Magazine article National Defense

Commercial Off-the-Shelf Military Systems: Myth vs. Reality

Magazine article National Defense

Commercial Off-the-Shelf Military Systems: Myth vs. Reality

Article excerpt

As the Pentagon bolsters its reliance on commercial, off-the-shelf technology, it runs the risk of creating "unrealistic expectations" that systems can move to production and to the field faster than what reality permits, said the Defense Department's chief of weapon testing.

The "myth" of commercial off-the-shelf means that users expect systems to "get to the field quickly," said Philip E. Coyle, the Pentagons director of operational test and evaluation. He reminded industry executives at a conference sponsored by the Precision Strike Association that military equipment "is never completely off-the-shelf." Coyle cited unmanned aircraft as an example of a technology that the U.S. military services are told to buy off-the-shelf but, in fact, requires customization to meet battlefield needs.

During the testing process, explained Coyle, systems suffer "suitability" problems because they have not been run through a realistic operational environment. "That is common with computer equipment," he said. The reliability of equipment easily can drop by a factor of 10 when a realistic environment is applied. Under such circumstances, Coyle asserted, "the equipment may work, but it drives users crazy. …

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