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.”
The two companies heading a consortium that did not win the U.S. Navy’s $3.5 billion Next-Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) have registered a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). This move effectively stops all work on NGEN until the GAO rules on their protest, which must occur by October 23.
Today’s financial skimping will lead to military forces and equipment that are short on readiness for future conflicts. Cutbacks in training and travel to conferences where service members network, learn about the latest in technologies and benefit from educational courses is one way to meet mandated budget cuts; but in the long term, they will result in service members who are ill-prepared to meet the challenges of what some believe will be a volatile future. Simultaneously, reductions in maintenance of vehicles, networks and ships will result in higher repair bills much like a car that is not routinely taken to the shop ends up costing the owner more to fix in the long run.
The sea service wants to avoid eating its seed corn as it continues modernization efforts.
Lean budgets will not stop the U.S. Navy from developing and providing new technologies to support warfighters, but the service will have to be more creative in how it manages and pays for new systems, according to top officials. This may involve more risk as well as greater accountability.
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.
The U.S. intelligence community will be relying to a greater degree on commercial technologies to meet its current and future requirements, including some that formerly were the purview of government laboratories. And, because much of the community’s research is applied research, it will select its budgeting priorities based in part on how well the commercial sector can fill in some technology gaps on its own.
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.
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.
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.
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.