MRAP team takes first Przirembel Prize
A Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center (SSC) Atlantic team came out on top of a field of 21 world-class Southeastern U.S. collaborators producing high impact innovations to win the inaugural presentation of the Przirembel Prize May 10 at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville, SC.
SSC Atlantic’s Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle integration team won the award for its collaboration with various MRAP vehicle manufacturers, other military units, industry partners and the community as they rapidly and successfully integrated more than 16,000 MRAPs and 8,000 MRAP All-Terrain Vehicles (M-ATVs) with a full complement of communication, computers, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems that give warfighters from all U.S. military services information dominance over their enemies. The MRAP acquisition is managed by the Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) under the authority of the Joint MRAP Vehicle Program Office.
The newly created Przirembel Prize, which recognizes collaborations across diverse organizations in the Southeastern United States deemed significant by those outside the region, promotes the best practices in open innovation. The award was presented as part of the eighth annual InnoVenture Southeast conference. Calling the MRAP/M-ATV effort “one of the most significant military/industry collaborations since World War II,” John Warner, founder and CEO of InnoVenture LLC, said “We have succeeded in demonstrating that the southeastern United States is an innovation powerhouse in the world.”
In order to reduce the loss of warfighters due to improvised explosive devices on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made MRAP vehicles the number one DoD acquisition priority in May of 2007. MRAP vehicles have a V-shaped hull and raised chassis that deflects bomb blasts outward, away from the interior where troops sit, thus drastically reduce troop casualties.
MCSC tasked SSC Atlantic to be the sole C4ISR integrator of the vehicles, receiving MRAP vehicles manufactured by a variety of vendors, and integrating each with a full complement of C4ISR systems. In addition to the existing variants and configurations of vehicles, the different military branches needed specific C4ISR suites in their MRAPs. All told, there were nearly two dozen configurations of vehicles to be designed, prototyped, integrated, tested and shipped from SSC Atlantic to warfighters. On Dec. 4, 2007, SSC Atlantic met its goal of integrating 50 vehicles per day, with 75 being integrated in a day at one point.
“These vehicles are really making a difference in the lives of the warfighters who put their lives on the line every day,” said Brig. Gen. Frank L. Kelley, commander of MCSC and MRAP Joint Program Executive Officer, to the integration team during a March 22 visit to SSC Atlantic.
Under the guidance of the MCSC Joint Program Office, SSC Atlantic developed working relationships with the multiple MRAP vehicle manufacturers, C4ISR equipment manufacturers, test personnel, integration contractors, local governments, military branch representatives, and transportation units to be successful. “I’m especially proud of how SSC Atlantic developed true collaborative partnerships across the community in order to gain efficiencies and meet the challenging MRAP program productivity objectives,” said SSC Atlantic Commanding Officer Capt. Bruce Urbon.
In addition to the MCSC Joint Program Office, the military collaborators were U.S. Transportation Command; the 841st Transportation Battalion; Army Strategic Logistics Activity Charleston; Coast Guard Sector Charleston; Joint Base Charleston including Naval Weapons Station Charleston, 437th Airlift Wing, 315th Airlift Wing and Naval Criminal Investigative Service; Defense Contract Management Agency; Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition; and the Army Material Command. Industry teammates were Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC); Scientific Research Corporation (SRC); Stanley Corporation; Imagine One; Mantech; and VT MILCOM. SSC Atlantic also collaborated with the city of North Charleston for this effort.
The SSC Atlantic integration facility at one point had 900 personnel working in two 10-hour shifts to meet goals. The SSC Atlantic team expanded geographically to Orangeburg, S.C., initially as a back-up facility for continuity of operations. The expansion then turned into another full integration facility that integrated up to an additional 20 vehicles per day.
The collaboration created more than 1,200 jobs directly across the government and industry sectors of South Carolina. Additional jobs were created and maintained in third party suppliers of equipment and support services across the region by secondary partnerships for industrial supplies and services.
The impact of the innovative solutions developed by the MRAP team was felt at the highest levels of the government and by troops in hostile zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated, “This is an amazing example of Republicans, Democrats, the executive branch, the Congress, manufacturers, government bureaucrats, everybody pitching in and doing the right thing.”
During a visit to SSC Atlantic and the MRAP integration line last year, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said, “Every time I have made a trip in theater, a soldier has come to me and said, ‘keep the MRAPS and M-ATVs coming. They save our lives. Tell them back home ‘thank you.’”