The Aberdeen Test Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., is seeking to form
a profitable partnership with private industry and academic institutions by
establishing a “limited liability company,” or LLC.
This type of business arrangement enables the partners to pool their resources,
business capital and diverse expertise to provide pro-ducts and services, while
limiting the financial liability of each partner for any civil lawsuits that
might result from the work it does.
The ATC is planning to form a partnership referred to as the National Testing
Training and Technology Company, said John Roth, who has led the efforts to
establish the company. Roth expects the test center to select partners and set
up the company by fiscal year 2004, provided the Army and Congress complete
Operation of the company will then be a five-year pilot program that Roth expects
to be a radical departure from business as usual. Though the test center will
seek to generate new business and income through the new company, it will continue
to conduct its core business of testing developmental weapon systems.
The secretary of the Army has approved a recommendation from the Defense Department’s
Business Initiatives Council to test the LLC concept and has asked for fiscal
year 2004 enabling legislation.
John Foulkes, the director of the Army’s Test and Evaluation Management
Agency, is the Pentagon champion for this program.
The process for creating the company began two-and-a-half years ago, Roth said.
Its impetus was Section 246 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal
year 1999. The bill included authority to waive Department of Defense policies,
procedures and regulations not required by law so that government agencies could
operate more like businesses. Section 245 of the fiscal year 2000 bill authorized
the Defense Department to explore ways to improve efficiency.
Philip Coyle, the Pentagon’s former head of testing and evaluation, funded
ATC to study a wide variety of innovative business practices, and to determine
the best ways to meet the letter and spirit of Section 246.
ATC conducted the study over the past year through a cooperative research and
development agreement with Drexel University of Philadelphia, and Batelle Memorial
Institute, of Columbus, Ohio.
Just 25 percent of ATC’s funding comes directly from Army appropriations,
while the other 75 percent comes from test customers, Roth said. ATC faces the
challenge of maintaining a multi-disciplined, flexible workforce that can meet
the high-tech needs of a transforming Army, while at the same time obtaining
the funding necessary to keep its test facilities technologically current. ATC’s
share of any profits made by the company will go to infrastructure improvements,
at the discretion of the commander.
The company could help maintain ATC’s test facilities for military test
programs by using some of the test facilities more regularly and providing testers
with more practice and experience, Roth said. Operating the company will also
drive down overhead costs, he added.
An example of the type of work the company might undertake is a military system
beset by technical problems, too difficult for the manufacturer or the Army
to solve without outside expertise. Testers and evaluators are good at pinpointing
problems with systems, he said, but they may not be able to provide the needed
solutions. Roth said the combined resources and talents of the National Testing
Training and Technology Company, on the other hand, could deliver solutions
The company will market its capabilities through trade shows, technical symposia
and technical magazines, Roth added.
ATC will solicit for members by advertising on the Interactive Business Opportunities
Web page. Interested businesses will receive a briefing and tour. They will
be required to submit written and oral proposals that will be rated by a disinterested
panel of testing professionals. The panel will recommend membership to the selection
authority, who will make the final decisions on who, and how many members, will
Members, including ATC, will be required to contribute $150,000 per year for
a maximum of three years to pay for company operating costs. After that, the
LLC should be self-sustaining.
The commander of ATC will be the Army chair for the company, and others in
similar leadership positions at member organizations will be included on the
board, which will set company policy, Roth said. He said the selection process
should take about nine months. The staff will consist of a managing director,
a technical director, administrative support and people who provide contract
and legal support. This staff will be hired through an employment agency.
Mike Cast is a public affairs officer at the Army Developmental Test Command.