New joint forces office expects to speed technology to the field

The processes used by the Defense Department’s Joint Forces Command for buying cutting-edge technology have a reputation for being cumbersome and difficult. But the new Office of Research and Technology Applications expects to accelerate the time it takes to bring innovative hardware and software to the DOD market.

DOD last month gave JFCOM a broad set of technology transfer authorities to circumvent the lengthy requirements that often accompany doing business with industry.

“We are working to establish the proper business rules to structure partnerships with industry,” said JFCOM commander Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., speaking recently at the JFCOM Symposium 2005, co-sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association.

“As we move to a more interdependent, networked force, we see a need to more aggressively seek out the best ideas from technical experts who understand what the joint operator needs,” Giambastiani said. “Until now, though, our relationship with industry has been governed by a formal and cumbersome acquisition process. As a result, I know that some members in industry have found it difficult to interact with joint operators to share information.”

A decade ago, DOD designed the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations program to speed up technology acquisitions, Giambastiani said, but “some would argue that it hasn’t.”

Bob Grosvenor, vice president for programs at NDIA’s Greater Hampton Roads chapter, said his organization welcomes the technology transfer authorities soon coming to the research office.

“Right now, it just takes a very long time. With a long acquisition process, by the time you actually decide you’re going to buy something, it’s old technology,” Grosvenor said. “By having technology transfer authority, they will shorten that cycle significantly. It remains to be seen how direct they can be on it and tell the services, this is what we need you to do.”

Same wavelength

The goal is to get better, integrated technologies to warfighters in battle, added Maj. Gen. Charles N. Simpson, director of joint integration and interoperability at JFCOM. For example, the military currently has 750,000 radios, but many can’t talk to one another.

Simpson said JFCOM and the rest of DOD are moving to open architectures and will not be buying proprietary products in the future.

“Joint things work together seamlessly, regardless of who made them, regardless of who maintains them, regardless of who operates them,” Simpson said. “The power of a joint force is greater than the sum of the services. If we don’t get jointness right ... we’re deadly wrong.”

John Todaro, DOD’s director of the Office of Technology Transition, said the command is designated as a national laboratory for the purposes of technology transfer only. The transfers will help the command exchange personnel, technical data and technology assessments with vendors, academia and other national and international research laboratories, officials said.

To help manage the new process, JFCOM is establishing the research office to coordinate and manage the command’s technology transfer activities. Russell Richards of JFCOM’s Joint Ex-perimentation Directorate will lead the new office.

The new authorities “give us the opportunity to show them new technologies and new products, and it allows us to focus on the things they need to field to the warfighter,” Grosvenor said.

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