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The development, testing, and fielding of combat helmets for the United States (U. S.) soldiers offer project management practitioners an opportunity to analyze how programs begin, how they progress through development and testing, and finally how new capability is fielded within the U.S. Defense Acquisition institution. The case study centers on the U.S. Army’s adoption of the Enhanced Combat Helmet (ECH) for soldiers stationed in war zones around the world. The case study is applicable broadly to project managers, business managers, engineers, testers, and logicians involved in project management within the private sector, as well as specifically targeting acquisition professionals within the government defense departments. Emphasis is placed on the development of critical thinking and analysis skills in the areas of project initiation, stakeholder management, and decision making with ambiguous and contradicting testing/field data.
Questions to consider in ECH project initiationinclude the following:
Who are the key stakeholders in the ECH program initiation decision and how does the project manager manage their expectations?
Would the ECH program be considered a “technology push” or “capability pull” program, and what are the implications?
How should the ECH requirements be set? Should increased protection or weight reduction be emphasized? What is the right balance between reductions of soldier load (combat weight) versus greater soldier protection?
How does the Army set testing protocols for the ECH prior to the development and manufacturing of a helmet based on new technology?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of various acquisition approaches for the development, testing, procurement, and fielding of the ECH? What are the criteria used to compare the alternative approaches?
What are some of the key program management fundamental lessons learned from this part of the case?


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