US Marine Corps opens new center to more rapidly get tech to operators

US Marine Corps opens new center to more rapidly get tech to operators

The U.S. Marine Corps has established a new office that brings together science, technology, requirements and acquisition professionals to help streamline how the service fields new technology.

The Fusion Center, located at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, allows for discussions about what technology is becoming mature enough to use versus what is useful to the Corps, leaders said Tuesday during a panel discussion at the Modern Day Marine conference in Washington, D.C.

Brig. Gen. David Walsh, who runs Marine Corps Systems Command, said he was told two years ago upon taking on the role to “pick up the pace” for acquisition.

“That involves getting closely involved with what’s going on over at the labs, over with our industry partners, and seeing where the cutting edge of technology is, prepping ourselves, getting ourselves ready to accept that technology as it matures,” he noted.

With this Fusion Center in place, the team is expected to ensure it’s using money to develop the technologies that will fill the most critical capability gaps. In addition, the group is to consider up front the doctrine, training, sustainment strategies and more that go along with any new technology.

Generally, Walsh said, the tech itself matures faster than other aspects — doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities (DOTMLPF).

But in trying to achieve rapid acquisition, trade-offs are often required.

“You can get it to the Marines right now, get the first iteration out there, get the first unit equipped, and then training will come along” after the fact, he said. “Or you wait for all those same DOTMLPF considerations to be lined up, ready to go, and then you field” the new tech on a slower timeline.

But, he noted, the Fusion Center gives the acquisition community an improved look at what technology may be on the way in order to reduce trade-offs, especially if officials can start considering training or sustainment implications while researchers mature the tech.

Stephen Bowdren, the service’s program executive officer for land systems, said by peeking down the science and technology pipeline, his team can consider new technology for incorporation into existing programs via an engineering change proposal or as part of a tech refresh effort. Alternatively, he added, his office would consider what technology might require standing up a new program of record.

While the Fusion Center is meant to improve communication among the various communities, the Corps is also trying move along acquisition efforts faster and become more agile by focusing on acquiring capabilities rather than specific hardware solutions.

Bowdren also noted the new office could benefit how the service manages various portfolios.

For example, the Marine Corps needs a ground-based air defense system that includes sensors, target identification tools, and kinetic and non-kinetic effectors. But different Marine Corps formations in different geographies might have slightly different air defense needs, meaning Bowdren can rely on the Fusion Center to help him create a family of systems that collectively cover all the service’s needs within this broad capability set.

Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.

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