Fiscal constraints and technology evolution are forcing the government to re-evaluate procurement efforts with a renewed vigor. Industry has suggestions for improving processes, but progress will require a different level of dialogue between companies and their public-sector clients. Company leaders believe they can help government overcome some of its issues because they understand both realistic technical solutions as well as the effect policies have on acquisition cycles. But they need the opportunity to show what is available. Government personnel increasingly are calling for that knowledge; however, legal and fair competition concerns often limit meaningful discussion, resulting in misunderstanding and frustration.
The U.S. Army is adjusting its Network Integration Evaluations to facilitate acquisitions more rapidly. Calls from industry and soldiers themselves have precipitated the moves. As companies face reduced funding streams, and technology advances in increasingly shorter intervals, implementing briefer time frames between testing and deployment is imperative to remaining viable on and off the field.
Historical trends during military drawdowns indicate that current Defense Department budget cuts could last for more than a decade. This situation could endanger major acquisition programs and negatively impact the ability of the United States both to pivot forces to the Asia-Pacific region and to maintain a presence in the Middle East, experts say. But the department may have a short window of opportunity to reconcile strategy with lower budgets.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet is feeling the pain of budget cuts, and its commander is looking toward industry to provide it with necessary capabilities under tight budgetary conditions. Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., USN, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, described the approaches he wants industry to take along with the fleet’s requirements on the final day of TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
“We’re looking to our partners in industry to develop the new technologies and capabilities we need,” Adm. Harris declared. “And, we have do it in a fiscally constrained environment.”
Defense spending must shift its outlook away from what it needs and toward where it can afford not to spend money, according to a Navy information technology executive. Terry Halvorsen, Department of the Navy chief information officer, told the breakfast audience at the final day of TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii, that the department must become more outcome focused and determine the risk of not doing something.
“The number one question in the Pentagon today is, ‘What am I not going to spend money on?’” Halvorsen stated.
Future defense information technology is likely to focus on a set of services instead of specific elements. Accordingly, bidders likely will consist of industry teams bringing diverse expertise to the acquisition table.
This view was offered by Terry Halvorsen, Department of the Navy chief information officer, at the breakfast during the final day of TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Halvorsen cited the Navy’s Next-Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) acquisition as an example of the future. The winning bidder was a consortium that comprised several different companies
Reductions in defense funding are having a greater effect on the force than simply instilling fiscal belt-tightening. Already strapped for cash, the services are exploring innovative ideas for cost-efficient information technology acquisition.
Terry Halvorsen, Department of the Navy chief information officer, discussed the effect of the budget cuts at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Halvorsen observed that, while each of the military departments is in a different information technology environment, all of the staffs in the services are taking corresponding cuts. “We will have to communicate more effectively,” he offered. ”We won’t have less work.”
The move to the cloud that is gripping all elements of government and industry offers great potential for the U.S. Navy, according to its chief information officer. Terry Halvorsen told the breakfast audience on the final day of TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii, that the move to the cloud is one of the best areas for gaining effect in Navy information technology.
However, other elements must fall into place for this move to be successful. Halvorsen said it must be but it must be coupled “with how you look at and structure applications,” adding the Navy has too many applications.
The U.S. Navy is expanding its autonomous subsurface fleet with the introduction of a platform designed for persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) as well as offensive capabilities. Dubbed the Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV), the program of record should result in a system that offloads missions from other assets.
When stripped to the bare essentials, the process followed in most defense acquisitions is quite simple. A requirement is generated, an acquisition strategy developed and a contract let, before the item is produced, deployed, sustained and, eventually, disposed of. Typically, efforts at acquisition reform have dealt with the predeployment phases and consist mostly of renaming the phases by changing milestones from ABC to 123 and back to ABC, by sliding milestone events left or right and by adding oversight reviews.
The U.S. Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network, freed from the challenge to its contract award, now enters a phase of uncertainty as the government and the winning bidder confront the aftermath of a 108-day delay. This delay has affected both the Navy’s and the contractor’s plans for the transition from the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet.
The U.S. military’s readiness to fight and its ability to purchase major weapon systems for the future are both threatened by strict budget caps established under sequestration, the Joint Chiefs warned during a November 7 hearing with the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services. Major weapon systems, including aircraft carriers, unmanned aerial vehicles, the ballistic missile submarine replacement program known as SSBN-X and the Army’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program, all could be negatively impacted, the chiefs say.
Current fiscal and world conditions are taking their toll on the ability of the U.S. Army’s signals community to keep soldiers equipped with the latest developments. However, leadership embraces the challenges as impetus to improve, ensuring that troops are prepared as they transition from an operational to a contingency force. Necessity is inspiring creativity to developing solutions, with the government reaching out to industry for more help. As the service branch’s chief information officer/G-6, Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, said, “You can’t wring your hands if you’re rolling up your sleeves.”
The delay in implementing the U.S. Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) caused by the contract challenge to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has affected more than just the transition time frame. The network transition will cost more for the Navy because of lost funding opportunities.
The Navy lost the ability to use funds in fiscal year 2013, because the protest was not resolved until a month into fiscal year 2014. So, all the transition costs will have to be borne on funds in fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Fiscal year 2013 funds earmarked for NGEN could not be applied to the transition because of the stop-work order imposed with the challenge.
Lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) procurement might not give government the best solutions, and it definitely causes consternation for industry, but it is here to stay at least for a while. A survey released this week reveals deep concerns about the LPTA business deals and why current fiscal demands will keep them around.
The first step toward an enterprisewide information environment is taking place on desktops belonging to personnel with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Deployment has begun for the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise, or ICITE, which aims to provide a common computing environment based on cloud technology (see SIGNAL Magazine articles Managing Change in the Intelligence Community and Intelligence CIOs Teaming for Change from October 2012).
The U.S. Army should subject new technologies to developmental testing before moving them into operational testing at its Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs), according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Another recommendation, which is under consideration by the Defense Department, is for the Army to correct issues that arise during an NIE before buying and fielding systems.
With the nation facing a new atmosphere of austerity and mandated budget cuts, now would seem to be the absolute worst time to target the federal government for defense-related technology contracts. Yet, for one business, tight government funding is more of an opportunity than a challenge.
The U.S. Navy’s Next-Generation Enterprise Network will introduce a host of new capabilities for users when it is implemented. These improvements will become apparent over time as the system’s flexibility allows for technology upgrades and operational innovation on the part of its users.
The network’s overall goals remain the same despite a protest over the contract award. However the protest is resolved, the program is designed to provide networking at less cost and with more flexibility to adjust for changes that emerge as a result of operational demand or technology improvements. These new capabilities could range from greater use of mobile technologies to virtual desktops dominating user environments.
Rear Adm. Robert Day Jr., USCG, assistant U.S. Coast Guard commandant for command, control, communications and information technology, sees the Joint Information Environment as an opportunity to resolve some of the most pressing information technology problems in the years to come as he faces a future with more challenges and fewer resources. He says a military-wide common operating environment will establish “enterprisewide mandates that programs cannot ignore.”