Ask SSD Update – “Should I Send a Product to this Troop?”

Last week I posted an ‘Ask SSD’ article on how to deal with the various requests for test articles received by companies. No story in recent memory has spawned so much back channel communication or general malcontent amongst the people it was written about. While mainly aimed at dealing with the “press” (and I use that term VERY broadly), I also mentioned requests from Military and LE. Afterward, a military contracting officer I know sent me a quick note which I’ll share with you.

…if SFC Random hits them up for basically free stuff to “test”, it is always the safest course of action to insist on a no-cost loan agreement from the troop’s/unit’s supporting Contracting Officer. It protects the company AND industry.

That said, if the troop ain’t a capability developer, program or test guy, don’t send them anything. Just sayin’.”

Sage advice indeed. It protects both industry and the Government.

Thanks Matt!

15 Responses to “Ask SSD Update – “Should I Send a Product to this Troop?””

  1. Resabed says:

    CORs have been fucking troops for years, no reason for them to stop now…

  2. Toby says:

    Not to mention, I am now national guard and my testing program I do technically as a private business so I disagree. That being said it is imperative that companies know your status and conditions. I also ensure that they can not only stay in touch with me but I keep them informed of their investments in my and my endorsements. A full disclosure and honesty I feel are imperative to cultivate a proper working relationship.

  3. straps says:

    “That said, if the troop ain’t a capability developer, program or test guy, don’t send them anything. Just sayin’.”

    This would be the pendulum swinging too far in the other direction.

    The Programs and Directorates have gotten better in that they SUCK AL LITTLE less than they have at times in the past (for ZERO OTHER REASON than people who have actually done the work in the field have added fresh eyes, fresh blood and fresh perspectives).

    I’ve dealt with (and been professionally attacked–as in had promotions and assignments meddled with) by Program guys on TWO occasions by literally stumbling into the mix (as an experienced end user who others presume has some critical thinking facilities), and suggesting solutions OTHER than the one secured with steak dinners and lapdances up in Raleigh or simple institutional inertia choked/chocked with groupthink.

    So yeah, a vendor or manufacturer doesn’t always know who to trust, and the end users have, at times, been their own worst enemies with (a) an inferiority complex (“End user input has never been applied before, why try now?”) or a superiority complex (“These POGues don’t get our world, bro”).

    The middle path is being just as skeptical of the guy e-mailing from [email protected] as that E-8/O-4 with the vast expanse on pristine loop on the right sleeve corresponding from an official address of some post in the mid-Atlantic region.

    AWG and CALL are but two polar opposite examples of entities founded on the principle that GREAT ideas CAN and DO come from the field. And THEY know folks worth trusting with a couple pieces of gear. Is it linear? Nope. But neither is the flow of bad (or good) information in this day and age.

  4. Angry Misha says:

    Here’s some more good advice for industry:

    1. If assigned to a unit, the requester should be a “Force Modernization” or Contracting Officer and should provide a “Bailment Agreement” defining the purpose, duration and financial responsibilities of the “Bailed” item should it not be returned or is mangled, spindled or mutilated.

    2. Any unit requesting “Bailed” property should also provide an official evaluation summary.

    3. NEVER provide ANY Personal Protective Equipment to a unit. That is, unless that unit is a “Tier One” asset. In which case, they will purchase or “Bail” it.

    4. Before sending ANY equipment to a unit, run it through the appropriate service acquisition component (i.e.: NAVSEA, PEO Soldier, PEO SOF, MCSC, AFMC). This will normally “weed out” the “Gear Whores”.

    5. E1-E7 & O1- O2’s do not write “requirements”.

    6. “If you drop your keys in a lava flow, forget it man, ‘cause they’re gone” i.e.; if you send something to a warzone, don’t expect to get it back.

    • Levie says:

      You sound pretty knowledgeable about the subject but have you ever ran accross a case where a unit gets some money and needs to test some gear relatively quickly? I ask this because I observed an LT getting tasked to contact manufacturers to test out holsters for a deployment. Only one vendor responded to the LT and imagine that they got the Army’s money. Had anyone sent anything else their might have been some deliberation. Please take a look at some of the after effects of what all this caution to send products out to warfighters looks like: http://www.dvidshub.net/image/1142187/east-africa-response-force-deploys-south-sudan
      Notice all those sweet black back packs? My point is the person that bought these didn’t do it on his own. They likely contacted vendors to test out a few and got a big middle finger because they are not a Tier 1 unit only “just” warfighters. What are your thoughts? What does everyone think the ratio is for legitimate request from Soldiers over fake geardos?

      • SSD says:

        The days of units having money are unfortunately over.

      • straps says:

        With respect to black packs, sometimes those are sourced because the troops travel commercially to the AOR, and “sponsors” are averse to large numbers of joes with ACU assault packs connecting in Schiphol, Dar Es Salaam or Nairobi. The pack is provided because it contains the change of uniforms and assorted mission essential essentials mandated by packing list for the last (S, O I) leg–often on a military transport.

        The main challenge with innocuous-looking packs (that will be replaced with the palletized assault packs (hopefully) awaiting them in-country) is avoiding the signature of a bunch of wide-eyed palefaces with regulation haircuts meant to last 2-5 weeks and NASCAR, Affliction and UA WW t-shirts herding at their gate choking down warm Coke as they reach into IDENTICAL packs for their copies of Men’s Journal. But that’s a LEADERSHIP issue…

        I’m just speculating here–after having moved units in this fashion for about 20 years now.

        • Buckaroomedic says:

          Straps – you stole my thunder! I was going to say the same thing. Plus, PVT Joe Snuffy can usually only afford one back pack, so they get the black Camelbak from the PX because they can use it in uniform and out on the town.

      • Angry Misha says:

        I would be remiss to not say that I am chuckling at your vignette of the LT whilst muttering “POG” and questioning that due to his unit’s apparent lack of knowledge of tactical equipment; maybe they should seek some adult supervision. However, that is directly related to my personal experience of the “Gun Toting” portion of the “Gun Club” that is the Army.
        Well, first I would recommend that the good LT check to see what is “Fielded” in his respective service and if that fails to meet his “requirement” he should look at sister services (it’s that whole “FAR” thing). If none of the fielded systems work I would then suggest he does some “Market Research” using this amazing thing called “The World Wide Web”. Then he could present his findings to his superiors and “Down Select” to a few models that would meet his requirement. Then he could use his Government Purchase Card to obtain the items from “GSA Advantage” or a “Prime Vendor” and conduct a “Limited User Evaluation” or “Field User Evaluation” as part of his “Source Selection” after which he could make an “Educated” determination as to what holster would best meet the needs of his unit.

        The overarching problem is that we aren’t talking about just holsters and packs. The REAL issue is that individuals like your aforementioned LT don’t actually UNDERSTAND the process of getting equipment or initiating “Requirements” based on “Capability Gaps”. That shortfall lies directly on the operational forces who view this knowledge as a “Competing Interest” rather than a “Force Multiplier”. They are the victims of “WOW” and “Gibs dat ta meh”. The latter usually being attributed to something they saw on a SOF guy, to whom I say; “If you want it, go there” or identify it as a capability gap to your service component Acquisition Command or Occupational Field Sponsor.

        So, I stand by my original comment. If industry wants to provide a sample to a unit, provide it to the unit. Make sure they send you a “Bailment Request” from the S4 and approved by the XO on letterhead that outlines the “5 W’s”. So, in short when industry sends something to a unit, it should be addressed as such:

        1st Bn 212 CAV
        Battalion SupO (Attn: SGT O’Rourke, F Troop)
        BLDG 5150
        Fort Courage, KA

        And make sure that the SupO and requesting individual verify receipt

    • MattF says:

      A good example of a ‘Bailment Agreement’ aka ‘Vendor Loan Agreement’ (VLA) is the one that SOCOM uses for it’s TNT/TE and other evaluation programs.

      A copy of it can be found in the attachments of the following FBO solicitation:

      You can amend the VLA to virtually any unit/government organization by amending the references to ‘USSOCOM’ to the relevant organization.

  5. BrettW says:

    There is a fine line between “testing” and “evaluating”…

    Testing takes (and more times than not requires) the following – time, money, testing parameters, thresholds, objectives, sample lots, clean environments, skilled workers and finally a test plan (with plenty more not included).

    Evaluating doesn’t REQUIRE any of the above and in most cases the person evaluating the item can barely get one of those categories fulfilled never mind multiple categories.

    Sure there are people you want to seed product to but that is usually in conjunction with a product release or enhancement of some sort.

    There are ways to sniff out the bullshit but the number one way to way help yourself or your company is to – get educated.

    On the flip side (and I think it’s just as important to note) industry is just a culpable. If I had a penny for every time I walked a trade show and have heard the sales pitch “…you know this was tested by special forces” or “… these are currently being fielded by {insert USSOCOM asset}…” – just because one guy you know bought an item doesn’t give the sales team permission to say “all of SF (or the sort) ” is using / fielding said item.

    I think sales & marketing people just get excited if they hear the words “Special Forces” “SEALs” etc and they crave or have a need for it to be approved / accepted and will do ANYTHING to get a stamp of approval from and end user… just so they can run around saying an “operator” is using / has used their widget. The last thing a sales a marketing guru wants to do is offend said person asking for the items in fear of becoming “that company who doesn’t support {Fill in SpecOp Unit}” and get trashed all over the interwebz….

  6. Doc_robalt says:

    All I gotta say is I’ve already done a review for Kitup and got pretty good reviews, so if you need a reviewer of gear I’m completely available 🙂

  7. Mike says:

    Good God! If a troop wants a free prototype attack helicopter I can see getting wound up, but if Surefire is going to squirt him a light I’m pretty sure Contracting and Centcom can stay out of it.

  8. Packtray says:

    Wow, such anger on some of these responses. The advice given is geared towards protecting both the USG’s and industry’s interests, NOT those of the Joe who is shaking the company down for freebies. That’s the point. The Government doesn’t want a claim levied by a company that gave stuff to someone with apparent (not actual) authority, and the industry doesn’t want to throw gear into a memory hole so some kit whore can loom awesome on the COP/FOB/post. The point is that there are legal methods to allow USG peeps to try vendor equipment in such a way that limits liability on both sides. Bypassing that because “f’ing Contracting/Battalion/Division CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH” isn’t helpful, and when a legitimate DoD capability/program development house comes calling, the industry won’t be spooked because ACUs burned them before.