Marine Procurement Chief Asks Contractors to 'Think Differently'

By Dan Parsons
NORFOLK, Va. — Companies that supply military equipment must begin to think differently about how to make products if they intend to continue to do business with the Marine Corps, a senior official said.
“For you in industry, this is a call to arms,” Lt. Gen. John E. Wissler, deputy Marine Corps commandant for programs and resources, said at a National Defense Industrial Association conference. “We need high-quality, affordable systems that are energy friendly. We have made a conscious decision to accomplish as much modernization as the Marine Corps can afford. But we can’t achieve it on our own.”
Budget pressures are forcing the Corps to make tough decisions, Wissler said. Unless prices come down, procurement of new systems might have to be curtailed, he added.
It costs more than six times as much to equip a single Marine in 2012 as it did before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Wissler said. Vehicles are at least five times more expensive. The Marine Corps’ plan to reduce its end strength from 220,000 to just over 182,000 troops over the next 10 years simply won't cover the cost of much-needed modernization, he said. 
Further personnel cutting is not an option. “Manpower is not the answer to this problem,” Wissler said. “We have to be smarter about how we field this Marine Corps.”
“We simply cannot sustain this kind of cost growth,” he said. “This is the time to start thinking differently. We have to put the days of often lethargic, always exquisite products behind us.”
As an example, Wissler offered the Stryker Double-V hull wheeled armored vehicle. The original Strykers, built by General Dynamics Land Systems, were decimated by roadside bombs. But within 18 months, Pentagon and company officials were able to field the double-V hull design, dramatically improving the vehicle’s survivability. That is a case of taking a “good-enough” technology and fielding it quickly, rather than waiting for industry to develop a new a platform that meets military requirements to the letter, Wissler said.
“They found that, yeah, it’s probably good enough, then proved it by saving soldiers’ lives in Afghanistan,” he said. “That’s something we should be proud of. That sort of innovation … is critical to the protection of our modernization efforts and to the protection of our industrial base. ”
“Our partnership with industry is important, but it will become more important over the course of the future,” Wissler said. “The days of austerity will give way to days of prosperity,” he added. “I’m certain of that. But if we don’t have that industrial base to lean on to provide the next hedge against future threats, we’re going to be in a bad place.”

Topics: Business Trends, Doing Business with the Government, Partnering, Combat Vehicles

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