From the Report to Congress
Case in Point: Robots - “Out front…in Harm’s Way”
In a little more than three years, the application of improved materiel visibility processes and procedures has enabled robots to conduct more than 25,000 missions finding and clearing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq. The robots have found and cleared slightly more than 15,000 IEDs, for a success rate of 60 percent against the loss of just 214 robots. More importantly, this highly dangerous work was successfully accomplished without putting U.S. and coalition soldiers in harm’s way, not to mention the lives saved by finding and disarming these devices.
The Robotic Systems Joint Program Office (RSJPO) achieved this level of performance by standardizing equipment-tracking data that enabled it to maintain the integrity of the information and provide broad visibility to the program’s stakeholders. Over time, it augmented these capabilities through enablers, such as, Item Unique Identification (IUID) and Serialized Item Management (SIM). IUID/SIM improved RSJPO’s ability to manage and track its dispersed inventory of robots, resulting in timely and seamless support to deployed forces. In short, business transformation set the stage for the successful employment of robots in Iraq.
In late 2003, IEDs emerged as the significant threat to U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. They were claiming lives and causing serious injuries at an alarming rate. The Department began a multi-pronged effort to counter this successful insurgent tactic. One initiative was to use robots to find and assist in disarming IEDs. The RSJPO delivered the first robots in early 2004. During the next three years, it achieved 100% availability and accountability for its robots. Whenever a robot was needed for a mission, there was one ready to get it accomplished.
To achieve 100% availability for its robots, RSJPO established the Joint Robotic Repair Facility (JRRF) in Iraq in March 2005 to serve as the one-stop repair facility for damaged robots. To support the work at this “Robot Hospital”, RSJPO developed procedures and established a system to integrate data from the maintenance, supply and distribution processes to provide not only 100% availability, but also 100% property accountability for the more than 4,000 robots in its inventory. The system had to be able to track and account for robots that were small enough to fit in the palm of your hand all the way up to some that were too big for the family garage. JRRF also had to account for 15 levels of configuration management, parts consumption and maintenance manhours. It maintained all of this data in a web accessible centralized database that was visible to all program stakeholders, leadership and the vendors. The success of this system enabled the JRRF to live up to a bold claim: “Any robot will be fixed in 4 hours or less. Period!”
The program has continued to grow and RSJPO has added more complex robots to its inventory. To keep up, in September 2007 it adopted IUID and SIM to comply with OSD directives and to streamline the program’s existing integrated supply chain and maintenance management processes. IUID provides JRRF the means to create a unique record for all robots, mission essential and safety critical parts. Now IUID/SIM, combined with the existing system architecture, improves the ability to share data and provide rapid access to information for strategic decisions. This contributes to a reduction in the cost to maintain the robots through better collaboration between the soldiers/maintainers, the program and the vendors, based on data collected about marked robots and mission essential parts. Through sound process and technology application, these robots have a high level of reliability that ensures that they, not the soldier, are “out front in harm’s way” countering IEDs. Through this innovative approach, the JRRF can rapidly procure Commercial Off-the-Shelf items and sustain them long enough for an adequate evaluation of their potential for entry into the standard acquisition process.