2
Assessment of the Commodity Directorates

This chapter presents the committee's assessment of the three commodity directorates at the Natick RDEC (i.e., the Mobility, Survivability, and Sustain-ability Directorates).1 The assessment was conducted relative to the five pillars and the associated characteristics and metrics for world-class performance by an Army RD&E organization (refer to Chapter 1 and Appendix C for summaries of the pillars, characteristics, and metrics). Following a discussion of the assessment process, this chapter is organized by pillars and their associated characteristics. Each directorate is discussed in terms of each characteristic. A summary is presented at the end of each pillar, along with an indication of trend (vector).

Assessment Process

Mobility Directorate

The committee sent a questionnaire to MobD (with related questions for STD and ASCD) in April 1996. The questions were formulated in light of (a) the five pillars and associated characteristics and metrics for a world-class Army RD&E organization from the committee's phase-one report, and (b) the ten key issues shown in Table 1-1. (See Chapter 1, footnote 3, regarding questions and answers.) The answers were reviewed by the committee in preparation for a visit to MobD, which took place on June 3 to 5, 1996. More than half of the personnel in MobD, including the director and his staff in the two management offices, were interviewed. Staff members of all work teams that composed the main elements of the MobD organization were also interviewed.

The visiting members of the committee split into three interview groups, organization and resources, quality and customer satisfaction, and research and technology. During the on-site visit, these groups covered both questions prepared in advance and questions that arose naturally during the interviews. At times, the interviewers presented the metrics for a particular characteristic and asked the

1  

General references for this chapter are Brandler, 1996; Darsch, 1996; Doucette, 1996; and Granchelli, 1996.



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--> 2 Assessment of the Commodity Directorates This chapter presents the committee's assessment of the three commodity directorates at the Natick RDEC (i.e., the Mobility, Survivability, and Sustain-ability Directorates).1 The assessment was conducted relative to the five pillars and the associated characteristics and metrics for world-class performance by an Army RD&E organization (refer to Chapter 1 and Appendix C for summaries of the pillars, characteristics, and metrics). Following a discussion of the assessment process, this chapter is organized by pillars and their associated characteristics. Each directorate is discussed in terms of each characteristic. A summary is presented at the end of each pillar, along with an indication of trend (vector). Assessment Process Mobility Directorate The committee sent a questionnaire to MobD (with related questions for STD and ASCD) in April 1996. The questions were formulated in light of (a) the five pillars and associated characteristics and metrics for a world-class Army RD&E organization from the committee's phase-one report, and (b) the ten key issues shown in Table 1-1. (See Chapter 1, footnote 3, regarding questions and answers.) The answers were reviewed by the committee in preparation for a visit to MobD, which took place on June 3 to 5, 1996. More than half of the personnel in MobD, including the director and his staff in the two management offices, were interviewed. Staff members of all work teams that composed the main elements of the MobD organization were also interviewed. The visiting members of the committee split into three interview groups, organization and resources, quality and customer satisfaction, and research and technology. During the on-site visit, these groups covered both questions prepared in advance and questions that arose naturally during the interviews. At times, the interviewers presented the metrics for a particular characteristic and asked the 1   General references for this chapter are Brandler, 1996; Darsch, 1996; Doucette, 1996; and Granchelli, 1996.

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--> interviewees to indicate which one best fit MobD. These self-assessments prompted helpful discussions by MobD personnel. Following the on-site visit, the committee synthesized the written answers provided by RDEC management and the results of the on-site interviews to arrive at the judgments reflected in this assessment. On February 10 to 13, 1997, the committee revisited the Natick RDEC, at which time a brief follow-up assessment of MobD was conducted for the following reasons. First, at the time of the initial visit, the committee's phase-one report had not yet been published and, consequently, the metrics and processes had not been finalized. Second, MobD was the first directorate to be assessed, and the initial visit was partly used to evaluate and refine the interview process. Third, the committee wanted to be updated on major changes that might have occurred since the earlier visit. On the second visit (February 1997), the committee was able to interview the MobD director, the associate director, the head of the business management office, and a senior scientist. Although the interviews did not produce a thorough reassessment of MobD, they yielded much useful information. The results of the second visit were not used to alter the earlier assessments but to indicate trends since the earlier visit. Survivability Directorate Assessment of SurD proceeded in a manner very similar to the process described above. Specifically, the assessment process included formal written questions submitted in June 1996 that were answered before the visit. The site visit took place on September 25 to 27, 1996, and included laboratory tours and interviews with SurD personnel. The director, members of the business management office, and some management and staff of the main elements within the SurD organization were interviewed. The committee was given short guided tours of the various laboratories in SurD, as well as of the STD laboratories that support SurD. The interviews were again conducted by three groups (i.e., organization and resources, quality and customer satisfaction, and research and technology) in parallel sessions. Following the on-site visit, the committee synthesized the written answers provided by the RDEC management and the results of the on-site interviews. Sustainability Directorate Assessment of SusD followed the pattern described above. The committee sent a set of questions in September 1996 and reviewed the answers prior to the site visit, which took place on December 3 and 4, 1996. Tours of SusD

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--> laboratories were included. The director and his staff were interviewed, as well as management and staff members of each main element of the SusD organization. After the on-site visit, the committee synthesized the information. Resources and Capabilities Pillar Characteristics of the Resources and Capabilities Pillar Personnel Quality Budget RD&E Capabilities, Skills, Talents Use of External Resources Important Technologies Organizational Climate Information Technology Facilities and Infrastructure See the metrics for each of the above characteristics in Table C-2. This section is organized into subsections presenting the assessment of each commodity directorate for each of the eight characteristics of the Resources and Capabilities Pillar (see accompanying box). An assessment for the entire pillar appears at the end of the section. Personnel Quality Mobility Directorate The committee determined that MobD staff members are motivated and committed. MobD personnel were able to highlight several programs where their work had exceeded customer expectations (e.g., the guided parafoil aerial delivery system [light]). MobD offers ample opportunities for personnel to upgrade or acquire new skills, and personnel have good connections with external technical and scientific communities (e.g., the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, National Parachute Technology Council, and Parachute Industry Association). However, the MobD workforce is aging, and employees with new skills and capabilities are not being brought in. This has serious implications for the future. Assessment: Good

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--> Survivability Directorate The committee determined that SurD has an abundance of highly qualified, highly motivated people. Personnel are encouraged to upgrade and acquire new skills and to make effective use of internal and external resources. Some are attending universities full time and working toward advanced degrees. However, many experienced people have been lost through downsizing and cannot be replaced because of the hiring freeze. Assessment: Good Sustainability Directorate The committee determined that the SusD workforce is highly experienced and, for the most part, has a very strong work ethic as reflected in their commitment to their respective areas of expertise. Overall, SusD has expertise in a wide range of disciplines, and, because of the organization's willingness to support training and education, there are continual opportunities to upgrade and maintain expertise. SusD personnel were able to highlight several projects where they had exceeded customer expectations (e.g., shelf-stable bread products). However, the workforce is aging, and people who leave or retire are not being replaced by employees with new skills and capabilities. To some extent, SusD has been able to compensate for the lack of new personnel by aggressively promoting training and education for its workforce. Assessment: Good Commodity Directorates The committee determined that the metrics associated with a good performance level best fit the overall personnel quality of the commodity directorates. Personnel within the directorates could cite examples of exceeding customer expectations, although the committee notes that there appears to be little reward in the Army system for consistently exceeding customer expectations. The RD&E personnel have many opportunities to upgrade their skills or acquire new ones. The Army has recognized the capabilities of its personnel through various RD&E awards, and the personnel are well connected to the scientific and technical communities outside Natick. The committee notes that the Natick RDEC has not been

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--> able to hire employees to provide (or replace) critical skills and capabilities, which limits the assessment of the performance level to good.2 Assessment: Good Budget Mobility Directorate Budget cuts over the past several years have greatly reduced airdrop R&D programs. The ground mobility budget has been reduced even more severely, re-suiting in a drop from four full-time-person equivalents to about one in 1996. Projections of future budgets for airdrop R&D programs appear to maintain this level. Funding from nontraditional customers (e.g., the Special Operations Command and the U.S. Marine Corps) have eased the pain of budget cuts, but these sources of funding may not be available in the future. Assessment: Adequate Survivability Directorate Overall funding for SurD has increased in the last three years, mostly from the Force 21 Land Warrior Program and customer orders, mainly from the U.S. Marine Corps. Leveraging has significantly added to SurD's capabilities. Examples of leveraging are programs with the Army Research Laboratory, the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, and industry and academic partners. Assessment: Good Sustainability Directorate Financial allocations for SusD have remained almost flat, although funds for services from outside organizations have increased the budget slightly. Even with outside funds, however, SusD has not been able to increase its areas of expertise, and the organization cannot keep up with inflation. At best, the present 2   The committee learned that the Army plans to transfer the ''troop missions'' of Force Provider, shelters and containers, food handling and preparation, refrigeration, and aerial delivery to the Soldier Systems Command/Natick RDEC from another Army command that is being disestablished (ATCOM, 1997). To the extent that these missions bring with them trained personnel, they may help the Natick RDEC. If the move merely adds to the RDEC's workload, however, it could exacerbate the hiring and replacement problems.

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--> budget will allow SusD to maintain a slowly eroding position in terms of performance. Some divisions have adequate funding for projects but do not have enough personnel to perform the work. A high percentage of the SusD budget goes to requirements-driven activities rather than to discretionary science and technology programs. Assessment: Adequate Commodity Directorates The committee determined that the metrics associated with an adequate performance level best fit the assessment for the overall budget of the commodity directorates. Budget cuts over the past few years have jeopardized or eliminated some major programs. Natick has worked hard to find ways to do more with less, especially by leveraging resources with other government agencies and the private sector. This positive factor is offset by indications that the RDEC's longer range budget projections are either flat or decreasing. Uncertainties about year-to-year funding contribute to the adequate performance rating of the commodity directorates. Assessment: Adequate RD&E Capabilities, Skills, and Talents Mobility Directorate The capabilities of the individuals in MobD are extremely good. Some members of the MobD staff are recognized as masters of their trade (e.g., two individuals were recognized by the Army for their achievements in R&D, and one was recognized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics for a lifetime of achievement in parachute development). Many MobD personnel are active in professional societies, such as the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Parachute Industry Association. However, limited budgets and hiring freezes have jeopardized the RD&E skills of MobD. In many areas, the directorate has only one expert, and his or her expertise will be lost upon retirement (e.g., parachute materials). In the past three years, MobD has lost 15 individuals through retirement, attrition, and transfers to other positions in the RDEC or Soldier Systems Command. None of them has been replaced. Assessment: Good

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--> Survivability Directorate SurD is a recognized leader in several core capabilities, such as textile technology, chemical and ballistic protective apparel, and countersurveillance. However, continued downsizing coupled with a hiring freeze have significantly reduced the number of highly skilled personnel. Reductions have been partially offset by bringing in technical interns, using outside contractors, and leveraging via partnerships with industry and academia. Interviews and the committee's experience indicate that one disadvantage of using external resources to help maintain RD&E capabilities is that it shifts the workload of current employees from their own research and technology to contract management. Over time, this tendency increases the bureaucratic nature of the organization and dilutes its technical expertise. Assessment: Good Sustainability Directorate The capabilities of the individuals in SusD are extremely good. In addition, most of the people with whom the committee spoke said that they were receiving up to 80 hours of training and development per year (although in some cases they questioned whether the training was particularly relevant to them, e.g., people who were assigned to take a course on U.S. Department of Defense [DOD] acquisition reform). The biggest problem is that the organization is very lean, and there is no one to fill in for anyone who transfers, quits, or retires. Over time, the core capabilities of the enterprise will slowly erode unless the hiring freeze is lifted. Assessment: Good Commodity Directorates The committee determined that the metrics associated with a good performance level best fit the overall RD&E capabilities, skills, and talents of the commodity directorates. In several areas, the members of the research and support staff have been recognized outside Natick for their superb technical skills, and some members of the RDEC staff are recognized masters of their trade. These would indicate an excellent performance rating, but new techniques and skills are not being acquired via new hires, although the Natick RDEC can perhaps maintain its present core capabilities through internal training programs. Personnel are

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--> encouraged to participate in formal continuing education programs and professional societies and to serve on external committees, which are indicators of a good performance level. The committee weighed all of the considerations in this category and determined that the overall performance level was good. Assessment: Good Use of External Resources Mobility Directorate MobD has formed many liaisons with external organizations to supplement in-house capabilities. Most of these liaisons involve modeling, primarily with the Army Research Laboratory and the Army Research Office or projects they support. The exception is a cooperative R&D agreement with an outside company to investigate gas-injected air bag technologies. A significant portion of the external work is conducted with the High Performance Computing Research Center at the University of Minnesota, which is supported by the Army Research Laboratory and comes at no cost to MobD. The range of external activities is limited, but it does significantly leverage the financial resources available to MobD. (Even if MobD had additional financial resources, it might choose to work with the same outside groups.) These external activities complement internal efforts to fill in gaps in personnel, capabilities, funding, facilities, and time. However, with the exception of the air bag agreement, none of the current external projects is likely to lead to a major breakthrough in airdrop systems in the foreseeable future. Assessment: Adequate to Good Survivability Directorate SurD has developed a wide range of partnerships so work can be done outside the organization. Examples include (1) a technology program annex with the Army Research Laboratory in science and technology (at no cost to the Natick RDEC); (2) a cooperative R&D agreement on high performance fibers (at no cost to the Natick. RDEC); (3) fiber project contract work with the Bureau of Printing and Engraving; (4) a working group with the textile industry to develop performance specifications; (5) a working arrangement with the Northeastern University Center for Electromagnetic Research; (6) serving as the Natick Textile Technology Center of Excellence with Drexel University, Temple University, the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, the University of Massachusetts Center for Industry Research on Polymers, and the National Textile Center; and (7) task

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--> order contracts with small businesses to convert detailed specifications to performance specifications. These partnerships and outside contracts account for about 60 percent of SurD's budget. The amount of time individuals spend on outside contracting varies from 25 to 90 percent. SurD selects outside partnerships and contractors based on the skills and capabilities of the outside organization and on SurD's assessment of the organization's ability to complete the work. SurD uses measures such as best-value contracting, expected costs, and past performance to evaluate potential partners. In general, SurD considers that the results of these liaisons have been valuable, especially with external sources that provide services at little or no cost to SurD (obviously representing an infinite return on investment). The least valuable have been the task order contracts to convert detailed specifications to performance specifications. In hindsight, these contractors were judged not to have the necessary training to perform the job well. As a consequence, these projects occupied an inordinate amount of the project officer's time and expertise. The last example raises questions about the criteria used by SurD to select outside contractors. Nevertheless, using external resources has led to breakthroughs in the development of materials for combat clothing and individual equipment at little or no cost to the RDEC. Assessment: Good Sustainability Directorate SusD does business with a wide range of outside contractors, including business firms, academic institutions, and other government agencies. Sixty percent of the SusD budget is spent on external resources, including joint programs, modeling, and testing. External clients are selectively chosen and provided with carefully developed specifications to ensure high performance. Moreover, the SusD carefully monitors the work of these external organizations. SusD has learned to focus on the outcomes of relationships with contractors and collaborators rather than on the number of relationships. Assessment: Good to Excellent Commodity Directorates The committee determined that the metrics associated with a good performance level best fit the overall use of external resources by the commodity directorates. In general, the Natick RDEC has made good use of external resources. All of the commodity directorates understand the need to be smart buyers of services from other parties, and all have had successful programs with

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--> businesses, universities, and other federal agencies. Some external programs have provided leap-ahead technologies. (The committee notes that recognizing potential breakthroughs by external groups requires residual expertise within the RDEC.) However, not all external programs can be categorized as successes. Sometimes using external resources has been the only option in the face of hiring freezes within Natick, and valuable internal resources have been tied up with managing contracts. The committee's concern with the value of some partnerships limits the assessment to good. Assessment: Good Important Technologies Mobility Directorate The research funds available to MobD are severely limited (no funds for research to develop fundamental new knowledge and very limited funds for concept exploration). Furthermore, MobD receives no support from the STD. Consequently, MobD has little chance of developing pacing technologies. However, the parachute inflation simulation and the advanced precision airborne delivery system have the potential to be leap-ahead developments in parachute technology provided a sustained, reasonable level of funding is available to support them. The ground mobility mission of MobD, which represents a small fraction of MobD's activity and has no research program, was assessed as poor. Assessment: Adequate Survivability Directorate The core capabilities important for SurD include: chemical warfare protection; ballistic, laser, flame, and surveillance countermeasures; textiles; systems integration; clothing design; textile testing and functional finish formulation; color science and evaluation; specification development; electron microscopy; and system integration. These capabilities rely on the disciplines of anthropometry, biomechanics, mathematics and physics modeling, human engineering, mechanical engineering, and materials engineering. Eighty percent of the SurD's core capabilities are utilized in one of five programs: countermeasures to battlefield sensors; integrated headgear and laser eye protection; ballistic protection; percutaneous chemical protection; and multifunctional protective materials and uniforms. The other 20 percent of the core capabilities resides within the two support directorates in three other programs: enhancing warrior performance and endurance; bioengineered materials; and systems analysis. All eight programs are well defined and have specified qualitative or quantitative objectives.

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--> As a rule, SurD considers the science and technology programs as support technologies for the SurD mission rather than as pacing technologies. Exceptions to this rule are aspects of the Force 21 Land Warrior program and the development of thermal infrared and agile-laser eye protection. Technological improvements developed from the science and technology program that have found their way into products include: advanced ballistic materials; lightweight materials for chemical and biological protection; durable static resistance for battle wear; miniaturized components for microclimate cooling; water resistant, fire resistant, camouflage printed, near-infrared signature reduced, antistatic, high durability, and high strength materials; chemical protective underwear; and reflective technology for laser-protective eye wear. The core capabilities of SurD are threatened, however, by restrictions on funding and hiring that SurD believes make it impossible to hire well known experts or well trained technologists. Retirements and promotions (primarily to administrative functions for reasons of greater responsibility and higher pay) have translated into a loss of critical expertise in some areas (e.g., color science, shade evaluation, and textile testing). In response to these restrictions, SurD has opted to focus on a limited number of technologies related to countersurveillance, fiber and fabric development, and chemical and physical resistance. SurD intends to obtain other needed capabilities externally (an example being the relatively low value, task-order contracts, which were discussed earlier, that were issued for converting detailed specifications to performance specifications). Assessment: Adequate to Good Sustainability Directorate Core SusD science and technology programs in the rations and equipment and shelters business areas are: combat ration research; preservation, packaging, and stabilization technologies; performance enhancing and nutritional technologies; and equipment and energy technologies. Currently, SusD has no science and technology programs in the unit and organizational equipment portion of the equipment and systems business area or in the shelters business area. However, recent program breakthroughs have led to some science and technology funding for air beams. Development is focused on group, individual, and special purpose rations; veterinary inspection; systems for field, shipboard, and airborne feeding; and organizational equipment. Illustrative pacing technologies are noted below. Rations. Pacing technologies in rations include: targeted nutrient delivery; molecular level analysis of food matrices; advanced physical methods for food preservation; intrinsic chemical-marker-validation of process effectiveness;

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--> products and services but less impact on the front-end research phase, which limits the committee's assessment to good to excellent. Assessment: Good to Excellent Market Diversification Mobility Directorate MobD's airdrop capabilities have resulted in products for the Army and other uniformed services, as well as for other federal agencies, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It may be difficult for MobD to diversify more than it has. Areas to investigate could include other customers who use parachutes. Except for the New Ventures group and individuals in special operations, no one the committee interviewed had ideas on how parachute skills and technology could be used to diversify markets. The committee explored the extent to which MobD had ventured beyond familiar markets and familiar technologies and products and tried to imagine how the technologies of MobD could be applied elsewhere (e.g., to transportation or forest service). The barriers to approaching these markets will probably come from the Army, rather than from Natick. Other government laboratories (through cooperative R&D agreements and advanced technology demonstration programs) may provide models for leveraging and extending the market for MobD's products, services, and technologies. Assessment: Adequate to Good Survivability Directorate SurD primarily supports the clothing and individual equipment needs of DOD, as well as of foreign military operations, including operations by NATO countries. However, SurD also supports customers outside the military (e.g., the Federal Bureau of Printing and Engraving for currency authentication; and the U.S. Postal Service as part of the Uniform Quality Control Program for clothing and footwear). These organizations are long-standing customers of the directorate who depend on the unique qualifications of SurD to develop clothing and individual equipment. SurD also tests textiles, which is more of a service than a technology application. Staff members of SurD indicated that they are attempting to identify new markets in the civilian sector. The lag in developing new markets can, to some extent, be blamed on rules that have prohibited SurD from pursuing, until recently, opportunities in the civilian sector. Assessment: Good

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--> Sustainability Directorate The products of SusD are used not only in the military and other government organizations, both in the United States and abroad, but also in the civilian sector. Diversification is especially strong in the food technology area. The shelters business area has limited opportunities to develop products with dual uses in the civilian sector because of the stringent requirements for military shelters (e.g., shielding against electromagnetic fields and resistance to chemical and biological weapons) and the economics of the civilian tent market. SusD has had some success in marketing its services beyond the U.S. Army, however. The directorate has provided services to NATO, benchmarked its products against those of Great Britain, and been asked to analyze rations from 17 countries for United Nations peacekeeping missions. SusD was recently contracted to redesign shipboard kitchens for the U.S. Navy and is responsible for the DOD Food Program. Assessment: Good to Excellent Commodity Directorates The committee's overall assessment of market diversification is good to excellent for those capabilities that lend themselves to market diversification in the private sector. The committee notes that several capabilities of the Natick RDEC are specific to the military (e.g., a large portion of the airdrop program). It is not clear to the committee that devoting a significant amount of the budget to partnerships with industry and academia (part of the metric associated with a good performance level) to encourage market diversification makes sense in these cases. Other programs (e.g., food technology), however, do lend themselves to market diversification, and the RDEC has done a good job of developing external markets in these areas. Assessment: Good to Excellent Overall Assessment of the Customer Focus Pillar The committee believes that, overall, customer focus of the commodity directorates is good (see Table 2-4). Directorate personnel are highly conscious of their primary customers, the soldiers, and are very attentive to feedback from the field. The committee notes that an important aspect of this feedback is the work done by the survey teams within ASCD (see Chapter 3). The committee observed

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--> TABLE 2-4 Customer Focus Pillar   Mobility Directorate Survivability Directorate Sustainability Directorate All Commodity Directorates Customer Satisfaction Adequate to Good Adequate to Good Adequate to Good Adequate to Good Customer Involvement Good to Excellent Good to Excellent Good Good to Excellent Market Diversification Adequate to Good Good Good to Excellent Good to Excellent Overall Assessment of Pillar: Good Direction of Vector: Level that less attention was paid to market diversification by MobD and SurD than to the other characteristics in this pillar, which is explainable in part because of the focus within the RDEC on the Army rather than on potential customers outside the Army. Value Creation Pillar Characteristics of the Value Creation Pillar Proper Portfolio Product Performance Cycle Time and Responsiveness Value of Work In Progress See the metrics for each of the above characteristics in Table C-4. Proper Portfolio Mobility Directorate The MobD portfolio reflects primarily funding and history rather than potential payoffs. Because MobD has little or no discretionary money and has not

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--> put forth breakthrough-level concepts, it has had little opportunity to develop a product portfolio different from the traditional one. Historically, science and technology programs go on and on; they are never terminated. Fortunately, MobD has an analytical process to examine its product portfolio, the integrated planning process, which is now in its second year at the Natick RDEC. The committee is hopeful that this process will be used by MobD to evaluate priorities annually and to create a viable portfolio. Assessment: Adequate Survivability Directorate SurD has some control over technology-based programs but little control over engineering development and procurement programs, which are strictly focused on user requirements. Hence, SurD really does not have a portfolio of programs. Severe restrictions on discretionary funds also limit SurD's opportunities for developing a diversified portfolio. Interviewees noted that they feel a sense of urgency because everything they do is important, and therefore, everyone must work on everything. The committee is hopeful that the integrated planning process can help SurD evaluate priorities among program alternatives and help to establish a portfolio. Assessment: Adequate Sustainability Directorate The committee found that SusD customers are involved in portfolio analysis through the planning integration team and the teams that assess proposals for technical merit and return on investment. To some extent, the SusD program portfolio is driven by funding, and not by the potential for payoffs, because of SusD's lack of discretionary funds for unsolicited R&D. The committee found that the products developed by SusD do enjoy significant customer acceptance, particularly the food and combat rations. Continued funding of the DOD Food Program and recognition by customers outside the U.S. military (the United Nations, NATO, Great Britain, and Australia) tend to support this finding. Assessment: Good Commodity Directorates The committee determined that the metrics associated with an adequate performance level best fit the proper portfolio of the commodity directorates. The

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--> committee found some evidence of analytical processes being used to examine portfolios, but the majority of products are developed to meet customer needs. Portfolio analyses have not been part of the strategic planning process (see section on the Strategic Vision pillar). Assessment: Adequate Product Performance Mobility Directorate The interviews and answers to questions suggested that MobD products almost always meet major performance requirements. The committee noted the great improvement in parachutes over time, which is evidenced by fewer malfunctions. MobD personnel know how to get their products and services out the door, but they do not know how to speed up the DOD acquisition process. A major complaint is DOD's use of performance standards rather than specifications for products. Many staff members expressed concerns about safety, added complexities, more work, and uncertainties associated with this change. The staff believes that the issues and implications of changes like this are not appreciated by those who make them. Assessment: Good Survivability Directorate SurD is now working on most requirements using cost as an independent variable (i.e., cost is taken into account in determining whether a requirement must be met absolutely or whether some relaxation is permissible to lower cost). Because requirements are sometimes unrealistic, SurD now aims at meeting only the most important requirements. When a new project begins, the Army Training and Doctrine Command goes out to a user, such as the Chemical School, and gets the operational requirements. When milestone decisions are made, all players discuss the results. Sometimes SurD exceeds expectations, but there is not much incentive for the directorate to do so. In general, indications are that SurD products meet established customer requirements. Meeting customer "expectations" is more complicated. With the growth of the recreational clothing industry, soldiers can now compare Army products with commercial products. Soldiers may want some of the features of commercial items, and commercial products can often be adapted to Army needs (e.g., color, durability, and buttons that can be repaired in the field rather than zippers or noisy Velcro). One key issue is that the final user, the soldier, does not

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--> usually pay for the product; thus weighing cost, performance, and customer expectations can be difficult. The committee notes that SurD interviewees provided two examples of customers who had complained about product performance: boots in Desert Storm and body armor in Bosnia. The committee was also told that in some cases the requirements were not well specified. In both instances, SurD was responsive to customer complaints, fixed the problems, and returned products to the field that were perceived as better than the ones they replaced. Assessment: Good Sustainability Directorate The interviews and answers to questions suggested that SusD products almost always meet or exceed customer requirements. A majority of staff members interviewed felt that their products were very good to excellent, particularly at the prototype stage. Some noted that it was more difficult to maintain product quality once an item was turned over to contractors. In recent field tests of improved meals-ready-to-eat, the meals were well accepted by soldiers. Another SusD product, the high-pressure air beam shelter, is considered significantly better than previous shelters. Assessment: Good to Excellent Commodity Directorates The committee determined that the metrics associated with a good performance level best fit the product performance of the commodity directorates. Products appear to meet customer requirements, and the committee did not find any rewards in the Army system for exceeding customer requirements. Most products are perceived as better than the ones they replace. The committee did not find many examples of products that include "some pleasant, unexpected surprises," which is necessary for an excellent rating. Assessment: Good Cycle Time and Responsiveness Mobility Directorate MobD is very responsive to the soldier's needs in the field when they are well defined. MobD has also demonstrated that it can respond quickly when

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--> motivated by immediate military involvement (e.g., Desert Storm and Bosnia). MobD personnel have looked for ways to speed up the cycle time but, very wisely, have not yielded to pressures that might compromise soldier safety. Assessment: Good to Excellent Survivability Directorate SurD excels in quick responses, as illustrated in the example of boots for use in Macedonia, the soles of which were changed very rapidly; bureaucratic requirements are waived under such circumstances. In other words, evidence suggests that systems are in place at SurD to allow rapid work on emergency items in times of conflict. The committee found that SurD has discovered no "sure fire" way to cut down the time of delivery under normal circumstances. However, SurD has tried to reduce cycle time through low-rate-initial-production procurements, replacing detailed specifications with performance specifications, and eliminating unnecessary field testing. SurD programs are mostly on time and on budget, but the length of the normal acquisition process remains a problem. The cycle time for clothing and individual items of equipment is two to seven years; product improvements take from one to three years. The directorate considers these response times too long for customer satisfaction. Once customers identify a need, they want it satisfied immediately. The fastest cycle times are for products where a commercial market has an acceptable solution or product available, thus making the directorate's task one of acquisition rather than RD&E. Long cycle times are typical of products unique to the military that have no marketability outside the DOD establishment (e.g., a new uniform for female officers that was delayed for more than seven years). Assessment: Good to Excellent Sustainability Directorate The committee found many instances showing that SusD can respond very rapidly to unforeseen circumstances that affect forces in the field. A prime example is SusD's rapid fielding of sunscreen shelters for Desert Storm. However, some interviewees felt as if they were always "fighting fires." In normal situations, the planning cycle for science and technology is consistent with the five year planning time frame for the RDEC as a whole. Science and technology programs have a slightly shorter cycle time of one to three years. The DOD Food Program is reviewed and renewed on a yearly basis, but most interviewees indicated that they had no incentive to complete a project ahead of schedule. Most

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--> interviewees felt that projects funded for three years should take three years to complete. The committee found no motivation for trying to complete a three-year project in two years. Assessment: Good to Excellent Commodity Directorates The committee determined that the metrics associated with a range of good to excellent performance best fit the cycle time and responsiveness of the commodity directorates. At first glance, one may question this assessment because there are examples of cycle times and responsiveness that appear to be less than good. The committee decided to weigh the ''quick fix'' portions of the metrics more heavily because the RDEC streamlines processes and allows personnel to perform in a less constrained environment in time of need. In those instances, the committee found the staff to be very responsive to the needs of the troops, and senior management ensures that resources are reprogrammed to fulfill quick-fix requests. The committee also observed several examples of commanders directly and indirectly expressing their gratitude for quick fixes. Assessment: Good to Excellent Value of Work in Progress Mobility Directorate MobD is attempting to show the benefits of projects (e.g., from cost savings to lives saved) in concrete terms by participating with ASCD in the development of airdrop battlefield simulations. These simulations reflect efforts by the Army to derive hard numbers to demonstrate the value of various RD&E programs. The evaluation and prioritization phase of the integrated planning process is also used to demonstrate the value of MobD projects. Assessment: Adequate Survivability Directorate SurD relies on the Defense Technical Information Center database and the evaluation and prioritization phase of the integrated planning process to evaluate past and current programs. SurD projects are primarily intended to ensure that U.S. soldiers and marines are the best equipped and best protected ground troops

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--> in the world. A secondary goal is the commercial adaptation of SurD technology. Examples are the use of ballistic protection equipment by law enforcement agencies and the use of cold-weather clothing for outdoor equipment. SurD can describe the value of its work, but only in general terms. SurD is still searching for ways to measure the value of its products, estimating the number of lives saved by ballistic protection, for example. Feedback from soldiers through comments to the Operational Forces Interface Group can help. Assessment: Adequate Sustainability Directorate SusD maintains a quarterly database on all projects as part of the RDEC and Soldier Systems Command Planning and Reporting System. In addition, under the Government Performance and Results Act, the directorate recently implemented annual assessments, which document planning, performance accounting, and budgeting for each project. The committee found indications that all divisions of the directorate have developed products with greater value than similar products available in the private sector. Nevertheless, the committee believes that SusD needs to characterize the value of projects in terms of improvements in the performance of soldiers in the field. Assessment: Adequate Commodity Directorates The committee determined that the metrics associated with an adequate performance level best fit value of the work in progress of the commodity directorates. The committee found that customer perception of current RD&E programs appears to be good. Some methodology has been put in place to assess the current RD&E programs with respect to a "value of work in progress." However, across the directorates, there is no database of the primary and secondary effects of past projects that can be used for comparison with current RD&E programs. Assessment: Adequate Overall Assessment of the Value Creation Pillar The committee believes that performance of the commodity directorates is good with respect to the Value Creation pillar (see Table 2-5). The directorates are responsive to soldiers' needs, and product performance is usually good. When

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--> TABLE 2-5 Value Creation Pillar   Mobility Directorate Survivability Directorate Sustainability Directorate All Commodity Directorates Proper Portfolio Adequate Adequate Good Adequate Product Performance Good Good Good to Excellent Good Cycle Time and Responsiveness Good to Excellent Good to Excellent Good to Excellent Good to Excellent Value of Work in Progress Adequate Adequate Adequate Adequate Overall Assessment of Pillar: Good Direction of Vector: Level deficiencies surface, the directorates appear to do their utmost to correct them quickly. Better ways to measure the true value of products would be useful to the Natick RDEC. Summary The committee's summary of this portion of its assessment is presented in the form of a spider diagram (NRC, 1996). The spider diagram (see Figure 2-1) shows the assessment results for the five performance pillars and indicates that the collective performance of the commodity directorates at the Natick RDEC has been assessed as good for three pillars (Resources and Capabilities, Value Creation, and Customer Focus), adequate to good for one pillar (Quality Focus), and poor to adequate for the remaining pillar (Strategic Vision). Although the assessment did not show the commodity directorates of the Natick RDEC to be performing at a world-class level (i.e., excellent in all five pillars, which is very difficult to achieve), the committee believes they are performing well. Forty percent of the characteristics were assessed as good or good to excellent across the directorates. The characteristics judged to have the best performance overall are customer involvement and cycle time and responsiveness. Of the two pillars that were assessed as less than good (i.e., Strategic Vision and Quality Focus), the committee is most concerned about Strategic Vision, which was assessed as poor to adequate. Nevertheless, the committee is encouraged that the vector for the future appears to be turning up as the result of the recent emphasis on real strategic planning and the dedicated commitment of RDEC leadership (observed during the committee's final visit in February 1997).

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--> Figure 2-1 Spider diagram for the commodity directorates. The committee is concerned that the vector for the future of the Quality Focus pillar, which was assessed as adequate to good, is uncertain. The committee is troubled that the vector for the future appears to be pointing down for the Resources and Capabilities pillar, largely because of the continuing loss of skilled personnel. Unless the direction of this vector is changed, a future assessment could find resources and capabilities at the Natick RDEC to be less than good. Finally, the committee was struck that the assessment results were very similar across the directorates in all but one characteristic. The exception is the market diversification characteristic in the Customer Focus pillar. Some organizations were able to diversify more easily than others because of the availability of non-Army markets for their products. Not all of the Natick RDEC's products lend themselves to world-class performance in market diversification.