Historical Analysis Series
This publication in the Historical Analysis Series is a record of the experiences, insights, and ideas of Maj. Gen. Robert J. Sunell, who, for over fifteen years, was at the forefront of the development of the armored force. Responsible for the fielding of the Improved TOW Vehicle, he also played a key role in fielding the M1 Abrams tank, and laid the groundwork for the Armored Family of Vehicles, the armored force of the future.
In this oral history interview, General Sunell provides valuable lessons for Army leaders, combat and materiel developers, and those interested in gaining an appreciation of the Army materiel acquisition process. While the focus of the interview is on General Sunell's role in materiel development, his insights are far-ranging, covering a multitude of topics of interest to all soldiers.
At the time of the interview, both interviewers were serving U. S. Army
officers. Maj. Bruce Pirnie, a Military Police officer, earned a Ph.D.
in history from Heidelberg University. He taught history at the U. S. Military
Academy. Maj. Steve E. Dietrich, an Armor officer, earned a masters degree
in history from Eastern Kentucky University. While assigned to Hq., TRADOC,
he was involved in the early stages of the Armored Family of Vehicles.
1 December 1989
|HAROLD W. NELSON
Colonel, U. S. Army
Chief of Military History
Shortly after Maj. Gen. Robert J. Sunell retired from active duty in September 1987, General Carl E. Vuono, Army Chief of Staff, requested that the Center of Military History interview him concerning his contributions to the Armored Family of Vehicles Task Force (AFVTF). This publication is a result of that interview.
In a career spanning more than thirty-three years of active federal service, General Sunell was intimately involved with the development of the current and future armored force. Experiences in infantry and armor units prepared him for his first assignment to combat developments as deputy director of the Armored Reconnaissance Scout Vehicle Task Force (ARSV) at Fort Knox. Here he became involved in the development of the vehicle which later merged with the Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle (MICV) program to evolve into today's M2 Bradley. The task force also conceptualized, built, and promoted the prototype which led to the fielding of the Improved TOW Vehicle (ITV).
He then became deputy program manager of the XM1 tank and, for two years, was associated with that controversial program during a critical time in its development. In May 1978 he assumed command of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. His responsibilities here included implementing and testing the new cavalry organization which he had helped develop during his tenure at the ARSV Task Force as well as integrating the new ITVs into the regiment.
In 1983 he returned to Warren, Michigan, as the project manager of the M1 Abrams Tank. Here he conceived of the idea for a family of armored vehicles to replace the armored force as it became obsolescent in the 1990s. The total cost of such an effort could be drastically reduced by developing a "family" in which all vehicles shared a common chassis and components.
From January 1986 until his retirement on 1 September 1987, he was responsible as the first AFVTF director for developing the concept into a viable program. This interview focuses upon those efforts. Included also are his thoughts on other subjects including relations with the press, integration of robotics into the battlefield, cooperation with allies, relationships between soldiers and contractors as well as Congress, the value of integrity and honor, leadership, and combined arms.
This interview is the cumulative effort of many people, in particular
General Sunell for his time and cooperation. Ms. Idy Marcus spent considerable
effort tracking down background articles and biographical information.
Cols. Lee F. Greene and James A. Logan, of the Armored Family of Vehicles
Task Force, assisted in providing background information on both General
Sunell and the task force. Sara Heynen edited with cooperative patience.
The staff of the Graphics Branch of the Center of Military History provided
the cover design. Dr. Edward Drea and Lt. Col. Robert Frank read and commented
on the draft manuscripts. Members of the Analysis Branch of the Center
of Military History—Dr. Alexander S. Cochran and Majs. Thomas Grodecki
and Charles Kirkpatrick—provided encouragement and advice throughout.
|BRUCE R. PIRNIE
Major, Military Police Corps
|STEVE E. DIETRICH
Major Pirnie: General Sunell, I think people will be interested in your military background. Could you sketch for us your experiences in service that fitted you for this particular assignment as head of the Armored Family of Vehicles [AFV] Task Force?
General Sunell: I enlisted in the National Guard when I graduated from high school in June of 1948, and I spent three years in the National Guard while attending the University of Oregon [Eugene, Oregon] where I received a commission in Infantry. That was June of 1953. 1 came on active duty and went to Korea as an infantry officer, arriving there at the end of the war. I spent a tour there and then returned to the United States assigned to Fort Ord, California. At that time, they were expanding the armored force, and I applied for Regular Army, plus a branch transfer to Armor. I was assigned to Germany, the 1st Battalion, 33d Armor, and in 1957 was integrated into the Regular Army as an Infantry officer. I again applied for Armor and was assigned back into Armor about 1959.
Major Pirnie: What interested you about the Armor Branch at that time?
General Sunell: I had always liked equipment, and I had some experience with tanks in Korea and decided that was the branch I wanted. My career was almost like everyone's. I attended the career course at Fort Knox [Kentucky] and stayed there as an instructor for two years. I think that was probably the most important time for my career. Being an instructor on the platform forces you to really understand your business. All your peers come through, and that's where you teach subjects that everybody in the room knows something about. That experience carried me through many, many different experiences in my career. I highly recommend that kind of assignment to any young officer. To be in your own branch and to be an instructor on stage causes you to become an expert in your business.
After that I went back to Germany, to the 3d Armored Division where I was the plans officer in a brigade and then the XO [executive officer] of a tank battalion. I was selected to be an exchange officer with the British Army, and, at the same time, I was promoted to major while I was with the British Army, and I served in a cavalry squadron, the Royal Scots Greys, and also in the Fifth Tanks of The Royal Tank Regiment.
I served in two regiments because my tank regiment went to Malaysia, and the State Department wasn't interested in having a U. S. Army officer fighting [against] a Communist insurgency during that time. I then came back to the 3d Armored Division and was the chief of plans and operations.
It was an interesting time. That's when General [Walter T.] Kerwin [Jr.] was the division commander. General [Franklin M.] Davis [Jr.] was the chief of staff. General [John Q.] Henion was the G-3 [assistant chief of staff, operations]. Needless to say, majors worked long hours in
those days. It was a good staff, and I learned a lot from those gentlemen, and I had associations with them the rest of my Army career.
The Vietnam War was really heating up in 1965. 1 volunteered to go to Vietnam, and I joined the 4th Division at Fort Lewis [Washington] first with the training center there and then with the 4th Division, and I deployed to Vietnam with the 4th Infantry Division, 1st Brigade, into Vietnam. At that time, I was selected for lieutenant colonel and also selected for the Command and General Staff College and was sent to the Marine Corps Command and Staff College [Quantico, Virginia].
I finished my first tour in Vietnam in 1967 and from there went to Armor Branch and served there for eighteen months. I volunteered again to go to Vietnam and went back to the 4th Division where I was first assigned to the G-3, then as a brigade executive officer, and then I commanded an infantry battalion, 2d Battalion, 8th Infantry.
It was almost like a cavalry squadron today because it had a self-propelled [SP] 155-mm. artillery battery, a tank company, and three mechanized infantry companies. We stayed and fought in the highlands—in Pleiku, Ban Me Thuot, Kontum—those kind of places. I was selected for a follow-on command and went to Fort Lewis. I was supposed to join the 3d Cavalry, but the 3d Cavalry did not activate its 3d Squadron because it was moving to Fort Bliss [El Paso, Texas]. At that time, battalion commanders were going through commands in about six to eight months in Vietnam, and they needed experienced commanders in Europe and in the United States.
The commanding general decided that I was to be in that program, even though there wasn't an actual squadron for me to command, so I was given another infantry battalion. It was a training battalion, and I commanded that for seventeen months. Next I was appointed as the executive officer of the 9th Division Support Command. I was assigned as the executive officer, but since the commander wasn't there, I acted as the commander, and we organized the 9th Division Support Command. I then went to the Army War College in Carlisle [Pennsylvania] and graduated from there in 1973. At the behest of General George S. Patton III, I went back to Fort Knox where I was the chief of advanced tactics in the Command and Staff Department. General [Donn A.] Starry was the post commander [sic], and he selected me to be the director of the Armored Vehicle Task Force and the Armored Reconnaissance Scout Vehicle [ARSV] Task Force. I was his deputy director, and I did that for almost two-and-a-half years. Another task force recommended the current cavalry organization that we have today. Then I did the testing for that organization and reaffirmed it. And, the two task forces organized modem armored cavalry. We were also the ones that selected the Bradley [fighting vehicle], then called the Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle, or MICV, to be the cavalry scout vehicle.
That in itself is a very interesting story. At the same time, we had the idea of an elevated gun, and we took this idea to General William E. DePuy and asked him for some money to try to build it ourselves.
We first went to MICOM [Missile Command] and asked them for help. We wanted to elevate a TOW [tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided missile] so that we could get the TOW up above the earth, the dirt, and the crew below, and fire it with a fiber optic bundle. The idea was that if you have a thin skinned vehicle, the best armor in the world is dirt. That vehicle is now known as the Improved TOW Vehicle [ITV], which is in our inventory.
We built this vehicle in three months. A lieutenant colonel, who was a major then, by the name of Robert Enyart, actually built it. Jim [James A.] Blackwell, a young second lieutenant, also contributed a great amount of input to the program. I think the vehicle fired twenty-four rounds and had twenty-three hits with the elevated TOW, and that idea competed [sic] and was
selected as a program for the United States Army and became the vehicle that is in our today's inventory.
Major Pirnie: What kind of "development experience" was the reconnaissance vehicle itself?
General Sunell: Well, there were two reconnaissance vehicles. One had been built by Lockheed and the other by FMC, and they were called the XM800s. General DePuy questioned the scout vehicle on two points: one, was it survivable; and two, did it have an adequate crew size. The general asked for this study to take place and had General Starry head the project. General Starry had three task forces. He had the scout helicopter, the Armored Reconnaissance Scout Vehicle, and the cavalry study—all three going on at once as well as a fourth one. General [Glenn K.] Otis headed the fourth study which was a relook at the XM1 tanks. As you recall, that was right after the 1973 war. We really needed to understand if the XM1 was the tank needed for the future.
But back to your question. There was some concern in the Army that General Starry and General DePuy had made up their minds to terminate the XM800s regardless of the tests results.
Major Pirnie: The XM800 was the Armored Reconnaissance Scout Vehicle?
General Sunell: That's right, and I can tell you that we conducted the test, and I had no "axes to grind" with anybody. We called it just exactly as it came out in the test report: the vehicles that were being tested were not any better—in fact, in some cases worse—than our current M113. The vehicles did not have better mobility; they couldn't haul or take care of the amount of equipment which was needed by the scouts. To buy that vehicle would have really been a wrong thing to do with the taxpayers' dollars, and I personally recommended to General Starry that we cancel that program, and he agreed. The program went all the way to the top because it was a political question as well as a tactical one.
There were lots of dollars involved. Business was involved, especially for Lockheed who had already lost the competition to FMC, but FMC didn't have a lot to lose because they were going to win with the MICV or the XM800.
We went to the MICV, now called the Bradley, because we wanted the cavalry organization to be indistinguishable from our current armored division. In other words, when you had a light screen out there, we wanted the enemy to see tanks and Bradleys, the same thing that he would see in a division so that he wouldn't know that he was running into a light cavalry force. That's part of cavalry's mission: to be an economy of force and to fool the other guy and make him think that there's something there that's really not there.
So, that decision was made through testing, and General DePuy was right when he questioned it. The question now is whether the Bradley was the right decision to begin with or not. That, as you know, is the center of controversy right now.
Major Pirnie: Could a sound analysis in the beginning have prevented the false start with the armored reconnaissance vehicle? You brought up the point that the cavalry should be indistinguishable so that the enemy doesn't know whether he's encountering cavalry screen or am force, and yet here we were developing a distinctive vehicle, one that would be a "tip-off."
General Sunell: Well, at the time when that vehicle came on, I think that the folks who were doing the planning were doing the right thing in their own minds. You know, hindsight is always 20/20. So—I don't want to second guess. Fifty to sixty years ago we took the cavalryman off his horse, kicking and screaming because he was settled on his horse. A similar thing occurred in the 1970s. We took the cavalrymen out of the light vehicles and out of their jeeps and put them into much heavier equipment because we were looking at the Soviets. The Soviet method of attack means that you have to fight for information to find out where the main attack is coming, and so you have to have some staying power. That was the idea of the heavy cavalry.
Certainly, there's a requirement for light cavalry also in our light divisions and in our airmobile divisions. There's a place for both. But really, for the heavy cavalry, we needed the heavy force. So, I can't say they were wrong. I do say that they were wrong when they were looking at a three-man cavalry organization—three men on a vehicle. We proved that you needed at least five for continuous operations. Five is about as low as you can go and still continue around-the-clock operations.
Major Pirnie: It's not possible with a three-man crew to fight continuously because the men have to sleep?
General Sunell: That's right. They can't fight for long periods of time.
Major Pirnie: In reviewing your assignments, there is an interesting aspect: you had exposure to another country's armor, the British, and another service, by attending the Marine Corps School. Did you feel that this broader experience was valuable to you in approaching questions of armored development?
General Sunell: Yes, all of the experiences are beneficial, but I go back to my days at the Armor School. My two tours there as instructor were the most valuable to me. But having served in the British Army certainly gave me a different view of command, and command relationships: the role of the noncommissioned officer is certainly much different in the British Army. Certainly, the understanding of the Marine Corps philosophy was important to me.
Major Pirnie: What things did the British do that seemed admirable to you?
General Sunell: Well, there's a very distinct difference between officers' business and noncommissioned officers' business. There was a time in our Army where, in my opinion, we closed so many barn doors after the horses and cattle were out that we started having lieutenants certifying to the number of spoons in a mess hall. We just sort of took the role of the noncommissioned officer [NCO] away. We're returning to where the NCO is doing the kind of business that he should be doing. But there was a time when I think we were really remiss.
Major Pirnie: Did the British NCO retain his authority?
General Sunell: He really attained his authority. I can remember when we were getting ready for a big inspection, their equivalent of our command maintenance inspection. We laid out the program for what we wanted done during the day. I went down during the middle of the day and started checking on what was being done, but I was very politely told that on the schedule I was to inspect at 1600 and that they would appreciate it if the officer would take care of officer's
business, such as preparing lessons, and let the NCOs get ready for the inspection. They further mentioned that if I was dissatisfied with what they were doing, I should tell them during the inspection.
That's a little different relationship. As you know, that was a time when every lieutenant spent his entire day in the motor pool, and [I think] that's wrong.
Major Pirnie: Yes it is. Is there any difference in tactical doctrine between the British and ourselves? Any interesting differences in employment?
General Sunell: We're pretty close.
Major Pirnie: What did you learn at the Marine Corps School?
General Sunell: The Marine Corps' use of armor is different. Their tank is strictly to support the dismounted infantry. It's a supporting element. In the Army we consider armor more for offensive operations such as the breakthroughs. The Marine Corps uses its tank in more of a support role, similar to what they did in the Second World War.
Major Pirnie: This experience under General Starry at Fort Knox, was it the first time that you were actively involved in the development of a major piece of armored equipment?
General Sunell: Yes, the first time I had really put my stamp on anything was at that particular time.
Major Pirnie: Did you find yourself working closely with industry at that point?
General Sunell: Yes. I had not worked with industry at all until the task force, and I was then a senior lieutenant colonel out of the War College. I was promoted to colonel in that job and worked with industry across the board. Everybody that was involved in building anything came to the task force because we were interested in all kinds of sensors, all kinds of explosives, mines—counter mines—everything that we were involved in.
Major Pirnie: Was that a fairly dynamic relationship with FMC and Lockheed? Was it "give and take" on the requirements?
General Sunell: Yes.
Major Pirnie: With impulses coming from you?
General Sunell: Yes. They were very responsive. It is very difficult for firms, and that's the first time I really understood the problems they had. The Army has never been mature enough to withstand changing generals, especially at places like the Armor School and the Infantry School. When you have a requirement, you need to lock in that requirement and stay with it until either the requirement is produced or you stop development altogether. It just doesn't work when every two years a different individual comes in and changes the program.
That is one thing that did not happen in the tank program. The reason the program was so successful was because it started out with General Donn Starry, and it carried on through with
General [John W.] McEnery and General [Thomas P.] Lynch. They all kept the same requirement, the tank, and they did not make any major changes that would cause a shift in the program.
Major Pirnie: How were you able to work with two contractors simultaneously without giving one or the other a competitive advantage?
General Sunell: Well, that's easy. You just don't pass on any of their work; in fact, what you really try to do is make them both produce the best piece of equipment they can.
I never found a problem of walking between two contractors. I'll get into tank development a little later, but in the case of the MICV, which eventually became the Bradley, there were so many folks that changed positions. At first there was a one-man turret, then a two-man turret, and they added TOWS to it, and they took TOWS off, and then they added firing ports. When they did all those kinds of things, it delayed the program, which increased the costs. What they really were looking for was a vehicle which was better than the M113.
Major Pirnie: You mentioned that several generals in succession managed to provide some stability in the requirement, and you felt that that was extremely important. Am I right to say that it was in relationship to the tank, not the MICV?
General Sunell: Right.
Major Pirnie: How did they do that, simply by communicating with one another?
General Sunell: Well, General [Robert J.] Baer was the tank program manager for a long time, and he had a very close relationship with Fort Knox. The reason I can discuss the tank program is because I left the Armored Reconnaissance Scout Vehicle (ARSV) task force and became the deputy program manager for the XM1 tank where I worked for General Baer.
General Baer, in effect, said, "This is what all these different items cost on a tank, and I have a $507,000 ceiling for the XM1 tank." And he said, "If you really want to add that to the tank, here's what a fender costs; here's what a machine gun costs. Now which one do you want me to take off, because I cannot exceed this cost ceiling?" Everybody understood that.
General Starry and General Baer traveled together and then General McEnery came in. He did the same thing; he kept the program going. There was some criticism of the tank, and General Lynch came out very strongly as the commandant supporting the tank. His famous message was, "If you can't support the tank, keep your mouth shut and at least don't join the hostiles," if I recall his words.
The tank went through then. General [Donald M.] Babers became the program manager, and we always kept an extremely close relationship with Fort Knox. The program manager and the commandant were not enemies; they worked together. That kept that program going.
Major Pirnie: In other words, there were two aspects. One was the close cooperation with the Program Management Office [PMO] in Fort Knox, which included personal contact with the officers involved, extending over several changes in personnel. The second aspect was tying it to a budget requirement.
General Sunell: Yes.
Major Pirnie: It's perhaps a little unfortunate we have to use the budget in that fashion, but it does compel decisions. Wouldn't it be better if we worked with effectiveness criteria?
General Sunell: Well, this went back to the MBT70 [Main Battle Tank-70] when we had a joint program with the Germans. That tank was coming along, but we had so many additional dollars tacked on to it that Congress accused the Army of "gold plating," and the program was stopped. Everybody knew we needed a new tank program. The Congress specifically stated that the Army could have a tank program, but it must be below a specific cost ceiling. Every time we went to testify in Congress, we were required to go back to that number ... that basic number.
Even today, Brig. Gen. Peter M. McVey, who used to be the program manager for tank systems and is now responsible for all combat vehicles, must go back and trace the cost to the 1972 dollars—$507,000 a copy.
Major Pirnie: How wise was it for Congress to set that standard? Did that help or hurt the program?
General Sunell: It certainly didn't hurt the program at the time. We stayed under budget, and we had the support of the Congress. We didn't have runaway costs. It allowed the program manager to budget within those dollar figures. But in one place it did hurt the program. We knew at that time that we wanted an underarmor auxiliary power unit that cost $35,000 in today's dollars, probably about $15,000 in dollars in that day, but we couldn't do it. We included the power unit as a Pre-Planned Product Improvement program. But if we could have taken the dollars and put it in then, in the 1970s, it would have cost us half as much as to go back and add it to the program.
The second thing we always wanted and needed was a redundant sight for the commander. By that I mean an independent sight for the commander, now called the Commander's Independent Thermal Viewer (CITV). This allows the commander of the tank to search a portion of the battlefield and the gunner to look at a different portion of the battlefield. If the commander sees a target out there, he hits a switch and the gunner automatically slews to that target. We wanted that capability, but we couldn't do it because we couldn't exceed that ceiling.
Now the commander and the gunner are looking through the same sights, and we really would have liked to have had the commander's independent sight, but we couldn't do that. We saved dollars at that time, but it's going to cost us big bucks to go back and do that now.
Major Pirnie: In other words, setting the ceiling had the ironic result of increasing the cost of the vehicle.
General Sunell: Yes. It increases the cost of the vehicle when you have a pre-planned product improvement.
Major Pirnie: While we're still at Fort Knox and talking about the MICV program, how difficult was it to coordinate between Fort Knox and Fort Benning [Columbus, Georgia] over the question of these emerging common vehicles and what they should look like?
General Sunell: Obviously, we had different opinions at that time. We were not interested in firing ports on the vehicle, and, as you know, today the Cavalry Scout Vehicle [cavalry variant of the Bradley] does not have firing ports. We were more interested in the kind of cargo that we could carry that would support scouts.
The cavalry folks were the ones that wanted to have two men in the crew station because we were used to fighting that kind of a vehicle. I would guess that when the Bradley was introduced into the Infantry that it was a "cultural shock" because the Bradley turret is not easy to operate. It's easy once you learn to do it. For instance, a tanker can get in the turret and operate because he's used to that sort of thing. It's difficult for somebody who's never been in that environment to operate efficiently without considerable training.
Without mentioning any names, which I would prefer not to do, there was a lot of "petty ass" bureaucracy and parochialism going on between the Infantry and Armor at that time. It really straightened itself out when [William J.] Livsey [Jr.] became the CG [commanding general) at Fort Benning and Maj. Gen. Lynch was the CG at Fort Knox. They worked well together. The generals went to Congress together, worked closely together, and made an all-around excellent team.
Again, I must go back and say that unless the generals at Fort Knox and at Fort Benning, especially for the heavy force, can work successfully together and agree on what is really best for the Army and then make it happen, you're going to have some difficult times.
Major Pirnie: That's another example of where personality plays a crucial role. Is there any way that the situation could be improved organizationally so that we'd have to rely less on personalities to get common doctrine for the two schools?
General Sunell: In my opinion, you have to start at the user level to determine what you need in the way of equipment. You don't let industry determine what you need. The Army has to lay out the requirement. The commandants have to be involved. I think that the Combined Arms Center [Fort Leavenworth, Kansas] should play a much more active role in looking over the decisions that are coming out of both the Armor School and the Infantry School to make sure that it's a balanced decision.
Today, we have folks that believe you can send an infantryman onto the modem battlefield in a thin-skinned vehicle, and he'll survive. You have others that believe that you ought to send an infantryman into battle with a heavy vehicle that gives him the safe protection that you have on a tank, so that when you get on the objective the infantry are still alive to secure it.
That issue is still one that's very much out there today. It's an issue of the Armored Family of Vehicles. It's a basic issue with the Bradley. Now, the Israelis discovered that they couldn't go out and get their wounded with the M113 during their recent excursion in Lebanon because the M113 could not survive on the battlefield. So they used their tank, the Merkava, to recover their wounded.
Today our ambulances are M113s. Now if we are on a modem battlefield, we're not going to be able to bring our wounded out in an M113. Thermal sights and millimeter radar don't see red crosses, and so you have to provide protection for your soldiers. That's one issue which we've kicked around between the Infantry School and the Armor School because I'm sure there's a difference of opinion.
Major Pirnie: At the time that the MICV was being developed during the period in which you were at Fort Knox, would Congress have been reluctant to fund a heavy infantry fighting vehicle?
General Sunell: Probably. But at that time our philosophy was a little bit different. The Bradley was the right vehicle at the time when it was introduced into the Army. It's a quantum jump over the M113. That's what we forget during recent arguments in the Congress. It never was designed to go alongside of the tank. And no matter how much you put on it right now, it still will never be able to survive alongside the tank. You can't make it tough enough to be like a tank. To attack an objective alongside of the tank is not going to be very conducive for long life.
Major Pirnie: Were there fewer officers at Fort Knox at that time who felt that there really should be commonality with the main battle tank.
General Sunell: I think at that time the folks at Fort Knox supported the Bradley, including myself. My thoughts on a heavier vehicle came later.
Major Pirnie: There was no other army in the world that was producing a heavier vehicle at that time anyway because the Merkava was still in the future.
General Sunell: We still don't have any army that has a heavy infantry carrier, although I suspect that will occur here in the near future.
Major Pirnie: You say that the Combined Arms Center should playa stronger coordinating role between Fort Knox and Fort Benning. Are they positioned to do that given the geographical separation and the influence that's inherent to a school that represents an entire branch in the Army? Can it really perform that function?
General Sunell: I think that the Combined Arms Center can perform the function. When they approve the ROC [Required Operational Capability] it goes on to TRADOC [Headquarters, Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe, Virginia], and then on up to the Department of the Army [DA]. I don't know what real role the CG plays in that ROC. I don't know how well it's reviewed. I don't know what the level of expertise is in the review of the ROC. I don't know if it's a rubber stamp. I don't know those kinds of things.
I think that development has to be driven more "top down" than "bottom up," even though you have to do it at the lower levels. Now, who in the hell has the experience? You've got a brand new captain in the Combat Development Division at Fort Benning, compared with the lieutenant general that sits in the Combined Arms Center. The commandant is a very busy guy, yet unless he is involved and understands what is required—the guy that writes the ROC is the captain!
Unless the chain of command gets involved, we can have a ROC that gets approved, and
it's not really what we want.
Major Pirnie: There's also the problem that if the ROC is beginning at the branch school level, there may not be sufficient coordination among the branches. The MICV is a classic example of that problem. Since there are two schools involved with two different approaches, doesn't there need to be a central agency to coordinate the program?
General Sunell: The Infantry School was the coordinating agency while everything came under MICV. The Armor School added what they wanted in the scout. But I want to go back and emphasize that the Bradley vehicle is the right vehicle for the time that it was fielded. It's a quantum jump above the M113, just as the M1 is the right vehicle for today.
As I look back, I started to believe more and more that we had to have top-down-driven requirements in order to get something done. We need someone like General Starry as the TRADOC commander who said, "I want this done." Then it would happen.
When he was the TRADOC commander, General Starry used to take the time to attend the decision meetings in Washington. Even prior to those decision briefings, he would sit in, and I'm sure it would lend emphasis to a program. I think you need that sort of thing. I'll get into that a little later on.
I want to talk to you some more about being a deputy program manager. Then, I'd like to come back and talk to you a little bit about the Army Training Support Center [ATSC] because we did a lot of development there. That used to be an excellent center for research and development.
A very successful development was the Improved TOW Vehicle that came out of the Armored Reconnaissance Scout Vehicle Task Force. The Army did an excellent job building that. Emerson Electric won that contract from Northrop, but I thought Northrop should have won it. That is parochialism; they built the vehicle to look like the one that we built at Fort Knox. Still, the "Emerson Electric" was a good vehicle. It gave the Soviets a terrible time when that vehicle hit the field. It changed the balance of power. That vehicle preceded the Bradley. You could put TOWs in all the units and give a 3,000 meter shot from a vehicle that could sit behind earth and fire, have protection, and also have 30° depression on it. Then you could pick a position where you could fire down on a tank, and the tanks couldn't fire back because Soviet tanks were built for the plains of the Soviet Union, and they have a small turret to breach space that limits their ability to elevate and depress. That was a real problem for the Soviets when that vehicle was fielded. It was a very, very serious threat to the Soviets.
The Cost and Operational Effectiveness Analyses (COEA)—that caused us to put the TOW on Bradley. Without the TOW on the Bradley, it became not nearly as cost-effective as it did with the TOW. It also would give us a killing capability in the overwatch—not in the assault.
The Soviets have 40 rounds of ammunition on their tanks. The bulk of their ammunition is antitank ammunition (missile firing vehicle). I think there's 20 rounds of fragmentation, 14 rounds of kinetic energy (KE), and six rounds of high explosive anti-tank (HEAT).
Their battle round is a HEAT round. Their first target is the Bradley or the ITV or the long-range shooter, and if they're over 2,000 meters, they come to a halt, and all ten tanks fire at the same target. That increases their probability of a hit. Their first target is not necessarily our tanks, but the long-range shooter, which is the Bradley and the ITV.
That's the kind of problem that the TOW gave the Soviets in that timeframe. Today with reactive armor, they can defeat the TOW, and now they're putting reactive armor on as fast as they can. That's another story.
Major Pirnie: Wasn't there a conflict or a potential conflict in tactical deployment of the vehicle? On one hand, we're saying that it needs to take a long shot, and, on the other hand, it needs to be in close support of its dismounted infantry. Can't that create a problem with tactical deployment?
General Sunell: At the Armor School when we used to talk about the Bradley; we used to talk about "unstressing" the tank. That's the word we used: "unstressing" the tank. That means it would sit in a hull-down position, and it would take on other targets, BMPs [Boevaya Mashina Pekhota—a Soviet infantry fighting vehicle introduced in 1967] that were firing the missiles, of the BRDMs. It would take on tanks at long range, and then it would join the tank in the assault on the objective. I mean, that's at the last minute, the same way that we employed the M113, except that it gives you a much bigger punch, and it had a better protection level than the M113.
In scouting, we used it just like we would use the M113. But in this case we had the capability of getting our scouts out because we had the suppressive weapon, the rapid-fire 25-mm. automatic cannon, and the TOW. We also had tanks to help get our scouts out. So, those two vehicles gave the Soviets some real problems. I'd be remiss if I said that the Bradley was the wrong vehicle because it was the right vehicle at the time that it was fielded.
We all know what a Bradley will do, and, in my opinion, we don't have to spend $20 million to load a vehicle up with ammunition and shoot directly in the ammunition and find out it's going to bum and blow up. That's going to happen. We've turned it inside out, and we still have a Bradley, and it still can't move with the tanks in a direct assault.
Major Pirnie: Doesn't the Bradley development program also make the same point you made earlier when you were talking about the price cap on the main battle tank? Congress was holding it to a certain limit because they were afraid it would become too expensive. We responded to that by fielding it without some of the things we had originally programmed and now find ourselves, ironically, at the behest of Congress, concerned now over the lack of survivability, adding these things to the vehicle, such as a spall liner and additional armor. This is probably at a greater expense than if we had done these things in the first place.
General Sunell: I'm not sure we knew. I don't think we knew about it at that time. We looked at spall liners. We did a lot of testing. You start running into weight problems, cube problems, and other things, and we still had the requirements for a certain vehicle. It was a requirement that we had to do and that limits what you can put on that vehicle. In my opinion, if you add all the things you're going to add to the Bradley today, it could be a very inadequate swimmer.
Major Pirnie: I think they're now putting pontoons on it in order to make it swim. Were those requirements perhaps not completely thought out? Did these requirements force us in a direction of a compromise?
General Sunell: The infantry has a requirement to swim, and they've had it for a long time. The M113 was a swimmer, and I think the M114 was a swimmer. All those vehicles had a requirement that they swim and get across streams, and that was probably a pretty good idea at that time.
My opinion is that in today's environment, when fighting the Russians, even if you can swim across the river in a Bradley, you're not going to go anyplace until you get the tanks over there. In order to get the tanks over you have to raft or bridge them over. Maybe it's a requirement to swim them across to hold the beachhead. I don't know. I don't think so.
I think we spent a hell of a lot of money developing a vehicle that swims. If you have a swimmer, you have an unprotected vehicle from a perspective of a heavy force. You've now got
a catch 22. I think swimming is one of the big issues that's going to have to be resolved during the next phase as we move toward the year 2000.
To continue, I went from the task force and became the deputy program manager and worked for General Baer in Warren, Michigan. That was a time that we went through the testing of the Chrysler version of the tank and the General Motors version of the tank. There was very strong competition between the two. That time was an interesting period. We had a rule that the contractor was given the requirement. With the exception of the kind of armor to be used, it was his design, and he had to live within the ROC. The government kept hands-off. Although the program manager observed what the contractors were doing, we couldn't do anything until after we had selected one of the two contractors. The source selection board met, and the Army selected the Chrysler version.
There was a lot of controversy over this because there are those who believe General Motors was the winner. I believe the turbine engine was the issue. However, we in the project were not permitted to be part of the source selection decision. The source selection committee was an outside group.
As I look back, I think the decision they made was correct. Early on, I wasn't sure about the turbine engine because it was new. I wasn't completely sure about how well it would do. As I look at it now, that engine has turned out to be excellent. It eats a lot of fuel, but it's a very reliable engine, and it gives you the power you need, and it saves you space. Again, I would be remiss if I did not give General Baer the credit for bringing the M1 program from inception to full-scale engineering and development [FSED].
An interesting thing in that time period was the competition between an M1 tank, called the Abrams, or if we would have a Leopard [Leo], the German tank—in other words, a joint program, and we would have the same tank as the Germans.
We tested the Leo over here, and it was called the Leo A2, that is, the Leo (American version). Because at the same time that we were testing the Leo, the United States government was pushing AWACS [Airborne Warning and Control System] on the Germans.
It appeared to us in the program—and although I don't have this in writing, I'm sure that it is correct to say—that the AWACS was being discussed in the inner circles as a quid pro quo for the M1: "You buy AWACS; we buy Leo."
Of course, that had considerable impact on the industry, specifically Chrysler. As you know, pieces and parts of the M1 come from forty-one states and Canada. 'Mere was quite a struggle behind the scenes from the "green suiters," who wanted to keep the Ml and the user who wanted to keep the M1, to those who thought that we really ought to have the Leo. The Leo is a good tank!
There's nothing wrong with the Leo, but it didn't have the protection of the M1. It didn't have a lot of the other features, and eventually, the test showed that the M1 was a better tank. The test was done by Aberdeen Proving Ground [Aberdeen, Maryland] not by the project. And I can't say that we were unhappy about that choice at the time.
Major Pirnie: Aren't these really insurmountable obstacles to overcome: the national predilections of a set of officers in a particular country and then, of course, the feeling that we should develop and "buy American" with all the implications for our economy? Aren't these insurmountable obstacles to a common main battle tank?
General Sunell: Yes. When I was a program manager, I chaired the interoperability harmonization group between the Germans, the United States, and the British. I came to the
conclusion after several years that we would never have a government-to-government interoperable tank. That is a decision made between governmental agencies. The only way we would get interoperability would be through business arrangements. That big competition was really an emotional time for the Army.
If we could make business arrangements that would allow NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] countries to have a certain amount of in-country dollars in those programs, you would have interoperability because you wouldn't have your own country's parochial interests, business, and the political lobbyists involved. That's why you'll see that certain decisions were made in the Armored Family of Vehicle Task Force when we eventually get to that. That big competition was really an emotional time for the Army.
Major Pirnie: The Chrysler-General Motors competition?
General Sunell: That competition and then the XM1 competition. It might be interesting to note that at the time when General Motors lost the contract, they said they would no longer compete in the military market. Just now in the last year and a half, they started a military vehicle office again and are competing for the AFV and doing a good job.
The next thing during that time period was the question, "Should we put a 120-mm. gun on the M1, and, should it be the British gun, a U. S.-developed gun, or a German gun?" We had very fierce competition between the British and the Germans on whether it would be a smoothbore or rifled gun, and the Army chose the smoothbore, the German gun.
That was probably the right decision. However, there were those in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) that said, "Let's delay the M1 program until we can get the 120-mm. gun on it, rather than go with the 105-mm." That was resisted by the Army. When I'm saying Army, I'm talking about those in the trenches, including the folks in the Pentagon, and in the requirements business. We had a decision to go with the M1, and we all felt that if we delayed the program any length of time to wait for a gun, the cost of the tank would go up; the enthusiasm for the tank would go down; and we wouldn't get a new tank.
We could see that our current tank fleet was becoming obsolete. I should say we argued forcibly enough to win and go into production with the M1 with the 105-mm. gun. I left the program at that time.
Major Pirnie: Sir, before we leave this subject, was it understood in the Program Management Office at that time that the 120-mm. or smoothbore would be a significant difference over the 105-mm.—that we needed it against the developing threat?
General Sunell: We knew that to go to a 120-mm. would cost the program a billion dollars. It has cost us that. We didn't believe that we needed the 120-mm. as much then as we do now. There are still those that think that we could have put the same amount of money into improving the 105-mm. round. We would have gone from a 105-mm. to maybe a bigger gun than the 120mm., and we would have had that development done if we would have gone to that gun now, as opposed to the 120-mm. I personally think that would be an interim gun system for what we're actually getting.
Be that as it may, the 120-mm. was a gun that we needed to take on the Soviets, and we have that in production. It was the right decision at that time although it cost us quite a bit of money. The argument would be, or the questions would be: Are you going to go back and refit your fleet,
your 105-mm. fleet, and put 120-mm.'s on it? The answer to that right now is no; there isn't any money in the program to do that.
But I want to talk to you about one other thing that's really interesting during that timeframe. The Army had never built a tank plant before. We had an obsolete tank plant. No one on active duty had ever built a tank plant, and we really didn't know how to do that. The decision was made to go to Lima, Ohio, and build a second tank plant. That was quite a drill for the Army to build that tank plant in Lima, Ohio. A plant which is now one of the more modern tank plants in the Western world. Lima is where we produce all the hulls and turrets. We organized a task force in the project, headed by Lt. Col. James Evans, and that task force did all the layout for the tank plant. We estimated that it would cost over a billion dollars to build that plant and facilitate other such contracts. The "bean counters" argued that we were overstating the case, and it settled into a budget of a little over $800 million. To date the program has cost $1,139,000,000. That's how much we've pumped into our facilities for production.
So, the original estimate of a little bit over a billion dollars by Colonel Evan's group was pretty close, and I think that's admirable that they were as close as they were. We put up our hands, and we went to the Congress and told them it was only going to cost $800 million—based on other folks' evaluation of our work, that was $300 million short.
Major Pirnie: Isn't that a phenomenal responsibility for a lieutenant colonel?
General Sunell: Yes, it is, and he's probably the only one that really understands how to do some of those things. If we ever have to go to war and mobilize, he'd be one of the first persons we should call. He works for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in [Pasadena,] California. In an emergency, we should bring him in and make him a big part of our mobilization effort because he understands it. Have you ever heard of DIPEC?
Major Pirnie: No, sir.
General Sunell: DIPEC is Defense Industrial Plant Equipment Center. The Department of Defense owns equipment that's all over the United States. It's in warehouses; it's in plants—and we own that. It's a carry-over from the Second World War. It's there, and we kept holding this for mobilization.
If you want to build a defense plant today, you have to screen DIPEC and make sure that there isn't a machine in there that the government owns that you can put in that plant, as opposed to buying a new one. Most of this stuff is archaic, but it's still maintained, and it's still stored, and you have to go through it. Jim Evans and his crew had to go through every piece of DIPEC in the United States—owned by the Navy, the Air Force, and the Army—before we could buy a piece of new equipment to put on the line at the tank plant.
They did an admirable job on that. We bought the first Japanese machine centers, which was very controversial, and we put those in that plant because they [the Japanese] had the lead in robotic machine centers. The building of that tank plant is an interesting story—how it came about, who did what to whom. And my job, of course, as the deputy, was to assist in that job.
Major Pirnie: You raise a very interesting point there, sir. In your analysis, if we needed to regain the experience that went into building that plant, would we have to go back to Colonel Evans?
General Sunell: He's the guy that really has the background along with General Babers. General Babers was the program manager through the whole thing. 'Me effort that went into building that plant is not well known. The government doesn't own those kinds of plants, and probably if we ever do it again, we ought to have it done by civilians. Let a firm do it, like Chrysler, General Motors, because they build automobile factories. We own this one; it's contractor operated; and that task force did an admirable job.
Major Pirnie: Are there some advantages to having the sort of involvement we had in constructing that plant rather than just turning it over to a contractor? Did we gain anything by that sort of direction?
General Sunell: Well, we trained some government officials in that particular side of the business. I think the worst feature is that it costs more money to own because we have hired outside help. You have to do all those kinds of things when you own the plant. My "druthers" would be for the government never to own any plants. It just adds to the burden or the cost of buying the tank. These are the key things that happened while I was the deputy.
Major Pirnie: What about the "120-mm. issue," sir?
General Sunell: We tested it at Aberdeen, and General [Phillip L.] Bolte was the test official. We had a very difficult time between the rifled bore and the smoothbore gun, and eventually the Army settled on the smoothbore. The interesting thing is the British stayed with the rifled bore, and of course we don't have inoperability with them because of that, except with the 105-mm. Everybody has learned their lesson, and when we go to the next gun, whatever it is, the three countries will have the same bore, and they all will have the same ammunition, and it will be more interoperable.
Major Pirnie: How will we get interoperability in the future?
General Sunell: I'm going to talk about that when we get to the AFV. During that timeframe though, there's one thing that I think is very important that came out of the program. We made a very conscious effort to try to build or bring on training devices that would support the tank as early on as we could. We were criticized for not having the training devices available when the tank hit the field. I'm talking about the Unit Conduct of Fire Trainer (UCOFT).
The reason we couldn't do that, although there was plenty of money in the budget to do it, was that we had two competitors, and we couldn't really start the training device development until we were settled on what the turret would look like. It wouldn't be cost-effective to build one for each turret and then go from there.
Now we have a different situation, and we'll be able to build training devices up front. At that time we couldn't do it, although we did start the wheels going for UCOFT, and we tried to have a driver's trainer and full crew interoperability for the simulator. The driver's trainer and 'the full crew simulator fell out, and we got the UCOFT. It all started during that time period. I give a lot of credit to General Babers for pushing the program through when he was the program manager.
Major Pirnie: Fielding is a difficult and very expensive part of a new weapon system that's often overlooked. Can it be done better if unit sets of equipment are issued in a more concentrated fashion?
General Sunell: That is essentially the way we're doing it now. We ship a battalion's worth of equipment; we bring a unit in; we train them, and then we issue the equipment.
All the new equipment fielding plans were made during that timeframe. I made many trips back and forth to Germany working on new equipment fielding. There are things that you don't think about. The turbine engine has to have a much different ventilation system for maintenance bays than a regular diesel engine; a lot of hot air comes out of it. Consequently, different bays were required. We had to plan all of the training. You had to get the Prescribed Load Lists (PLLs), the Authorized Stockage Lists (ASLs)—all of that into position. We planned that, and then we tested it at Fort Bliss. This was the model for both at Fort Hood [Texas] and in Europe.
Major Pirnie: Isn't that basically the responsibility of the Program Management Office?
General Sunell: Yes, it is.
Major Pirnie: Does that stretch him a little thin?
General Sunell: He works very close [sic] with the functional directors in the major support commands. In this case, TACOM [Tank and Automotive Command, Warren, Michigan].
I left the program then and went on to command the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment [ACR] in Fulda, Germany. That's probably the best job you could ever have in the Army, the command of a cavalry regiment. I always wanted to command a division, but I never had the opportunity, so I'll never know if that would have been 'as satisfying as the regiment. The regiment for me was just an excellent job.
I had the unique experience of working on the new cavalry regiment in the task force and then putting that regiment into being as a regimental commander. We took M551s out of the regiment and brought the M60 tanks in before I left. I also had the opportunity to plan for the ITV to come into the regiment, and I consider myself to be the founder of the ITV.
Major Pirnie: Did you like, as regimental commander, the decisions you had made earlier as a force developer?
General Sunell: Yes. If I had my "druthers," and I was God, and I could make changes just overnight, I would have all of our units in the heavy force organized exactly like the cavalry. We would need more infantrymen than the cavalry has, but that is a tough, tough force.
I don't know if you've ever sat down and looked at a cavalry regiment. The cavalry regiment has the equivalent of three tank battalions, and it has the equivalent of three mechanized infantry battalions, except that they only have five-man squads. It has the entire artillery battalion. It has a CEWI [Combat Electronic Warfare Intelligence] company. It has an engineer company, and it has an aviation battalion, and it's a tough force.
Major Pirnie: That comment interests me greatly because I was at the Defense Intelligence Agency for three years, and there I was taught the Soviet regimental system, with its organic approach to combined arms. It seems to me that you're speaking about something that's analogous with this cavalry regiment—a full, combined arms team.
General Sunell: Yes, that's right.
Major Pirnie: That same concept could apply across the board. As an example, could an armored division or a mechanized infantry division be built of regiments which are organized in a comparable fashion to the cavalry?
General Sunell: Yes. In fact, if I was God, once again—and this is using lots of hindsight—I would go immediately to combined arms battalions in our entire Army. When we go to the National Training Center, we organize the combined armed battalions to fight. If we go to war, we go with combined arms battalions. So why not organize early on that way and train to fight in the organization that you would have in the time of war?
Major Pirnie: In other words, is it superior to have that organization organic and always in place?
General Sunell: In my opinion, it is.
Major Pirnie: What are the distinct advantages of being organized like that all the time?
General Sunell: First of all, I think the big one is that the battalion commander and all his subordinates have a feeling of togetherness; they like the cohesion.
Major Pirnie: It's a team?
General Sunell: It's a team. You train that way, and you fight that way. You know that you can depend on the other folks. You know them, and you'll invariably do better if you have done that.
Major Pirnie: Why can't you?
General Sunell: Because we have an Infantry School and an Armor School, and we have parochialism that makes it very, very difficult to do that.
Major Pirnie: Could this organizational concept be joined to a regimental system?
General Sunell: Sure. That still says that you would need light infantry divisions to do the kinds of things that the light divisions do. But I'm talking about the heavy force: the mechanized infantry battalions, the tank battalions, and the artillery. That's how the Soviets are organizing their new corps. They're going to be a tough force.
Major Pirnie: Are we speaking of the New Army Corps?
General Sunell: Yes, the New Army Corps.
Major Pirnie: Do you expect that this organization will become force-wide for the Soviets?
General Sunell: Yes, and that's going to give us some fits. That's going to make them a hell of a lot better force than they are now.
Major Pirnie: What specifically are the advantages of a New Army Corps organization?
General Sunell: They're going to be organized into tanks and infantry and merged together with artillery. Now, this artillery is not taken away from the regimental artillery or the division artillery or the corps artillery. This is in addition. So, when they attack, they take their artillery with them, just like our cavalry regiments do.
Major Pirnie: So, it'll give them a closer coordination of combined arms?
General Sunell: That's right. They're going to train the way they fight.
Major Pirnie: I think currently they [the Soviets] only have two of those corps organized on an experimental basis. But do you feel that it's inherently so superior that they'll see the light and organize that way?
General Sunell: They're just copying our regiments, our cavalry regiments. We have three of them, and they're good ones.
Major Pirnie: In this example, the Soviets are emulating us instead of our picking up something from them.
General Sunell: Yes, and I think they're also emulating us by putting the missile in the tank. They'll probably make the same mistake we did.
Major Pirnie: What mistake was that, sir?
General Sunell: Well, when we had the M60A2s.
Major Pirnie: Using it as a main armament?
General Sunell: Yes, and the M551 didn't turn out too well for us either. I had a very, very good experience in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, and that's why I was promoted to general. In my belief, I'm the only general officer that's ever commanded the 11th ACR.
Major Pirnie: How long did you command as a general?
General Sunell: A couple of months. So, at least I have some distinction.
Major Pirnie: You relinquished command of the 11th ACR with some reluctancy?
General Sunell: I did. I really wanted to stay on, but all good things have to come to an end like that. I went back to work again for General Starry. I took command of the Army Training Support Center. To be very frank with you, I wasn't very familiar with the Training Support Center, up until that point. I didn't even know where Fort Eustis [Newport News, Virginia] was because I'd gone between Fort Knox and Fort Lewis, Germany, and Vietnam.
I came here to Fort Eustis and took that job and found out that I was qualified for it because I had spent my whole lifetime with troops, basically except the Knox tours and the time at Detroit. That's really the time of truth if you're an instructor. I'd like to talk to you about that a little bit because there's a little-known story about the Army Training Support Center. That was really started by General DePuy, and it was an outgrowth of the old Combined Arms Training Board that started at Fort Benning. It then moved up here, and I spent three-and-a-half years. It was my only job as a brigadier.
During that time, we did a lot of work that I think would be interesting. One is, we put Skill Qualification Test (SQT), as it is known today, with the central processing here at Fort Eustis. Not many people know that; not very many folks really understand the availability and what's on those computers that are maintained by the Skills Qualification Directorate.
Do you realize that for every soldier that ever came into the Army and who took a test, his scores are recorded and maintained down there? We did some experimenting there. I wanted to know, for example, how different categories of people would do in testing. You could take a "category three" person and follow him through, and we found out in many cases that the "category three" folks on the SQT were doing just as well as the others, and so we asked why? For those folks that stayed on in the Army and were successful, it was their initial tests which weren't necessarily a reliable indication of what they would do later in the Army.
The ones that really couldn't make it were gone before they ever took the SQT. You had to be careful in putting a label on somebody until you really could determine what he could do. You could break those computer printouts down anyway you wanted: by parts of the country, by high school graduates, non-high school graduates, and by units. It became a very dangerous document to a lot of folks.
For example, if you were going to become a division commander, I could say here's what the SQT scores of your division are today, and now I'm going to give you them again two years from now.
Major Pirnie: Sir, we've had this experience on company level. We know what it's like.
General Sunell: That becomes a very, very touchy issue to folks. Some don't like to be compared, believe it or not. They don't like to be judged, and they don't like other people seeing how well they're doing. Those computers were a controversial issue.
Major Pirnie: Company commanders are compared on the basis of their SQT scores. Why not compare major generals the same way?
General Sunell: I had no objections to that. What I did do, because I knew how touchy it was, was every quarter, I pulled the scores by division, and I didn't identify that division, but I sent it personally to the division commander and said, "Here are your divisional scores." I did not break them down by brigade for him, or by battalion. He could easily have requested that, but I gave them to him by his division, and so he could see whether he was going up or down.
I like those computers very much. I'm not afraid to compete. I thought it would be good for the division commander to know where to put the emphasis. That was one thing that we did work out, and we worked out very well.
Personally I think that in the SQT, you ought to run these scores off and send them to the division and let the division handle them. Certainly, someone ought to take a look and see where the Army is. There shouldn't be any reason for one division to be way lower [sic] than another unless they are not putting emphasis on the individual skills.
If I was the head man, I'd want to know that. I can tell you there are divisions that have gone in a 24-month period from the top of the heap down to the bottom of the heap because the emphasis is put on different things. It may be collective training, but you still have to have your individual skills. Anyway, the SQT was one side of the operation.
Now, the other side was the school for professional development, which is the old correspondence course program. There are over a million mailings a year. That's the largest mail order school in the United States or in the world, and they have students from foreign countries that take courses there. Even officers in the Reserve and the Guard get promotion points, and they come here in the summertime and live in Williamsburg [Virginia] just like they're a regular student. They do their lessons and turn them in, and they finish a course in a couple of weeks.
Major Pirnie: How effective do you think these correspondence courses are?
General Sunell: I think they're pretty good. They're only as effective as the TRADOC schools make them. We monitor them here, but we don't have all the expertise that the school does. If the school maintains their courses, keeps their subcourses up-to-date with new equipment—it's an excellent way for home studying, and I highly recommend it. That's big business for the Army, and it's good business for the Army. It helps out our Reserve, our Guard, and so forth.
Then the other thing that we started there is the U. S. Army School of the Air; that was started at the ATSC. The idea there was to be able to transmit training courses throughout the United States to Reserve and National Guard units.
While I was there, we did an experiment with satellites, and we taught simultaneously in San Francisco, Kansas City, Denver, and here. And we taught that course from Leavenworth, just as an experiment.
We wanted to put 5,000-plus receivers in CONUS [continental United States] on every one of the Reserve and National Guard headquarters. The idea was that we could teach courses and we could inform about new things, and in the event of a national emergency, we had an alternate means of communicating with our reserve forces. The president could talk to them from his command plane, and we'd have a way of communicating. We never really got to that point, and I still think that's a good idea that someone ought to pursue.
Another one is that we really were the first ones that started talking robotics, and we were doing robotics because we wanted different ways of training. We thought we could have robotic
vehicles that could actually shoot. We could control them and have them do basic maneuvers. It never quite got that far, but out of that work came a lot of the robotics that are going on today.
General Starry asked me to be the catalyst and get the Army interested in robotics, and that's what we did. We spent a lot of time traveling, talking, and giving presentations on different ideas for military robotics.
Major Pirnie: While you were still at the Training Support Center?
General Sunell: Yes, we think we were the catalyst that made it start. We started working on robotics, and I had an idea of how you could put together different pieces of equipment and build a mine-clearing vehicle. We briefed that to General [Louis C.] Wagner [Jr.], and he agreed, and we also talked to General [Max W.] Noah at the Engineer School. General Starry made a presentation at Fort Knox, and he demonstrated a little robot on the stage that we had bought for him. He had it come out and then turn toward the audience and stop—and it would spit fire. He gave a pitch on the need to work robotics, and after that conference, I met with the people from combat developments and laid out a program to build a robotic mine-clearing vehicle. That's using the Marine Corps' snake, the television eyes. TACOM had manipulators or actuators that allowed you to remotely control it so that you could drive it from a distance and with that we built ROBAT [Robotic Obstacle Breaching Assault Tank].
I don't know if you've heard about ROBAT. ROBAT is a mine-clearing vehicle that is built on an M60 chassis. We actually went out and cleared a lane through a minefield—and did it from two kilometers with no humans around—and blew a lane through it and marked it. There are two of those vehicles. They're on the books, and we have the technical data package. I'm proud of the fact that this concept came out of the ATSC.
Major Pirnie: I remember the Germans working with similar vehicles during World War II and our surprise when we captured some of them after Normandy. They were wire guided, if I remember correctly. Why have the armies of the world done comparatively little in this field while robotics were developed in other areas?
General Sunell: When we get into the AFV, if you'll ask me about the multidimensional battlefield, I'll talk to you about the robots.
Major Pirnie: The fourth dimension?
General Sunell: Yes. So, we built ROBAT, and we tested it, but we never really took it as far as we ought to have taken it. We got it on the books, so in the event of mobilization, it could be available.
The next thing we were concerned about was how we were going to train, save money, and use training devices. We organized what we call STRAC [Standards in Training Commission] at Fort Eustis. It's still on-going. That was where we worked with the schools and came up with the idea of how we would train using training devices and a combination of ammunition so that we could cut the cost of our training and yet improve our training standards.
That organization was headed by an officer whom I brought down from the Army War College. They did an exercise called "Guns Over Boise." We went out to Gowen Field, Idaho.
If you've never been there, you ought to stop by someday. That's 250 square miles of training area that belongs to the National Guard. One cavalry regiment uses it—the 160th Cavalry. It's an excellently trained outfit.
We went out there because the state AG [Adjutant General] was willing to help us do some experiments. We took one squadron, and we laid out a program for them where they would not shoot any ammunition until they went to the range to fire for qualification. Everything else they would do, they would do with simulation, substitution, or miniaturization. These are three key words in training nowadays.
We bought tabletop trainers, and we bought another type of trainer from England that's on a screen. I won't go into all of that. We brought a robot, which was an M114 with remote controls, and we shot .50 caliber frangible ammunition at it. So they can shoot at a moving target, which was not shooting as you normally would.
We did this experiment for a year, and then we went out to the ranges. The squadron that did all the training with simulation, just "shot the trousers off" the one that had all the ammunition. We proved that with proper training, proper simulation, proper substitution, and proper miniaturization, you can reduce the cost of ammunition without losing proficiency.
You can't go to Fort Knox and say, "I'm going to take all your ammunition," or they'd tar and feather you and hang you on the flag pole. All the tankers like to smell cordite. But you can cut down.
Since we did all these programs, we've gone from 210 rounds a year per crew to just around 100 or a little under a 100 per crew per year. That is about a 50 percent reduction in the amount of ammunition that was used. You can imagine what a savings that is, and, not only that, against all popular belief, our scores have gone up. The tankers that are shooting the Grafenwoehr ranges are shooting better now after having used the simulation than they were when they were using the live ammunition. That's interesting, isn't it?
That to me was a really interesting experiment at Gowen Field, and I have to give Col. Chris Conrad the credit for it, and of course, Lt. Gen. Julius Becton, for supporting us and letting us do it.
Major Pirnie: The fire control itself has become so automated and the simulation is so good that you can practically recreate the conditions.
General Sunell: The UCOFT is probably the best training device that's ever been made for the Army. It really does the job. It can take you up to six skill levels. The genius behind that insight is a retired colonel by the name of Dick Hopkins who works for GE [General Electric Corporation]. He was probably one of the best tankers I've ever known, and he's the one that put that program together.
If you can work your way to the top level, you're going to be a top quality gunner. It takes a long time to do, and it's not easy. It was those kinds of things that we did. We really worked on miniaturization, substitution, and simulation at the ATSC.
Another area we tried to put into being was the platoon tests. We wanted to reinstitute platoon tests as away of checking our collective training. We worked hard on that. We developed the test, and we then tried to sell those tests to the leadership of the Army. It never took hold.
Again, too many people were still on active duty who remembered the old days when we had the Army Training Tests (ATT), and we went through a drill of testing that they didn't like.
They felt it was false, and it didn't do the job they wanted it to do, and consequently they were not interested in going back to testing. Some of the division commanders were; some of the corps were; but basically I'd say that it was a big loser for ATSC. We worked hard on it, but we never really got it going.
However, some interesting things occurred. When Colonel Conrad commanded a brigade, he did platoon testing. He also organized his brigade into combined arms teams, and, as I understand it, his battalions were among the first that really cleaned up on the opposing force at the National Training Center. A battalion only does as well as its platoons are going to do. If you can get all the platoons to do the collective skills right, you will make great strides in your battalion's performance. I'm sorry that testing didn't catch on because I think that it is a good idea, and it will happen again some day. But then it was the wrong time.
Major Pirnie: Why did it miss at that time?
General Sunell: I think it missed for the same reason. They're just a body of people that don't like to be tested. And it becomes a threat. It goes all the way back to when they were lieutenants and company commanders, and passing an ATT was very important. There were a lot of false things in those ATTs that really didn't apply to the battlefields. However, you still had to perform them. They didn't want to see a repeat of that.
What we wrote at the ATSC was much better. That was one of my big failures. I had the support of General Otis and General Starry, but I just couldn't make it happen.
Col. Craig Hagen, who had the Army Training Board, did all the work for me on preparing the tests. We went to Europe during REFORGERs [return of forces to Germany] and evaluated units based on the tests that we had written. This is a very interesting anomaly. We tested some units, and we told them they were going to be tested, and their scores were high. Those units did very well. They did everything right because we gave them the sheets ahead of time, and they knew what information would be on the test.
We also had evaluation with other units but did not tell them that they were "heavy evaluators." We graded or scored them in the same manner as the other units, but they didn't know they were being tested. They failed miserably.
It's become clear that if you're not grading units in an exercise like REFORGER, they're learning a lot of bad lessons because the leadership does not insist that they accomplish their collective training tests. When a unit is being tested, they're [sic] alert, and there's a very positive reinforcement of individual skills and collective skill. That to me was enough reason to test every platoon in the Army at least once a year.
We tried to cut down the number of publications that we had, and we took a look to see what had been published by the Artillery School for the [MOS] 13 series Military Occupational Specialty. We laid that out and would you believe that it filled an entire barracks floor. That was the SQT, the Bessler Que See tapes—and the manuals. We photographed them and went to the schools and said, "You know, a Ph.D. doesn't have to read this much, and so what are we going to do to change this." That's when we spent a whole year cutting down the publications, and we did a good job. A colonel by the name of Harm Stryker managed this, and he really did a good job.
The last important thing that happened during my tour was that we organized a thing called DART [Directorate of Army Ranges and Targets]. All of you have been around Army posts, and you know that every range that you go to has a different kind of moving target on it. Somebody
builds it, and they may have an old jeep engine in it, and nothing is ever standard. We tried to standardize our ranges throughout the United States Army and the Guard so that you could buy one type of a moving target, and that moving target would be on every post in the United States. This standardization would allow you to order parts. It would cut down costs, and you wouldn't run into obsolete ranges.
DART is still in business, and they design what we call the multipurpose range. It serves tanks; it serves artillery; it serves helicopters; it serves riflemen—the whole works. That plan is there; it's been approved; and those ranges are going in.
In the case of the National Guard, if they can't afford to put in what they want, they put it in incrementally. They're not violating regulations, they just lay out the range, and they put in what they can afford, and that's going on at Gowen Field, Idaho, right now. We use Gowen Field a lot as an experimental area for armor. I guess if we ever had a national emergency, Gowen Field would end up being one of our mobilization areas.
At the ATSC, another thing we wanted to know was what it would be like if you had to mobilize and train prior to overseas commitment. We went to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, and had discussions with the commander there, a fellow by the name of Col. Bill Moran. Bill was an armor officer whom we knew. We said, "We'd like to do a mobilization study using your post as an example." We found out all the units that were going to come into Fort McCoy and how they would phase into a mobilization.
We made a baffle book for mobilization, just like you would for the border in Germany. We found out what was going to happen when the unit comes through, what it brings with them, what it picks up, how it processes through, where it goes, etc.
We found that the units that came to Fort McCoy brought with them their weapons, their vehicles, and so forth. They left all their training materials back. Obviously they should have brought their training materials and their simulators to Fort McCoy, turned them into the training support officer (TSO), where they could be redistributed throughout the rest of the Army.
We produced a book that told from A to Z what every person on the post could do and what the incoming units could do and used that as an example for the rest of the Army. We knew pretty well what needed to be done when we finished.
The kind of training material we would need as well as the kind of ranges helped us out considerably in understanding the impact of mobilization. That book still exists at Fort McCoy and is used as an example for others to follow.
During that three-and-a-half-year period, I thought we worked on some exciting things that are not well known in the Army. We did it all under General Otis' and General Starry's guidance.
Major Pirnie: Was that experience at Fort McCoy then cast into a form that everyone could follow?
General Sunell: Yes, that was the whole idea—to do it so that everybody else could profit. I don't know its status. They're dynamic: you have to continue to update them; and it all depends on where the emphasis is.
But there were sure some "horribles" that we found that hadn't been well thought out. One hospital unit was going to pass through there to go to Fort McClellan [Anniston, Alabama], but there really was not a job for them at the fort. Those kinds of things were not our business, but it's a kind of thing you have to walk yourself through step-by-step.
Major Pirnie: Did it look like World War II all over again: a lot of stops and starts?
General Sunell: It's just like when we deployed to Vietnam. There are some functions that we never thought about. For example, on all these posts, graves registration is run by civilians. When the division packs up and leaves, you don't have a graves registration unit, you have to go find one, and it's something you don't think about during peacetime. You don't think about it until you start to pick up and leave. That's the same issue with mobilization. There ought to be more of that kind of work.
Major Pirnie: Could we build this into a REFORGER style exercise?
General Sunell: Yes. I then was called and told I was going to be the program manager for the M1 tank.
Major Pirnie: Did that come as a surprise to you, sir?
General Sunell: Well, I kind of figured I might do that. I really wanted to go to a division. I was selected for promotion to major general. And before that, I was told I was going to stay at the ATSC, and General Otis said he wanted me to stay there—he cleared it with the chief of staff of the Army—until I got promoted. So, I was told I was going to leave the ATSC and go to TACOM and be the program manager.
When I got there, I found out I wasn't going to be quite as independent as I thought I was going to be. Instead of being an independent program manager, the program was put under the major supporting command, in this case TACOM.
I didn't really like that. I talked to General [Donald R.] Keith about it and told him that I felt that one major general should not work for another one. I wanted the freedom to be able to move on my own and make decisions. As we were fielding the MI tank and TACOM was responsible for the parts, it really didn't work very well for the officer that's responsible for doing one thing and the other one is responsible for the overall fielding [sic]. You run into loyalty problems. If he's not doing his job, how in the dickens do you go and say that, or how do you go to your leader and say, "Hey, this guy is not doing his job," when you actually work for him?
I think you need autonomy. General Keith said I had all the autonomy I needed to run the program the way I wanted. I did that, and I had no problem. General [Marvin T.] Ball had been the previous program manager, and he was an excellent person to work with. At that time we organized the program into tank systems. I now took on the M60 and all those tanks along with the M1 and the M1A1. We were just starting the M1A1 during my watch.
Major Pirnie: Is that a better organization than just having the Ml alone?
General Sunell: Yes, it was because there are certain things that you can do that you can't do otherwise. Span of control was the only problem. We became an umbrella program management office, and I had all of the derivatives of the M60, the M48, and the M1, and then we were building the M1A1, with the 120-mm. gun.
In addition to that, I was the program manager-adviser to the Koreans for their new tank, the Republic of Korea's indigenous tank. I just got back from Korea last month [September 1987] where I was invited by the Korean government to attend their naming ceremony for that tank. I
represented the U.S. Army even though I was retired. By the way, they named that tank, "Tank '88," in honor of the 1988 Olympics. The president of Korea was there to drop the veil from it.
Some interesting things occurred during my three years as the program manager of the tanks. First of all, we continued to field the M1, and we developed the M1A1, with a 120-mm. gun. Now, that is a new tank. A lot of people do not realize that. But you've got new ammunition; you've got a new gun; and you've got different fire controls to support. You also have a different transmission and different final drives, and it's a much heavier tank.
We did bring the M1A1 on, and we had a formal rollout. We brought it into production, and that's the tank going into the field today. You never once saw development of that in the newspapers. It never was a controversy; it just sort of slipped onto the field.
I'll tell you what decision I made, and I think this was a good decision for all program managers involved in this sort of thing. If you see an article that appears somewhat critical of your program, don't ever rebut it; just remain silent. Save your rebuttals for your congressional 'hearings. Once you start writing a lengthy rebuttal, all you're doing is making the reporter's job easier. He answers your rebuttal, and then you rebut back, and he answers your rebuttal, and you keep your program in the headlines until people don't know what to believe. So, my philosophy was if there's something wrong, really wrong with your program—maximum disclosure; minimum delay. If there's nothing wrong and you get an adverse criticism, don't rebut it. Just remain silent, and in a couple of days it goes away.
That to me is something important to remember. I learned that the hard way because you always lose. You just never get out of the newspapers. If you have a problem, you'll have to just say, "I have this problem." Go back in history and think what would happen if certain politicians would have just said, "Hey, I screwed that up, so what?"
Now, what else can you do? You know for a couple of days they say, "He really screwed that up." But after that, what is there to write about?
Major Pirnie: Richard Nixon would have served out a full term, wouldn't he?
General Sunell: That's right, and a lot of others. It's just like Mr. Gary Hart. He just had to say, "I was wrong." And so now you don't hear anything about him anymore.
Major Pirnie: Would that work even in the development center?
General Sunell: I think if you're in development that's the only way to be: absolutely honest, aboveboard. And make sure that your bosses agree to that. If you can't do that, then you really can't be honest with yourself, and you should not do the job.
I had a philosophy that I would never ever go forward with anything that I'd worked on that wasn't in the best interest of the Army and the country. I couldn't possibly have recommended something that I knew was wrong with the vehicle. I know of nothing in the M1A1 tank that is wrong, that we could have done better by doing something different. I really don't know of anything.
Major Pirnie: I'd like to touch on a question that's often been discussed in the press. How strong is the pressure on program managers to become advocates of their programs?
General Sunell: I never felt that I had that pressure because I just wouldn't do it. We had a problem with our first shot into the 120-mm. ammunition compartment. Our philosophy was to remove the ammunition from the crew of the M1, and we put it in a bustle. The idea is the bustle blows out—if you get a hit in there, it blows out and away from the crew.
We had no problems with that philosophy for the M1 because we had metallic cases. The M1A1 has combustible cases. The first time we shot into the bustle of that vehicle with the rounds in it, it was 1200° F. in the bustle, and it was 400° F. in the turret—lots of smoke and flame and toxic fumes. And it was a disaster. I got on the airplane, and I took the film to General Otis who was the "Big Daddy" of armor at that time. I also talked to Maj. Gen. [Frederick J.] Brown who was at the Armor School. I showed the film to General Otis and said, "I'm going to kill the M1A1 program if we can't solve this problem. I want you to know why and what you're going to hear and the reason for it." And he agreed.
We went back, and six months later, I took the film over and said, "We have shot it four more times, and this is what it looks like. There was a 10° F. increase in temperature in the crew compartment—no fumes, no flames—and the crew would survive." That's when we went ahead with it.
I would have killed the program, or I would have recommended the killing of that program, had we not solved that problem. I think that anybody that's in business—if he thinks more of a promotion or more of his next job than to be straightforward with that, he shouldn't be where he is in the first place. I don't know of any time in the tank program that we ever let something go that should have been corrected.
We have found out things afterward that we didn't know that we had to correct, and we did make those corrections, but that was oversight—not planned.
Major Pirnie: Of course, an officer of integrity will not make this kind of compromise. The often repeated criticism is that if the officer lacks integrity, or a strong feeling of individual responsibility, there's something intrinsic to the job that could lead him in the wrong direction. His success or failure too often is judged on whether or not he can field the system.
General Sunell: I understand what you're asking. First of all, if a program manager is not an advocate or a proponent for his program, he should not be the program manager. All PMs [program managers] want to succeed with their programs. You can't criticize the program manager for the Bradley because the Bradley blows up when you shoot into the ammunition. That's not something that he planned. He knew that before he ever shot it.
You can't criticize the program manager of the M1 tank because if you shoot into the grill door, it's going to kill the engine. I don't care how many times you shoot there, it will always kill the engine. You can't protect against that. The tank is protected from the front. Everybody should know that.
But, if I said that I could stop the Soviet 125-mm. round from coming into the front of the tank—knowing down deep that wasn't true—that's criminal—a big difference! I feel that to personally tell a soldier that he can get into a thin-skinned vehicle and accompany a tank and survive is not true.
You can get into a thin-skinned vehicle and survive a certain amount of artillery, and you can survive a certain amount of small arms fire and shell fragments, but you cannot survive a long rod penetrator from a tank gun or a big heavy missile. You just can't do it.
Major Pirnie: In your judgment, nothing can be done to relieve a program manager of those tensions. Does he simply have to exercise professional judgment?
General Sunell: I'm going to talk a little bit about that in a minute, but I want to tell you some things that were controversial in the tank program. I told you how we reorganized, built the M1A1, and we had a very nice rollout ceremony for the M1A1. General Maxwell R. Thurman came and gave the presentation. The Germans were there and the Koreans, and it was well done. By the way, it's all on film if you ever want to see it. That film, ought to be in the archives somewhere. It's a beautifully done film, and it was a good ceremony, hosted by General Dynamics [Corporation). They did an outstanding job.
First of all, we went back, and we tried again to build a "full-up" simulator that could be used on the tank. We built a loader-trainer, put MILES [Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement Systems] on a tank, and we built a dummy round. We built a round that would cause the piece to go out of battery and dropped down in the turret. The slug would go out only about twenty-five meters and drop.
When that slug went out, it actuated MILES, and MILES would knock down a target. You could train in a very limited space—like on a Kaserne in Germany—put your targets out in the field and run a [tank gunnery] Table Seven or a Table Eight.
It was a great idea, but Fort Knox never liked it, and so it was another loser. We really tried to make that happen because it was a good trainer. The idea is still good. There was too much "Rube Goldberg" on it, I guess, and we could never get it off the ground. It was one that I pushed awfully hard for, but it just never took hold.
I still think that we need a full crew interaction simulator on a tank so that the whole crew can train together. Today the loader gets left out, and the driver gets left out while you train the gunner and the tank commander (TC), but you really need to have that crew. They only get together for live fire, but you ought to keep their skills up on a regular basis. By the way, that thing I told you about Gowen Field and the simulation unit winning—the unit that used simulation—do you remember that?
Major Pirnie: Yes, sir.
General Sunell: Well, to the layman that simulation seemed to be the real key, but it wasn't. The real key was that they had repetitious training all the time. They had the equipment there, and they trained on a regular schedule while the other units could only do it when they went to the ranges. That became the important thing—the repetition and training. That's what the STRAC commission at the ATSC produced: how many repetitions you had to do in a year to attain your skills.
I told you the second big loser was the full crew interaction simulator. I really liked that too.
Major Pirnie: You say it was too "Rube Goldberg"?
General Sunell: I just couldn't get people interested in it. There was a lot of interest there, but it just kept dying. We built the thing twice and did everything we could do. We sent it over to Germany to put into the, Canadian Army Trophy [CAT] shoots—so they could train on it—and it never got out of the boxes.
Major Pirnie: Was it difficult to install on the tanks, sir?
General Sunell: It was not difficult, and you could have used one of your float tanks as a training vehicle. It worked well for the Guard, and they liked it. We pulled it away from them to send it to Germany, but it just never got off the ground. We next built something called a "full-up" power pack. It was a new philosophy. We take a power pack and mount it on a trailer. This power pack has a transmission, an alternator, [and a] starter. And everything is fully operational. If a tank breaks down, you just take the trailer, pull it up next to the tank, pull the power pack that's in it, sit it on the ground, put the new one in, put the old power pack on the trailer, and take it back to direct support maintenance. There it's repaired, and then it's ready to go on another tank as a "full-up" power pack.
The tank crew is down only a short length of time. Just the time it takes to pull it and put the new one in. We took four of them to Germany and gave them to the brigade up north. Their ready-available rate was over 98 percent. They just were never down. When the power packs came back, we were able to repair them very quickly. The Logistics Command has adopted that as a philosophy; that philosophy stemmed from our program. It's an idea that we had that really worked. A civilian by the name of Lou Felder pushed this very hard. He's a retired colonel working for General Dynamics, and he gave me a great amount of help in making all that happen.
At the same time, we did a paper that's still available, if you're interested; we called it "Leasing Power Packs." You'll see this happen in your lifetime—I believe that the Army will not stop at only engines and power packs but will lease other items of equipment. We proved that if we didn't own the power pack on the M1 tank, we could save $6.4 billion over a twenty-year life cycle.
You might ask how you do that—very simple—you close the rebuild line in Anniston, Alabama; at Mainz, West Germany; and at Corpus Christi, Texas. And you have one remanufacturing plant: the contractor's. He guarantees you an X number of hours on the power pack, and when those hours are up, he takes it back, and he remanufactures it, and releases it to you. He is responsible for anything that breaks down during the operation of that power pack, unless it's the fault of the government. In other words, if you don't change filters, then it's the government's fault, and it pays for the repair.
The question I always get is what do you do during war. Well, that's not too difficult. What you do is write right into the leasing contract that those folks that are going to be in support of combat units, below brigade level, must be in an active reserve force and agree to go and stay with that unit in the event of hostilities. There is no problem getting people to sign up for that. That would be easy to do if the leasing company would pay them enough money.
I've written another letter on this subject and sent it to the current vice chief of staff, I think it's going to happen, and I think you'll see it happen. I told him we could save $35 billion in the AFV if you'd go to a leased power pack. That's a lot of money—$35 billion. That's more than there is in the total M1 tank program today.
Major Pirnie: Would it be necessary under a program of that sort to establish whether or not damage to a piece of leased equipment would be caused by negligence?
General Sunell: Yes. The way I visualize it, there would be a three-man team at the brigade—a contractor and two "green suiters." They would sit down and make a judgment right there. If the three of them couldn't agree what caused it, then they'd go to arbitration with someone else. Generally, you would be able to tell right there what was wrong with that engine.
To give you an example, we lost eleven engines in one week at Fort Hunter Liggett, in California—when buying new engines, that's a quarter of a million dollars each. The unit did not change air filters as required; they were working in dust. When they got into a light rainy mist, the dust [in the air filters] turned to mud, and it clogged them up and overheated and killed the engine. That's the fault of the government, and under no circumstances is that the fault of the equipment. It says very clearly you have to clean those air filters.
We felt that we had a way we could do leasing, and certainly it's worth a try. I recommended to General Brown that they do a study on leasing power packs. There's one contractor that came in when I was the program manager and offered to lease an M60 engine on a test basis.
His situation is money-making; it's a business. It's important for him to make sure his vehicle completes that leased time, otherwise, he loses money.
Now, when he takes it back to remanufacture it, he knows "where all the long poles are in the tent," and he's not going to replace a part when he doesn't have to. He really makes his money in the second lease.
Major Pirnie: Does it put a profit motive into the maintenance of the vehicles?
General Sunell: Sure, and the other thing is that right now, we have to buy two test sets for Anniston Army Depot and two test sets for Mainz. Those are very, very expensive. We have to carry an entire line of PLL and ASL, for repair parts for those rebuild lines. We have to have a work force there. Whether they're working or not, we have to pay them. That's a lot of money!
Let me give you an example. Teledyne Continental builds our M60 engine. We get 500 hours on that engine, and we send it down to Anniston for a rebuild, and it comes back, and we get 200 hours on it. Now, Teledyne Continental said they would lease us an engine at a guarantee of 1,000 hours. The first question becomes, "Why don't we get a 1,000-hour engine now?" The answer is because the government owns the technical data package, and Teledyne can't make any changes in that engine without going to the government. To make an engineering change to the technical data package takes about two years. It isn't worth it for them to do it.
We wouldn't own the technical data package. The maintenance of the tech data package and the maintenance of Engineering Change Proposals [ECPs] takes at least 500-600 man-hours a week. When I was a program manager, I didn't understand an ECP because I'm not an engineer, and so I pretended that I was one. I went through every stage that an ECP goes through until it gets added to the tank. I can tell you that you're "fondled" by a lot of people before you finally get it completed. It is a big bureaucracy, and we ought to change it.
Major Pirnie: Does the contractor, with his profit motive, have more flexibility to make changes and respond to problems sooner?
General Sunell: Yes. You're now going to have a lot of political problems on this. I gave a presentation to ADPA [American Defense Preparedness Association] on this idea at 1000 in the morning. At 1500, 1 got a call from a congressman's office that asked, "What are you doing? What is this I hear about your wanting to close down Anniston Army Depot?" That wasn't the case at all; we would have just changed the work load.
There's also some branch parochialisms involved because you do some things that other people are not very comfortable with because they've never done it that way.
I thought leasing was an interesting concept. The other is we're working on a hang-on power unit. Remember early on, I said we wanted to put an APU [auxiliary power unit] in the M1, but it was too expensive. We couldn't do it back then because we went over the dollar threshold imposed by Congress. Therefore, when I became the PM, we decided to use a strap-on APU. It would cost about $50,000 now to put this little generator under armor, so we decided to hang it on the back of the tank. It would be used during peacetime to take the wear and tear off the engine, and it would save a hell of a lot of money. For no other reason, we run our engine now just to charge our batteries when we're on ranges because we use a thermal sight and radios. To charge our batteries, we run that 1,500-horsepower engine.
Now we have one designed, and we have tested it. It will strap onto the back of the tank. I would guess that will save $270 million just in engine repair. That's close to the right number, and this APU works.
The first bid we got through General Dynamics was $17,000. I looked at what a little engine like that costs, and I told them to cancel the program unless it was under $10,000. It went to $9,500 the next day. That was an interesting one. They don't like that story, but it's worth being said anyway, I don't know what the cost is today.
That will save a hell of a lot of money for the Army, and it's just a peacetime throwaway thing. If you go to war, and it breaks, so be it! No one cares about how much you idle the engine then. There's not going to be that much time on tanks anyway; they're not going to last that long.
The other thing that we did in the tank business, that I was interested in, was fielding new equipment for the first time to the National Guard. We took a team down and we fielded at Fort Bragg in [Fayetteville] North Carolina and Camp Shelby, in Mississippi. We had M1s going into those National Guard units, and they're operational now.
The idea was to show that we're all one Army, and these were units that were going to be deployed first. It was a kind of nice experience. I learned a lot about the Guard from that issue. It was a good outfit. They never will be as well trained as our regulars, and they need to spend more time on gunnery. We developed a mobile Unit Conduct of Fire Trainer that's mounted in a van, and we'll take that UCOFT to units that have the M1 and eventually the M60. We will let them train on it where they'll get the same benefit from the UCOFT as our regulars do in Germany.
Major Pirnie: Would that be worth doing with other major items of equipment?
General Sunell: Sure, it's a great idea to do it that way.
Major Pirnie: Could you please elaborate on the testing of the Diehl Track?
General Sunell: We started a very controversial thing that's still on-going. This was the first test of using Diehl Track from Germany on the U.S. tank. In my opinion, it's a mistake to do that because it adds weight, and we would have to make a lot of changes in the tank. But politically you may get that decision.
That's in the decision process now. The under secretary of the Army is going to make that decision any day. I'm interested to see what he does. I think it will be a political decision, and if Diehl does win the contract, it'll be produced in the U.S. by Cadillac Gage in Detroit.
We did a lot of testing of iron tracks, or steel tracks, in Boise, Idaho. We wanted to run steel track on the rocks similar to those found in the Golan Heights. You can't run rubber track on those rocks.
Major Pirnie: You are doing things as a program manager that I would normally have thought would be done by, say, TACOM or another organization?
General Sunell: It normally is done by those organizations. They normally did the testing for us. In this case, TACOM did the testing, but under supervision of the PM. General Dynamics did the actual testing for us, and both the TACOM R&D [research and development] Center and the PM participated.
Major Pirnie: Isn't it unusual for a program manager to do that kind of work?
General Sunell: Well, I guess it is. It's just that if something has to be done or needs to be done, sometimes it's quicker for the program manager just to get in and make it happen. But, everything I did was in conjunction with the Armor School. In other words, we did it together.
This was interesting because on the rock in the Golan Heights, you can't use rubber tracks. The rock chews it up, and so you need a steel track. We also didn't know if our suspension system would take the tough going on rock. We tested at Gowen Field because they were so accommodating. They provided crews to operate the equipment, and it was about two-thirds cheaper to test there than it is at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Also, you get away from a lot of the bureaucracy. They're not used to all the "goodies" out there.
The rock at Gowen Field is very similar to the rock in the Golan Heights. We designed a course that would be similar to that found on the Golan Heights. It worked pretty well. We ran the Israeli track on the Ml tank and had no problem with it. Our thought was to stockpile a division's worth of steel track in the event of an emergency.
During this period of time, we had the idea of what our future armor force should be like. General Carl E. Vuono was the Combined Arms Center commander. We came up with an idea called the Armored Family of Vehicles. We said, the next time we build new vehicles, we ought to really build a family of vehicles.
Major Pirnie: What timeframe are you talking about?
General Sunell: This is about 1984. 1 put a pitch together on an AFV, leased power packs, "full-up" power packs, and "hang-on" items, such as APUs. These were the kind of thoughts that came to mind. We started taking these thoughts to different meetings primarily to stimulate interest. I find if you don't care who gets credit for things and just give it out, then a lot of things will come back in the form of products.
Major Pirnie: Why were you thinking of the family of vehicles at that time?
General Sunell: It was because of being the PM of tanks. I said, I never wanted to get in a position where I had a Hughes [Aircraft] sight on one tank and a Texas Instruments sight on the other, with different road wheels. Nothing was interoperable between the M60 and the M1 that you really could use, except guns. Yet we have different fire controls. I thought this was really ridiculous to get ourselves in this kind of position.
We were going to have to build new equipment in the future, so we really ought to plan that in advance. I put a pitch together about commonality and went to the Armor School during a conference. I briefed General Wagner and General Vuono about an AFV, as well as anyone that
would listen. During this Armor Conference, I also briefed the retired community, such as General Baer and General Starry, on this idea and suggested we put together a task force and lay out what the future ought to be for our Army. I said I'd like to do that.
I wanted to do this because I really believed that it needed to be done, and so General Vuono said to write up a charter and then hold it. He was going to be the DCSOPS [deputy chief of staff for operations and plans), and we'd see if we couldn't put something together. I did that. Col. Richard Coffman actually wrote the charter. When General Vuono became the DCSOPS, I sent it to Maj. Gen. Jack [John W.] Woodmansee, the assistant DCSOPs for force development. They "massaged" it and took it to General Vuono. And he took it to the chief of staff.
They had some discussions back and forth on who ought to run it and then asked me to take it. I had planned to retire before then, but I decided I would take the task force. I told General Vuono I would stay on for eighteen months and that I'd like to pick fifteen people for the task force. I'd like to put the task force somewhere near Fort Eustis or Fort Monroe, Virginia. My reason for that was so I would have access to the headquarters at TRADOC. It was within easy reach of the Pentagon, but I wouldn't be in the grasp of either one of them, because I wanted the independence of working for the DCSOPS. General Vuono agreed with that, and that's how the task force came to be at Fort Eustis.
Before I get into the task force, I want to wind up [the discussion about] my time as program manager for tanks. When General Babers had the program, it was independent. It was very easy for them to make things happen. When I took the program, the first half of my tour was very independent. The second half was not independent. We had to start answering through TACOM, then through AMC [Army Materiel Command], and then to DA. It was very difficult to make things happen that were important to the program. It was not a very satisfying way to do business.
General [Richard H.] Thompson wanted to "hold things tight." He wanted everything to come through him. You couldn't really operate that way, because when the desk officer needed information for a congressional inquiry, he had to have it right away. You couldn't delay it two or three days; otherwise, you would have problems with die folks who were supporting you in the Congress.
We had to answer directly to DA and then send paperwork up the channels and 90 around. It was very unsatisfactory. All the PMs, I think, generally felt the same way, and we voiced our opinion. What I'm saying now is not being said because I'm retired. I said right up front that that was not the way to do business. I think the Packard Commission came to the same conclusion because they interviewed all the PMs and all of them essentially said the same.
When I was asked what AMC did for me as a PM, I said, "They collate my papers." That's essentially it. In one way, it forced us to circumvent the system and not be as good a soldier as you'd like to be, but, on the other hand, if you're dedicated to getting the job done, you made it happen.
I think the situation now is back to where it was when General Baer had it. The idea of the PM to begin with was to make a PM independent of all of the other influences, and when you go back to your question can a PM inadvertently take something forward, yes, he can, if he has ,support from the top. Anyway, that's been rectified. I thought the worst time to be a PM was when you had those different layers of bureaucracy to go through.
Major Pirnie: How would you subordinate the PM though, if he's not subordinate to AMC?
General Sunell: I think the way they had it before. He was subordinated to AMC, but he had direct access. The charter said he had direct access to the secretary of the Army, and although he didn't use that, there wasn't any reason the PM shouldn't have the freedom to walk in and see the under secretary of the Army and talk over problems, especially if he's a senior individual. You don't promote people to those kind of ranks and not expect them to make decisions and have discussions on their own.
[The bureaucracy of AMC] was too confining and not enough like a business. It was more like a brigade, and you can't run a program shop like a brigade because it just doesn't work that way.
Consequently, I think maybe there's been a little bit of overreaction. Now you've taken the PMs completely away from AMC. AMC becomes in effect, a headquarters commandant for PM shops, and that's not right either.
There's got to be a "happy medium." I thought the way it was with the PM answering to the guy that was the head of research and development at DARCOM [Department of the Army Readiness Command (AMC's predecessor)], who had access to the DCSRDA [deputy chief of staff for research, development and acquisition] and to the under secretary of the Army, the secretary of the Army, and the Congress, was the best way. The second best way is how they have it now. I know General [Peter M.] McVey enjoys the amount of autonomy that he has currently because it's a lot easier to do business.
Major Pirnie: Is it a delicate balance?
General Sunell: It's a delicate balance the way it was, and I had no problem with General [Arthur] Holmes [Jr.] who was the TACOM commander. It was the system. I want to say this for history because I worked under both systems, and I worked when it was completely autonomous—virtually completely autonomous—then under a very stifling bureaucracy and finally autonomous again.
I can tell you from experience that "layering" in the program management business is not the way to go. All it does is drag out the decision-making process, and you get many, many people who are in the chain who have no responsibility, who "massage" paper when the real responsibility in the long run is going to rest with the PM.
Major Pirnie: Do you prefer the PM working directly for the Army acquisition executive [AAE]?
General Sunell: Yes, definitely.
Major Pirnie: Under that system, how do we control the concerns of the user? How does the user protect the program from unilateral trade-offs?
General Sunell: Well, he has to insure that he gets help. The user needs to be more involved in the entire program, not just the gross statement of need. If I'm the commandant of the Armor School and my tank is going to be no more than fifty-five tons, then I have to know what the levels of protection are—both maximum and minimum. He must oversee the requirements from A through Z. This doesn't allow many trade-offs. The PM can live with that and will live with it. He also has to return to the Army sooner or later.
Major Pirnie: Is this going to force the user to work much more closely with the developer?
General Sunell: He's going to have to stay with it all the time, and that's where the TRADOC system manager [TSM] will have to be heavily involved, and he's going to have to raise the flag if anytime that ROC is not being followed.
Major Dietrich: Should the TSM also sign the document which is the PM's agreement with the AAE?
General Sunell: I don't know. I would think that the AAE would want to have the TRADOC name on that document somewhere so that later on—eight years from now—you couldn't come back and say: "We didn't agree with that."
Major Pirnie: Are you satisfied, sir, that the TSM represents the user satisfactorily?
General Sunell: I can only talk about the TSM for the tank program at this time. It was never a "we/they." But he always represented the user.
Major Dietrich: Col. Douglas Burgess?
General Sunell: Yes. Doug Burgess, and there were several others. They were always
available. My feeling is that when you go to the Congress—when any meeting of importance takes place in Washington—the PM, the TSM, and the commandant of that school ought to be in that meeting. It never should be PM and DCSRDA, or now the assistant secretary of the Army for research, development, and acquisition [SARDA]. These players must attend every single
But, I want to go back and give you an example on the bureaucracy. I want to record this for history. In January 1984, the vice chief of staff told me that, "The most important thing you're doing is the armament enhancement initiatives." We were trying to improve our ammunition. He said, "Mat's the most important thing you're doing." We went back to Detroit, worked day and night, and wrote the acquisition strategy.
I submitted the acquisition strategy at the end of January 1984. That acquisition strategy was approved at the end of February 1985—thirteen months later. Now, somewhere in the records there at the PM shop, you can see "everybody's hands" it went through. But that should have gone directly to the CG at AMC, or to his designated representative, which would have been Lt. Gen. [Robert L.] Moore, then over to the under secretary. It should have taken about a month and no more.
But it took thirteen months to get that acquisition strategy approved. No changes. What did that mean to the program, and what did that mean to me? And what is the law? Before you have an approved acquisition strategy, you cannot commit public funds, can you? So, that said, "I'm working on the most important thing that the Army has to offer. Now I have money in the budget and guidance from the vice chief of staff to start the program."
Legally I should not have started that program and put a penny towards that program until February of 1985, or March of 1985, but we did. We went ahead and started working on it, knowing that this acquisition strategy would be approved.
By the letter of the law, you should not do that, but it's absolutely ridiculous to have that kind of a "lead time" for paperwork. That's what AMC did to themselves when they went to a centralized command, and that's why the Packard Commission did what it did.
Major Pirnie: If I understood correctly you date the origin of the concept of the AFV to 1984?
General Sunell: Yes, that's when I first really started with it in maybe 1983, late 1983. I can't remember the exact date. The idea of a family of vehicles has been around for awhile. In any event, it's not something new: it just hadn't been put together in a package. As I said, we really started pushing it in 1984.
Major Pirnie: Weren't there any previous studies that one could build on at that point?
General Sunell: Well, not really, not like this. The idea had been discussed, but no one ever put it together and said, "These are the kinds of things that you could realize out of a family of vehicles." We have a family of vehicles, with the M113, the M557, the ambulance, the scout, and we've got the infantry carrier. We've got all of those kind of things.
Major Pirnie: Was the M113 planned as a family or did it just evolve as a family?
General Sunell: No, it just evolved as a family, and essentially there's a lot of things that are coming on behind the Bradley in the same way. They're using the Bradley chassis for the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS). This is not a unique or new idea.
Major Pirnie: Did any foreign systems influence your thinking at all?
General Sunell: No. I think that this came along in my thought patterns. In addition to fielding the M1, we also had to prepare the new equipment fielding plan for the National Guard. Somewhere during that timeframe, when we were concerned about repair parts, the thought occurred that if we planned the family in advance, what would it save us, how would we buy it—and those kinds of things. One thing really stimulated it. Do you know what the "ah-ha concept" is? You don't really understand something very well, and you hear a little bit here, and you hear a little bit there, and you hear something outside here another day, and its just kind of fuzzy. And then all of a sudden you say, "I understand that." The whole thing seems to kind of fall together.
That seems to be the way things happen with me. Other people had talked about it, and I just had a feeling that I could put something together that might turn into a program, but I needed the help of a lot of people, like Colonel Coffman and others.
I briefed this thing at the Armor Conference, and we kept refining the briefing about more compelling reasons why the Army ought to go to a family of vehicles. We received acceptance from more people. We briefed everyone that we could talk to, including the Assistant Secretary of the Army for R&D, Dr. Sculley, and Under Secretary James Ambrose. I talked to Generals [William R.] Richardson and Otis and other four stars that were around and available.
The next occurrence was the defense summer study. That Army Science Board summer study is where they looked at armor, antiarmor. And Colonel Coffman and I were both on that study along with General Starry and others. Part of the antiarmor study stated that a task force
ought to be put together to look at a family of vehicles—as opposed to building vehicles the customary way. The antiarmor input that comes in ought to be a part of that.
As I said earlier, we had the charter, and we gave that charter to General Vuono. After they "massaged" it, and it was finally approved, I left the project and came to Fort Eustis in January 1986.
We had a milestone to conduct an ASARC-[Army System Acquisition Review Council]type decision in August of this year, 1987—which was eighteen months later. When I arrived at Fort Eustis, I had one fellow working for me, Lt. Col. Mike Robinson, who's now commanding a battalion in the 24th Infantry Division. A couple of others kind of drifted in and out. We knew we didn't have much time, so we asked for money for contractor support, and, fortunately, we were able to get BDM.
Part of the deal at BDM was that they should hire as many qualified local people as they could. The reason for that was for the same amount of money you get two or three extra workers if you don't have to pay for rental cars, motel rooms, or that kind of thing. They did a good job of it. They've hired some excellent talent that was here in the area—retired military folks. In fact, they could not have found anybody any better than the ones they hired. They just did a super job for me.
By the middle of June, all of my military people had arrived, so we really didn't get the military people here in January as it appears on paper. They really arrived in June, which said we really had to move to meet that August 1987 time schedule.
Major Pirnie: Who selected those people?
General Sunell: I did not want to, but I selected four of them. These were guys for specific tasks: the threat man, my XO, the colonel that was going to represent AMC, and the TRADOC colonel. For the rest of the action officers, I went to the commandants of the schools and said, "This is going to be your man on the task force, so you select him." That eliminates immediately a "we-they" [situation], because he becomes the commandant's guy.
I think you should do that. You can't be successful without having the support of the school commandant.
The key then for the task force was to try not to be domineering to a point where you lose the support of the Combined Arms Center or lose the support of AMC. We could very easily have done that because we belonged to DCSOPS, and we had tasking authority. We never used that other than for the charter. We used persuasion, and we had a very good response from the Army. I guess the philosophy here is that when you first start a task force you're not dangerous to anybody, so no one really cares. The further down you go, you start stepping on turf. If it looks like you're going to take a bigger share of the pie or dollars, then you start to become a little more controversial.
The second thing I found out in studies is how quickly the naysayers become the inventors once the chief of staff says it's a good idea. We had the support of General Vuono from day one, which was important, providing that we could make a case. He just wasn't going to buy it, based on some "slick" figures that I would show. We went out and did our homework. We did our costing, and we did our operational effectiveness testing and our computer work.
A lot of our effort was just sitting down in a room and using good common sense, which is really what you do in most of your computer programs. You put common sense into it—and then crank it out.
The key point was to get our costs in line. In order to do that, we were able to convince the Comptroller of the Army, Lt. Gen. Max Noah, that his people should do the costing for us. He agreed, and they worked very hard with using CEAC [Cost and Economic Analysis Center]. It's a good organization. They work for the comptroller. They look at things—to make sure it's correct. They estimated the cost for us and had no "axes to grind" one way or the other. They had no reason to make it better than it was, or worse than it was, they just laid it out as they saw it.
Consequently, we got a very favorable cost outlook. I think the costing is going to be-although we shouldn't say this publicly now, because it's a figure that somebody grabs and holds over your head five years from now. The cost is somewhere in the neighborhood of $275 billion that could be saved in their program based on twenty-year life cycle costing.
That does not include leasing or any of that sort of thing, which is an additional saving.
Major Pirnie: Just the sheer advantage of fielding a family of vehicles?
General Sunell: Well, for example, if you visualize that, there are 41,000 vehicles that will be replaced. All of these 41,000 vehicles have the same driver's compartment, so you make one driver-trainer, and you put two discs into it. One disc is for a 35-ton vehicle, and the other one is for a 55-ton vehicle. All that is then required is the delta between the two weights. You train one driver, one mechanic. Your prognostics are the same. That saves you millions and millions of dollars.
I believe we are going to have two vehicles, a 55-ton vehicle and a 35-ton vehicle with the same suspension system. You have the same engine, whether you go up the scale or down the scale, by the number of cylinders you put in it. That's one thought. In other words, for your heavier vehicle you would go to maybe a twelve-cylinder engine and to the lighter one, an eight-cylinder engine. And it would be the same block, same starter, and same alternator.
Major Pirnie: Is it definitely not going to be a turbine?
General Sunell: No. It still could be a turbine engine. There are five engines that we're really looking at: the John Deere Rotary; the Lycoming Transversed Engine, which is a turbine; the MTU; the French Hyperbar; and Teledyne Continental. You also have the diesel and the turbine advanced propulsion engine. It could be any one of those engines.
Again, If I had my way, the government would not own it. We would give a space-weight-configuration requirement, and then let contractors bid on providing that as a lease.
Major Pirnie: Let me intrude a bit and ask a question concerning the development cycle. Is it conceivable that the type of propulsion unit or power plant could be kept open even as we progress into the development of the vehicle?
General Sunell: Yes, it will be. It will be kept open for the next two years, at least. The
design is a space requirement.
Major Pirnie: Sir, would you further explain the charter that you had mentioned?
General Sunell: One of the items in the charter said that we were to develop and design a force capable of defeating the Soviets in the year 2000 plus. That's a pretty "broad brush." We got our contractor in BDM to help work, and they have about fourteen people, or had about fourteen people. We had fifteen people on the task force, including myself. We had lots of other help to put the logisticians in and work on logistics for us. CAC worked Operational and Organizational Plans (O&Os) and the ROC by tasking their schools. Army Materiel Command worked in the laboratories; all of that was good work.
You asked a question earlier about foreign involvement. One of the things in the charter says that we're to work on rationalization, standardization, and interoperability (RSI) or the interoperability of the equipment with our NATO allies. I went to England, Germany, and to Sweden, and my deputy for material went to France.
We briefed European industry and gave them the AFV briefing. We told them what we were doing. We gave them the technologies we were looking at. We then gave them points of contact for our three major contractors who had won here in the United States: AVTA [Armored Vehicle Technologies Associated (GD/FMC)], which is a new firm that's been formed by General Dynamics and FMC; also General Motors [GM]; and Teledyne Continental.
Major Pirnie: Sir, how are those teams formed?
General Sunell: We had a formal solicitation and selected these three to do the work through TACOM.
Major Pirnie: Did they form themselves into those groupings?
General Sunell: Yes, you're right.
Major Pirnie: On what basis?
General Sunell: Each one of those firms has at least thirty-plus subsidiaries that are working with them on the study. There's a total of ninety-six firms involved in this, including a great number of foreign firms. That goes back to the idea I expressed earlier: that interoperability will come through business arrangements—not government-to-government.
That's how I worked the interoperability. I'm sure we will go back to tying to do governmental negotiations for interoperability, and it is well to try that again, but my experience had been that most of that is just a big party; we have a lot of beer or schnapps, and discuss things for a couple of days. Nothing ever really comes out of it.
So, we had these ninety-six firms, and I think it's very important to keep those industrial firms together for the next two years. Where can we get that kind of brainpower? We are not beginning to pay for it. They're pumping their own money into it, betting that this program will go, and they want to be on the ground floor. I thought that was a good way of doing business. I've never seen that happen before—that many firms teamed together.
Major Pirnie: Isn't it an unprecedented number of large firms?
General Sunell: Yes, it really is unprecedented.
Major Dietrich: I've noticed some of the firms are on all three of the teams. What are the advantages of being on three teams?
General Sunell: It all depends on what their expertise is. They may be one of a kind, and they're working on all three teams and providing their expertise in that particular area.
Let's say you're an expert in high-powered microwave radar, and that's your firm's specialty. Not many people specialize in that right now, and so you may provide information to all three teams. It's like MTU [in Germany]: GM has bought the rights for the MTU engine for production in the United States. GD-FMC-AVTA—that combination, that conglomerate—has to go to GM to get information on the MTU, a German company, engine. They can't go directly to MTU in Friedrichshafen, Germany.
Major Pirnie: Sir, what activity will take place for these contractor groups over the next two years?
General Sunell: During the next two years, we anticipate that the contractors will take the twenty-nine mission modules that make up the AFV—for example, the infantry vehicle—and design how they think they would put that on a heavy chassis or a medium chassis and what that would look like. In other words, they'd come up with level II drawings. They may even do mockups of certain pieces and parts of that equipment. For example, I would think they'd want to do a mock-up of the driver's compartment. I mean, as one of the things that they could do "on the side."
They will first do paper drawings and then wooden mock-ups, and then they'll put that into simulators in what we call proof of principle. That will be the work that will lead us into eventual source selection for the next "go around," but we need to pare those three down to two.
Major Pirnie: What contact will there be between the Army and the contractor groups?
General Sunell: They have regular in-process reviews that they have to meet and then brief us on where they are in their program. I don't remember how many now. We have a layout at the task force that lays out everything that we have to do for the next two years ... every meeting, even down to the Test Integration Working Group [TIWG] meetings.
Major Pirnie: IPR is a group of reports?
General Sunell: Yes, in-process reviews. If you start to read that chart, it shows you the Planning, Programming and Budgeting System (PPBS) process. Next it shows you what the contractors are doing and then what the lab commander is doing. It shows you right down the line and then you just follow—and everybody meets his schedule. When it comes out at the end, you have a program to include the forming of the Program Executive Office (PEO).
Major Pirnie: Would that involve any of the national laboratories during the process?
General Sunell: Oh, yes. We're using Los Alamos [New Mexico] in the antiarmor program, and we use all the AMC laboratories.
Major Pirnie: Do they work directly with the contractor groups?
General Sunell: They work with the contractor groups and with the task force. Let me discuss that a minute for you. As an example, let's use the U. S. Army Laboratory Command. They have a lot of projects throughout the Army that are going on in the small labs around, like Human Engineering Laboratory [FEEL] and the Night Vision Laboratory.
We wanted to find out how they were spending their money. We had to know that so we wouldn't reinvent the wheel. We took a long time studying every single project they had—i.e., how much money; how it was funded; when it would be completed; and when the demonstrations would be done. We put that on a spread sheet. Next, we took the twenty-nine mission modules, and we asked: "What are the priorities for these mission modules, in the Army or in TRADOC?" We tried to see if the money that was in the laboratory command was actually going toward the highest priority items that we had in the Army. That's about a billion dollars in research, development, test, and engineering [RDT&E]. If we could channel that into what we were looking for, it would save a lot of R&D that we would have to do in industry.
I don't think this had been done before or laid out that way. We took an the "black programs" we had access to, saw how much money was there and what it was going for, and how it fit in with the family of vehicles.
Thirdly, we took the money that we would have available to ourselves in RDT&E and added that in while prioritizing. If it could be satisfied by a "black program" or by a laboratory command, there was no sense reinventing the wheel by putting more money into it—that was an excellent piece of work on the part of some young officers in our program.
Major Pirnie: We understand, sir, you did all of that with just fifteen active duty officers.
General Sunell: Yes. It took a lot of work to do that, and it's an excellent piece of paper. It is all on a spread sheet. For the first time, we know where all the money in the Army is being spent, and then what the priority is for it—is it going into programs that are important for the Army. Given a constrained budget, that's an important piece of paper. Also, it was very threatening, especially to people who are working on programs and have a rice bowl that they've been working on for some time, but it isn't an Army priority yet.
The idea wasn't to take anybody's money away from them. The idea was to be able to understand where we stood in all of this. Certainly Dick Vitali, the number two man in the Laboratory Command, understood this and helped us a great deal to lay all this out. We had a good feel for the dollars, and that's one of the things I briefed to the chief of staff on the 19th of August.
We found some things wrong. We found that the top priority for the Army, as far as the gun is concerned, is the 120-mm. lightweight gun. However, no money was going into that. The money is all going into the electrical magnetic gun, and so we have to do some balancing there to make sure that we get money into both programs. That was the payoff of this effort.
We prepared a spread sheet in some detail on tasks that needed to be accomplished in the next two years. I wanted to give this to the chief of staff and then brief him to get his okay. Everybody on the DA staff then could see what we were going to do in excruciating detail—probably more confining than what a new leader would want—but you can walk away, do other things, then come back and check periodically to make sure you're on track. If any one of those
milestones is missed, you're not going to make it at the end of the twenty-four months. It's a good management tool, and you can see the entire program at a glance.
One of the things that fell out goes back to this "ah-ha" we discussed earlier. When you are in a job like this, industry opens the door to you, so you're able to go look at different businesses and industries, which lets you see all kinds of different things.
We were out at Boeing in Wichita [Kansas] and looking at some drones called Brave 200. We'd also been talking about a robot which we saw, along with some others like it. One day the "ah-ha" hit and said, "Look, you've got a lot of money going into artificial intelligence, a lot of money going into military robots, but no one's put together a plan to employ those on the battlefield."
All of a sudden we could see from A to Z how to do that, so we put a "pitch" together called the multidimensional barrier. We said that we would like to take an area that is part of a division, put a unit in there, and call it a robotics brigade. First, we wanted to put it in places where we could see things through observation posts because we don't really want to use people. Now you're talking about an automated battlefield.
There are five different ideas that could be used. The Canadian Air Force has a little remote-controlled craft called the Peanut that can be used as an observation post. A place out in California has something that looks like a disc, a flying saucer, that goes up and looks out over the battlefield. There's a craft called Sprite in England, and it does the same thing, a little helicopter that goes up and stays in orbit. Then there's an Elevated Target Acquisition System (ETAS), which is a sixty-foot mast that goes up. Boeing has developed a little observation platform, and so has Honda. Now, imagine one of those. The first thing the commander wants is to see the battlefield, and he brings that back into a link, into a series of screens at his command post. Each one of those screens represents one of the observation devices.
Imagine, if you would, a football field and many television cameras in different locations. They're all coming back into the choreographer's room, and he "punches" one of those when he wants an instant replay, or he tells the director which one to put on, and that's what comes on your screen at home. But, there are several things happening at once, and the director puts on the ones that he wants.
So, you have this on one panel, and then you have your map in the center, which tells you where these things are located. Then you have another television screen on the other side of the map from which you can pluck one of those and blow it up or explode it. The first thing the commander puts on the battlefield is his observation post so he can see the battlefield, and the next things he puts in are wide-area mines. Those are the ones that react to acoustics or metallic or magnetic influences, and they react up to 300 meters.
Next, he employs his robotic vehicles. He puts them in under remote control, and he turns them loose on their own. They stay in the place he puts them where they cover the wide-area mines. The vehicles search in 180° and shoot anything or kill anything that's moving, that's hot, or that doesn't look like themselves. The only friend that they have to worry about is something that looks like themselves, and everything else out there is foe.
Now you've got three dimensions. You're looking at the battlefield, the wide-area mines—and remember a mine is the only real, truly artificially intelligent robot you have—and you sit it out there, and it reacts to a stimulus. A human doesn't cbntrol it once you put it out; it's a form of a ROBAT—preprograrnmed.
This robotic vehicle is partly remote controlled and partly autonomous. As you see the enemy start to come into this field, he approaches wide-area mines. (Off-the-record discussion of classified material).
General Sunell: After you take action against their fire control, you send up your aerial mines in the form of drones. The drones go up, and they go into orbit at 10,000 feet, and they can stay there anywhere from six to seven hours. They have a range of 700 miles, and they're available today. We just have to put sensors in them.
The one they have now dives down on a radar. If you turn off the radar, it goes back up, back in orbit. If you leave the radar on, it dives into the dish and destroys the radar dish. It can carry close to fifty pounds of TNT on it.
Now your search and destroy armor additions are diving down on the enemy. The last dimension is high-powered microwave radar, which I can't talk about now. So, if you put all those together and you imagine that battalion commander orchestrating from his command post with map and screens, it shows he really has no people out there. What you now have are the Soviets attacking through a great big area that has no one in there that bleeds. At the end of the fight, you say, "Computer number 2,003 step forward. Here's a silver star for you and a purple heart for you because you got your antenna shot off."
As farfetched as that may seem, that's going to happen. I sent that to General Vuono, and he liked it. He told me to continue to work on it. Since I didn't have the "horsepower" to do it anymore, I couldn't do that in the task force. The people that worked for BDM were "sanitized" from the rest of their company. They could not carry any ideas from the task force to their company and use that information because it would give BDM an unfair advantage over other study houses. I talked to Colonel Coffman, who was their BDM chief, and said, "Look, I can't do this. I know that the Armor School wants to do something on this, so why don't you see if you can put a team together. It will be set aside, and it won't be any part of the contract with me, but you could get a contract with someone else, like HEL, robotic people, or Fort Knox. We could then put together the organization and the plans to use this multidimensional barrier." That's what they did.
They now have a team in Williamsburg, and they rent an office. Brig. Gen. [John C.] Doc Balmsen—I don't know if you've ever heard of him before. If you read the Armed Forces Journal you'd know it. He's a very prolific writer.
Major Pirnie: He's working for BDM?
General Sunell: Yes, and he's doing the multidimensional battlefield, and he heads that team. But back to the reason I told you that story. It relates to how you make things happen. To bring that idea from the bowels of combat developments at Fort Knox to where it is today would take years.
That's what I said early on, and I wanted to make that point, that you have to have direction from the top. The top says do this, and then people do it. If you don't like it, if it doesn't work out, so be it. That's the reason I wanted to tell you the failures, such as the platoon tests and the full-crew interaction simulator—even though we tried to drive them from the top, it didn't work. But most times, if it's driven from the top, you can make it happen, especially if it's something that's worthwhile.
I guess it seems I'm making a big issue out of that point because it's my opinion that if the chief of staff, the vice chief of staff, the commanders of AMC and TRADOC do not personally drive the AFV, which is an approved program today, and drive it from the top—"keep their foot on it"—then it will get defeated piecemeal because other things will come along that will be more
important. It has to be the Army's "Big Five" for the year 2000. Do you know what I mean by that? Remember the Army had the "Big Five" in the 1970s?
Major Pirnie: Yes.
General Sunell: If we hadn't had the "Big Five," we wouldn't have anything today. We don't have a "Big Five" now. In the last eight years, we've been riding the "Big Five" that was brought on by someone else. Our "Big Five" has got to be the AFV for the Army, and you also have to include the LHX [Light Helicopter Experimental] and other experimental equipment. That is our game plan for the year 2000.
This is what General Vuono needs to do and plans to do on his watch. He needs to make sure the people who follow him will have a program that's sitting out there—will eventually come into fruition—and let us be able to keep up with and defeat the Soviets in the year 2000.
Major Pirnie: Sir, all the officers I've talked with who were acquainted with the concept of the AFV task force considered it the best thing the Army could possibly achieve. Yet few of them believe it's possible for the Army to realize the program. They say, just as you have now, that four-star generals have to drive from the top and will need to do it over a period of about fourteen years. Is that true?
General Sunell: Yes. I think that's how we got the tank and the Bradley. The folks that became the four-star generals are intimately involved in that, and they want it. The four-star generals we have today who have been intimately involved with the AFV all have a piece and part of it.
The greatest driver for it though is General Vuono because he picked it up early. My roles then have been as an expediter, a dreamer, and a thinker, and there's nothing that's impossible to do in these kinds of things if you just don't give up too easily and are willing to stand up and really fight for your programs.
Major Pirnie: I don't mean to sound pessimistic but take yourself as an example: will you continue to be able to play a role?
General Sunell: I'll be able to play a role but not as I would on active duty. I was asked to stay on active duty. I didn't have to retire. I made up my mind before I ever came to the task force that I was going to retire this August. I have no "axes to grind" with the Army—none whatsoever—or with anybody in the Army. I turned down a very close friend, General Vuono, who asked me to stay. I wanted to retire to do some different things, and I wanted to do them while I still have my health. I watched some of my very close friends get out in later years and not be able to do the kind of things that they had planned. When I left the Army I had a total of almost thirty-seven years, including my guard time and my active duty time.
That shouldn't be a signal. The signal should be that General Vuono put another major general in charge of it. Now, if he hadn't put a major general in charge of it, I think the signal would have gone out to industry that this was a losing program. The fact that he kept going with the task force under a general officer says something.
Major Pirnie: There are two preconditions for success: continuous support at the highest level and continued existence of an armored task force with the same authority. What else will be necessary to realize the program?
General Sunell: Well, you have to have the support of the Congress.
Major Pirnie: How can we work toward that?
General Sunell: My experience has been that most of the congressmen I deal with are very, very pro conventional force. We don't always do a good job of telling our story. The M1 was a success and has been a success because we had a continuing dialogue with Congress. We went over and talked to the congressional staffers all the time and let them know all the "warts," as well as the successes. We never wanted them to be surprised. Later on we had a problem with the engine—it wasn't performing. They knew exactly what we were doing and how we were doing it. You have to keep them informed.
My only regret is that I don't have an opportunity to spend as much time with the Congress as I did while I was on active duty—in support of the AFV. We have worked with the staffers, and they know. As of now, in the next two-year budget, there are $9.8 million for this fiscal year and $45 million the following year, for a total of $55 million, just for the next two years. That's the proof of principle stage, and so that's a lot of commitment.
If it doesn't go, Congress hasn't lost anything—$55 million is not that much in today's budgets.
Major Pirnie: Is that our best vehicle to reach the Congress, that honest exchange with the staff?
General Sunell: I think it's the best way to reach thdm. You don't have a good give and take when the chief goes over and gives his state of the Army message; when the under secretary goes over. You need the action officer types that know the ins and outs, and the puts and takes to give the detail. The congressional liaison and the people that work in it have to go over and visit with these folks.
Ms. Marcus: Does the Army lobby just as much for their programs as any other organization?
General Sunell: Sure.
Major Pirnie: Have we had less success than the other services?
General Sunell: You lobby in a little different way. You might call it parochial lobbying. A businessman's lobbying is the most different form of lobbying. Turn this off for a moment. (An off-the-record discussion ensued.)
Ms. Marcus: Would [representatives from] the OSD go over and tell their side of the story to Congress?
General Sunell: Not always. It depends on how strong you are in that business. There are certain things you can do in certain grades. For example, if you're a lieutenant general in the Army, you serve at the pleasure of the president. You're a political appointee. You sip a paper that says that in three years I'm going to retire. When the secretary of defense makes a decision, you can't very well in good conscience go around his back and undermine him. Who is the individual you're working for? You had two choices—to stand and get counted, and if he says, no, we're going to do it this way—support him or quit. That's your choice.
If you're the deputy project manager of the M1 tank program, you may well go and "hawk" your program to fellows like Judd White on the congressional staff that were at that time very, very powerful staffers. I think there's a role to play for program managers and a role to play for people that are in these task forces—going over and explaining in advance what the Army is trying to do in some detail. The SARDA is doing that now for the Army. General [Donald S.] Pihl is exceptionally good at laying out these kinds of programs. He's very, very good.
Major Pirnie: Would it be to our advantage if some of the officers who are engaged in this kind of work would stay in their positions longer? Some of the staffers represented have been there quite a long time, and they see many of us come and go. Should there be more continuity?
General Sunell: Well, I don't know. In most cases what happens is the officers in research and development make lieutenant colonel, and then they stay with it and grow with the staffers. They may be in a program out at Detroit or down at Combat Development Command [CDC] or at Fort Knox, and they meet these guys when they come through. The next time they see them they're an action officer in the Army staff, and then eventually they're lieutenant colonels, colonels, or generals. In my case, I've been working with Judd White since I was a lieutenant colonel, ever since my ARSV days.
General Baer had exceptional "precut" ability in the Congress as an honest broker with the M1 program. He was an exceptionally good [Capitol] Hill person for us, and they trusted him. Pete McVey, the current PM of tank systems, has a great rapport with the Congress and with the staffers. I also had a good rapport with them.
Major Pirnie: Does success depend on a good personal reputation on the part of the office involved?
General Sunell: Yes. I found that by inviting them to my location and really laying it out for them—exactly what the goals were and where we were going—was a big help. I don't mean this to be a criticism of congressional liaisons, but they work on so many programs, they don't really have a chance to become knowledgeable. They don't have time to spend in the program and really become expert in that area.
Major Pirnie: Is it enough to visit congressional staffs or should they be invited on field trips?
General Sunell: I think that the congressional staff ought to be invited out, and that's what we did. We've always invited them, at least twice a year to the program in Detroit. We would have a complete layout for them, especially in the terms of dollars. We would explain the funds: who the dollars were with; what the dollars were for; and how much they were needed. We don't
say that we can build something with $10 million when it's going to take $20 million. We always go right with the maximum requirement, and how important it is to the Army.
On Capitol Hill, about three to four months ago, we could have done anything in "conventional tasks." They couldn't understand why we didn't come over and ask for more. Staffers like Tony [Anthony] Battista would have jumped on this multidimensional barrier that I just mentioned. They would pump all kinds of money into that if we just went over and laid it out for them.
We in the task force didn't have a chance to do that or the time to do it. I think that's something we just don't do well enough. Again, it goes back to the problem of over-centralization that I told you about earlier. There was more freedom to do that in the programs when you had a little less control. You were kind of expected to "walk" your programs through all levels. Later on you wouldn't want to do that because that wasn't the way the leadership wanted you to work.
Major Pirnie: I'd like to touch on one more of the preconditions for success in the program. I think you mentioned in your briefing that it's necessary to win the confidence of industry if the program is going to continue: what needs to be done in that area to insure their belief that this program is going to work?
General Sunell: You have your civilian groups that work on military vehicles—military programs. They go up, and they compete for dollars with their board of directors, just like we go up and compete for dollars in the Office of the Secretary of Defense against the Navy and the Air Force. Instead of their board of directors saying—"What's that going to do for our national defense?"—they might ask, "What's the payoff, and when is it?" If I invest this much money now, what's my payoff going to be ten years hence or five years hence or two years hence? They're talking dollars and cents.
If they don't see that somewhere down the line there's a possibility of doing business and making some money, then they're not going to enter into that program. Don't ever think that in this time and period that the only effort you're getting out of any one of these study groups is the money that the Army's putting in.
I would say that General Motors alone has spent six times more than what the Army gave, of their own money, in preparing the first phase. Now they've got to face their board of directors and say what the signals might be. The signals are that the chief of staff of the United States Army replaced one major general with the other, and the task force is going to go for two more years. That's three-and-a-half years that the task force will have been running. This would be my argument.
There's no way the Army can put themselves [sic] six or seven or eight more years behind. Out of that some decisions are going to come, and it may well be that they won't buy the whole family. They'll buy a portion of them, and we need to be on the "ground floor" to do that. That's the first thing.
The second thing is, if Congress is supporting the program—they left the money in, at least forthe next two years. They haven't taken it away, and there is a line in the congressional budget that approves that.
Three is that the chief of staffs talk at the Association of the United States Army [AUSA] said that this task force is going to go. General Wagner in his speech at ADPA said this thing is going to move. General Thurman said that the user is behind it—in a major speech made someplace else.
Now, those are the kinds of signals you have to send to industry.
Major Pirnie: Let me ask about the status of the AFV. You underscored the element of persuasion, that cooperation is necessary, working with the commandants, with AMC, and with TRADOC. The task force also speaks directly to the chief of staff or vice chief of staff and serves functionally, as though it were a part of the Army staff.
Is it best for the Army, at this level of agency, that the task force always be ad hoc, or should it be institutionalized so that there would be some kind of permanent organization?
General Sunell: No. I think that the idea of putting a group together and doing it this way is probably the best way. I think as soon as you institutionalize it, then it becomes a bureaucracy. It grows, feeds on itself, starts "reading its own mail." You know, if you go into any place and there are big full in-boxes, there's not much thinking going on.
Major Pirnie: Does the task force represent our means to overcome our own bureaucracy?
General Sunell: About this time next year, there should be a program executive officer appointed, and he should start organizing the PEO shop for the AFV. Gradually he picks up these things, so when they go to a milestone to get the decision to go to full-scale engineering development, he is there—and he now runs it.
Program executive officer—that's the old PM, and he answers directly to the AAE. Then you have a Department of Defense [DOD] acquisition executive [DAE]. The law is that you can't have more than one guy between the PEO and DAE.
Major Pirnie: Do you think that the reforms of the Packard Commission have helped the process?
General Sunell: I think that the reforms of the Packard Commission just recreated program managers. Up until then, we had turned program managers into program reporters: does that make sense?
Major Pirnie: Yes, it does to me. I've always wondered whether the program manager had enough authority for the mission that was given to him.
General Sunell: He's got it again. He had it before, lost it, and now has it again.
Now, if he doesn't do the job, what you ought to do is fire him. You know, you don't keep the CEO on in a big firm if every quarter he loses money. He goes "bye-bye."
Major Pirnie: A question concerning the power pack is left open during this new year period. Did that same thing apply to the various other modular elements, the main armament now?
General Sunell: Yes, we're still working on lots of different things. Did you get a copy of my presentation?
Major Pirnie: Yes, we did.
General Sunell: You know what I said. There are things that we don't know that are going to happen, yet these are the things that we ought to be able to do by the year 2000. The last slide in my presentation listed those items that we don't know. We're working on different kinds of armors and different kinds of materials, and we don't know if we're going to break through on them or not, and if we break through, we'll put them in. That's why we have modular armor. In other words, armor that you can take in or take out—as opposed to the way we have it now where they're permanently fixed. If you get a dramatic breakthrough, you can just pop it in.
Major Pirnie: How can those decisions be made? Can they be made at the task force level?
General Sunell: Yes, they'll be made at the task force level. The first job the PEO is going to have to do is convene a source selection board to select one or more of the contractors to go on into the next phase, probably two. At that time, he will select the kinds of technologies he wants each of those contractors to work on.
For example, let's take active defense. He might have one of the contractors that has got an excellent active defense system. He might put that contractor on that prototype, and he might ask the other one to do what he can because he can't give away what one contractor has already done to the other contractor at this stage of the game. Do you know what I mean by active defense—that is, where you've got incoming missiles?
Major Pirnie: Is this reactive armor?
General Sunell: No, the active defense system detects an incoming missile. It senses the missile and knocks it down before the missile hits the target. We could have very thin armor if we could knock everything down coming at us. We wouldn't have to worry about heavy armor if we could do that, but it's not here yet. Those are things that we're working on. We don't know if we'll have that as a breakthrough or not.
Twenty-five years ago we defeated incoming shot rounds with a system called dot-dash. We've been working around it ever since. It's not just around the comer.
Major Pirnie: Is it fundamental to the thinking of the task force that this has to be the next generation of vehicles? In other words, to field the next vehicle at all, should it represent a quantum leap forward, a significant technological improvement over the M1A1, the Bradley?
General Sunell: Yes. You wouldn't do it otherwise. Except that there are some advantages in one or more vehicles giving you a quantitative leap—by using them together as opposed to one itself.
That triggers a thought. When we briefed the chief of staff on the 19th of August, I held the line on buying in unit sets. Ninety-five  is the date that you can't change one way or the other. I did this because I learned from prior experiences that once you start changing requirements or dates, then you start to lose your program, and so you've got to be firm. You also lose money or your program, if you start "slipping" these dates.
I knew that we probably couldn't buy the entire family at one time, at least that would be a difficult task. As an alternative, we recommended to the chief and to the "sixteen star review" that during the next two years we select two chassis—the heavy and the medium chassis—and "mock those up," front or rear engine. You do level #2 drawings for the twenty-nine mission modules, and then you prioritize those twenty-nine mission modules into what you need most.
However, you say that by the year 2000 I'm going to have an AFV although you may not produce a division's worth the first year. In other words, you may not have them all. But you can only afford to do the first six in your priority.
Major Pirnie: If it were done in that fashion, would it no longer be possible to field in brigade sets?
General Sunell: Yes, you would have to give that up. We want to try brigade sets. The fallback position goes on out to the year 2000. What that says is that you take these priorities and you go ahead and build six of them. What would those priorities be? I could tell you that if Iliad the authority to say these are the priorities—the first priority would be a new artillery piece. We need a new artillery system.
My second priority would be an infantry vehicle, a heavy one, fifty-five tons, no rockets or missiles on it, just self-protection, that sort of thing. My third vehicle would be the antitank, line-of-sight, kinetic energy missile vehicle—a heavy vehicle. Why heavy?—because it's a line-of-sight vehicle and has to be able to take tough stuff. It has to take long rod penetrators.
My fourth choice would be a toss-up between the recovery vehicle and the ambulance. Somewhere in there would be my command and control vehicle. Do you notice that I haven't said tank yet? Because—the tank today is the best tank in the world. It won't be the best tank in the world by the year 2000, but it's the last one that we really have to replace, and that's not because I was the program manager.
I'd put the tank down as a much lower priority. I might wait on the tank a little while.
Major Dietrich: Why haven't you given air defense top priority?
General Sunell: Air defense is in there also. The first four I'm really sold on. Air defense should be in the top five. That could be a medium or a heavy chassis, and so that's not too difficult to design and build.
Major Pirnie: Is the idea of a family really analytically inescapable?
General Sunell: Yes, it is.
Major Pirnie: There are many examples of that we fielded in World War II.
General Sunell: Definitely.
Major Pirnie: I use the French as an example, or the Navy's destroyer program. In foreign service today, when they buy a generic destroyer, then plant modules—these are all examples of kinds of things that are possible but that we've actually seen done previously. Why is it that the Army, in the postwar era, never approached such a viable idea? Why did we fail until now to see the advantage of this approach?
General Sunell: Hindsight, of course, is always 20/20. 1 think we were involved in the tank program, and that was a separate program, and it just evolved that way.
Major Pirnie: Haven't we been too thoroughly compartmentalizing individual programs
to see the bigger picture?
General Sunell: I think it goes back and says that we need to have CAC play a much larger role in all of this.
Major Pirnie: How can CAC play a larger role in it?
General Sunell: They're responsible for tying together the ROC for all the different schools, and they should be more than just a "line-through." What the Infantry School is building ought to be tied in with what the Artillery School is building. Why on earth would you ever consider buying a computer for one vehicle and a different computer for another vehicle or buying a separate data bus for one vehicle? We did all of that before.
You know, we had different kinds of guns; like we have a 25-mm. chain gun on the Bradley, and a 30-mm. on our helicopter. Our ammunition isn't interchangeable. We just did that. We just recently did that. Someone ought to catch that.
I think that that kind of coordination ought to be done at CAC.
Major Dietrich: Why isn't it happening? What's the problem? What do we need to change to make it happen?
General Sunell: Hell, I don't know.
Major Dietrich: We've had great people out there, and it's not happening.
Major Pirnie: General DePuy said to me, quite honestly, that during his time as the TRADOC commander he tried to give CAC the role, thinking specifically of this context of the coordination between Fort Knox and Fort Benning. He said, "I gave that job to CAC," but it didn't work, and he realized it wasn't going to lead to a full solution.
General Sunell: General DePuy, General Starry, General Otis, and General Richardson couldn't make it happen, and I doubt that General Thurman will either. Somebody, sooner or later, has to turn Fort Benning into a light infantry center and Fort Knox into a heavy mechanized center, but it's a "tough bullet to bite!"
Sooner or later—and it's very difficult to do that because we all hang on to our parochial interests.
Major Pirnie: The creation of the mixed battalion could be the catalyst?
General Sunell: Right.
Major Pirnie: Is there any realistic prospect that we're going to go to mixed battalions?
General Sunell: Well, they're doing tests of that now at Fort Hood.
Major Pirnie: Yes, but even assuming that it turns out that it looks good, can we really make such a big shift institutionally?
General Sunell: We will someday make it happen. We're getting more and more younger people coming along thinking that way.
Major Pirnie: Could it be reached in small stages without taking big steps through a combined arms school, perhaps?
General Sunell: Yes, especially with more and more people floating through these cavalry regiments that are combined arms. I've never served at CAC; I've only served with them. They have quite a turnover—other people are going in and out. The same as at the school. I think that has an effect upon what happens. I'm one of the few generals that has never served in the Pentagon or on the Pentagon staff. I've always been away from the Pentagon.
I learned the Pentagon from the outside. I learned to operate in the Pentagon from the outside, never from being an action officer there. I learned to operate with CAC from the outside. I have never been on the inside of CAC. But I've been on the inside of TRADOC, through the training support center, and through my two tours at Fort Knox.
I just think that you need a guy who is very, very hard-nosed about these things that I call ROCs. I've seen some absolutely stupid things in our ROCs. The whole world is talking about high-power microwave radar right now. ROCs came in for the AFV from all the schools, through CAC, and not one thing was put in there about protection levels or against the effects of high-powered microwave radar. Now, how could that happen, with all those smart guys, the whole group studying high-power microwave radar at the CAC? How could that ROC come forward without that being included?
Major Pirnie: Doesn't it happen because the ROCs come out of the individual schools, and they don't have a lot of analytic depth?
General Sunell: Most of these things are classified or "need to know," and everyone doesn't see it. My point is that the busy commandant—or the people he lacks or the senior people—don't always read the ROCs. They don't allow themselves time to really ponder it. (An off-the-record discussion followed.)
Major Pirnie: I'm going to ask you a question that might sound as though it has a pejorative implication. I don't mean it that way. The AFV, inevitably, is going to bring a few technological breakthroughs. Not all the variants will, but one or more of them certainly will add some very new technology.
Our experience in the past with new technology, of course, has not been uniformly good. Often there will be a testing failure, or sometimes we'll have to stop and reframe the program and so on. Will it be possible to face those setbacks and still maintain the momentum of such programs?
General Sunell: I think so, and I think you're going to have an advantage this way. Let me use the data bus as an example. We need a data bus that will handle all kinds of different information on the tank and on all the other vehicles. We're going to have one [the same] data bus for each of the vehicles. That data bus, when it comes on, will have been tested and retested and tested again and fixed and tested and fixed by the time we buy it.
It is a big investment. It's going to be more difficult for things to "drop through the crack" when you do it that way. We are going to have one type of built-in test equipment. Your
computer, the onboard computer, is going to have changeable boards, depending on what is needed in that vehicle, but essentially it'll be the same.
Major Pirnie: You actually reduce the risk through that sort of consolidation?
General Sunell: Right. Where you get hurt in these little "onesies" and "twosies" is—a little thing. It's built in some job shop out there, and the guy's pounding away on a hammer, and you don't know that, and you get hurt.
Let me ten you another way you can get hurt. You're building a tank, and you've gone through all the stages through production. The tanks are rolling off, and they're rolling off good, and you're in your third year of production.
All of a sudden in the fifth year your fire control goes to hell, and you can't figure out what in the hell has caused this: why all of a sudden are we having this kind of a problem? You'll find out that the contractor has gone out and renegotiated contracts, and he brings in competition to cut his cost. Because the more he can cut the cost of building it [the tank], the more profit he makes. They go out and have vendors build them [subcomponents, such as the fire control system], and they bring them to Detroit to mount in the tank.
You've got a new vendor out there, and all of a sudden you discover that the other vendor, who was very good, has closed his lines because he no longer has the business, and so now you have a "bummer" on your hands, and that has happened to us many times with track. We get a track assembler who wins the contract. He bids ten cents less or twenty cents a pound less than someone else, and so we give him the contract. That twenty cents costs us a billion dollars because his product can't perform [to specifications], but in the meantime, you're stuck with his track. Instead of having an 800-mile track, you have a 250-mile track.
Those kind of things happen frequently. What you really have to do is make sure that the contractor exercises quality control in any new vendor before that part is accepted for the vehicle. Also, it has to go through other testing. In the tank, everything had to have EMP [electromagnetic pulse] testing approved, so you've got to make sure when he [the contractor] gets a new vendor it goes through the same tests.
Those kinds of little things can drop through the cracks—believe me. It's those small pieces and parts, the little bolts that break, that you would never even consider. It's the change in vendor that causes that.
Major Pirnie: You don't discover problems like that until actually the operational testing begins, or do you?
General Sunell: Sometimes after the operational tests are way over, you're in production and—it'll happen—the contractor will renegotiate a contract with a new vendor.
Major Pirnie: How do you envision the operational testing being done with the AFV? Will it have a lot of different configuration tests?
General Sunell: Essentially we will do it the way we've always done an operational test: with the equipment in the hands of the soldiers. And we'll go through the TIWG process, design the test program, and then do the test. We're working on that right now.
That is a difficult question. I can't really answer that, because I haven't wrestled my way through it. It's two years away. But I did have a TIWG group that's working for the next two
years in test planning. What we're going to test had already been approved. It was one of the things that we did before the briefing on the 19th of August.
Major Pirnie: How is this possible if the whole family of vehicles is going to work in a synergistic, cooperative way on the battlefield? Is it possible to design any one of them in isolation? In other words, the industry teams are looking at all twenty-eight at once.
General Sunell: Right. And then they have a subcontractor that's working on one part of it. They have some subcontractor that's working on the auxiliary power unit. This time we have designated an APU in all the vehicles.
Major Pirnie: Won't it be difficult along the way to make any substantial changes in any one of the variants without detracting from this effect?
General Sunell: Yes.
Major Pirnie: It really requires a commitment to see the course?
General Sunell: Yes, you have got to see it through in this.
Major Pirnie: How will the doctrine be developed?
General Sunell: Well, the doctrine is AirLand Battle 2000. That's the doctrine we're using. As new technologies come in, there will be new doctrine. We say we write our doctrine, and then we develop equipment to handle our doctrine. I don't believe that.
Major Pirnie: Isn't it the other way around?
General Sunell: Normally, if you got a breakthrough, you would say, This is right here in front of my very eyes." Then you start figuring out how you're going to use it, like the multidimensional barrier. We had those ideas to build the equipment; now how in the hell are we going to use it? And now we're developing doctrine to use it.
Major Pirnie: You wouldn't feel too uncomfortable if we were to do that with the AFV? In other words, if the hardware were a little bit ahead of the doctrine, would it seriously worry you?
General Sunell: No. For example, we don't have anything that says that we're going to have an assault force that lives in the lethal area, that all vehicles are as tough as the tank. What does that mean to us? What does that really mean to us? Now, let me give you a scenario today. Let's say you're an infantry guy, and you're commanding an infantry battalion, and you have a tank company attached, and you're out in your defensive area. You depend on a whole bunch of other folks to help you win your battle. You don't do that alone. You depend on air—both Army air and the Air Force. You depend on weapons such as Fiber Optically Guided Missiles, and you depend on things like artillery. All those systems are from outside agencies.
The first thing that's going to hit you is the Soviet artillery, and that artillery is going to come into your area at about 1,200 rounds per square kilometer in the first forty-five minutes. That says
that the first thing that's going to go is your forward air controller; he is going to get knocked off right away because he's in a jeep with side curtains and all those nice comfortable things. He's gonna get killed. So you don't have any air support.
The next thing that's going to go is your fire support team—because they are mounted in an M113, and the artillery is going to knock it out. So there goes the control of your artillery fire support.
Following those losses are your M577s because they are thin-skinned vehicles, and they are going to get knocked out, and so now you're going to lose all your command and control. Most all of your Bradleys are going to get either knocked out or beat up on the top so you can't use your TOWs. Most of the tanks are going to lose their glass. They're going to lose their thermal sights, and so you have degraded gunnery. What you're going to have left after that forty-five minute barrage probably are your tanks and maybe an isolated vehicle here or there.
Not everybody's going to be dead, but the vehicles are going to be in very, very tough shape. If you have dug them in, you'll survive a little better. Now, that's a fact; that's going to happen. We don't think about that. We don't play artillery in any of our simulators. But that's what's going to happen. The AFV heavy force survives all of that.
Major Pirnie: You mean the technology involved?
General Sunell: In the ROC, it says you have to survive that kind of an onslaught of artillery. Now, that is a big difference. What are the Russians going to do when they find out we're going to do that? Well, they're going to try to figure out how to kill those vehicles for one thing. But we don't have a force that does that right now.
What are the chances of one of our brigades attacking after being under that attack? They fire 270,000 rounds in forty-five minutes in a brigade sector.. That's what they plan. We've never experienced artillery fire that intense since really a few episodes in the Second World War.
None of us on active duty have any idea of what that's like. We can't simulate it on computers. We can't do it on operational testing for the same reasons we couldn't simulate it on the computer.
Major Pirnie: So it falls away in our thinking?
General Sunell: But it didn't fall away in our thinking for the AFV. And that's the point I'm trying to make.
Major Pirnie: Are you satisfied currently, sir, that the program is on track as you hoped, or are there elements that you find just "gliding on"?
General Sunell: In fact, I think. that the program is better off than what I thought it would be at this time. We had more support for it in the Army. I thought there would be more folks that would "come out of the woodwork" by now with some "pet rocks." They still may come out later.
I don't think that the issue of whether the infantry vehicles should swim is over, and if so, then it goes to a much lighter class vehicle. That still doesn't hurt the family of vehicles, but it sure would hurt our ability to survive forward.
Major Pirnie: What if that requirement were added to the infantry fighting vehicle?
General Sunell: Then you couldn't put adequate protection on it.
Major Pirnie: I think that was the question I was trying to ask earlier, in relationship to the Bradley. I was trying to say that there were two elements to the ROC there that were really in conflict with each other. We were in a bit of a contradiction to try to make the vehicle survive and still be able to swim. So, I think the program managers of the Bradley were caught in that kind of a crutch, because a ROC is very difficult to realize.
General Sunell: There was a lot of controversy on whether the vehicle should swim in that time period and a lot of controversy of whether it should be tougher and heavier than it was. Once you made the decision to swim, that said you lost any other decisions.
Major Pirnie: One thing I noticed, and at least I don't think it appeared in the family of vehicles, was the mention of robotics.
General Sunell: In the briefing it didn't have that, but robotics were very much in all of this. Automatic loader is a form of robotics. Certainly in our artillery piece we have robotics involved and also in material-handling equipment. We're going to go with robotics; that is a given.
Major Pirnie: What's a proper test to apply to the introduction of robotics? What are the criteria for using it? Many times it will be extremely expensive, and sometimes it may be fragile technology. When should we decide that we want to use robotics?
General Sunell: Right now I don't see an offensive role, not that there isn't one. I personally haven't wrestled with the idea of what should be an offensive role for robotics. I can really see a defensive role for robotics because I just went through that with the multidimensional barrier.
I think that by the year 1995, we can have a robotic system in operation. We really need to be working on it now, to make it happen in 1995. Of course, artificial intelligence works without remote control. The only thing that we have that's really and truly robotic artificial intelligence is the wide-area mine, and everything else is just remote control. Even though we call it ROBAT, it is really remote control, with humans controlling it directly; it makes no decisions on its own.
Major Pirnie: Let us discuss once more that very interesting idea that you advanced—of restructuring elements of the Army along the combined arms line, currently applied at the cavalry regiment. Wouldn't that be a considerable help in implementing the AFV program? Couldn't the two be mutually supportive?
General Sunell: Sure could, and I would do that if I had that choice. The only reason that I personally wanted to equip a brigade was that there was no way that I could go any lower and still put all the members of the family in.
Major Dietrich: Does your concept of a brigade include the support elements of artillery and maintenance?
General Sunell: Yes, the analytical side—we tried to get CAC to take the lead in doing the analysis for the initial phase. The work was done at CAC and at White Sands [Missile Range, New Mexico]. All our computer runs were done at White Sands, and the idea was to get the comptroller of the Army to do the costing. This way, we couldn't be accused of being one-sided.
Getting CAC to do the analytical work got them involved, and now they believe what's coming out of it and are doing it. As you close down the task force, the people that ought to be doing these kinds of things are doing them. A task force is just sort of a catalyst to make it happen. You might ask, "Why do you need a task force to do that? Why didn't CAC do that to begin with?" It goes back to the same thing we talked about earlier. It's difficult to get those things done in large groups, but fifteen guys can focus on one program—and just really put their focus on it. And then you can make it happen.
Major Pirnie: It's interesting how we constantly refer to the same focus when we discuss the Army's organization. It always seems to come back to CAC because that is, organizationally speaking, the one focus in the Army for this sort of concerted effort. Isn't it?
General Sunell: You have to take a look at how many commanders they've had out there and what a short period of time they were there in the last five years. You had General [Robert W.] RisCassi and General Vuono. You now have General [Gerald T.] Bartlett, and there was one other. They really went through there quickly. You need continuity there. It's a good organization, and it's built to do that job. They did good work for me. The same thing is going on at the Logistics Center where they did all the logistical work.
Major Dietrich: I think there's going to be a decision made next year on the Armored Gun System. How does that tie in with or relate to the Armored Family of Vehicles?
General Sunell: The chief of staff gave us the responsibility of relooking at our Armored Gun System. We reported out to him and gave him a recommendation on a way to go and an acquisition strategy. The armored gun system is not really in the heavy family of vehicles, or the medium family of vehicles. It has the requirement to be air-droppable from a C-130. You can't do that to a 35-ton vehicle.
Let me make one point here: contrary to popular belief, the AGS is not a tank. It may look like a tank; it may smell like a tank; it may sound like a tank—but it's not a tank. It's a thin-skinned vehicle with a gun on it. If it's used like tanks, if it's ever used as a tank, in a tank-like role, there will not be many old, bold AGS gunners and commanders.
That vehicle was designed to support the infantry from a position where it can fire and be behind dirt with an elevated gun and to fight in areas where you're not going to run into a whole bunch of tanks. It has more than one role, and it just doesn't kill tanks. It kills other kinds of targets. It has to be able to bust bunkers, shoot into bunkers, go into urban areas and shoot into windows, and have a round that will spray shrapnel—that will "take out" people who are firing hand-held weapons or machine guns. It has to be able to fire white phosphorus. It has to be able to do all of those kinds of things, but it is not a tank, per se, and it is very much needed by the light infantry by the way.
We're remiss if we don't give them that because all they have now is TOW. If they rim against Soviet or Third World tanks, and if those tanks have reactive armor on them, the TOW is ineffective. You're putting your infantry soldiers into a battle where they couldn't kill the tanks that are coming at them. We've done that before, and that's a disaster.
Major Dietrich: The Forward Area Air Defense System (FAAD) is being developed as a system unto itself There are parts and pieces of it that are incorporated in the AFV. How does the FAAD tie in with the AFV? Should we continue to develop it separately, or should we roll it into the development of the AFV?
General Sunell: Whatever would go onto any kind of a chassis that you and I might want to field as an interim system ought to be the same kind of technology that would go on the AFV.
Major Pirnie: And so you view FAAD as an interim system?
General Sunell: I consider the FAAD as a mission module that goes on the AFV chassis.
Major Pirnie: That's being presented now on varieties of chassis. One contender has a Bradley chassis, and another one is offering an Ml chassis, and heavier systems. They're just taking available chassis because they can't, for the purposes of this program, count on the development of a new chassis. The chassis is the least of the problems, isn't it, in the AFV? The chassis will likely be quite conventional in design?
General Sunell: Yes, the front-end engine probably. The engine will be controversial because you've got so many competitors.
Major Pirnie: Will it inevitably be or very likely b6 with a power pack in front?
General Sunell: Oh, yes, if I had my "druthers," that's where it would be, because there are so many more things you can do with the back end of that vehicle. It's easy to make an ambulance out of it, and it's easy to make an artillery piece out of it. The only trouble we have is making a tank out of it because of the limited gun tube depression. It depends on how big your engine is, but it also gives you a hell of a lot more protection out there for your crew.
Major Pirnie: It suits everything except the main battle tank and perhaps even that if it were a turretless vehicle.
Major Dietrich: The front engine design provides a lot more crew space too, doesn't it?
General Sunell: Yes, like the Merkava.
Major Pirnie: You would fully expect when the conceptual development is completed that the AFV will have a front-mounted engine?
General Sunell: I would expect that unless there's some big turnaround, that will happen.
Major Pirnie: Would you also expect that there will be no more turrets on the fighting vehicles: they'll all be turretless?
General Sunell: It's hard to say. It all depends on what you call a turret. You can have a turret without having a human in it. You can have an external gun and internal sights, and it's still a turret. You just don't have folks in it.
Major Pirnie: Are you concerned that some of the new technology suggested might be hard to maintain on the battlefield? When it breaks will it be difficult to revert to a mechanical mode?
General Sunell: Well, there's a lot of concern for that, but I'm not as concerned as other people. I call that the "crank syndrome." When we first started buying automobiles—for many, many years—every automobile had a crank on it because they didn't trust the starter. Even after they had a starter, they still had a crank. They built this redundancy into the vehicle. You don't have a crank on the vehicle now. And everybody trusts their starter.
Sooner or later in the Army there will be a certain amount of technologies that you will be so used to that we won't worry about having a redundant system. Right now, the tanker says I have to have a redundant method of firing the main gun.
I'm not sure if that's necessary anymore in this day and age. I think our electronics are more fail safe than some of our mechanical hardware.
Major Dietrich: The auto loader is currently a controversial topic. Isn't it necessary to have a redundant means of loading the main gun if the auto loader fails?
General Sunell: I think the auto loader remains to be seen—when you really get it and really test it. When it's being tested for the light infantry support vehicle, it's very, very reliable. It's gone so many cycles without failure, if it fails, you back it off the firing line or go over the hill and fix it. When you go to a two-man crew, it's very difficult to build a redundant way of firing.
Major Pirnie: I'm not sure I quite understood one point. How long would the task force remain in existence? Through the whole life of the program?
General Sunell: No, no. The task force would remain in existence for two years starting on 1 September.
Major Pirnie: And would it go out of existence at the end?
General Sunell: At the end of that two years it would go out of business and become a program management office.
Major Pirnie: Would the task force be supplemented by or converted to a program management office?
General Sunell: Yes, it either converts to or is supplanted by a program management office.
Major Pirnie: And that would be one PMO for the entire AFV?
General Sunell: It would be an umbrella PM. And then he would have project managers that do the mission modules.
Major Pirnie: Would it still be at a two-star level?
General Sunell: It could be higher.
Major Pirnie: It would almost seem inevitable, wouldn't it?
General Sunell: You might have two PEOs: one for the heavy chassis and the mission modules that go in the heavy chassis; one on the medium chassis.
But you've got to be careful. The reason that we couldn't get the two tank programs together "way back when" was because we had a separate program manager that was building the M60A3 and a separate project manager that was building the MI. Neither one of them had any continuing dialogue on how to have commonality.
Major Pirnie: Would the program office be in Michigan or remain in Virginia?
General Sunell: It could be in Michigan. If I was going to be program manager or the PEO, I'd put it in Aberdeen, in proximity to Washington, D.C., and in the area where I'd be doing all my testing. Right now we travel all the time from Michigan to Aberdeen.
Major Pirnie: That idea occurred to me too, particularly since the testing process was going to be especially crucial.
General Sunell: We have draft training plans for the AFV to include devices. We have a draft fielding plan. We have a draft acquisition plan. We have a complete testing program. All those were done by the 1st of September. That's never happened in the program before.
In the next two years those will be refined, and you will have a program that is really ready to go. The people that worked on that, and I would like to say that guys like Col. Jim Logan, who is probably the most knowledgeable guy in the R&D process in the Army, who's unfortunately retiring in December, really, really put a tremendous amount of effort into the test plan.
Major Pirnie: I can only speak for myself and Major Dietrich who looked at the program. We feel that you and your task force have done the Army a very great service, and I think a lot of officers are going to feel that way. We hope it all comes to fruition.
General Sunell: Well, me too. We'll know downstream. I don't have anything else that I can do to it now. I'm burned out anyway.
Major Pirnie: We know the interview has been exhausting. We appreciate your patience. Thank you, sir.