White Sands Missile Range leaders hosted 81 participants and 13 commanders during the Range Commanders Council meetings Feb. 23 to 25, which brought about discussions on “third offset strategies” that could affect member ranges in the near future.
“Since 1951, the RCC has been the leading forum for the pursuit of common-range solutions for common-range needs, the adoption of technical standards for range operations, equipment exchanges and for presenting a unified front for combating encroachment and mitigating regional policies which inhibit operations,” said WSMR Commander Brig. Gen. Timothy Coffin in his welcome letter.
“As we look toward the future, in terms of where are we going to go, we look at issues like encroachment, technologies that are involved in ‘third offset’ and how do we as part of the defense base support the future of our nation and the ability to deliver weapon system capabilities to our Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines that are necessary in order for them to have success on the battlefield,” Coffin said.
The RCC is an affiliation of 17 member Test and Evaluation ranges including NASA that seeks to provide synergy to meet U.S. test, training and operational-range challenges to include technical challenges, manpower challenges, encroachment and economic challenges, said Ed Kennedy, executive officer with the RCC Secretariat at WSMR.
The ‘third offset’ is a Department of Defense strategy that is part of the Defense Innovation Initiative that includes targeting scarce modernization dollars at new technologies that could potentially disrupt technologies being used or being developed by adversaries, according to a speech delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work Jan. 28, 2015.
Kennedy said overall the meetings were a success. “We had a retired four star general talk about what is coming – specifically the ‘third offset strategy’ and what kind of things to expect and what kind of demands will be made on the ranges,” Kennedy said.
Building blocks of the “third offset” include autonomous learning systems, smart swarms and network enabled technologies hardened to operate in future cyber and electromagnetic warfare environments.
Kennedy said there are a number of cross-cutting issues the RCC is trying to find solutions for as an enterprise.
“One of those is our declining manpower situation and finding expertise in things like big data and the testing of cyber systems, which we didn’t have years ago,” Kennedy said.
“The RCC is unique in that representatives from different ranges get together and talk about those kinds of issues.”
The RCC meeting was divided into an executive committee portion made up of technical directors and executive directors of member ranges, and a commander’s session composed of commanders from RCC member ranges.
Several subject matter experts were also invited to speak as were representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation.
Guests were also treated to special tours of the range and had an opportunity to sample the local cuisine at a social reception hosted by the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce at La Posta Restaurant in Mesilla.
“The Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee felt this was a unique opportunity to show our support of WSMR while also welcoming the leaders from DoD ranges around the nation to Southern New Mexico,” said William D. Connor with the GLCCC.
“We also saw this as a chance to build new relationships that can help with our community’s advocacy for the Department of Defense in our region.”
Kennedy said one of the outcomes of the meetings is that the RCC needs to really think hard about innovation and helping accelerate the transition from concept to deployment.
Another is standardization of directed energy testing in anticipation of directed energy systems becoming more commonplace at test ranges.
There will be new operational concepts that are forthcoming that the range community will have to adapt to.
“There are different issues that were brought up to include recapitalization of test infrastructure, budgets, test capacity, safety and T&E issues that would benefit all the customers if they were standardized across the member ranges,” Kennedy said.