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Acquisition

Navy Keeps Up With Innovation Despite Tight Budgets

June 3, 2013
By Henry S. Kenyon

If necessity is the mother of invention, innovation will be the father as the U.S. Navy seeks new methods that will allow it to continue to modernize amid harsh budget constraints.

How to Win Contracts When Lowest Price Is the Highest Measure

May 24, 2013
By Bev Cooper

The lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) acquisition strategy, which focuses on price over value, has become the dominant approach that agencies are applying to federal contracting. The accelerated transition to this strategy has been fueled by sequestration and the growing need for government to do business at a reduced cost. Contractors are still learning how to operate in this new environment, but many fear that the emphasis on lower cost labor will reduce the expertise of the work force and result in lower levels of effort.

Intelligence Taps Industry for Essential Technologies

May 22, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

James Bond’s U.S. counterpart may be equipped more with commercial technologies than with systems developed in intelligence community laboratories. The private sector will be called upon to provide even more capabilities to help keep the intelligence community ahead of adversaries and budget cuts.

Austerity Breeds Innovation

May 16, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

East: Joint Warfighting 2013 Online Show Daily, Day 3
East: Joint Warfighting 2013 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, Virginia, wrapped up today with discussions about the challenges in counterinsurgency wars, rapid acquisition and fiscal crisis.
Lt. Col. John A. Nagl, USA (Ret.), author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam, said that U.S. leaders turned away from the lessons that were learned in Vietnam when they began fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was not until Gen. David Patraeus, USA (Ret.), former commander, U.S. Central Command, took over the mission that progress started to be seen in the region. “We can’t afford to get it so far wrong again,” Col. Nagl stated.
 
While some success has been seen in Iraq in terms of stability, the same cannot be said about Afghanistan, he added. Absent American support, the country could still be overtaken by insurgents, and it is yet to be determined if Afghanistan will end up like the Vietnam War or be an “untidy” success like Iraq. “The best we can hope for is an age of unsatisfying wars,” the colonel noted. “Counterinsurgency wars are long and messy, but they are the most likely type of wars we’ll fight in the future.”
 
Lt. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson, USA (Ret.), former U.S. Army chief information officer (G-6), led the final panel of the conference. The topic was one that has been hot for some time and is now coming to a boil in light of tightening budgets: acquisition. However, members of the panel did not so much discuss less money as they did an aspect of the issue that has been the focus of numerous panels: how to speed delivery of solutions to warfighters.
 

Experts Focus on the Effects of Sequestration

May 14. 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

East: Joint Warfighting 2013 Online Show Daily, Day 1

Adm. William E. Gortney, USN, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, set the tone for East: Joint Warfighting 2013 taking place at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, Virginia, May 14-16, when he opened the conference by talking about changes and choices in today’s morning keynote address. Although the obvious change is the reduction in financial resources, the other is one that has been mentioned at previous AFCEA International conferences: the shift in focus from Southwest Asia to the entire Pacific region.

Small Business Outreach Event

May 15, 2013

AFCEA International is hosting a presentation by Tony Constable, president, CAI/SISCo, at 4 p.m. on May 21, 2013, at AFCEA headquarters, Fairfax, Virginia. Constable will explain the fundamentals of Price To Win (PTW), his business development discipline that helps companies win contracts particularly in austere times.

Soldiers Shake Up NIE

May 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

Moving forward through sequester, next fiscal year's evaluations include new contracts and contacts.

As the U.S. Army prepares its network of the future, it plans to make some changes to the way it approaches working with government and private partners. The moves will increase interoperability downrange while attempting to shorten the ever-frustrating acquisition cycle that keeps the military behind the curve in implementing cutting-edge technologies.

Soldiers are starting to lay the groundwork for, and intend on inviting, airmen and Marines to participate in Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs) 14.1 and 14.2, scheduled for fall 2013 and spring 2014 respectively. They also are preparing to expand live, virtual and constructive (LVC) features, which will facilitate bringing in the new participants, because they may be able to exercise from remote locations. In a previous iteration, the Army had one of its own brigades carry out its parts through a simulation. Brig. Gen. Randal Dragon, USA, commanding general of the Army’s Brigade Modernization Command, explains that planners are shooting to find the LVC balance in 14.1 that will help them understand what they need to do to accommodate the joint network in 14.2. “We’re still in very, very early preliminary design stages,” he states. Before connecting a major joint, coalition or interagency partner to the network, the Army has to determine how to reduce risks and costs. Officials are attempting to find the right mix to enable the joint requirements while maintaining the momentum of systems of evaluation.

Does the Joint Information Environment 
Help or Hinder Coalition Interoperability?

May 1, 2013
By Kent R. Schneider

Coalition interoperability has received a good deal of focus during the past few years. The Afghan Mission Network (AMN) has given many hope that a repeatable solution for coalition operations could be developed that would allow rapid deployment of a coalition-compatible network for future conflicts. The Future Mission Network (FMN) is envisioned to allow coalition partners to plug into a standards-compliant network with the functionality and security needed to support complex operations.

Recently, in discussions on the U.S. Defense Department initiative to develop a common operating environment referred to as the Joint Information Environment, or JIE, I began to consider whether the creation of such a common environment for the department would help move toward agile and effective coalition information sharing, or would put more distance between the U.S. military and its partners.

The conclusion I have reached is that the JIE could help or hinder coalition efforts, depending on how the JIE architecture is coordinated and whether it is kept on a path parallel to the FMN. It is important to remember that coalition information sharing today is more than just how the United States works with its foreign allies. Anywhere on the mission spectrum, the Defense Department must work with a wide range of U.S. federal agencies, industry partners and, sometimes, state, local and tribal agencies, as well as with international partners.

This means the legacy architectures, direction and needs of this extremely diverse set of players must be considered at every step of the development of the JIE. And, it is imperative to keep the development of the JIE and the development of the FMN coordinated every step of the way. Failure to do this will make it more difficult, not easier, to work with interagency partners and coalition partners.

Forward Deployed 3-D Printers Might 
Be the Next Warfighter Innovation

May 1, 2013
By Lt. Ben Kohlmann, USN

Additive manufacturing, more commonly understood in the technology world as 3-D printing, is here to stay. Integrating this technology into our fleet and logistical supply chains now could provide incredible benefits, even though the technology still is relatively nascent. The Economist calls this “the third industrial revolution,” and, indeed, these techniques could transform the way we supply materiel in the wars we fight.

Imagine you are a supply officer on a minesweeper and a relatively simple plastic gas cap disappears. Or as the commanding officer of an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, you discover that a small part of your close-in weapon system breaks and the supply chain has no more. As a submariner, you are on station for three months of deployment only to discover a malfunctioning inexpensive butterfly valve may necessitate aborting the whole mission. What do you do?

These are all true stories. In the first, the Navy spent $400 to ship that $7 gas cap halfway around the world. The destroyer’s commanding officer was forced to complete his deployment without a key defensive system. For the submarine, some enterprising machinist mates found solid copper and banged out a replacement in a matter of minutes that lasted through the end of deployment. All these situations had solutions, but none of them was ideal.

What if each of these vessels had easy access to a 3-D printer or an additive manufacturing capability organic to the ship? What if, instead of waiting six months or more for a high-fail, high-demand plastic part, a replacement could be printed instantaneously, tested and then implemented immediately?

Guest Blog: Lowering Walls and Blurring Lines

April 12, 2013
By Dr. Louis S. Metzger

The latest Incoming column from Lt. Ben Kohlmann, USN, titled “Link Warfighters to Technologists at the Lowest Possible Level” (SIGNAL Magazine, April 2013), resonated with observations I’ve made and conclusions I’ve reached over the years. I’ve been involved with the research and development and acquisition communities for a long time, including serving as the Air Force chief scientist from 1999 to 2001. Perhaps my adding to Lt. Kohlmann’s advice will help it gain additional traction, and stimulate further discussion and activity.

Leveraging technology to provide our military with improved capability requires diverse insights, multiple skills and varied roles. The insights cover current understanding of user needs, the operational environment, and the potential of existing and emerging technology. The skills span science and engineering, contracting, testing and training. And the roles include requirements developer, laboratory investigator, acquirer and support provider. The realities of specialization demand that multiple communities come together to provide all these ingredients. Unfortunately, interpretation of rules, processes and culture have built walls, and suspicion between different communities to the extent that the teamwork and collaboration needed to expeditiously develop and field new capabilities often islacking.

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