• James F. Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, speaks at the AFCEA Small Business Innovation Summit. Photo by Elizabeth Moon
     James F. Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, speaks at the AFCEA Small Business Innovation Summit. Photo by Elizabeth Moon

The Navy Hungers for Small Business Activity

July 26, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The characteristics that define entrepreneurial firms may suit sea service technology needs.


Small business may hold the key to helping the Navy meet its advanced technology requirements as it girds for a contested future. Speeding new capabilities into the force, along with breaking the traditional mold of acquisition, could prevent the Navy from falling short of its modernization goals.

These points were presented by James F. Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition. Speaking at the AFCEA Small Business Innovation Summit, Geurts described the agility of small businesses as a key asset that could serve Navy needs—and one where small business can have an effect.

“We are unsustainable right now in the current cost of systems,” Geurts declared. “We’ve got to create new ways of doing things.”

He suggested that small businesses seek out the deputy program manager of a contract, who is a small business advocate. Other advice he offered echoed that of previous speakers at the summit, who told firms to know their contracting authority’s requirements before approaching to pitch a solution. They also should know other potential challenges for which they might have a solution.

“We’ve had small businesses come in with the wrong product, and the person with the product didn’t understand we had another problem it would work on,” Geurts related. “My challenge to small business is getting the link better … so I understand what you already have to solve the problem.”

Among the needs the Navy faces is how to integrate manned, unmanned and autonomous systems, he noted. The Navy also has to make applications cloud capable. And, it wants to apply advanced technologies to training. “[We want to use] augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning to speed up our training cycles."

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