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DoD Travel Restrictions Hit Special Operations Research

Ongoing travel and conference restrictions imposed by the U.S. Department of Defense appear to be taking a bite out of special operations research efforts. The latest example appeared on Dec. 20, 2012, with the cancellation of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Joint and Special Operations Program (JSOP) [managed at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division] “Market Research Event” originally planned for Jan. 11-14, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nev.

As explained in the original announcement released in late October 2012, JSOP “conducts research and development directed toward systems, subsystems and components in support of USSOCOM and our nations special operations warfighters.”

In that role, JSOP programs focus on five primary technical areas:

  • Individual and crew-served weapons;
  • Fire control systems;
  • Ordnance and munitions;
  • Fire support systems; and
  • Night vision/electro-optics for handheld, vehicle mounted and weapon mounted applications.

Through the October 2012 announcement, JSOP requested technical submissions from industry that would address a range of prioritized capability gaps. The gaps were reportedly identified and prioritized as a result of the 2012 “USSOCOM Roadmap Summit,” which was held between various government users, operators, and program representatives.

As an example, the announcement prioritized certain weapons/lethality requirements (highest to lowest) as:

  1. Lightweight ammo; sniper systems, assault systems, crew served systems, ammunition;
  2. Long range 40mm (medium velocity) capability; assault systems, ammunition;
  3. Improved barrels and suppressors; signature reduction, life extension, sustainable, ammunition;
  4. Enhanced .50 caliber sniper match grade;
  5. Sub-sonic ammunition;
  6. Improved ammunition; sniper, assault;
  7. Personal defense weapons; assault systems, weapons;
  8. Clandestine breakdown sniper system; sniper systems, weapons, heavy; and
  9. Improved handgun.

Industry was invited to submit technical papers addressing these and other identified gaps, with selected papers invited to provide presentations Jan. 11-14 at an identified hotel convention center in Las Vegas. The first three days had been designed for industry briefings and demonstrations while the final day was “intended to convey USSOCOM PEO SOF Warrior Targeting and Engagement Systems roadmaps and capability gaps to interested industry representatives.”

The process would have served “to inform industry on true USSOCOM priorities so that industry internal RDT&E efforts can become better focused on specific requirements.”

The JSOP/USSOCOM event had been timed and located to run the four days prior to the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, which traditionally draws the latest examples of many related technologies to another nearby Las Vegas venue. The coincident timing reduced the financial burden for many companies who were attending SHOT and also wished to support the unfunded JSOP/USSOCOM information effort.

However, in its Dec. 20 notice cancelling the government event, the JSOP/USSOCOM community cited “continued DOD restrictions on government hosted events and travel,” adding, “Continued industry support is extremely important to meeting the capability requirements of the SOF warfighter and it is our sincere hope that this tremendous support will continue as we move forward to fill these requirements.”


Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...