Although not a programmatic challenge, Bond also admitted to harboring some concerns stemming from an unstable world and the possibilities that some might want to exploit the impressive capabilities of G/ATOR more quickly than originally planned.
“The first time I was asked the question was by representatives from Central Command,” he recalled. “They said, ‘You’ve made a couple of radars that are looking really good – so if we got into trouble, could we have one?’ Of course my first thought was that they were ripping up my developmental program by taking a system only half done and betting their mission on it. That’s not necessarily prudent. But it did force me to sit down with the engineers to explore how long they would need to test it before they could stand to let it go forward. They asked if they could send some of their people with it if that happened, and I told them that they absolutely could for its first deployment.
“Their answer came back sooner than I had anticipated,” he continued. “And so that answer got us thinking about other smarter ways to do the program to achieve the efficiencies that I have been talking about. So recognizing that there is always that potential need out there to ‘operationalize’ the system ahead of schedule in response to an emergent challenge to our Marines elsewhere in the world has been part of what has motivated us to find more creative ways of doing things.”
One of the “unintended consequences” of this sort of contingency planning was the realization that expediting the program would bring additional cost benefits while placing improved capabilities more quickly into the hands of Marines.
According to Bond, one acceleration option showed that the production program could be completed three years sooner than originally planned.
“We would be done,” he said. “We could get it out of the factory and stop paying any corporate overhead for production. More importantly, for our Marines, we could retire all the old stuff three years earlier. And many of those legacy radars are not in the best of shape – otherwise we wouldn’t be buying their replacement. So that too is an opportunity we are in a position to realize as a result of being asked to look at that potential real-world contingency.”
Summarizing the advantages that G/ATOR will bring to those Marines, Bond pointed to “extraordinary improvement in situational awareness,” adding, “It provides that information completely [in] real time and with high enough quality that you could give it to everyone else on the joint battlefield, sharing that picture and giving them the same situational awareness as the Marines who are right there with that radar. With our legacy systems, the data rates are slower, the data quality is less, and the basic ability to see some of the more challenging threats is dramatically less. As a result, we didn’t work as hard on sharing that picture with everybody in a joint expeditionary task force. But with G/ATOR there’s so much more situational awareness that is so much more ready to be shared with all of the players on the joint battlefield.”
Bond was quick to credit “the entire team effort” for program success to date, as well as the identification of possible future direction.
“I’m very proud of this team,” he noted. “Every time we are given one of those challenges we go off and think about it together and end up identifying ways to do the program even better. That’s been our hallmark to this point and I would certainly expect it to continue to go that way in the future.”
In his own case, Bond brings a personal commitment to the team, with the former career U.S. Navy officer acknowledging that his passion for the job stems from the fact that his son is a Marine officer serving in Afghanistan.
“And everyone here has a story like that,” he said. “They may not have a child in Afghanistan today but they are all that connected to the Marine operating force and feel that same passion and commitment to give those young people the very best capability we can and to do it as responsibly and cost effectively as we can.
“We pursue excellence in acquisition because of the excellence achieved by the Marines’ service out there every day,” he concluded. “The least we can do is to try to live up to their example.”
This article was first published in Marine Corps Outlook: 2012-2013 Edition.