By Major Don Couzens, Assistant Defence Cooperation Attaché,
Embassy of Canada, Washington, DC
The Foreign Comparative Testing (FCT) Program was established by U.S. Congress in 1980 and is administered by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (OSD) Comparative Technology Office (CTO). The CTO mission is to find, assess and field world-class technologies to enhance military capabilities and provide longer term value to the Department of Defense (DoD). The FCT Program provides the resources that enable CTO to accomplish this mission.
The FCT Program funds the test and evaluation of foreign developed technologies with potential to meet either current or future US requirements technology needs. The goals of FCT are to reduce risk for major acquisition programs, accelerate the fielding of innovative foreign technology into U.S. platforms, enhance interoperability and promote competition, thereby freeing up limited U.S. research and development dollars for other priorities.
The FCT Program also has helped to foster a “two-way street” in defense spending between the U.S. and its friends and Allies by successfully evaluating foreign products against U.S. requirements, resulting in substantial follow-on procurements. Over 35 years, the FCT Program has invested nearly $1.26 Billion across 700 projects, resulting in over $11 Billion in follow-on procurements. Because of this, the FCT Program is seen as a gateway by foreign industry hoping to enter the U.S. defense marketplace.
Canadian defence industry has been intimately involved since the inception competing in over 100 projects to date, ranking Canada third among participating nations (behind the UK and Germany). Of those projects, 47 projects have been successful in meeting U.S. requirements with 34 projects resulting in follow-on procurements from Canadian companies.
A recent example of Canadian technology successfully tested through the FCT Program is the Portable Patient Transport Life Support System, or PPTLSS which was completed in September 2014. CTO provided FCT funds for the test and evaluation of the PPTLSS in response to a United States Marine Corps (USMC) urgent requirement seeking the ability to transport critically ill and injured patients via rotary wing aircraft. The PPTLSS provides oxygen generation, delivery, ventilation and suction capabilities integrated into a single compact device. The PPTLSS incorporates lifesaving technology for mobile patient care, performing the same capabilities as legacy equipment with an 80 percent reduction in weight, 83 percent reduction in footprint and completely eliminating the need for pressurized oxygen bottles – a battlefield hazard. As a result of successful tests, the USMC awarded a production contract to Thornhill Research Inc. of Toronto for 72 systems worth $8.6M U.S.
Other recent examples of successful FCT projects with Canadian industry include:
1. Special Reconnaissance and Exploitation System
o Participants: SOCOM and Cobham
o Description: New reconnaissance and exploitation equipment such as covert digital audio/video devices with encrypted WiFi data transmission; miniaturized concealable audio/video devices; remote camera systems plus tagging and tracking devices.
o Procurement – 28 systems for over $120K in 2014
2. Operator Suspension Seats for Landing Craft Air Cushion
o Participants: US Navy and Professional Components
o Description: Suspension seat for LCAC operators that will lower the risk of lumbar spine injury and long-term disability.
o Procurement – The US Navy awarded a contract in 2014 for 438 systems worth almost $3 Million.
3. 40MM L60 High Explosive Incendiary Ammunition for AC-130 Gunships
o Participants: SOCOM and General Dynamics – Ordnance & Tactical Systems
o Description: Qualified a foreign supplier to satisfy a US requirement as there are no current US producers of this ammunition and stocks are depleting.
o Procurement – U.S. government awarded an IDIQ contract to GD-OTS in 2013 for over $31M.
How does the FCT Program work?
The FCT Program operates on an annual timeline in conjunction with the U.S. budget cycle (October-September). Proposals are developed and sponsored by DoD Program Managers located in each of the military Services (Army, Navy/USMC, and Air Force) and also the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
Notional FCT Proposal Timeline:
· May: Initial FCT Proposals Submitted by Services/SOCOM to OSD
· June: Initial FCT Proposals Review and Down Select by OSD
· August: Final FCT Proposals Submitted by Services/SOCOM to OSD
· September: Final FCT Proposal Review by OSD
· October (new fiscal year): OSD Selects FCT Projects and Provides Funds to Services/SOCOM
Once FCT projects are selected and funded in the October timeframe, the Services and SOCOM will proceed to award test article contracts over the next few months. FCT projects are typically executed over 2-3 years and average approximately $0.800M U.S. in OSD provided funding per year. FCT funds are used to purchase foreign test articles and vendor technical support as well as pay for U.S. Government labor and other costs associated with performing the test. FCT projects often include additional funding resources from the U.S. government sponsor. If an item under consideration successfully meets testing criteria, the sponsoring organization may choose to proceed into a follow-on production contract at its discretion.
What types of technology are of interest to FCT?
Historically, FCT sought to evaluate foreign systems with a high Technology Readiness Level (TRL 8/9), or items that have been fully tested and fielded with a foreign military and meet an existing acquisition requirement. As of 2015, the FCT Program has shifted its focus to include earlier prototype systems (TRL 6/7), or items that are ready for testing in a laboratory or operational environment and address future capability gaps or needs. Definitions for TRLs can be found here: http://www.acq.osd.mil/chieftechnologist/publications/docs/TRA2011.pdf
OSD CTO is currently seeking innovative technologies for potential evaluation in the FCT Program in the following key focus areas:
· Autonomous Systems
o Autonomous systems are a “capability” (or a set of capabilities) that enables a particular action of a system to be automatic or, within programmed boundaries, “self-governing”. Autonomous systems can improve our capability without increasing by better coordinating and synchronizing current sensors and weapon systems and by maximizing the efficiency of both.
· Electromagnetic Spectrum Agility
o The increasingly wireless nature of the global economy, coupled with advances in analog-to-digital conversion, cognitive radios, smart antennas, and increased transmitter-receiver diversity, present opportunities to develop new capabilities that sustain and extend our military advantage in the EMS domain. These new capabilities will also mitigate the impact of new challenges, including an increasingly cluttered operational EMS environment.
· Space Capability Resilience
o Space capability resilience response to a sophisticated adversary’s attempts to deny us access to our space-based capabilities and responds to adverse space conditions that degrade our space-based capabilities. A resilient response includes taking proactive and reactive defensive measures (avoidance), designing systems with enhanced survival features (robustness), conducting operations to replenish lost or diminished capacity (reconstitution), and helping re-establish space capability and capacity (recovery).
· Asymmetric Force Application
o Asymmetric force application is the use of non-traditional technologies, tactics, and weapons to provide a clear military advantage to our forces during maneuver and engagement operations.
It is important to note that the FCT focus areas reflect strategic DoD Research & Development investment priorities and are subject to change commensurate with evolving national security issues and operation need or requirements.
How to get involved with FCT?
There are many ways to get involved with the FCT Program, but the easiest is to submit and FCT Product Template, a one-page information sheet on your company’s technology. The FCT Product Template and other FCT related information can be found on the ‘Help/Reference Materials’ page of the OSD CTO website (https://cto.acqcenter.com) When submitting an FCT Product Template, it is suggested you inform the following Canadian Government offices:
· Your Regional Development Agency, and
· The Embassy of Canada in Washington, D.C. including:
o the Defence Trade Commissioner, and
o the Assistant Defence Cooperation Attaché
Doing so will maximize awareness of your product and help in coordinating any potential future meetings with the OSD CTO, Military Services, or SOCOM representatives. After receiving FCT Product Templates, OSD CTO disseminates the information to its network of US Government research and development offices, acquisition customers, or other potential FCT sponsors. Although submitting a template does not guarantee an item is considered as an FCT, it is perhaps the easiest way to increase general awareness of your product across an extremely large and complex organization of buyers within the DoD.
In addition to submitting FCT Product Templates, OSD CTO and its affiliates routinely meet with foreign industry at various conferences, exhibitions, trade shows, and forums. OSD CTO has previously attended major defense trade shows such as:
· CANSEC (Canada)
· AUSA (Washington, DC)
· Modern Day Marine (Quantico, VA)
· AFA’s Air & Space Conference (National Harbor, MD)
· DSEi & Farnborough Air Show (UK)
· Eurosatory & Paris Air Show (France)
· ADEX (South Korea)
· Avalon Air Show & Pacific International Maritime Exposition (Australia)
OSD CTO periodically accepts individual meetings with companies at their office near Washington, DC, but encourages those meetings be coordinated through the Embassy staff.
It is the responsibility of individual companies to identify the products that they think will meet FCT focus areas. Please contact the undersigned if you have further questions on the FCT program.