Leadership: May 8, 2003

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One of the many U.S. Army innovations of the 1980s was the formation of OFIG (Operational Forces Interface Group). This is basically a market research service for the military organizations that develop equipment for the troops. It was long been noted, at least by the troops, that the people developing their equipment did not appear to be getting much feedback from the users. OFIG changed that, as it was staffed by experienced NCOs and civilians who had been in the military. In addition to visits to units to conduct tests of new equipment, surveys were used to see how gear, that was already out there, performed. A hot line was established so that troops could quickly report unexpected problems with clothing and other equipment. A recent example of that was the problem with boot on the sharp rocks common to many parts of Afghanistan. After every war or large scale deployment of troops (like the Balkans peacekeeping in the 1990s) there are reports from the field of equipment that had a bad encounter with something unanticipated by the developers of the gear. But the most important function of OFIG is shortening the time it takes for a problem to get fixed. In many nations, problems with military equipment are often never fixed, especially if they are considered "minor." This often means that any problem that doesn't make headlines, or seriously interfere with combat capability, is considered something the troops can just live with.

 


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