tools they need to defend the Nation, and when their mission is complete, to return home safely,” said Mr. Stackley. “The team of professionals who make up Marine Corps Systems Command, both military and civilian, perform well beyond their numbers. They operate by the highest standards of the Corps – strong warrior ethos, strong work ethic and an iron grip on every dollar within their reach. Under tough fiscal constraints, MCSC is leading in the drive to place greater care in determining ‘what we buy’ and greater weight on improving ‘how we buy what we buy.’”

From its inception as MCRDAC, through the transition to MCSC, providing the warfighter the wherewithal to execute the mission has been the top priority for its professional workforce and their supported partners.

“I would describe the last 25 years as a period of steady growth in the professional skills and abilities of our workforce, including both the Marines and civilian employees who form the Marine Corps Systems Command team,” said Richard Bates, MCSC Assistant Commander for Programs. “What began as a fledging acquisition organization in 1987, made up of separate elements of the Service Headquarters, the former Development Center and program offices from Navy systems commands, has evolved into a well-designed and efficient acquisition organization staffed with highly qualified acquisition professionals in both MCSC and in our supported Program Executive Offices.”

This professional staff is the Command’s heartbeat, as pointed out by top leadership.

“MCSC's outstanding team of civilian and active-duty Marines routinely delivers superior results despite short timelines and limited resources,” Amos said. “Over the past decade at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, their efforts have materially contributed to our many victories and have without a doubt saved lives on the battlefield."

“Through their excellence over the last 25 years in the acquisition and sustainment of the systems and equipment for the warfighting mission,” Mr. Stackley added, “this Command enables the Marine Corps to continue to be the most capable expeditionary fighting force in the world.”

Marine Corps Systems Command