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WPRC Announced New Members and Adds to Board of Directors

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Warrior Protection and Readiness Coalition Builds on Recent Success by Expanding Board of Directors and Welcoming Five New Member Companies

MARBLEHEAD, MA (March 2, 2015) – The Warrior Protection and Readiness Coalition (WPRC) is pleased to announce the latest additions to its membership and has added a new director to its Board of Directors. The new members include several leading companies in the warfighter equipment and clothing industry.

New company members of the WPRC include: Bernard Cap Company, GENTEX Corporation, Massif, Safariland, and Source One Distributors. The added voices of these industry leaders will be critical to advancing the WPRC mission to support the equipment and advanced clothing needs of the Armed Services and Department of Homeland Security.

Bernard Cap Company – Bernard Cap is the largest Class A dress uniform headwear supplier to the United States government and its various agencies. They specialize in the manufacture of fine quality uniform headwear for U.S. and foreign military forces, service academies, airlines, police, security, and other organizations.
GENTEX Corporation – GENTEX is a leading provider of innovative solutions that enhance personal protection and situational awareness for global defense and security personnel operating in high performance environments. The company’s Gentex® and Ops-Core™ family of products and systems include helmets for both ground and air applications, aircrew life support systems, advanced optics, ground soldier protective equipment, high performance textiles, respiratory protection and communications equipment.

Massif – Founded in 1999, Massif has provided hot weather flame resistant (FR) combat shirts, cold weather fire resistant fleece and softshell garments for the U.S. military since 2005. They are a world leader in supplying FR and high performance outdoor apparel to the military, law enforcement, search and rescue professionals, and the wildland firefighting community.

Safariland – The Safariland Group is a leading global provider of a diverse range of safety and survivability products designed for the public safety, military, professional and outdoor markets. The Safariland Group offers a number of recognized brand names in these markets including Safariland®, ABA®, Second Chance®, Bianchi®, Break Free®, Protech® Tactical, Hatch®, Monadnock®,Identicator®, NIK®, Mustang Survival® and Med-Eng®. The Safariland Group’s mission, “Together, We Save Lives”, is inherent in the lifesaving and protective products it delivers. They are committed to providing quality, technologically advanced products that serve the ever-changing needs of the warfighter and peacekeeper.

Source One Distributors – Source One Distributors supports a broad array of clients in the defense industry, national security, law enforcement, search and rescue, fire and private security sectors by providing mission critical equipment, product sourcing, acquisition solutions, contracting expertise and a variety of support services.

Mr. Greg Maguire of Revision Military is the new industry representative who has joined the WPRC Board of Directors. The WPRC Board of Directors represents a cross-section of the personal protective equipment industry, providing organizational governance and setting the strategic direction of the WPRC. Mr. Maguire joins current WPRC Board Chairman Luke Hillier, WPRC Secretary David Bohannon, and WPRC Treasurer Don Vavala as well as Board Members Frank Montie, Brookwood Companies and Nate Smith, Oakley/ESS as leaders of this not-for-profit industry association.

“I welcome our newest members to the WPRC and appreciate their support for our initiatives,” said Chairman Luke Hillier. “Companies who have chosen to join our efforts are those that are committed to maintaining a healthy industrial base that is prepared to meet evolving threats in a dangerous world. As an industry, it is crucial for our advocacy to be focused on supporting the essential American manufacturing capability that supports the needs of our Armed Services.”

Regarding these positive developments, WPRC Executive Director David Costello commented,
“The WPRC serves as the voice of the personal protective equipment (PPE) and Organizational Clothing and Individual Equipment (OCIE) industry. These five new members of the WPRC bring their industry expertise and experience to our mutual efforts. This year alone we have achieved several critical successes, including the elimination of the use of reverse auctions by the Defense Logistics Agency for our product categories. This will ensure that our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and operators are receiving the best available equipment at the best possible cost to the taxpayer. We look forward to continuing our momentum this year with active leadership and with the added help of these additional industry partners.”

The WPRC supports the readiness of the United States by providing a unified industry voice to the U.S. Congress, the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Homeland Security and other stakeholders.   We work at the intersection of the Personal Protective Equipment and Organizational Clothing/Individual Equipment industry, the federal legislative policy process, and the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.  Our membership includes companies throughout the equipment and clothing industry and with companies at every point in the industrial supply chain who represent the best in American manufacturing.

HASC Interested in PPE As Well As Camo

Friday, June 7th, 2013

It’s been a busy week at the House Armed Services Committee where they’ve been working on the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. In fact, it passed out of committee with a vote of 59-2 and is expected on thd House floor next week. And while, we’ve been talking quite a bit about the Enyart Amendment that directs all of DoD to adopt a common camouflage combat uniform, there are plenty of other Soldier Systems items on their plate.

From the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee we’ve seen language that:

1) Creates budget line items for protective equipment. This will move money out of Operations and Maintenance accounts and into procurement accounts providing more visibility of funding to industry in the Military Department’s budgets.
2) Provision requiring DOD to contract with a Federally Funded Research Center to study the procurement methods used to for protective equipment
3) Provision requiring the DOD to report on their body armor strategy to increase innovation, reduce weight, etc.
4) Provision requiring report on plan to provide female specific clothing and equipment.

Additionally, from the Chairman’s mark there is:
1) Language requiring IG to audit Berry amendment compliance
2) Directive report language to evaluate the risks of use of Lowest Price Technically Acceptable Contracting and Reverse Auctions for critical safety items and protective equipment.

The HASC characterized the bill in summary press release available here but this how they refer to their work on warfighter equipment:.

“The bill facilitates the development of ever more functional, lighter, and more protective body armor by requiring each service to create a separate procurement budget line for personal protective equipment- thus making body armor a more traditional weapon system acquisition program that can build on successive generations of innovation and investment, rather than the ad hoc procedure now in place. The bill also requires the Secretary of Defense to conduct a comprehensive study and assessment on ways to improve personal protective equipment for female service members.”

We asked our friends at the Warfighter Protection & Readiness Coalition for their thoughts on HR 1960 and they offered us this statement:

“The WPRC applauds all of these legislative steps by the House Armed Services Committee that support warfighter readiness and ensure equipping the individual warfighter is a continued priority. This bill recognizes that warfighter equipment acquisition reform is needed to sustain industry’s innovation investments and production capabilities to meet future force requirements.”

WPRC Applauds Senate Commitment to Innovative Contracting and Warfighter Equipment

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee published its version of the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. In the Report accompanying that legislation, Members of the Committee included language advocated for by the Warrior Protection & Readiness Coalition, that calls for a long-term DOD commitment to the successes of the Rapid Fielding Initiative and the Rapid Equipping Force. The language also calls on DOD to support unit-level commanders by providing them with budget discretion to purchase the clothing and equipment they feel is necessary to maintain a ready force.

“The WPRC is extremely pleased that the Committee included this language in the report” said WPRC Policy Director Matt Sparkes. “It acknowledges the success of these critical programs, and makes a strong statement about the importance of unit-level flexibility in the procurement of key items of clothing and equipment.”

The Senate is expected to consider its version of the National Defense Authorization Act in the coming weeks. The House and Senate will then begin the conference process to reconcile differences and create a final product for the President’s signature.

This is the Congressional language.

Rapid equipping and fielding initiatives

The committee recognizes that combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in substantial improvements and compression in the processes used to develop and field urgent needs for combatant commanders, including organizational clothing and individual equipment. Following the drawdown of Afghanistan, then committee encourages the Department of Defense to consider maintaining key elements of the Army Rapid Fielding Initiative, the Rapid Equipping Force, and combatant commander level purchasing authority to enable agile responses to future threats.

For additional information please contact Liesl Grebenstein, WPRC Communications and External Affairs Director via email or by phone at 617.236.5830

WPRC to Host Congressional Panel

Monday, March 26th, 2012

On Wednesday, March 28th at 12:00 pm, a Congressional Panel comprised of Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), Congressman Bill Owens (D-NY), Congressman Larry Kissell (D-NC) and Congressman Chris Gibson (R-NY) will discuss Soldier personal clothing and equipment needs, and the impact of a potential defense sequestration process on mission readiness.

The luncheon panel discussion will be take place in Room 902 of the Hart Senate Office Building and will be moderated by Lexington Institute CEO Merrick “Mac” Kerry. The event is hosted by the Warrior Protection and Readiness Coalition (WPRC), an advocacy group for the domestic industry that supplies U.S. service members with personal clothing and tactical equipment. The event will be moderated by the Lexington Institute and media as well as congressional staffers are invited to attend.

WPRC Advocates for Operational Readiness and Warfighter Safety Initiative

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Warrior Protection and Readiness Coalition (WPRC) membership visited Capitol Hill on April 6th and representatives met with over 100 members of Congress. While on Capitol Hill, WPRC members provided an overview of their business footprint and explained why it is critical that Congress and the DoD prioritize funding for the equipment and apparel that keep American Warfighters safe and combat effective. In addition to discussing policy and speaking from their own experiences, the WPRC membership was proud to share with Congress the results of new independent research findings by the Lexington Institute on the need for sustained funding and sustainable fielding of Warfighter protective equipment. The Lexington Institute’s “Dressing for Success: Equipping the 21st Century Warfighter Quickly and Efficiently” by Dr Daniel Goure can be found here:

Overall, this is a good document and provides a great history of funding challenges as well as the Rapid Equipping Force and Rapid Fielding Initiative. The Lexington Institute report urges the institutionalization of both the REF and RFI. In 2005 the REF became a permanent organization. With RFI, some may argue that this has already happened as we enter year 10 of this war.

What the document does not discuss is that RFI was initiated by GEN Schoomaker while he was Chief of Staff of the Army and was based on his experience in SOF. In fact, the program was led by COL Dave Anderson who had served in SOF as well and the initial issue was very much based on equipment already issued to SOF units such as cold weather gear. RFI is the best thing to every happen to the Soldier, at least in regard to his personal equipment. The intent of the program is to constantly upgrade the individual items as newer capabilities are introduced. It is absolutely essential that RFI remain a part of the Army.

The REF on the other hand is concerned with the entire gamut of warfighting capability rather than just Soldier Systems items. A lot of goodness has come from the program as well as a few flops but this is to be expected due to the nature of the beast. The “R” in REF is for Rapid and when you do things quickly sometimes things get overlooked. This however, is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The REF’s biggest weakness is that after nine years, there is still no way for industry to identify solutions for teh myriad challenges posed to the REF. Instead, the REF relies on a team of contractors to identify candidate technologies and this approach suffers from, “we don’t know what we don’t know.” The perfect answer to a problem might exist with company X but if the contractors at the REF don’t know about company X the solution will never see the light of day. This needs to be fixed and could be with increased BAAs as well as APBIs (yes, multiple) as well as an industry requirements portal that identifies requirements. Currently, vendors can submit technologies through the REF portal but good ideas are not solutions without a problem that needs fixing.

What is very important to understand is that Afghanistan in particular is a Soldier-centric environment, much more so than any where the US military has operated since Viet Nam. The military that I cut my teeth on in the 1980s faced a peer competitor and the anticipated operational environment was system-centric with concerns over Nuclear Biological and Chemical threats on the Northern German plain. Consequently, Soldier Systems development was concerned more with development of NBC gear than boots, armor, and uniforms. For example, the Battle Dress Overgarment or MOPP Suit had pockets more suited for use in a combat environment than the so-called Battle Dress Uniform which, was truthfully a caricature of a combat uniform intended for wear in garrison. When the BDU made its combat debut in Grenada it was deemed too hot for tropical use. So naturally, the Global War on Terror caught the US military flat footed when it came to Soldier Systems items. The military’s concern was with recapitalizing the expensive fleet of armored vehicles and aircraft designed 20 to 30 years earlier. Naturally, a lot of Soldier gear needed updating. The military did a great job with a lot of kit (clothing systems, MOLLE), a so-so job on others (Armor) and got it completely wrong in a few instances (UCP). None of this would have been possible without the “all-in” approach industry has taken.

Is there an inherent goodness to consolidating and formalizing funding for the Soldier-as-a-System? Absolutely. But there is an inherent danger as well and Dr Goure’s study fails to identify this course of action. Right now, funding comes from disparate sources and often as supplemental funding. This means it does not directly compete with other budget line items within the various departments. Additionally, members of Congress can more easily support these measures as stand-alones because they can champion the Soldier. As part of a larger budget the Soldier gets lost in the weeds. Furthermore, as part of a larger whole, the Soldier now has to compete with other capabilities for their piece of the pie. When the Army desperately needs new combat vehicles it is easy to decide that what the Soldier has is “good enough”.

Then, there is the final danger to a large budget line item for the Soldier and that is that the “Primes” will notice the dollar amount and desire it. Take any of the large, independent companies left in the Soldier Systems industry and they are like fleas when compared to the size and political capital that any one of the “Primes” can bring to bear. The traditional Soldier Systems companies simply can’t compete with that. And, if the “Soldier-as-a-System” were awarded to any one of these “Primes” expect mediocrity to rule the day. Don’t agree? Take a look at any one of the programs currently run by one of these companies; vehicles, aircraft, satellites. You name it. All we see is cost overruns and schedule delays. Want new technology insertion, like maybe a new type boot? Sure thing once you let a new contract for the upgrade. In the Soldier Systems industry we have enjoyed almost ten years of continuous competitive development. This means increased capability and lower prices. No other commodity that DoD purchases benefits from an environment like that. Give the whole kit and caboodle to one company (or team) and that goes away. Why would competitors continue to develop new products if there is no hope of seeking a contract award? Americans innovate and we do it for capitalist reasons. Take away an incentive to turn a buck and you stifle innovation.

The Government does need to do a better job of working with industry to mitigate the feast and famine cycle that has plagued our industry. It can be difficult for companies to keep the lights on when there is delay after delay in releasing contracts. Due to globalization, the corporate desire for profit, and the desire on the part of the consumer to pay big box prices, the American textile base has all but disappeared. Except for a very narrow niche market, the domestic textile industry exists solely to support the Department of Defense’s Berry amendment requirements. Consequently, they are a national resource and should be looked upon by the Government as such. They must be supported and perpetuated. Some might call this a jobs program but how is employing Americans to build something we need a “jobs program”?

The Lexington report highlights some great issues and the work of the WPRC on behalf of industry should be applauded. I agree with the recommendations and conclusions of the report but caution against creating an unwieldy process that stifles innovation and competition in the industrial base. Additionally, I harbor a great deal of concern over turning the Soldier into just another program.

But don’t take my concerns to mean that I disagree with the WPRC. I am convinced that the WPRC is committed to providing our service members with the best equipment available. However, there are problems in both industry as well as how the military deals with industry that must be addressed. Keep the good and get rid of the bad. The American Warfighter has never been so well equipped. We’re on a roll. Let’s keep it going.