ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Senior leaders from across the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command shared opportunities for test and evaluation contracts with members of industry and small business during the ATEC segment of the Advance Planning Briefing for Industry and Small Business Forum at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Dec. 5.
Maj. Gen. Genaro Dellarocco, commanding general of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, welcomed all contract partners from across the country as part of the three-day event that was the first of its kind at APG. The segment also included a command overview from Brian Simmons, ATEC executive technical director, and all of ATEC’s directors shared opportunities for contracts with the crowd.
The leaders hoped to not only provide information on contract opportunities, but to open dialogue with potential contract partners. Providing vendors with as much information needed to meet the command’s requirements for contract bids is critical as is understanding vendors and their needs. As ATEC strives to become more affordable and more effective, developing positive partnerships is more critical than ever.
Dellarocco provided potential vendors with two key takeaways: embracing interdependency and changing the way we do business, both while remaining affordable and effective.
“We’re looking for ways to become interdependent to be affordable and more effective,” Dellarocco told the members. “Not just more effective, but making testing and evaluation more efficient.” Now that Network Integration Evaluations are a part of Army acquisition, Dellarocco indicated that contract partners would see a change in the way ATEC, and the Army, does business.
One of those ways is by incorporating Lean Six Sigma, or LSS, practices to create efficiencies and aid in cost avoidance across the command. Efficiencies were not only developed in processes (with total savings to date at approximately $727 million), but ATEC was also able to harness that in human resource areas as well.
“We invest in our people. We’ve taken LSS and made it as much about taking care of people as finding efficiencies,” said Dellarocco. “We’re looking at how we train them; we send them to school; and we provide them developmental opportunities — all of these things serve to raise their skill levels.”
Harnessing LSS to create efficiencies and develop personnel provides a more affordable way for the command to do business with customers and potential contract partners.
Another important part of personnel development is ensuring the workforce, whether military, civilian or contractor, are cared for and free from harassment. “We’re taking harassment of any kind seriously to provide our workforces with a positive environment where they can thrive,” said Dellarocco. He expressed to vendors that the Army and ATEC are committed to a harassment-free environment, and he has an open-door policy for reporting incidents to ensure all are protected.
Embracing interdependency remains crucial for ATEC. Interdependency is a concept that has become increasingly popular during a time of fiscal austerity for the military.
“Overseas contingency operations money flowed in, customers came in with buckets of money, and we executed,” Dellarocco said. “It got sloppy sometimes, but we learned things we need not do any longer. We became dependent on each other, and that interdependency helped us structure contracts that would do everything so contracting remains affordable.”
As ATEC strives to keep things affordable and efficient, it’s the interdependency that has allowed the command to integrate testing to save customers and the Army money while delivering capabilities earlier to the warfighter. “Integrated testing reduces costs even more, reduces test design risk because we learn more earlier in the lifecycle of a system, and it provides more effective means to get the data we are actually seeking,” he said.
Across the board, ATEC is changing its culture and its thinking, to develop better business practices and relationships with contract partners. “We’re changing up how we manage contracts and providing a framework to help you achieve more successful bids,” said Brian Simmons, executive technical director of ATEC. “It’s a more corporate view.”
The change up is in part a response to contract partners needing a more user-friendly way to bid on opportunities with the command. Since ATEC touches nearly everything the Army needs to test, vice medical and uniforms, it is critical that discussions in ways to clarify bidding requirements are open and of value.
Simmons also touched on the importance of interdependency. To support the Army’s new agile process, ATEC’s largest developmental test range now hosts the majority of the command’s operational tests. “It forces us to integrate in a healthy way and changes our interdependency,” he said.
ATEC has an intense workload conducting nearly 1,100 test events daily — a number that has been constant for nearly 20 years. Those test events correlate to roughly 10 million direct labor hours on ATEC ranges across the country. Those numbers have been decreasing steadily, but none of ATEC’s ranges seem to be adversely affected by the down turn. During a time of fiscal uncertainty, maintaining relevance is critical for business.
“No range goes out of business; no range falls [in direct labor hours] faster,” he said. The way ATEC manages the ranges is a reason for that stability. ATEC leverages its ranges to avoid duplicity, which has created an interdependency that allows the command to contract and operate like never before.
All the efficiencies ATEC creates aren’t just benefiting the command, they’re benefiting contract partners too. “Everyone sees big savings in not sending contractors on safari,” Simmons said. “We’re identifying where we already have capabilities on the front end, like during the NIE for example, so we aren’t duplicating efforts in three places.”
In addition to saving on contractor travel, ATEC is bundling multiple contracts rather than sending contracts piecemeal to the same contractor. It enhances accountability and visibility for ATEC and its contract partners.
“Bringing costs down while we’re on a mission and organizing contractors to package capabilities, requires interdependency,” said Simmons. “We’re an enterprise and engagement with industry is vital to what we do.”
It’s evident that ATEC leaders are dedicated to transforming business practices to stay affordable and effective, and contract partner feedback and participation will have an important role in shaping the future.
“It’s clear that we can’t execute this mission without you,” said David Jimenez, director of the Army Evaluation Center. “You’re integral to our being effective and we want to ensure that what we’re asking for is clear and you know what we’re looking for.
“Take advantage of the opportunities being presented here at the conference and ask questions — join the team.”
ATEC is the premier test and evaluation organization in the Department of Defense valued by customers and decision makers for providing essential information that ensures warfighters have the right capabilities for success across the entire spectrum of operations. For briefings of potential contracting opportunities and other APBI Industry Day content visit: http://cecom.army.mil/smallbusiness/teamapgapbi.html.