Army picks two for tech to lighten soldiers' loads

Objective Force Warrior Web site

The Army, which is seeking to transform its troops into a more agile force, has selected two lead integrators to compete for the opportunity to create technology that will enable soldiers to fight more effectively while carrying less of a load.

Eagle Enterprise Inc. of Westminster, Md., an arm of Defense contracting giant General Dynamics Corp., and Exponent Inc. of Menlo Park, Calif., on Aug. 29 were both awarded $7.5 million contracts for the concept development phase of the Objective Force Warrior.

Objective Force Warrior, one of the Army's flagship science and technology initiatives, seeks to develop and demonstrate revolutionary capabilities that will enable Army soldiers to do more while carrying less. The goal is to reduce the weight of the combat soldier's load from 100 pounds to less than 50 pounds by 2008.

Much as the Army's Future Combat System focuses on using technology to create a more mobile yet more lethal force, Objective Force Warrior will make it possible to deploy troops and equipment more quickly. The Objective Force Warrior seeks to do the same for soldiers, so they can be lighter on their feet.

Objective Force Warrior covers work on multifunction sensors, networked communications, positioning navigation, and unmanned air and ground systems.

"Our challenge is to help them be the most survivable and lethal soldiers in the world, to complete their missions with a goal of a 40-pound fighting load in all terrain and weather conditions, with a long-term goal of getting the soldiers' fighting load [down] to 15 pounds," said A. Michael Andrews, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for research and technology, in a statement to Federal Computer Week.

Objective Force Warrior applies the "systems of systems" approach in concepts, designs and technology demonstrations for soldiers, said Scott Myers, vice president of Eagle Enterprise.

That approach requires a change in thinking, Myers said. "There are clearly a lot of new challenges here," he said, because you have to design for a distributed communication network and a computational network.

The two teams must present their concepts by April.

During this eight-month phase, the two competing integrator teams will work with the Army to develop the Objective Force Warrior concept design and systems of systems architecture.

In the second phase, the Army will select a single lead technology integrator that will complete preliminary and detailed designs, and then integrate component technologies.

Myers said it would be important for the Objective Force Warrior program to keep tabs on the work being done with the Future Combat System, because the two will need to be compatible.

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The Objective Force Warrior program seeks to demonstrate technologies for lightweight gear for Army soldiers, including:

* Integrated, multifunction sensors.

* Networked communications.

* Collaborative situational awareness.

* Enhanced positioning navigation.

* Medical status monitoring.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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