Army Test and Evaluation Command Makes Rapid Acquisition a Reality

Article excerpt

As the evolving threats to U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq have the potential to exact a daily toll of death and serious injury, rapidly acquiring systems that counter those threats has become a top priority for the Army. To ensure that these systems work effectively and get to the troops as quickly as possible, the Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) is transforming the way it does business. Whether the goal is enhancing the armor protection for tactical wheeled vehicles, developing countermeasures for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or improving the effectiveness of coalition firepower, ATEC is providing essential testing support for a diverse array of rapid acquisition programs.

Established in October 1999 to combine all of the Army's testing and evaluation under one command, ATEC is the only organization within the Department of Defense to provide full spectrum testing by overseeing both developmental and operational testing as well as evaluation of the test data. For the past several years, ATEC has placed increased emphasis on conducting developmental and operational tests simultaneously, to become even more value added to the war effort by saving time in providing test data and analysis without sacrificing quality of methodology. The command oversees a wide array of test and evaluation capabilities at test sites that range from hot, rugged desert terrain to the frigid Alaskan tundra, and the technical expertise of its workforce is increasingly needed by an Army at war.

When attacks against coalition forces made it evident that the armor on Humvees and other tactical wheeled vehicles was not sufficiently protective, ATEC's Developmental Test Command and its Aberdeen Test Center (ATC) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., went into overdrive to test proposed solutions to this problem. The ballistic and automotive testing of Humvee armor kits and up-armored Humvees began in August 2003 and quickly became an around-the-clock test program, noted Col. John Rooney, ATC's commander.

"We actually did the first armor shot on the first proposed solution that would be fielded during the first week in October 2003, and eight days later, the first kits were en route to the theater," Rooney said. "Meanwhile, we were completing the safety confirmation. From those relatively small beginnings with the Humvee back in the fall of 2003, we have since tested 430 solutions. Things have not stopped. Improvements are happening all of the time."

"ATC has conducted a full range of automotive testing, in addition to its ballistic testing, to determine the impact of the added armor on vehicle performance," Rooney added. As IEDs became a menace to soldiers in the combat theater, ATC has also been at the forefront of testing to find solutions to that problem.

"We have shot a good number of IEDs and new IED threats against various vehicles since January to either verify modifications that have been made or enhancements that have been made to increase the level of protection," Rooney said.

Rooney visited Iraq from mid-February to mid-March of this year to speak with commanders and soldiers in the field and get an understanding of the threats they face and their issues with armor solutions. One result of that visit was Rooney's decision to send a test manager with ballistics expertise to Baghdad to support the ATEC Forward Operational Assessment (FOA) team in theater.

ATEC's Operational Test Command at Fort Hood, Texas, sponsors the FOA team effort which is made up of soldiers and Department of the Army civilians. At the time this article was written, three FOA team members were in Afghanistan, two were in Kuwait and 17 were in Iraq. FOA team members go to unit locations and conduct one-on-one interviews, making it a point to talk directly with soldiers and unit leaders about fielded equipment, to get various perspectives on how the equipment or technology is performing.

Members of a FOA team lived with Stryker units in Iraq for more than a year, for example, tracking the performance of this new system along with that of other items used in conjunction with the Stryker. …