NATICK, Mass. (May 22, 2013) -- What covers half the world's surface, contains 50 percent of its population, and spans 9,000 miles and 16 time zones?

Give up?

It's the U.S. Pacific Command, known as USPACOM, area of operation, where the experts at Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems, or PM FSS, at the Natick Soldier Systems Center, Mass., stand ready to support the joint force's future needs. The PM FSS emphasis reflects the renewed U.S. commitment to the Pacific region, where much has been learned since World War II about the environmental and geographic challenges of conducting military operations there.

"As we pivot to the Pacific, what do we know about the theater, what don't we know about the theater?" said John Viggato, systems acquisition manager for PM FSS. "Everything changes a little bit in that AOR (area of responsibility). The size is enormous, from the western shores of the U.S. all the way over to India -- the entire Pacific Rim. It's a huge area to cover."

"(It goes) from tropical environment in places like Hawaii and Guam to the frigid Alaskan and even Antarctic environments. And there (are) a lot of perceived threats out in that AOR right now that we have to be aware of and be capable of engaging with in those specific environments."

The main idea, said Viggato, is to look forward, not backward, in dealing with the Pacific.

"The acquisition process is traditionally a reactive process," Viggato said. "We always try and equip for the last battle we fought. The lessons learned from our most immediate engagements go forward into procurement for future engagements. But that method doesn't always produce the right tool for the new fight. With our efforts with PACOM, we're trying to lean forward to make sure the warfighter has the right systems from PM FSS that work well and reliably in the Pacific environment."

PM FSS, working with the USPACOM science advisor and Transformative Reductions in Operational Energy Consumption, or TROPEC, is seeking to bring its energy-efficient systems to USPACOM exercises and develop a long-term priority plan for the area.

"If we can let (warfighters) train on what they're actually going to be falling in on in theater, I mean, that's a win for the PM, that's a win for the unit, good across the board," Viggato said. "It's supposed to work in all these environments, but is that true for our latest iteration? Yeah, it might work in the environmental chamber, but let's get it in a quick-look-type scenario through these exercises in the Pacific."

PM FSS will support the 1st Special Forces Group from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., in September for the "Tempest Wind" exercise on Guam by setting up a 150-person rigid-wall camp to test various systems.

"Tempest Wind is the number one priority for (Special Operations Command, Pacific) and supposedly the number one priority for USPACOM, in terms of exercises," Viggato said. "They'll cycle the units in, like 1st Special Forces Group, and that's how they get their annual training. That's how they maintain their mission readiness, by going through these types of exercises."

PM FSS energy-efficient technologies are among the most popular with USPACOM, Viggato said. They include those well-insulated rigid-wall camps, micro-grid systems with load demand start-stop, shower water reuse systems, and emerging hybrid power supplies and energy-storage systems.

"Energy's very big in PACOM as an AOR right now," Viggato said. "The cost to produce power on Hawaii is exponentially higher than what it is in [the continental United States].

"As (renewable energy sources) become more prevalent on the battlefield, the trick is getting that energy gain from the renewables applied in the right time in the right area. And part of what enables that is that battery storage, that energy-storage-type module."

Just getting PM FSS equipment to the USPACOM AOR imposes a logistical burden.

"If you fly in all your fuel for these island-type battles, or even to support a forward base on Hawaii, the cost per gallon of fuel goes through the roof," Viggato said. "That's when a lot of these emerging technologies become a lot more economically tenable as we get a higher return on investment."

Viggato said he expects new technologies to flourish as PM FSS and other science and technology organizations become better acquainted with USPACOM's unique needs and mission.

"As they get a better feel for what we know and what we don't know in the USPACOM AOR, they're able to do that gap analysis," Viggato said. "As they identify those gaps and needs, they're looking to do these technology-development ideas to fill those gaps."