Land Warrior  

Tell you a funny story. About small-business effectiveness vs. the military industry giants.

At S-TRON we developed SIPE with five engineers and used an off the shelf radio (Radio Shack) and miniature computer. Our subcontractor used 4 engineers to develop the clothing, backpack component. It all worked as delivered, perfectly, with zero failures in exhaustive field testing.

When the Army got the results of SIPE testing in 1992, the their procurement teams were horrified that it was developed at S-TRON, a tiny company (75) in California with no history of large ("real") production.

So of course the first follow-on Land Warrior EMD program was instead awarded in 1997 to giant companies: a consortium of Raytheon, Motorola, Honeywell, Omega, GENTEX and Batelle . 148 Prototypes were due to be field-tested in 1999. Approximately 34,000 systems were planned, involving production contracts worth $1.96 B. After 80% of the time and 80% of the money was consumed, the $2 billion project was on its deathbed after defense contractor Raytheon built a prototype called the "turtle shell" that was blasted by the General Accounting Office. Raytheon reported that the funding was inadequate, they needed more money, and they could go no further. Instead of just dropping the program, the Army awarded the rest of the money to a tiny California company (Exponent), who perfectly met the delivery date with working Land Warrior systems on 20% of the money. (From

The firms - Pacific Consultants, Exponent, Pemstar and Computer Sciences - ignored rigid Army specifications and brainstormed ideas. They lightened the Land Warrior computer harness, wrote new software and worked closely with soldiers.

By 2/01 the new Land Warrior was earning rave reviews from troops testing it. "A dramatic improvement," said Army Lt. Col. Scott Crizer. Military officials said 48,000 Land Warrior outfits would roll out by 2004 to be used by Army troops in training and combat, under a new production contract

Again, small-company dominance proved horrifying to the Army procurement officials, who voided the $35 million follow-on Exponent contract, and instead awarded a xxxxxx $60 Million Land Warrior II contract to a consortium of giant companies under General Dynamics. As the reference above says: "Many of the large defense contractors have decades-old political ties to the Pentagon, Congress and the White House. Unless small tech firms own superior technology, they stand little chance of competing against the big guns."

Just as before , the cost of high-level meetings and the inefficiency of breaking the technology into many subawards has led to a program almost dead in the water. The development money was spent, and once again the giants labored and gave birth to a massively heavy, low-performance Soldier System.

And by delivery in 6/03 the success was underwhelming: The Army's plan for turning soldiers into digital warriors was again rewritten, in the wake of disappointing field trials that showed that technology is improving, but as not yet ready for combat.

Senate Report 108-046 (FY 2004)

"The committee recommends a transfer of $73.5 million from Land Warrior production procurement to PE64713A project 667, Land Warrior development, of which $15.0 million is for further IB-CSAS development, for a total authorization of $122.7 million in PE67413A for the Land Warrior system development, and a decease of the remaining $21.3 to Other Procurement, Army."

General Dynamics C4 Systems Inc., Scottsdale, Ariz., was awarded on June 2, 2005, an $8,552,250 increment as part of a $28,176,442 firm-fixed-price contract for Land Warrior-Stryker "Interoperability" Systems and associated support equipment

"After a disappointing evaluation by users of a new high-tech soldier ensemble, the Army is redesigning portions of the system to make it lighter and easier to use, officials said.

The contractor, General Dynamics C4 Systems, will deliver 440 Land Warrior systems this spring to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Lewis, where soldiers will test the technology.

The weight of Land Warrior is one of several sore issues that nearly led to the program's cancellation several years ago. The notion that soldiers - who already are saddled with 100 pounds of gear - should be expected to lug 10 to 20 more pounds of stuff prompted criticism and questions about the utility of Land Warrior.

An earlier version of Land Warrior was slimmed down to 13 pounds, but failed to perform in field tests. By 2004, the Army reengineered the system and took it to Fort Benning, Ga., for more trials. Those tests proved far more successful, and the Army then decided that the Stryker brigades would become the users of Land Warrior.

Weight continues to be a stumbling block, even though the components have been lightened considerably, Cummings said. A full complement of DBCS and Land Warrior gear, including batteries for a 24-hour mission, weighs nearly 17 pounds.

The Army's plan is to field about 6,000 systems to equip three brigades by 2010. Each ensemble is expected to cost about $50,000. The most expensive items are the handheld (WHAT??) computers, which average about $10,000 a piece. The Army estimates it costs between $20,000 and $25,000 to equip a soldier with everything from tee shirts to body armor."

But hey - The good news is that General Dynamics profits are up 19%.