Let’s Ask The Questions And Then Go Where The Answers Are
In recent weeks and months, the Army’s Stryker selection for the Brigade Combat Team has once again come under additional scrutiny. The Army, as is its wont, has strenuously defended the selection. But, we still have questions.
The original solicitation was to be an “Off The Shelf/NDI” selection of an existing vehicle to meet the Army’s immediate need for a lighter, more deployable combat vehicle. The entire acquisition was tainted from the start by the Chief of Staff’s October 1999 AUSA convention speech. To quote the words that were later to be taken as gospel by those in the requirements and acquisition community, the Chief said: “Can we, in time go to an all wheel fleet where even the follow-on to today’s armored vehicles can come in at 5O% - 70% less tonnage? I think the answer is yes, and we’re going to ask the questions and then go where the answers are” [Ref 1]. Apparently this was interpreted as a blanket mandate from the Chief for the selection of a wheeled vehicle. The Chief also stated that he would challenge the acquisition community to actually acquire the vehicle in record time, measured against the normal acquisition time lines of years.
The Training and Doctrine Command was a willing participant to give the Chief what he supposedly wanted. TRADOC is responsible for developing the requirements for the Army. They are required to look at changes in training, organization, leadership and other factors before they settle on a materiel solution. If a materiel solution is deemed the only way to satisfy the deficiency, TRADOC is supposed to define the performance requirements in operational terms and embed them in the Operational Requirements Document. In this case, they diverted from their role of developing requirements and putting them out for industry to determine what they could deliver. In the development of the final ORD for the IAVs TRADOC sponsored a Platform Performance Demonstration (PPD) at Ft. Knox. Prospective vehicles were allowed to demonstrate their existing capabilities in a variety of environments to include an obstacle course, by maneuvering through Ft. Knox’s Urban Warfare training area and to demonstrate their swimming capability. At the PPD many vehicles demonstrated performances that exceeded some of the requirements that TRADOC had initially established. As a result of this demonstration process, however, TRADOC lowered many performance parameters, allegedly in the interest of fostering competition [Ref 2]. The final ORD requirements ignored the existence of excess Soviet-era tanks now in many third world hands as a threat to the BCT and prescribed that the Mobile Gun System merely be a “bunker busting” weapon system. Since when has competition become a primary parameter in determining the performance of equipment that will be provided to troops to fight an armed opponent? Meanwhile, TRADOC arranged to lease Canadian LAVs as “surrogate” vehicles, yet no light or medium weight tracked vehicles, although already available at Ft. Lewis, were used to develop potential new tactics, techniques and procedures. Coupling these facts and making an analogy to military law, these elements were clearly demonstrative of an overt “Command Influence” that was exerted on the overall process leading to the release of the solicitation.
The acquisition system takes some lime, and there are valid reasons for that time to be expended. Initial Operational Test and Evaluation and Live Fire Testing are mandatory requirements of the acquisition system designed to ensure that the equipment delivered to soldiers is up to its intended task. The item’s performance in its intended role and its safety must be assured. This testing is still to be performed in the case of the Stryker.
The acquisition system is also structured to insure that the equipment being procured also fills the void in operational capability that has mandated its acquisition. One of the relatively few Key Performance Parameters (KPPs) that the Interim Armored Vehicle had to meet was C-130 transportability. The exact KPP was: The ICV shall have the capability of entering, being transportable in, and exiting a C-130 aircraft under its own power and be capable of immediate combat operations (does not require a full basic load, but is desired). However, there was another IAV performance parameter that reflected an operational impact on C-130 transport, and that was the weight. “The ICV combat capable deployment weight must not exceed 38,000 pounds gross vehicle weight to allow (C-130 transport of 1,000 nautical miles without requiring a USAF waiver for maximum aircraft weight on fixed runways” [Ref 3-126.96.36.199.1.1; 188.8.131.52.1.2] Two other complimentary performance requirements stated for the DXV were: “The combat loaded ICV shall be capable of carrying an Infantry squad (9 soldiers with individual equipment), equipped for any season clothing (cold weather).” and “ICV shall provide space for each squad member, 2 sets of NBC protective clothing and food/water for 72 hours” [Ref 3-3,1,1 .2,2; 184.108.40.206.2.1]. The latter requirement was specified for the crew also. It is clear from these performance requirements that the crew and the squad were to be able to be deployed, with their equipment, on the same C-130 as the vehicle. For the Army to demonstrate the deployment of a Stryker with less than that load to congressional staffers and others is disingenuous. These deployability requirements were designed to demonstrate that the Army was still “relevant” as a part of the country’s defense structure, meeting the deployability profile that became the Army’s benchmark for the BCT. The Chief has often stated the “relevancy” of the Army has been enhanced by the procurement of the Stryker, yet the deployability was the key element of the argument.
Words, however, have a way of changing with the passing of time and with the demands of the moment. A review of the acquisition documents is perhaps appropriate at this juncture in the Stryker debate.
One of the primary elements of the procurement was timeliness. “A critical program objective is to achieve the earliest possible Brigade First Unit Equipped (FUE)/Initial Operational Capability (ICC) of capable IAVs. The Government does not intend to engage in extended variant/configuration development programs. Extended development is considered to be efforts requiring approximately 24 months or longer of development, including Government Test Activity, to complete EMD. Such a development effort would be inconsistent with the RFP’s emphasis on (a) early Brigade Fielding, (b) RDTE funding profiles and (c) the overall program objective to quickly achieve a capable interim force” [Ref 4-M.1.13]. While the basic ICV variant maybe meeting these criteria, others clearly are not. The Engineer Squad vehicle, NBC Recon vehicle, Mortar
Carrier, Medical Evacuation vehicle and the Mobile Gun System are still in development and there are rumors that some of the variants may not be moved into production. The Mobile Gun System will now not enter IOT&E until FY05. The original development funding set aside for the IAVs in the solicitation was $362M spread over FY01 to FY03, when developmental funding ended [Ref 5]. In the FY03 budget submission, the Army requested a total of $565M in developmental funding for the IAVs through FY06 [Ref 6]. While the budget detail includes government support funding as well as training devices, this amounts to a cost growth of 56% in R&D funding alone and such a cost growth should merit a review of the problems that are responsible for the growth. If this were a stand-alone development program not subsumed by the overall $6B program value of the lAV program it would be in a Nunn-McCurdy breach, reportable to Congress.
Again, the Executive Summary of the solicitation was also clear in the need for a quick program execution, stating that: “The Program Objective may be achieved through the acquisition of off-the-shelf equipment, non-developmental items, non-developmental items with integration of components, traditional development, systems’ integration (multiple ground combat vehicles with sustainment solutions or vehicles with non-vehicle solutions), a mix of the aforementioned staggered over time and across variants, or other solutions.” The Executive Summary also specified that: “The Army does not anticipate a lengthy development program and considers extensive development of solutions to be counter to the thrust of this acquisition due to the time, cost and risk associated with such an approach [Ref 7]. This raises the question of where exactly the program is in regard to complying with these execution requirements stressed so directly in the acquisition? It would appear that the program is more in the mode of traditional development than of an “off-the-shelf’ or NDI procurement. A review of the program’s performance should be undertaken to compare it to the “urgent need” the Army professed in its original solicitation to industry.
There were two other elements of the lAV procurement that separated it from a traditional procurement. One was the ability to “block-mod” vehicles so that they could meet all of the required performance parameters. The RFP stated that: “All Performance Requirements other than KPPs (i.e. Band I, Band 2, non-Band I and non-Band 2) must be met no later than delivery of the last vehicle in the 5th Brigade.” Furthermore, “Unless all Performance Requirements are met at the time of initial delivery, offerors will propose by variant/configuration, Block Improvement Options which include remaining Band 1, Band 2 and non-Band 1/non-Band 2 Performance Requirements to be incorporated into production subsequent to Initial Delivery.” Additionally, the government placed itself in the position of having to exercise an option at a potentially higher cost to get the performance it had originally advertised for and supposedly insured by virtue of its selection: “offerors will propose as a Government option a per variant/configuration price (fixed or ceiling) for retrofitting all previously produced IAVs to the Block Improvement design” [Ref 8-M. 220.127.116.11 M. 18.104.22.168]. One would question, however, why there would be a need for any substantive retrofits to meet the stated performance based on the evaluation criteria and if there were, why would the government wait over a period of 5 years for the retrofitted capabilities to be provided to the troops?
The second, major item that separated this procurement from all previous major programs was the provision for a final review from an operational point of view, to whit: “The SSA and the SSAC will, using their best professional and military judgment and consistent with the results of the proposal evaluation and the Basis for Award, make an integrated assessment of the capability of the offerors’ proposals to satisfy the objectives set forth in the BCT Organizational and Operational (O&O) Concept, considering a Combined Arms Company Team. In the event this analysis indicates that the BCT O&O Concept objectives cannot be achieved, the Government reserves the right not to make any award(s) based on this solicitation and to pursue other ICV and/or MGS contract actions” [Ref 9]. This procedure changed the procurement system from a primarily objective system into a purely subjective one. Never before had such an element been clearly inserted into a formal solicitation. While many would argue that such an evaluation has likely been made before at some point within the normal procurement process, this provision ultimately gave the SSA and the SSAC blanket authority to, if need be in their best professional and military judgment, overturn or redirect the traditional, weighted evaluation procedures. This was where the evaluation turned based on the “Operational Road march from Port to AO” cited in the announcement of the Stryker. The scenario used to defend this criterion as the ultimate evaluation factor was a scenario much like the Chief of Staff had endured in Yugoslavia where the Russian wheeled vehicles beat the U.S. Forces to the airfield at Pristina. Another clear case of “undue command influence.” The roads from Kabul to Kandahar don’t quite fit the paved road movement scenario supporting the critically required intra-theater on-road speed capability of the Stryker.
The last and most important duty of the acquisition community is to be a smart buyer for the taxpayer s money. When one looks just a little harder at the pronouncements made about the selection of the Stryker the expertise of the acquisition comes into question. The Army has amassed a massive database of mobility criteria in different types of terrain, validated human factors models and physics model that should have been able to predict something as basic as the transport weight of the proposed vehicle. In the briefing accompanying the selection of the lAV, it is ironic that the neither the media nor anyone else raised any questions that the transport weight of the Mortar Carrier came within 16 lbs of the maximum C-130 transport weight and the Mobile Gun System came in at exactly the 38,000lb limit, [Ref 10] If the internal technical expertise of the Army was proficient in their specialties and had all the modeling tools at their fingertips during the selection process, why has any question whatsoever arisen about the C-130 transportability of the Stryker? The Army in the source selection process selected a vehicle that, according to the solicitation, was to be C-ISO transportable without waiver. Current OSD documents reveal that the Mobile Gun System is currently 3,000 lbs overweight and another $16M in R&D funding is being devoted to weight reduction that will delay the Mobile Gun System until FY05 [Ref 11]. What changed from the vehicle analyzed and selected by the internal experts from the Army that was originally deemed capable of meeting its needs for the BCT?
In recent statements, both the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Army have both clearly and unequivocally stated that the decision has been made in the case of the Stryker and it’s time to move on. In his speech at this year’s AUSA convention, when he came to the Stryker, the Chief said: “Look at our numbers, challenge our metrics question our analytics, they’re all on review.” The bottom line is that that is what we’d like to have done: a thorough examination of the program execution and the actual capabilities of the Stryker — what’s been advertised versus what’s being delivered and at what cost. To hearken back to the Chiefs first AUSA speech, we’d like “to ask the questions and then go where the answers are.”