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September 7, 2018

When deployed soldiers go outside the wire, they know they’re going in harm’s way. That’s their mission. But when they return home, whether to a Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan or a post in the United States, they need to know they’re safe. 

That’s a mission we take very seriously at General Dynamics Information Technology.

The Army has deployed an impressive stack of systems to secure its bases. There are radars, cameras, night-vision, infrared gravity sensors along with metal detectors, x-ray systems and more.

Most of these systems were developed and acquired through quick-reaction acquisitions, rather than via programs of record. As new requirements emerged, solutions were found, and systems were fielded. This is a major sustainment challenge.

Each system has its own contracts, its own support teams and its own help desk to call when something goes wrong. If a system stops working, a technician may be dispatched to make a repair; if two systems stop working, two technicians are needed. Imagine if the repairman you call to service your washer was not allowed to fix your dryer.

Army leaders have limited capability to identify and track trends or problems from one installation to the next. Leaders simply have no central way to understand either the overall health of all their force protection systems or the specific security posture of a given forward operating base.

Change is around the corner, however.

Under the leadership of Maj. Gen. Kirk F. Vollmecke, Program Executive Officer for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (PEO IEW&S), the Army plans to centralize the management and sustainment of the force protection family of systems under a single, overarching contract.

The Integrated Base Defense–Sustainment Support (IBD-SS) program promises to help the Army reduce costs through improved efficiency and enhance situational awareness – for both individual installations and individual sensors and systems.

This is a major step forward. Yet it’s only the beginning. With the right vision and execution, IBD-SS can drive down costs by eliminating duplication of effort and increase system availability and overall situational awareness. More data equates to more knowledge.

GDIT’s experience collecting, analyzing and visualizing performance data in similar programs can help the Army better understand the complex problems it faces. A single, format-agnostic, off-the-shelf visualization solution revolutionizes the way we see and understand system performance.

For IBD SS, this would provide a unique new capacity to drill down on individual systems and locations – from many different perspectives. A field service representative could view all the repairs and changes made to a single system over the past months or year; a leader at a forward operating base could see the status of all the systems in use on that installation; a regional commander could visualize the security posture of all the bases under his command. In every case, a single central database delivers the insights they require.

Drawing on our extensive experience managing secure systems, supply chains and support services for national security customers, GDIT has put this data to work in numerous ways, identifying concerns before they become outages with preventative maintenance and streamlining warehouse and supply chain operations. This data also helps anticipate where to stage needed parts, when to dispatch maintainers and when additional field training or local spare parts inventory makes sense. For commanders, insights enhance situational awareness and, ultimately, mission success.

Imagine a sensor that turns out to fail during heavy rain or excessive heat. By monitoring both system health and weather, maintainers may be able to anticipate system failures and ensure parts and/or field service representatives are on hand – before the system breaks down.

GDIT’s solutions don’t just feed system data into a flexible dashboard. Deriving a truly sophisticated view, we layer in data from field maintenance systems, call centers, help desks and modern, world-class warehouse- and supply-chain management technologies. Data from each of these contribute to full-spectrum situational awareness.

These are not brand-new, high-risk technologies. They are proven solutions, capabilities and industry best practices we employ every day. Embracing them together will leverage both experience and potential – and deliver the ability to continuously improve performance over time.

The safety of our troops is serious business. Ensuring their security must be our prime concern. Those who put their lives on the line for their country deserve security solutions that are second to none.