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Army Soldier Enhancement Program

The Army’s Soldier Enhancement Program evaluates commercially available items that meet Soldiers’ needs.

For more than 20 years, the Army’s Soldier Enhancement Program (SEP) has been providing Soldiers with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) items that help them effectively complete their missions. And yet many people have never heard of SEP.

SEP’s past successes include the M110 semi-automatic sniper system, clip-on sniper night sight, aviation laser pointer, parachute electronic activation device, fuel handlers coveralls and gloves, modular ghillie suit and ghillie suit accessory kit upgrade, AN/PEQ–4 integrated laser white light pointer, parachutists drop bag, improved combat shelter, and tactical assault ladder.

SEP was established by Congress in 1989 to purchase items that improve lethality, survivability, command and control, mobility, and sustainability for all Soldiers. SEP pioneered acquisition reform and was a forerunner of the Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier Rapid Fielding Initiative, which also delivers state-of-the art technology and gear to Soldiers on fast-track schedules. Today, PEO Soldier, along with the Army Training and Doctrine Command, manages SEP for the Army. What is great about SEP is that anyone can submit a proposal for a new item and SEP can provide that capability for our Soldiers in less than 3 years.

Enhance What Is Already Available

Unlike many military acquisition programs, SEP relies on commercially available technologies that are adapted to meet Soldiers’ specific requirements. Ideas for the program come from Soldiers, commanders, units with specific needs, and industry leaders worldwide. The range of items includes individual weapons, ammunition, optics, combat clothing, individual equipment, water supplies, shelters, and navigational aids. The COTS starting point must lend itself to being adapted and provided to Soldiers in no more than 3 years.

Sustainment Soldiers’ Requirements

Maneuver Soldiers rely on equipment they wear or carry. Sustainment and support Soldiers frequently receive clothing and equipment that was developed for the maneuver community.

Fuel handler coveralls (FHC) and gloves, however, are prime examples of SEP capability enhancements that benefit those working in the logistics realm. The FHC and gloves programs were initiated as SEP programs in 2004 to develop a protective ensemble that meets industrial standards for repelling fuel and dissipating static. FHC provide excellent liquid resistance not found in other military-issue coveralls.

The Army recently modified the Common Table of Allowance 50–900 to authorize watercraft operators to draw and maintain FHC, and the Program Manager for Clothing and Individual Equipment recently published a sources-sought notice for fire-resistant FHC. When a candidate is selected and fielded, logistics Soldiers will have a tailored option available to protect them from flame as well as fuel, lubricants, solvents, and other toxic industrial chemicals and materials. The Sustainment Center of Excellence has proposed SEP support for flotation armor to address combined protection and survival deficiencies for sustainment and support Soldiers who routinely operate around littoral waters or engage in water-crossing operations. However, no other SEP candidates specifically intended for sustainment Soldiers have been approved since the FHC.

Identifying Sustainment Soldiers’ Needs

Do sustainment Soldiers perform specific tasks or encounter specific hazards that the SEP program can address? The Army is now augmenting units in Afghanistan with “plate carriers” and accepting body armor protection risk for better mobility during specific missions.

Meanwhile, joint trauma analysis, combat injury prevention, and Department of Defense blast injury research programs indicate a need for increased maxillofacial and extremity coverage. Theater feedback indicates a need to use the improved outer tactical vest with deltoid and groin protection on convoys to maximize protection. COTS solutions could provide personnel in stationary guard positions or riding in tactical wheeled vehicles with additional protection from shrapnel and spall, but the Army considers them too encumbering to be useful. Are we ignoring typical sustainment Soldier tasks for which personal mobility is not imperative?

Rifleman’s Radio and Ground Soldier Increment 1 are emerging command and control systems that provide position-location capability for the individual Soldier. These systems will certainly mature and increase in number to aid tactical maneuver, but are they the best fit for sustainment units? Sustainment formations tend to rely heavily on communications systems in organic vehicles for command and control. What about expanding in-transit visibility or Standard Army Management Information Systems to encompass individual Soldier status? Can radio frequency identification technology provide a cheaper alternative for sustainment formation leaders to track teams or individual Soldiers in the vicinity of convoys and operating bases?

The requirement for a new piece of equipment for sustainment Soldiers could be as simple as an individual handtool or a Bluetooth hand-held electronic organizer that is capable of passing logistics data. PEO Soldier Systems Integration, in coordination with the Army Training and Doctrine Command Capability Manager-Soldier, reviews submissions and decides whether to evaluate an item further, buy or produce it, conduct field testing, or standardize and issue it to Soldiers in the field. The SEP executive council meets each February and August to approve initiatives for the next fiscal year.



SEP Now

With the Army immersed in conflicts around the world, Soldiers need equipment that reflects the best technology, and they need it fast. Before transformation was a part of the Army lexicon, SEP was promoting transformation of the Soldier system with an accelerated acquisition process that gets better weapons and gear into Soldiers’ hands. SEP continues to play a key role in the effort to meet Soldiers’ requirements. Current programs include the aircrew laser pointer, advanced sniper accessory kit, grenadier laser range finder, XM–1116 12-gauge extended-range nonlethal cartridge, sniper quick fire sight, and sniper weapon tripod.

Anyone can submit a proposal. Nearly 100 proposals are received and reviewed every 6 months. PEO Soldier will consider proposals for items that—

  • Currently are available as COTS.
  • Will enhance the effectiveness of individual Soldiers in a tactical environment.
  • Can be worn, carried, or consumed by Soldiers in a tactical environment.

Proposals can be submitted on line at www.peosoldier.army.mil, by fax to (706) 545–1377, by email to thomas.house@us.army.mil, or by mail to Tom House, 7010 Morrison Avenue, Building 128, Room 209, Fort Benning, Georgia 31905.

For more information about SEP, the process, or meeting dates, call (706) 545–6047 or send an email to thomas.house@us.army.mil.

Thomas B. House II is the Soldier Enhancement Program Manager for Program Executive Office Soldier at Fort Benning, Georgia. He is a graduate of the Primary, Basic, and Advanced Noncommissioned Officer Courses, the Battle Staff Course, the First Sergeant Course, and the Army Sergeants Major Course.

Raymond E. Strunk, an Engility Corporation contractor, is a Soldier systems representative for the Materiel Systems Directorate of the Sustainment Center of Excellence. He holds a B.S. degree in electronics technology from the University of Central Florida.


 
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