Military joint ground robot programs face increased scrutiny.

Author:Sicard, Sarah

" With tightening budgets and one high-profile program delayed by several years, ground robot acquisitions are coming under increasing congressional scrutiny, officials who oversee procurement of the technology said recently.

"We need to deliver affordable programs," Tom Dee, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy, said at the Association for Unmanned Vehide Systems International's Unmanned Systems Program Review.

The Navy is the executive agent in charge of procuring explosive ordnance disposal robots. After seven years of effort, it has failed to field replacements for its legacy systems and the commercial-off-the-shelf machines sped into the field during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Air Force officials announced in the summer of 2014 that they had run out of patience and were partially withdrawing from the program.

The Navy at the outset of the advanced explosive ordnance disposal robotic system (AEODRS) program said that rather than awarding a winner-takes-all contract to one manufacturer, it would bring the design and development in-house. The three classes of robots would be modular and run on a common operating system. Robot makers would compete to manufacture components, but there would be no lead system integrator among the vendors.

Dee recognized that the delays were caused by this new way of doing business.

"We tried to do things on our own. ... We had a little bit of a delay in getting our RFP [request for proposals] out there because we discovered it's a little more difficult," he added.

The Air Force pulled out of the increment I. program in favor of off-the-shelf technologies to fill its smaller ground systems needs. The three classes vary by size and weight, with increment 1 being a backpackable version weighing about 35 pounds.

Deborah Aragon, a spokeswoman at the Air Force Civil Engineer Explosive Ordnance Disposal program said the Air Force "is observing the Navy acquisition of Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotic System increment 1, but has decided at this time to withdraw from AEODRS increment 1 based on programming and funding issues."

A Navy PowerPoint presented at an October 2011 industry day stated that increment 1 RFPs would be released March 2012 and the robot would go into limited production by the first quarter of 2013.

The Air Force said it would still consider rejoining the program as the Navy continues with the larger robots. The increment 2 robot will weigh 130 pounds and increment 3 will weigh 485...

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