Piggybacks and workarounds: The Acquisition Lessons Learned Portal contains a wealth of information on new ways to use existing processes to get weapons to warfighters in less time.
by Ms. Amanda Nappi
The acquisition process can be a long and laborious journey for acquisition personnel and stakeholders involved in the development of a weapon system. With a plethora of required documentation, milestone requirements and validations needed from oversight councils, bureaucracy is slowing our ability to rapidly provide the warfighter with innovative weapon solutions. In addition to slowing our support to the warfighter, the lengthy process is costly to taxpayers and could cause our country to be overtaken by a more technologically advanced adversary. It is no wonder that Congress is looking for acquisition reform. The need for a faster, more streamlined acquisition process is clear.
The Army Acquisition Lessons Learned Portal (ALLP) is an online knowledge management tool that promotes the streamlining of acquisition by sharing lessons learned and best practices. While it is no substitute for truly streamlined processes and procedures, it is a place where those in acquisition can learn how to do things better and more efficiently. The following lessons from the ALLP share valuable experiences and advice from acquisition personnel on speeding up weapon system development and streamlining acquisition processes to more rapidly field weapon systems.
SPEEDING WEAPONS DEVELOPMENT
LL_763: Possibly shorten the time it takes to validate requirements by “piggybacking” onto unfulfilled, currently validated requirements and proposing a technology insertion of your program to fulfill those unmet requirements.
The Command Post of the Future (CPOF) is a virtual command post where participants can see a common picture of the battlefield and scheme of maneuver, and exchange information in real time from dispersed locations.
The CPOF concept and technology were developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, but it needed to be transitioned to a military service. The Army was preparing for deployment to Iraq at the time, and there was a critical operational need for the collaboration capability because of the growing threat from improvised explosive devices. Under the traditional DOD acquisition process, it generally takes two years to validate requirements. The CPOF transition team identified an approach that would substantially shorten the two year timeline to meet the Army’s urgent need: piggybacking on existing requirements.
The transition team searched existing information technology (IT) requirements within the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command database to find unfulfilled but validated requirements that the CPOF system could satisfy. The team found six or seven suitable requirements, including one for collaboration in the Maneuver Control System (MCS), a network of computer workstations that form the command-and-control system for Army maneuver elements in battalion through corps echelons. In January 2006, the team was able to justify adding CPOF as a “technology insertion” into the MCS program because of the MCS program’s unfulfilled collaboration requirement.
Identify candidate requirements and programs by searching existing, unmet requirements and selecting a best fit. It may be better to select requirements associated with programs that may pass Milestone C before your program fully transitions, to simplify completion of paperwork, meetings and other acquisition requirements.
LL_770: Consider fielding a capability without full-scale initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) and the Beyond Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Report, instead satisfying the need for operational testing by using the “as soon as practicable” provision in the Joint Network Node law.
The Joint Network Node – Network (JNN-N) is considered a successful rapid acquisition. Less than a year after the submission of an operational needs statement in 2004, the program delivered greatly enhanced beyond-line-of-sight communication capabilities to the warfighter. Furthermore, JNN was fielded to almost the entire Army within five years.
The rapid acquisition of JNN-N overcame a number of challenges, including the perceived avoidance or postponement of testing requirements by DOD’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation. The Army had allocated funds and bought equipment without completing testing. However, since JNN was not a program of record, DOD officials disagreed over whether JNN would fall under DOD Instruction (DODI) 5000.02 processes. Because of these rapid acquisition practices in the JNN-N program, Congress included provisions, now known as the JNN Law, in the FY07 National Defense Authorization Act that require operational test and evaluation (OT&E) before fielding. However, this law does not prevent fielding without IOT&E and a Beyond LRIP Report. It requires only that a Beyond LRIP Report be provided “as soon as practicable.”
The reduced testing would result in increased program risks of uncertain nature, which program managers would have to balance against the risks posed by not delivering the capability in a timely manner. Operational demonstration of effectiveness is currently not credited toward official testing requirements, but it may provide an opportunity to satisfy the law’s official testing requirement while reducing testing efforts.
To satisfy the valid need for operational testing without performing full-scale OT&E, acquire equipment on a small scale at first, and field equipment on a trial basis, enabling users to provide direct and rapid feedback to developers on equipment performance and other issues. This operational testing approach is also more consistent with the use of commercial and government off-the-shelf equipment, the subsystems of which are already mature and largely understood, and the importance of user feedback in setting requirements for software and IT-heavy systems.
LL_138: Use other services’ contracts when feasible and when an accelerated schedule does not allow for long contract development times.
Team Coalition, Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) used numerous methods to procure equipment; however, accelerated deployment timelines made it difficult for the team to execute contract actions in a timely matter. Ideally, an omnibus contract would satisfy most needs, but development of such a contract requires time that is often unavailable for a quick reaction capability. Team C5ISR, which included personnel from the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications – Tactical (PEO C3T) and the PEO for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, reached out to the U.S. Navy for several of its materiel procurements. The Navy contracting office became a critical partner, executing materiel procurements on several omnibus-type contracts to meet the deployment timelines.
Contact contracting offices from other services to see if omnibus-type contracts are available to meet your procurement needs. Be aware that contract fees are typically charged to the requiring organization.
MINIMIZING ACQUISITION BUREAUCRACY
LL_139: Establish a SharePoint site to collaborate on documentation and streamline coordination and communication.
Team C5ISR needed a common database throughout the quick reaction capability process because of the large amount of information sharing across multiple PEOs, program managers, disparate locations, etc. Team C5ISR capitalized on an existing SharePoint site at higher headquarters that allowed the team to use a subpage to collaborate on all existing documentation.
Establish a SharePoint site and use it as a configuration management tool. A SharePoint site will allow organizations to collaborate on all existing documentation, reduce large file transfers over email and streamline team coordination and communication. Capitalize on an existing SharePoint site and create a subpage to shorten site development time.
LL_949: To shorten acquisition timelines, leverage DODI 5000.02 Enclosure 13 (Rapid Acquisition) wherever allowed in order to execute and document a program in parallel, rather than following the serial acquisition category (ACAT) structure.
Enroute Mission Command and Control provides military internet access and mission command capability for Soldiers while in flight on U.S. Air Force C-17s to support rapidly deployed joint Global Response Force missions. It was the first Army program to use the new DODI 5000.02 Enclosure 13 for rapid acquisition to execute a production and deployment milestone. Enclosure 13 provides policy and procedure for acquisition programs that provide capabilities to fulfill urgent operational needs and other quick reaction capabilities that can be fielded in less than two years and are below the cost thresholds of ACAT I and IA programs. While the program management office still has to prepare all of the standard acquisition documentation, it can execute the program in parallel, which shortens the acquisition timeline.
Replace acquisition models for ACAT II and III programs with Enclosure 13, thereby allowing documentation and execution to happen in parallel, rather than serially. This model should become the standard rather than the exception.
LL_795: Regardless of the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA), allow those empowered to do so to make programmatic decisions to facilitate progress.
LL_672: When MDA and authority to conduct a Materiel Development Decision (MDD) was delegated from the Army Acquisition Executive (AAE) to a PEO, it greatly reduced the timeline for Full Deployment Decision (FDD) approval.
Does every decision for Acquisition Category ID programs have to go before the defense acquisition executive (DAE)? The MDA retains decision authority for some actions but delegates as appropriate.
The Airborne, Maritime, Fixed Station (AMF) radios are software programmable, multiband, multimode, mobile ad hoc networking radios that provide voice, data and video communications. AMF ensures the Soldier’s ability to communicate both horizontally and vertically via voice and data within all mission areas. The MDA for AMF radios is the DAE; however, the products delivered under that umbrella have been organized into subprograms. For the Small Airborne Networking Radio, the DAE delegated decision authority to the AAE. Time may be saved going through a lower-level MDA as programs and oversight duties can be better distributed across decision-makers.
The Global Command and Control System – Army (GCCS-A) is the Army’s strategic, theater and tactical command, control and communications system. It provides a seamless link of operational information and critical data from the strategic GCCS-Joint to Army theater elements and below through a common picture of Army tactical operations. When the AAE delegated MDA and authority to conduct an MDD for the GCSS-A bridge effort to PEO C3T, it greatly reduced the timeline for FDD approval. PEO C3T conducted weekly FDD integrated product team meetings to discuss the program status and worked to keep tasks on schedule. Delegating the MDD reduced the time between MDD submission and FDD approval from 180 days to 120 days.
Recommend pushing decision authority to the lowest levels possible to better distribute programs and oversight duties across the potential decision-makers and remove unnecessary bureaucracy and potential program delays. Authority also may be delegated to lower levels for some decisions, such as those concerning subprograms, program modifications or bridge efforts, thus eliminating the need to go through additional gatekeepers to access the MDA.
For more information on these and other Army lessons learned within the ALLP, go to https://allp.amsaa.army.mil; a common access card is required to log in.
MS. AMANDA NAPPI is a supply systems analyst from the Logistics and Readiness Center of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command on developmental assignment with the U.S. Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. She holds a B.A. in mathematics from The College of New Jersey and is working toward an M.S. in supply chain management at Towson University. She is Level II certified in life cycle logistics and Level I certified in program management.
This article will be printed in the October – December issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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