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Marine Corps Systems Command

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MCB Quantico, Va.
‘Innovation is a mindset’

By Jim Katzaman, MCSC Corporate Communications | | April 9, 2014

Noting “there is a great deal of mutual support across all of our systems commands,” Brig. Gen. Frank Kelley, commander, Marine Corps Systems Command, said innovation is primarily a mindset.

He spoke April 8 during the “Innovation and Supporting the Warfighter” panel at the Sea-Air-Space Expo at National Harbor, Md., just outside Washington, D.C. The Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition brings the U.S. defense industrial base, private-sector U.S. companies and key military decision makers together for the annual gathering.

Kelley was one of seven Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps senior leaders who highlighted what their organizations are doing for innovation. They also talked about how industry partners can join them to creatively and efficiently bring systems with lethality, survivability and readiness to the warfighter.

“We really do need to think about our jobs and how we can do them differently,” Kelley said. “Innovation is a mindset. It’s about the way we think.”

Modularity and innovation go hand in hand, he explained. The Marine Corps Improved Modular Tactical Vest; Route Reconnaissance and Clearance Robot Program; Polymer Case Technology; and Enhanced Combat Helmet were all examples he pointed to of modularity and innovation coming together.

“Modularity scales not only in size but also in complexity,” he said.

For forward-looking technology, MCSC has come to depend on its Framework for Assessing Cost and Technology, or FACT, according to Kelley, adding that the software program brings new capability to MCSC reaching far beyond conventional application of modeling and simulation. He said it was a key element in the just-completed study of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle.

“FACT has a lot of potential for MCSC and other systems commands as well,” Kelley said.

A questioner later asked what steps the command was taking not to overwhelm warfighters with a barrage of new technology. The general responded by citing the Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad, part of MCSC’s Deputy Commander for Systems Engineering, Interoperability, Architectures and Technology, which is headed by Jim Smerchansky, chief engineer of the Marine Corps.

“MERS is led by Mark Richter, who is a retired Marine,” Kelley said. “Its Gruntworks site does prototyping to bring Marines in early on technological developments.”

As another panel member noted, getting inputs from Soldiers, Sailors and Marines at the first stages of development means it will cost far less to make changes as opposed to making alterations at the other end of the process.

“You need to think a little differently out there,” he said. “If you say, ‘That approach won’t work for us,’ ask yourselves why not.”