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.
Ships and submarines being built by the U.S. Navy today will be in service 40 to 50 years from now, according to the commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command. Adm. John T. Harvey, USN, explained that the Navy cannot afford to re-procure its fleet, so it must ensure that its platforms last for several decades. "The years of plenty are over," Adm. Harvey said. "We can expect less resources in the future, more fiscal uncertainty." Speaking at Joint Warfighting Conference 2011 in Virginia Beach, the admiral warned that the sea service has been operating at too high a tempo to sustain forces that it cannot replace easily. Since 2006, Navy ships and submarines have been operating at a major combat operations demand.
As the U.S. Coast Guard examines new ways to consolidate its logistics systems into a single business model, it is using social media platforms to open a dialogue with government and industry. In the process, the guard is learning how the acquisition community responds to unfamiliar tools in their familiar environment.
In this month's issue of SIGNAL Magazine, Editor in Chief Robert K. Ackerman describes how these social platforms are helping to solve age-old problems in his article, "Coast Guard Logistics Learns Social Media."
This month, Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.) likens the state of government technology to that of an 8-track tape player in an iPod world, thanks to a bloated procurement process:
If people want changes in the way the Defense Department procures and manages information technology (IT), then it may be time for them to put their money where their mouths are. The department is proposing sweeping reforms that will revolutionize every aspect of IT procurement and management. If successful, these reforms conceivably could address all of the IT acquisition complaints that have been echoing across the department. All this effort needs is a buy-in from all of the players. Elizabeth A.
Yesterday's blog coverage was just too short to include the depth of advice the experts at the Small Business Intelligence Forum shared, so here are a few more ideas: -Savvy SIGNAL Scape reader Ross Andrews, ARC Program Manager, Contractor - BVTI, beat this reporter to the punch on a very important item that should be on every small company's list if it wants to do business with the intelligence community: register with the Acquisition Resource Center. See his full comment at http://bit.ly/bXmzFM.
It's sometimes difficult to figure out what's the bigger secret - intelligence or the acquisition processes of the organizations that gather it. CIA, NSA, DIA plus 13 more agencies are collectively known as the intelligence community (IC), but that's where most of the similarity ends when it comes to these information hunters and gathers when it comes to purchasing goods, services or "carbon units." One fact is absolutely true and as open source as is possible: small businesses have advocates in IC agencies that fight tooth and nail in their interest. Some of these experts presented valuable secrets as well as common sense about how to capture the IC's business at the AFCEA International Small Business Intelligence Forum.
Accreditation and certification of software is a vital but time-consuming process. On Tuesday afternoon, panelists at the AFCEA SOLUTIONS symposium discussed the challenge and ongoing attempts to streamline the process. Brig. Gen. Peter F. Hoene, USAF, DISA's program executive officer for the Global Command and Control System-Joint (GCCS-J), stated that there was a need to speed accreditation and certification because the current procedure takes too much time. He noted that some units had even resorted to writing their own software, completely aware of the risks involved in using uncertified programs, because they needed the operational capability.
The final panel of the 2010 Joint Warfighting Conference focused on two topics that have been discussed consistently for more than a decade: lack of interoperability and convoluted acquisition. Though the panelists agreed on the problems, their opinions about solutions differed slightly. Vago Muradian, panel moderater, opened the discussion stating that the need to improve interoperability has been at the heart of the last two administrations and remains a priority in the Obama administration. One topic of particular interest to members of industry in the audience concerned changing import/export rules. Muradian believes that changes to these policies would help ensure interoperability.
DISA's Future COMSATCOM Services Acquisition (FCSA) program may open up a wide new world of SATCOM buying options. And the COMSATCOM arena is all abuzz-with negative and positive speculation-about this new DISA/GSA plan that aims to create a common satellite marketplace. In this issue of SIGNAL Magazine, Maryann Lawlor acquires the facts about FCSA's methods and goals in her article, "High-Flying Challenges." The two procurement agencies have already taken steps to make FCSA a reality.
While many conferences suffer from waning interest as panel session after panel session and speaker after speaker present valuable information over two days, this year's AFCEA Homeland Security conference proved to be quite the opposite. The Thursday afternoon sessions were nearly as full as the presentations that took place on Wednesday, at least in part because of the last topic discussion: procurement.
Managing the myriad programs designed to provide border security has proved challenging. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has launched a variety of technology efforts designed to enhance border security. Likewise, civilian firms are deeply involved with DHS in supporting these programs. Two panels running Wednesday examined the government and industry perspectives of coordinating border security. To adequately track the millions of people crossing U.S. borders every day, the DHS launched the US VISIT program. Initiated in 2004, the program logs and records the identities of foreign nationals entering the United States.
It's rare that an audience of industry and service members at all ranks get the chance to hear first hand from the first of a kind. But that was the case after eating lunch on Wednesday of WEST 2010. Vice Adm. Jack Dorsett, USN, the Navy's first N2/N6 may have begun his speech by wondering why he was among other high-ranking military experts at the conference, but he followed through with revealing the latest approaches the Navy is taking to achieve information dominance. The Navy is developing new mini-road maps of sorts that address nearly a dozen topics, including undersea dominance, maritime ballistic C2 and improved maritime domain awareness.
A person recognizable to anyone who has been in military information technology for a few years offered MILCOM 2009 attendees insights into where the Defense Information Systems Agency is headed. Tony Montemarano, component acquisition executive, DISA, revealed that the agency is working on a campaign plan in which the word "convergence" is used time and time again. The plan, which is in the midst of final modifications, comprises three lines of operations: enterprise infrastructure, command and control, and information sharing.