The U.S. military must make difficult decisions that will define the force for years to come amid a substantial risk to readiness and effectiveness, according to a Defense Department official. The nation faces new challenges throughout the world coupled with severe budget cuts at home, and the response to these issues must be taken carefully with a long-term strategic look.
Business as usual will weaken rather than strengthen the U.S. military in this time of budget cuts. The force must rely on technology development to ensure that it does not maintain current force sizes at the expense of enablers.
These points were outlined by Christine Fox, acting deputy secretary of defense, at the opening keynote address at West 2014, co-sponsored by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute and being held February 11-13 in San Diego. Fox allowed that the military must become smaller over the next five years, and it must maintain capabilities that will enable it to meet any of a number of challenges.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced that the U.S. Army has committed to a multivendor, multiaward acquisition process—set to be finalized by the end of this month—that will allow multiple companies to compete for the Joint Tactical Radio System Manpack and Handheld Rifleman Radio contracts. The new acquisition approach also will allow the Army to select multiple contractors to each make a percentage of the radios. Prior to this decision, the Army was pursuing a single-vendor process for each of its next-generation radio contracts.
Industry and government personnel believe that event cancellations and travel restrictions are having a negative impact on innovation and collaboration. According to one survey, the massive decrease in conferences that facilitate intelligence gathering and networking will adversely affect government contractors’ abilities to provide the most up-to-date information, solutions and best practices that government agencies require.
The U.S. Army is conducting a full and open competition to acquire more quantities of the Rifleman Radio and also will soon open competition for purchasing additional Manpack radios. The draft request for proposals (RFP) seeking solutions from all industry partners for the Rifleman is now available, and an informational industry day will be followed by the release of the formal RFP.
General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems has created a portal to facilitate collaboration among experts from multiple industries in a secure, controlled, cooperative environment. GDNexus matches innovative solutions to customer requirements across the defense, federal government, intelligence community and commercial markets.
Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee that he is concerned about the level of cyber attacks affecting defense suppliers. As a result, he is considering changes in contracting procedures to mitigate the risk of corporate espionage. “I’m talking particularly about design information that might not be classified, but if you acquire that information, it certainly shortens your lead time to building things, and it reduces your costs,” he told committee members. “That’s an advantage we don’t want to give our potential adversaries.”
Lawmakers now are reviewing the U.S. Defense Department’s first annual data-driven review of purchasing. Officially titled “Performance of the Defense Acquisition System, 2013 Annual Report,” the document is the first publication of an annual effort to sift through the mountain of data available on the department’s purchases and to determine which work and which don’t. The point of the report, says Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, “is to help us all figure out ways to do a better job with [acquisition]” and ultimately to ensure more and better products.
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.
The current driving force in the military and defense environment is to keep legacy systems operating longer, or the replacement of legacy systems with new systems that emulate one or more legacy systems with commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology. However, there is insufficient budget to fund development of these COTS systems, and the burden of development falls upon private industry. The current sequestration environment adds another burden on industry to perform to the needs of the military, but without the benefit of nonrecurring engineering (NRE) costs being reimbursed.
Old Dominion University (ODU) now offers a graduate-level procurement program that focuses on how to support cost savings, improve efficiencies and determine other strategic goals for public-sector organizations. The graduate certificate stand-alone program comprises 15 credits: four required courses and one elective. Students can take these courses online or at the university in Norfolk, Virginia.
For the September issue of SIGNAL, I wrote an article about a new effort at AFCEA designed to spur innovation and rapid acquisition in defense technology. Dubbed PlugFests, the events are managed by the Rapid Integration Innovation Process (RI2P) special interest group, which is dedicated to showing the value of such events to government and industry.
The Air Force Chief of Staff had but three critical requirements for the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM): "It should work; it should hit the target; and it should cost under $40,000 each." The former Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Jacques Gansler held on to this handwritten request, as reported in "Aligning Acquisition Strategies With the Times," written earlier this year by SIGNAL defense editor Max Cacas. Could such a simplified approach possibly lead to developing an effective new capability?
After several months of drafts and comments, the U.S. Navy now has released the request for proposal (RFP) for its Next Generation Enterprise Network, or NGEN. The 1,100-page RFP provides guidance for prospective bidders on a contract that likely will total 4.5 billion dollars.
Capt. Shawn P. Hendricks, USN, is the program manager for PMW-205 Naval Enterprise Networks. He says that the RFP's size is what makes it stand out among other RFPs. "It's enormous," he states, "and they [bidders] will have to eat it one bite at a time. Yet, at the end of the day, it all has to work together."
The future of U.S. Navy shipbuilding may depend on savings realized elsewhere in the sea service, according to a panel at West 2012 in San Diego. With shipbuilding constituting only about 10 percent of the Navy budget, other cost savings may be necessary for the Navy to build the ships it needs to meet new strategic realities. Ronald O'Rourke, a specialist in naval affairs with the Congressional Research Service, urged the Navy to cut costs in other areas while applying smart procurement lessons to shipbuilding. Traditional lessons include having requirements up front, managing risk by not trying to do too much, accepting 70-80 percent solutions and providing stability for industry.
The U.S. Defense Department will "do its part" to bring the U.S. fiscal house in order, said a member of the Joint Staff. Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, USN, director, the Joint Staff, said that the nation's financial crisis is a "strategic vulnerability" for which the department must join the rest of the country in belt tightening. "We need to do two things: spend less and bring in more revenue," the admiral declared in the kickoff address at West 2012 in San Diego. He noted that after World War II ended, the huge national debt built up by that conflict was largely owned by the American people. Now, however, foreign nations own a substantial amount of existing debt.