The Defense Automotive Technology Consortium, a unique public/private partnership, is connecting advanced automotive technology suppliers to the US Army’s efforts to modernize its ground forces.
In a radio broadcast during the closing days of 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt used the term “Arsenal of Democracy” to refer to American industrial might and its ability to supply trucks, tanks, aircraft and other weapons of war to our European allies in the fight against the Axis powers. He borrowed the phrase from William S. Knudsen, the former Ford Motor Company and General Motors executive that FDR had brought in to oversee the war materiel production effort during World War II.
This effort proved decisive in the Allied victory. According to Knudsen, “We won because we smothered the enemy in an avalanche of production, the like of which he had never seen, nor dreamed possible.” As the only civilian to ever join the Army as a Lieutenant General, Knudsen was Director of Production in the Office of the Under Secretary of War, and he dramatically streamlined government procurement processes and persuaded companies that had never produced military hardware to join the effort.
More than 75 years later, the U.S. military faces another daunting challenge – to modernize its ground forces and improve its readiness to deal with a variety of global threats to national security. This time, the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) partnered with SAE Industry Technologies Consortia (ITC) in 2016 to create DATC – Defense Automotive Technologies Consortium – via Other Transaction Agreement (OTA). An OTA is an innovative federal procurement vehicle that provides more flexibility than traditional government contracting, designed to speed the adoption of commercial technologies. And like the WW II effort, involving smaller companies that are not traditional military suppliers is a cornerstone of the program.
The OTA runs for seven years, during which up to $700 million in projects can be awarded. DATC programs address key mobility technologies for the military, including:
In its first year, six DATC members, working together, submitted the successful program proposal for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) prototype program, worth $237 million.
Recently, David M. Porreca, the Executive Director of DATC, spoke to a group of defense and automotive industry senior executives, at a summit convened to discuss the opportunities and challenges relating to the modernization of the U.S. Army. Joining Dave on the panel were U.S. Senator Gary Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Major General Philip Churn, Assistant to the Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff; Dr Paul Rogers, Executive Director of TARDEC and Charles Freese, Executive Director of General Motor’s Global Fuel Cell Business, and head of a new GM Defense unit formed to expand the automaker’s military offerings.
Porreca reported that DATC has grown to 164 companies and organizations, and that 70% of them were classified as “non-traditional” defense contractors. Often, these non-traditional companies choose not to seek out business with the government because it is too cumbersome, too expensive or they simply are reluctant to deal with all the regulations and guidelines. These typically smaller organizations possess new and exciting technologies that the U.S. Army really needs in order to modernize. DATC serves as the facilitator and seeks to assist the U.S. Army in linking up with these important sources of the latest technologies.
“SAE has a long history of supporting the U.S. Army, dating back to World War I, when our members designed and manufactured the crucial Class B Truck in just 69 days for the war effort,” according to David L. Schutt, President of SAE ITC and DATC. “Helping to expedite the adoption of innovative technologies will greatly assist our nation’s defense capabilities.”