Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Systems Engineering

Publication Date


Publication Title

Proceedings of ASEM World Congress, Huntsville, October 2017

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is revolutionizing the capabilities of the warfighter with the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) program. The program will equip USSOCOM operators with a powered, armored, exoskeleton to enhance their survivability, lethality, and mobility. The project launched in 2013, with a functional prototype scheduled to be complete in 2018. The aggressive development timeline necessitated that USSOCOM use a novel acquisition structure—the Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF). The JATF structure mandates a government team as the lead integrator, consisting of acquisition personnel, engineers, and users. This study compared the TALOS acquisition structure to that of Land Warrior, a similar project in regards to scope that used a traditional acquisition structure. The Land Warrior program launched in 1993, underwent numerous scope changes, and was eventually cancelled in 2007 with only limited fielding. This study identified that a root cause for Land Warrior’s cancellation is that its acquisition structure failed to capitalize on commercial innovations and changing requirements. These issues are critical considering the increasingly rapid advances in technology and the dynamic nature of the global socio-political climate. Meanwhile, the JATF structure allowed USSOCOM to avoid many of the pitfalls that Land Warrior experienced. This study analyzed developments to date to collect lessons learned from the TALOS project, focusing on its ability to capture innovation. This analysis found that the JATF structure allowed TALOS to foster innovation and account for changing requirements in a dynamic world.