The defining images of the opening stages of the 2001 Afghanistan invasion were of bearded U.S. Special Operations forces on horseback talking with invisible air assets high overhead. Ancient transportation technology melded with cutting-edge communication protocols created an odd but appropriate scenario in the midst of a wholly unanticipated conflict. The synergy of high- and low-capability technologies likely will define 21st century conflicts, especially with foes we cannot currently imagine.
Anyone who has attended an AFCEA conference in the past two months has heard the constant drumbeat from senior government leadership on the limitations on operations and readiness likely to occur in defense, intelligence and homeland security. At the AFCEA/USNI West 2013 Conference in San Diego January 29-31, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a packed audience that the U.S. Defense Department did not know how much money it would receive, when it would receive it or what the restrictions on its use would be.
The Defense Department has a spending problem and must be reined in. The solution, however, goes far beyond simplistic budget cutting efforts such as across-the-board sequestration. It involves a fundamental cultural shift from both our appropriators and our subordinate-level commanders.
The past 10 years have been a financial boon for the military. This was true even as the rest of the U.S. economy was beset by recession and increasing unemployment. In 2001, the Defense Department base budget was $290.5 billion (in fiscal year 2012 dollars). By 2011, this amount had risen to $526.1 billion, excluding the funding required to sustain the Iraq and Afghan wars.
Over the past month, the U.S. Army has consolidated two directorates in an effort to continue improving agile acquisition. Combining the offices is designed to allow more efficient and effective cooperation, enhance long-term planning capabilities and boost the service’s ability to acquire an overall system of systems.
West 2013 Online Show Daily, Day 1
Quote of the Day:“’Flat’ is the new ‘up’ in this defense budget environment.”— Robert O. Work, undersecretary of the Navy
The military services are facing potentially crippling constraints if sequestration takes place in March. Defense officials foresee the likelihood of draconian budget cuts being imposed that will cripple the force just as it is being counted on to assume new strategic missions. In most cases, the services will have to choose to sacrifice some capabilities so that others will remain part of the force. In worse-case scenarios, the U.S. military may be unable to meet its obligations when a crisis emerges.
NIE efforts do not pan out as expected; neither do some other rapid procurement approaches.
The U.S. Army’s Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) events are not working as well as anticipated in moving new technologies into the force, say two Army officials. This lack of success is accompanied by drawbacks in rapid acquisition strategies that may lead to a change in traditional acquisition approaches for communications and information systems.
Bryon Young, executive director, Army Contracting Command - Aberdeen Proving Ground, explains that the NIE process creates problems by attaining some of its goals.
The program may be revolutionary, but its product is evolutionary.
Despite its sea-change approach to acquisition, the U.S. Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network program is being designed to evolve from its predecessor, the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, in bids submitted by the two teams vying for the multibillion-dollar contract. The two bidders are focusing their efforts on the transition between the two networks, which is a process that will take several years.
Sequestration, the U.S. government’s across-the-board deficit reduction mandate, is programmed to go into effect on January 2, 2013, despite universal warnings about the consequences of this action. Under this policy, fiscal year 2013 domestic discretionary spending will see an 8.4 percent cut in appropriated funds, and non-exempt defense spending will suffer a decrease of 9.2 percent. Defense agency budget actions could range from decreasing output to reducing personnel costs, and cuts in the personnel budget would most likely be through furloughs because terminating staff costs money. While operational defense forces in the field would not be cut, their training, equipment, facilities and logistics support could be cut.
A new computing architecture emphasizes shared resources.
The nation’s intelligence community has embarked on a path toward a common computer desktop and a cloud computing environment designed to facilitate both timely sharing of information and cost savings. The implementation could result in budget savings of 20 to 25 percent over existing information technology spending within six years, but the ramifications could include large cultural changes that result both in lost jobs and business for industry partners.
People, not necessarily technology, come together in a plan to foster creativity in acquisition.
The head of technology information at the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization has initiated a plan to improve how coalition members procure capabilities by focusing first on personnel, not technology. Through the new approach, government, industry and academia will re-frame conversations and have more meaningful dialogues, which should lead to deploying apt solutions more quickly.
Defense customers are driving change; this effort tries to map the future.
The new Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) strategic plan lines up many of the diverse information technology thrusts that are whirring throughout the Defense Department, according to an agency official. Tony Montemarano, director for strategic planning and information at DISA, states that the plan’s main goal is to codify where DISA is headed. This direction is fueled by demand signals from the Defense Department, particularly in high-mileage areas such as the Joint Information Environment, mobility initiatives and cloud services.
|Stephen Guerin of Simtable showcases his solution to the common operational picture portion of the second PlugFest mash-up challenge. Guerin won first place in the event.|
The need to do more with less dictates crucial changes in national security procurement.
Top U.S. military officials are warning that the current fiscal crisis is the single biggest threat to the country’s national security. And, the most critical concern facing the United States is ensuring that it has the resources necessary to maintain its security globally—and that it is prepared for the challenges ahead.
In fiscal years to come, the U.S. Defense Department must make major changes to the way it deals with the competing forces of decreased financial resources and continually morphing security challenges.
Procurement environment calls for more personnel, training and options.
The new Marine One, the presidential helicopter, is one example of how the government adds military specifications to commercial products, causing cost overruns. It is estimated that the cost of the fleet of 28 helicopters has nearly doubled from the original contract amount.
A revolution quietly erupted in October. On the University of Chicago campus, more than 80 innovators came together to discuss their ideas about how to solve some of the military’s most vexing problems. Not blind to the chain-of-command bureaucracy in which they operate, these pragmatic dreamers passionately moved forward in spite of it, because the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF) conference provided a place for in-person networking and commiserating, brainstorming and bracing one another up.
Current and former military leaders are used to following orders. “Take that hill,” or “Secure that village,” followed by “Yes, sir!” (or ma’am). It is what they’ve done all of their lives. Now, the order is “Reduce that budget,” so of course their response has been “Yes, Congress!” But as the military responds to this order to crunch the numbers, it is now explaining to political leaders that there is an unexpected role reversal they must accept. So, U.S. representatives and senators better pay close attention to what they’re saying.
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.
To help keep global security professionals abreast of business opportunities and changes in the government acquisition landscape, AFCEA International has gathered information about these topics in a new section of the AFCEA website. Called AFCEA Corporate Member Resources, the page features new content about military and government organizations as it becomes available.
AFCEA’s Small Business team is hosting a partnership symposium during the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference that features one-on-one meetings between large companies and small businesses to determine partnering potential. The event takes place in the Constitution and Independence ballrooms at the Grand Hyatt, Washington, D.C., on February 26, 2013, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.