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[] USA Today 7.2.02: Silicon Valley Techies Suit Up Army With Sleeker Gear,

USA Today
February 7, 2002
Pg. 1B

Silicon Valley Techies Suit Up Army With Sleeker Gear

By Edward Iwata, USA Today

On a pitch-black night last fall, 40 Army Rangers parachuted into the=
 forests at Fort Polk, La., simulating combat against an Eastern Bloc enemy.

They were outfitted with the "Land Warrior," a computer system full of=
 high-tech firearms and communications gear.

On the ground, the troops used Land Warrior's satellite-mapping device and=
 found each other in 30 minutes. It can take two or three hours using=
 flashlights and paper maps.

One Ranger, peering through a heat-sensing thermal sight on his M-4 rifle,=
 spotted "enemy" snipers in the dark 300 meters away and opened fire,=
 "killing" them. The Rangers finished their mission twice as fast as a=
 typical platoon.

"It's powerful technology," says Army Ranger Sgt. Chris Augustine. "We were=
 apprehensive at first, but now we're begging for it."

That's a stunning turnaround from three years ago, when soldiers hated the=
 clunky Land Warrior system and ripped it off their backs. The $2 billion=
 project was on its deathbed after defense contractor Raytheon built a=
 prototype called the "turtle shell" that was blasted by the General=
 Accounting Office. Since then, the Land Warrior has been resurrected by a=
 team of Silicon Valley engineers who retooled it in six months.

The firms =97 Pacific Consultants, Exponent, Pemstar and Computer Sciences =
=97 ignored rigid Army specifications and brainstormed ideas. They lightened=
 the Land Warrior computer harness, wrote new software and worked closely=
 with soldiers.

Today, the new Land Warrior is earning rave reviews from troops testing it.=
 "A dramatic improvement," says Army Lt. Col. Scott Crizer. Military=
 officials say 48,000 Land Warrior outfits may roll out by 2004 to be used=
 by Army troops in training and combat. Even the Navy has tested the Land=

The tech firms hail the revised Land Warrior as a victory of their=
 fast-track, entrepreneurial business model over the costlier defense=
 industry model followed by the military for decades. They also tout their=
 use of commercial products, such as Microsoft software and Intel computer=
 chips, instead of pricier technology made by the government or large=
 defense contractors. While corporate behemoths, such as Lockheed Martin and=
 General Dynamics, rule the defense world, the small tech firms say their=
 Land Warrior success has caught the attention of military brass and defense=

"We made it the classic Silicon Valley way: quicker, cheaper and better,"=
 says Hugh Duffy, a former Pacific Consultants executive. "It's an uphill=
 battle, but we think we can transform the old model."

Six years ago, the Army hoped the Land Warrior would revolutionize combat by=
 creating the world's first digital soldier. Part of the Pentagon's sweeping=
 $21 billion drive to create a digital battlefield, the Land Warrior would=
 give the Army the same dominance on the ground that the Air Force enjoys in=
 the skies.

In theory, the early Land Warrior would be an awesome fighting machine.=
 Infantrymen would use a computer and radio harness, voice communication and=
 wireless e-mail, a satellite-mapping system and other high-tech gear.

"The idea was to make our soldiers invincible," says Justus Decher,=
 executive director of business development at Pemstar.

After intense bidding, the contract to develop Land Warrior was awarded to=
 Raytheon, maker of the Tomahawk cruise missile and the world's No. 3=
 defense contractor, with $17 billion in revenue.

Troubled times

But the first prototype by Raytheon was a 40-pound monstrosity, according to=
 GAO reports, Army officials and defense industry experts. During testing,=
 soldiers who rolled on the ground got stuck on their backs like tortoises.=
 The helmet was so heavy, troops who were crawling couldn't lift their heads=
 to fire rifles. A thick helmet cable got snagged in bushes so often that=
 soldiers ripped it out.

The early Land Warrior software rarely worked, and batteries for computers=
 and radios lasted far less than the desired 12 hours. The system failed=
 water tests, leaking badly. During jump exercises, the bulky computer packs=
 wouldn't fit under soldiers' parachutes.

"It was a classic example of guys sitting around a table, wishing they had=
 this and that," says retired Army Lt. Col. Tim Eads, an analyst at the=
 Center for Strategic & International Studies. "You ended up with a 50-pound=
 piece of metal that soldiers hated dragging around."

Raytheon declined to talk about problems raised in the GAO report but said=
 the company laid the foundation for the Land Warrior concept. "We believe=
 our efforts were invaluable to (the success of) the Land Warrior," says=
 Raytheon executive David Martin.

Meanwhile, the cost of developing the Land Warrior units had soared to $2.1=
 billion from $1.4 billion, according to the GAO. Congress was threatening=
 to cut off funding, and Army officials were under pressure to kill the=

An intense Army colonel named Bruce Jette revived the Land Warrior system,=
 according to military and defense industry insiders. Jette, a no-nonsense=
 engineer with a doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of=
 Technology, has a personal stake in the project's success: His son is=
 studying at West Point.

To troubleshoot, in early 1999 Jette brought in high-tech consultants=
 Exponent, a Silicon Valley firm that studies engineering and structural=
 failures and accidents.

The firm felt that Raytheon had followed Army specs for the project too=
 closely. The old prototype had to be trashed and a new computer and radio=
 system built.

Raytheon strongly objected, say military and defense industry sources. The=
 company had spent four years and millions of dollars developing the Land=
 Warrior. It needed more work, but not a complete overhaul, they felt.

"We fulfilled our contractual obligations and designed what the government=
 requested," says Raytheon's Martin.

In tense meetings and phone calls, Army officials asked Raytheon several=
 times to work with the Silicon Valley engineers to change the Land Warrior.=
 Raytheon refused, according to military and defense industry experts.

"Raytheon had a lot of ego and technical talent invested in the project,"=
 says Dan Causey, the Army's chief of technical management for the Land=
 Warrior program. "They felt they were at the top of their game, and we=
 hadn't convinced them. It was a real impasse."

The Silicon Valley engineers felt Raytheon could build missile systems but=
 couldn't make cheap, reliable computer setups the way they could. Over=
 beers at nearby bars, the engineers clashed over everything from software=
 standards to computer chip speeds.

The budding partnership crumbled when Exponent refused to sign a=
 subcontractor agreement with lead contractor Raytheon. Frustrated Army=
 officials told Exponent to charge ahead anyway and design a new Land=

Going off the shelf

The Silicon Valley engineers slapped together a crude model in three months.=
 They went to retailers Best Buy and Fry's Electronics and bought several=
 cheap, off-the-shelf products, including Microsoft Windows CE software and=
 a wireless card to allow Land Warrior computers to send data.

The most critical technical step: They wrote the software in common=
 programming language used by most software engineers, rather than using old=
 government programming language, as Raytheon had.

The Army sped up the months-long military procurement process by staging a=
 Silicon Valley-style "bake-off" in late 1999 in Menlo Park, Calif. The=
 bidders =97 Pacific Consultants, Raytheon and Motorola =97 demonstrated=
 their proposed Land Warrior computer and software designs before a roomful=
 of Army engineers.

"It was like the gunfight at the OK Corral," Duffy says.

Pacific Consultants said it could finish its prototype in six months for $2=
 million =97 more quickly and cheaply than the other bidders. The price tag=
 for Pacific Consultant's prototype was $30,000 a unit, while Raytheon's=
 version would have cost more than $60,000, say defense contractors and Army=

The Army decided in one day, choosing Pacific Consultants to design the Land=
 Warrior's hardware, software and radio systems. The next year, Pacific=
 Consultants led a consortium that won a $35 million contract to make the=
 prototypes. In coming years, the military might dole out up to $18 billion=
 to contractors to manufacture and repair Land Warrior units.

Soldiers say the newest Land Warrior is the best version yet. At 12 pounds,=
 the vest and body armor fit snugly around a soldier's torso. Its Microsoft=
 Windows 2000 software still has bugs but is nearing the project goal of 10=
 days of use without breaking down.

Soldiers who've grown up with computers love the Land Warriors, says Army=
 Ranger Sgt. Don Boyle, who notes that a Delta Force Land Warrior video game=
 is used during training at West Point.

Mindful that billions of dollars have been spent on ill-fated defense=
 projects over the decades, the military hopes to buy more commercial=
 technology. Even the Navy Seals have bought commercial speedboats and=
 reinforced them to withstand gunfire.

"The Army may have led the world in solid-state electronics in the 1960s,=
 but today, our technology expenditures aren't even one high-tech company's=
 R&D budget," says Jette. "We have to use technologies in the commercial=
 sector to our advantage."

Analysts say it's unclear, though, whether the Army's success with the Land=
 Warrior will persuade the military and defense industry to change its ways.=
 Too much is at stake, such as the $200 billion, 10-year contract won=
 recently by Lockheed Martin to build the Joint Strike Fighter, a=
 state-of-the-art jetfighter. Conservative military brass fear change.=
 Politicians still want to funnel defense dollars into their districts.

"The forces arrayed against change are pretty formidable," says analyst=
 Christopher Hellman at the Center for Defense Information.

Many of the large defense contractors have decades-old political ties to the=
 Pentagon, Congress and the White House. Unless small tech firms own=
 superior technology, they stand little chance of competing against the big=

Yet, the Silicon Valley model might be winning converts. Military experts=
 say two new Army projects to modernize military vehicles and soldiers'=
 communications systems will use commercial technology.

"That's a good sign," says Exponent executive John Geddes. "It means we've=
 been successful."

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