CECOM Uses Operations Research to Save Lives, Millions and Resources


In 21st Century warfare, troops depend on complex weapon systems and advanced technologies. In combat conditions, the resources available to support operation and maintenance of these systems are minimal. The U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command (CECOM) submitted the work "Bayesian Networks for Combat Equipment Diagnostics" for the 2016 Franz Edelman Competition.

One of the U.S. Army’s biggest challenges is time. Transporting technical experts to and from combat zones is burdensome and can inhibit the overall success of the mission. At the same time, because technical experts face the same battlefield risks as soldiers, reducing the need for technical personnel on the battlefield puts fewer soldiers at risk.

CECOM has developed a suite of systems, named Virtual Logistics Assistance Representative (VLAR), to maximize self-reliance at combat outposts. The heart and underpinning of VLAR is a set of operations research (O.R.) methods and CECOM’s Causal Bayesian belief networks.

These O.R. methods effectively translate scientific theory into accessible applications, the processes that optimize Army tactical electrical power grids, and the intuitive soldier interface that is common to all VLAR products.

VLAR is improving the Army’s efficiency and effectiveness by applying artificial intelligence to equipment diagnostics and electrical power grid optimization. Soldiers are more self-sufficient in the field, and with little experience or training, they can quickly and accurately diagnose complex systems and make them operational.

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Through the end of 2015, the Army estimated that VLAR and Headquarters Fuel Optimization have saved the Army $35.4 million after an investment of $9.8 million.

In the process, the Army was able to eliminate approximately 360,000 helicopter or ground vehicle movements, which has in turn greatly reduced the risk of improvised explosive device and attacks, preventing an estimated 4,500 casualties (killed and wounded).

The Army projects additional savings of $222 million from an investment of $60 million by the end of 2020. Based on this, the Army projects the elimination of 900,000 helicopter or ground vehicle movements, and subsequently 11,000 transport casualties. This represents an indirect savings of $22 billion in long-term medical costs.

Video of U.S. Army CECOM 2016 Edelman Finalist Presentation