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After nearly two years of Franklin Quest Co. helping the U.S. Air Force develop a plan to reduce the time and cost of acquiring electronic warfare gadgetry, the system is about to be implemented.

The Projects Business Unit of Franklin Quest Consulting Group, a division of Franklin Quest, has been instrumental in developing a new approach to electronic warfare acquisition, according to Gaylen Nielson, unit general manager.Designed to reduce costs and prove the worth of electronic warfare equipment to pilots and the people supporting them, the new approach uses techniques that are similar to those used by the consulting group to help pharmaceutical companies dramatically reduce the time new drugs get to market.

Tom Lovell, project leader, said electronic warfare consists of jammers, radar, controls, detection devices, firing devices, signaling and any other device that will eliminate or reduce the threat to pilots in combat.

Due to the long interval between designing electronic warfare systems and implementing them, Nielson said all reductions in time and costs achieved by the Projects Business Unit are valuable to the Air Force.

In 1995, the Air Force and industry supplying it were asked by acting secretary of the Air Force Darleen Druyun to create new ways of doing business by forming government and industry teams and reducing both development time and specifications for new electronic warfare systems.

At the beginning of the project, Franklin Quest people with years of experience in planning told Air Force officials any success would depend on listening to the pilot and his support people (called warfighters), putting teamwork before functional loyalty, operating with mutual trust and responsibility and making the words "better" "faster" and "cheaper" a part of the acquisition process.

During 1996, Franklin Quest employees worked with the Air Force and industry team to assess the current acquisitions process and design and document a better approach.

This new approach will meet current budget constraints as well as put the best performing technology into the hands of the warfighter, Nielson said.

"The new methods have the potential to save hundreds of millions of dollars in procuring the electronic warfare systems and allow the warfighter to plan missions based on the predictable performance of an electronic warfare system," Nielson said.

One of the methods unit employees used to develop the new system was a collaboration of all people involved in electronic warfare including the warfighters, suppliers and procurement agents. Nielson said that approach allowed everyone to say what is needed to make the combat airplanes as safe as possible from attack.

Although unit officials haven't determined how much time and money can be saved by the new process, Nielson said it could reach 50-75 percent.

By using this approach, systems in existing aircraft could be upgraded to afford the pilot the maximum amount of protection and avoidance of danger without having to replace the entire aircraft, said Nielson.