The U.S. Army will be hosting a truck-technology exhibition this month intended to help service officials expedite
Unlike traditional trade expos, this oneunofficially dubbed
truck rodeois only open to pre-selected contractors
who meet the Armys product specifications and agree to pay
for the administrative cost of the demonstration, estimated at up
to $10,000 per company.
Scheduled for January 17-21 at the Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.,
the truck rodeo will allow dozens of vendors to get the undivided
attention of key Army decision makers, including top acquisition
The Yuma test ranges cover 1,400 square miles and offer climate
and terrain similar to major desert areas worldwide.
With 36,000 trucks in Iraq today, the Army is hard pressed to keep
them running in the harsh environment. Maintaining vehicles is made
all the more difficult by the addition of armor plates on thousands
of trucks that never were designed to carry that much excess weight.
Topping the list of items to be evaluated at the rodeo are fuel
filters, air filters, suspensions, batteries and survivability equipment.
These are low-tech but much needed components, said Army Col. Robert
Groller, program manager for tactical wheeled vehicles.
Groller has made several visits to deployed truck units in the
Middle East and South Asia to get first-hand accounts of their equipment
performance and shortfalls.
Im looking for easy-to-maintain technology, he
told National Defense. Im looking for small, inexpensive
stuff that I can get now.
Things as mundane as oil filters and air filters can make a huge
difference in the field, Groller said. The dusty environment in
Iraq is wreaking havoc on engines and transmissions, he added.
Another priority is suspensions, which have taken a beating as
trucks get saddled with thousands of pounds of armor.
The rodeo is part of an effort known as expedited modernization
initiative procedure, or EMIP, that is designed to sidestep
the Armys cumbersome acquisition process and speed up deliveries
of new equipment to deployed units.
The technologies demonstrated at Yuma will be evaluated by a tactical
wheeled vehicles corporate board made up of top procurement
officers and members of the Army staff, said Pat Plotkowski, interim
deputy program executive officer for combat support and combat service
support. Well look at products, determine what are the
promising technologies. Once we rank them, well go to the
Army staff and seek funding for those technologies, she said
at a recent industry conference.
Under the traditional approach to upgrading military trucks, the
Army relies on the vehicle manufacturers to select and procure new
technologies. But many component vendors have complained that the
process makes it difficult for innovative products to get into the
Army fleet. Truck manufacturers at times have stifled competition,
According to one industry source who asked not to be identified,
it is a significant major concern that the military services
are favoring no bid, non-competitive contracts for convenience
under the veil of wartime contracting.
Groller said the EMIP project was designed to address those concerns.
Contractors claim there is no easy way to get their foot in
the door, he noted.
Under the EMIP process, suppliers were asked to submit white papers,
which were due in November. Any proposed technology had to be ready
for delivery within six months.
Although Army officials initially expected that about 30 contractors
would participate, that number could double, Groller said. Even
though it costs them several thousand dollars to demonstrate their
technologies, companies are motivated by the prospect of getting
direct access to the Army brass. The biggest thing is visibility,
he said. The rodeos are expected to become annual events, Groller
EMIP is part of a broader truck strategy that has been
in the works for a couple of years, and for which the Army has added
$2 billion over the next five years.
It is a three-pronged strategy, Groller explained. EMIP intends
to boost innovation by opening up the market to more competitors.
Another piece of the strategy is to work with the original truck
manufacturers to upgrade the existing fleet. The third piece is
to begin planning for the next generation of vehicles, under a project
called future tactical truck system.