SOCOM Leaders: We Need More Non-Traditional Technology Partners

May 19, 2015

    Jon Harper | National Defense    U.S. Special Operations Command needs to find new partners among industry and academia to meet the challenges ahead, SOCOM leaders said May 19.   Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of SOCOM, warned that his forces’ technological superiority is increasingly being challenged by state and non-state actors.   “We believe there are opportunities to continue to expand our partnerships with non-traditional and traditional DOD suppliers and innovation leaders. Ultimately the ability to introduce new capabilities to SOF at a rate that outpaces our adversaries will rely heavily on our collective efforts to attract this wide diversity of partners and technologies,” he told attendees at a National Defense Industrial Association conference in Tampa.   The special operations chief is looking for game-changing technologies and concepts, which makes having fresh eyes looking at SOF issues imperative.   “We must leverage industry to lean it forward and help it develop the technologies that are not just incremental improvements but monumental improvements, ones that revolutionize our capabilities,” he said.   James Geurts, the head of acquisition and procurement at SOCOM, said the command is looking at creating internships or fellowship programs for individuals within industry to come work at SOCOM.   He also sees award competitions as a useful tool for expanding the command’s network.   The command has used this method to move the ball forward on its Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, also known as the “Iron Man” suit.   “That again attracts a different sort of players in here, a different way of looking at things,” Geurts said at the conference. “We’ve got other PEOs [program executive officers] right now looking at that model and figuring out how to incorporate that into their toolkit.”   He said “Thunderdome” brainstorming sessions with a more diverse set of partners to tackle vexing challenges would also be beneficial as the command seeks to “create environments where we get new combinations of players together to get new capability out there quickly.”   He encouraged industry and academia to host their own “Thunderdome” sessions and invite SOCOM officials to attend.   “I think that’s a missing piece right now because to me the technology offset I’m worried about is velocity and being able to transition any technology as quickly as we can as needed into the field,” he said.   This doesn’t mean SOCOM is looking to change the entire acquisition process and focus entirely on new players.   “There’s room for traditional acquisition as well,” Geurts said, but “I always look for how do we have the most tools we can in the toolbox and… not have one tool that we have to always kind of work around imperfectly to get to a solution.”