White Sands Missile Range leaders and representatives will participate in a Range Commanders Council working-group meeting held at the Army Test and Evaluation Command in Aberdeen, Maryland Sept. 13 to 15. This is the second bi-annual meeting held in 2016.
There are 17 test and evaluation ranges, including NASA, that make up the RCC. The goal of the committee is to provide synergy to meet U.S. test, training and operational-range challenges, technical challenges, manpower challenges, encroachment and economic challenges.
WSMR RCC Technical Representative Frank Chavez, said the original intent was to ensure every range had the same technical requirements for customers.
“The important part was to make things standardized between the ranges and the manufacturer of the equipment to benefit the customer,” Chavez said. “If you buy a piece of equipment off the shelf, based on the RCC, you can test on any range.”
Two groups of people represent the 17 ranges: One is the Executive Committee made up of technical directors and executive directors of member ranges, the second includes the commanders from member rangers. On Sept. 13 and 14 the Executive Committee meets to determine top issues and recommendations for the commanders meeting on the final day.
“The mission of the RCC is to utilize the collective synergy of our member ranges to overcome technical challenges,” said WSMR RCC Executive Officer Ed Kennedy. “We solve problems that ranges can’t tackle on their own and create a shared awareness of emerging issues that will impact how the ranges plan, prepare and execute their respective missions.”
Since 1991 the RCC has reached over $612 million dollars of cost avoidance. Chavez said the savings occurs when, for example, a range upgrades equipment and has equipment they don’t need any more and another range has a need for the equipment. The piece of equipment can be transferred rather than purchased or turned-in, which is a longer process. In February of 2016, WSMR put a $36 million dollar Multiple Object Tracking Radar into operation through RCC coordination. The MOTR was to be turned in from its original location at Vandenberg Air Force Base until WSMR expressed a need for a radar.
“The RCC provides a unique forum to turn such discussions into actions,” Kennedy said.
He said there are always new developments on such issues like radio frequency availability, how local and state governments handle land concerns in areas adjacent to ranges on manpower trends, new telemetry formats on new space-lift capabilities that demand immediate attention from senior leaders and are addressed through the RCC format. Through the RCC meeting ranges can exchange technical, operational and management information on a bi-annual basis.
“The RCC is the only cross-service government-led range agency that tackles such issues in a comprehensive way,” Kennedy said.
Several subject-matter experts and representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation are also invited to speak during the meeting.
“We always invite senior leaders from various defense and federal agencies to brief us on relevant, often newly-emerging issues that enables member ranges to prepare accordingly,” Kennedy said.
At the last RCC, Kennedy said Gen. Gregory Martin, a former commander of Air Force Materiel Command and David Brown, deputy assistant Secretary of Defense, talked about the issue of developing an agreed upon measure of effectiveness to evaluate an autonomous system of self -learning and the revolutionary ways future wars will be fought with new technologies.
“The RCC is unique in that representatives from different ranges get together and talk about those kinds of issues,” he said. “The meetings reflect the unique RCC characteristic of incorporating bi-directional interchange between technical subject matter experts, policy experts and senior leadership from across the range community. Maintaining professional contact is very important, our meetings are the only ones where commanders can meet with their peers from other service ranges and share lessons learned or propose joint initiatives.”
Chavez said aside from the cost-saving efforts the RCC serves to benefit test ranges through several different avenues. The RCC provides an opportunity to network with different test ranges and with networking there is a transfer of information and technology between ranges which lead to a standardization of documentation, a critical need within test ranges.