Marines Forced to Lean on Contractors for Fire Support

by Craig Hooper Defense Tech Naval Warfare Analyst

New M777 ultra-lightweight titanium-enhanced howitzers make for a great technical buzz, but one wise Marine, SGT Timothy Caucutt, wonders if the Corps will be able to actually use it without the help of private-sector Tech Reps. His award-winning essay in this month's Marine Corps Gazette, "Paying pirates: Fire supports' dependence upon contractors" is a must-read. Here's a sample:

“Computer systems frequently malfunction, but using civilians to troubleshoot these programs undermines fire support’s ability to be “semper flexiblis.” As a result, the skill of uniformed operators has atrophied. Fixing this problem requires the Marine Corps to reduce its dependency on contractors and train Marines instead.

Artillery, mortars, naval guns, and close air support (CAS) are well-known components of the Corps’ war machine, but behind the rockets and explosions lies an obscured necessity—automation. The fire support community depends upon various automated systems, including the advanced field artillery tactical data system and several command and control (C2) personal computer programs. These systems compute firing data, track statuses, maintain digital communications, and facilitate many more vital tasks. A battlespace commander must have this information to maximize his firing assets.

Marines are the system operators, but when they run into difficulty their primary course of action is calling a contractor. Troublesome in training, this lack of independence can be lethal in combat...”

SGT Caucutt's cautionary tale points to a systemic weakness in the low-profile world of obscure Command and Control technology--mundane stuff that the tip-of-the-spear technology needs to do the job. Read the whole thing. Show Full Article

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