Army AL&T magazine is USAASC’s quarterly professional journal, comprising in-depth, analytically focused articles. The magazine’s mission is to instruct members of the Army AL&T community about AL&T processes, procedures, techniques and management philosophy; it is also to disseminate information pertinent to the professional development of workforce members and others engaged in AL&T activities.
A Model and Process for Transitioning Urgent Acquisition
By Mr. Stephen F. Conley and Dr. Craig M. Arndt Since the start of the Global War on Terrorism, the acquisition community has been focused on providing Quick Reaction Capabilities (QRC) to Warfighting units in theater. Some of this equipment is found to be so effective that it is worth keeping and fielding to the entire service. When a service decides that a QRC is worth keeping, the capability must transition and become an enduring capability otherwise known as a formal Program of Record (POR). The Department of Defense (DoD) has struggled with how to execute this transition for years. This paper provides a conceptual process to transition a QRC to a POR. In a 2016 Defense Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) magazine article, Mr. Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, stated that “DoD Instruction (DoDI) 5000 series guidance does not address the process of the transition of QRCs to PORs” (Kendall, 2016, p. 5). The process to equip a unit with a QRC is documented in DoDI 5000.02 along with the process for fielding a POR. The policy for determining if a QRC is to become a POR is known. But when a program manager (PM) is given the mission to transition a QRC to a formal POR, processes are misaligned and inefficient. For example, a QRC does not typically have a POM funding line to support resource allocation decisions. In addition, the acquisition program office is tasked with developing a litany of documents required to support a POR. Policy has bifurcated traditional and urgent acquisition and there is no document that attempts to explain transition between the two processes. For instance, the 2017 DoDI 5000.02 Change 2 describes both the traditional and the urgent (rapid) acquisition systems but does not provide direction on the transition of urgent programs to traditional programs. In addition to the overarching policy laid out in the 5000 series, the Army has several regulations that govern specific aspects of the acquisition systems. Army Regulation 71-9, Warfighting Capabilities Determination (AR 71-9, 2009), prescribes, identifies, determines, and integrates policies of required warfighting capabilities. Army Regulation 73-1, Test and Evaluation Policy, prescribes implementing policies for Army test and evaluation (T&E) activities and the 2015 Department of the Army Memorandum on the nonstandard equipment (NSE) Army Requirements Oversight Council (AROC) Process. These documents provide extensive guidance on both traditional and urgent acquisition but like DoDI 5000.02 do not provide significant guidance on the Army rapid acquisition systems transition. This paper used the disparate literature to support the current DoDI 5000.2 and created a model and process for transitioning urgent acquisition initiatives into PORs. The model is intended to help acquisition leaders decide on a specific tailored program model to transition a QRC to an enduring capability. The following recommendations are made to set the stage for further discussion and potential research on the topic of urgent acquisition. First, the deliberate acquisition process builds towards milestone (MS) C while the urgent acquisition transition process would back into a MS C. To do this, codifying the terminology and process steps is necessary to alleviate confusion. Second, to successfully transition a QRC to POR, aligning the major processes, [Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS); the Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution System (PPBES); and the Defense Acquisition System (DAS)] is a must. The Army’s efforts to align the major processes on requirements, acquisition and budget through their Nonstandard Equipment (NSE) Army Requirements Oversight Council (AROC) and Strategic Portfolio Analysis Review (SPAR) events is a current example that enables a potential program model for urgent acquisition. At the NSE AROC, if the urgent program receives the disposition decision to transition a QRC to POR an AROC Memorandum (AROCM) must designate a Program Executive Office (PEO) take charge of the new program. If a SPAR decides to keep the rapid program and field it to the Army, the Army Acquisition Executive or designee would need to create a POR with an Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM). This should be done at a MS D. MS D would be a milestone decision authority (MDA) decision that defines for the transitioning NSE a tailored list of required documentation to meet MS C. With the requirements, acquisition, and budget processes now aligned the path forward has been shaped for success and a PM has everything necessary to drive towards a MS C. The urgent acquisition transition process would look something like figure 1 below. Recommendations These recommendations are provided as a starting point for senior acquisition professionals to consider when discussing the next update of DoDI 5000.02. Lexicon. It is recommended that different terminology be used with each separate process of the DAS via the concept of precision in language. The deliberate process would use the terms fielding and POR. The intent of the deliberate acquisition process is to field a POR to an entire service. The urgent process would use the terms equipping and QRC. The intent of the urgent acquisition process is to equip a QRC to a unit. Equipping vs fielding and QRC vs POR create a lexicon to eliminate terminology and process confusion within a dual acquisition system. It keeps it simple. Milestone E (MS E). Acquisition policy has formalized both a “Deliberate Acquisition” process and an “Urgent Acquisition” process. Following the lexicon recommendation above the acquisition language must also separate the major decision points of these processes. The Deliberate Acquisition process begins with MS A and builds through MS B ending with MS C. At MS C the program gets a fielding decision for an entire service which carries the process through sustainment and final disposition. The Urgent Acquisition process begins with an Operational Needs Statement (ONS) or Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statement (JUONS) and drives towards an equipping decision for a specific unit. In enclosure 13 of DoDI 5000.02 this decision is called the production and deployment milestone. This paper recommends the milestone be formally named MS E. MS E would be the decision to equip a unit with an NSE material solution using the urgent acquisition process. The equipping decision would be limited to the amount needed to complete the entire requirement under urgency. NSE material is defined as, “equipment that has not been type-classified, is not an acquisition program or component of a program, and has typically been procured to support an urgent or emergent operational need.” (Anderson, 2015, p. 2) Changing the name forces the community to separate the two processes: deliberate and urgent. It sets the tone and intent of the two processes. Unlike the deliberate process that builds a new capability from MS A to MS C, the urgent process equips a unit quickly at MS E and if later determined works backward to a MS C if the service needs it as an enduring capability. Figure 1 – Potential Urgent Acquisition Program Model Disposition Determination. Enclosure 13 of DoDI 5000.02 states that no later than one year after the program receives the production and deployment milestone, the now recommended MS E, the DoD Component will conduct a Disposition Analysis which will recommend one of the following options: Termination, Sustainment or Transition. This paper recommends that the DoDI go one step further. The DoD Component must also align the PPBES with the DAS appropriating funds to enable the QRC transition to POR. The Army’s AROC and SPAR efforts are a current example of how to align these processes. Milestone D (MS D). The second milestone of this potential urgent capability acquisition process would be Milestone D formalizing the decision to transition to a POR. We recommend that to prepare for a MS D, the PM and staff would focus on tailoring the business, technical, and support strategies, and associated documentation. Another prerequisite to MS D would be for each service to develop decision points that document the transition of the urgent capability to new Programs of Record thus aligning the Defense Management process for requirements, budget, and acquisition. MS D would empower the MDA to tailor a number of program aspects: reduce documentation by authorizing waivers; set developmental and operational testing to prepare for a full material release, review contracting, and more. This tailoring effort would minimize what the QRC would have to prepare to reduce program risk wherever possible. The results of MS D would be to create a POR from the QRC and focus this new POR on a path to a MS C fielding decision. Mandate disposition decision as handoff point. Currently, most organizations involved with urgent acquisition are primarily focused on just getting equipment to the field. These organizations should remain the proponent for the urgent capability until the component level disposition decision point. If the QRC is to become a POR, this decision point becomes the handoff from the urgent acquisition organization to its associated deliberate acquisition organization, typically a PEO. Mandate Data collection to shape testing. Organizations involved with equipping a unit with a QRC should be required to collect developmental and operational data in preparation for the component level disposition decision. This should be done in conjunction with the appropriate operational test agency (OTA). AR 73-1 already has the Army’s OTA, the Army Test and Evaluation Command, writing a C&L report for the production and disposition decision or MS E. Aligning the Defense Management processes. The Army organizations involved with urgent acquisition should work with the Training and Doctrine Command to codify an updated capability document to replace the ONS or JUONS. This would successfully shape the requirements process for transition. Army organizations involved with urgent acquisition should work with the appropriate PEO to ensure cost estimates and funding profiles are understood and can be inserted into the PPBES. The Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office is a good example: “The Rapid Capabilities Office is a total Army effort that will leverage capabilities and expertise from across the service, especially the Army staff, program executive offices, training and doctrine community, intelligence community and science and technology community.” (Stalder, 2016) This would provide information about the QRC to support the component level disposition decision and shape the OT needed if the QRC were to transition to a POR. In 2016, Mr. Kendall issued the challenge that: “DoD Instruction (DoDI) 5000 series guidance does not address the process of the transition of QRCs to PORs” (Kendall, 2016, p. 5). This 2017 paper shows that there is enough current guidance in piece-parts available to create a QRC to POR transition process and update DoDI 5000.02. DoD can meet this challenge and close this gap if its Acquisition Senior Leaders choose to. References: Anderson, J. (2015). Interim policy memorandum: Nonstandard equipment (NSE) Army Requirements Oversight Council (AROC) process [Memorandum]. Washington, DC, Department of the Army. Kendall, F. (2016, July-August). Improving acquisition from within. Defense AT&L, 45(4), 2–7. Retrieved from http://dau.dodlive.mil/files/2016/06/Kendall.pdf. Stalder, J. (2016). Army launches rapid capabilities office. Retrieved from U.S. Army website: https://www.army.mil/article/174290/army_launches_rapid_capabilities_office. Mr. Stephen F. Conley has a bachelor’s in Industrial Engineering from Lafayette College and an MBA in Information Systems from City University. He is a Defense Acquisition University Senior Service College graduate, Harvard Senior Executive Fellow and retired Soldier. He is currently the Director, Acquisition Life Cycle Cell for the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research Development Engineering Center. Dr. Craig M. Arndt has extensive experience as a senior executive and technology leader in the research, engineering and defense industries, with extensive experience as an innovative leader in industry, academic and government. Dr. Arndt currently serves as Senior Research Fellow and Professor of Systems Engineering at the Defense Acquisition University. He is often called on as an expert to chair major program reviews, and lead new programs, proposals and technology development. As a senior scientist at the Air Force Labs and the Air Force Institute of Technology, Dr. Arndt led the development of advanced control systems, as well as imaging and modeling systems for aircraft, smart bombs, and aircraft systems. As an engineer, scientist, inventor, and engineering manager at a number of leading defense contractors, Dr. Arndt was responsible for developing a wide range of communications, sensors, and counter terrorism technologies and systems. Dr. Arndt has led and managed business units, companies, and engineering organizations of all sizes located throughout the United States and internationally. As a program manager he has managed programs ranging from research grants to Category 1D major Department of Defense acquisitions. Dr. Arndt is recognized as an international expert in biometric systems, human computer interface, sensor(s) and sensor systems, image and signal processing, and artificial intelligence. As an active member of the academic and professional community, he has served as a technical expert for the Army and Defense Science Boards, the CNO’s Strategic Studies Group (SSG), the National Science Foundation, the International Standards Organization (ISO), the IEEE, and other public and private technical organizations, and several major universities, and is past Vice President of the Virginia Society of Professional Engineering. Dr. Arndt holds five university degrees including a Doctor of Engineering in Electrical Engineering from the University of Dayton, a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies form the US Navy War College, a Master of Science in Human Factors Engineering and a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from Wright State University, and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Ohio State University. Dr. Arndt has extensive publications of his research and holds 7 US patents. In addition, Dr. Arndt is a Licensed Professional Engineer, a Certified Human Factors Professional, and holds acquisition certification in Systems engineering, Science and technology management, Test and Evaluation and Program Management. This article is an honorable mention in the 2017 Maj. Gen. Harold J. “Harry” Green Awards for Acquisition Writing competition. A special supplement featuring the winning entries is online now, and will accompany the print version of the April – June 2018 issue of Army AL&T magazine. If you wish to be added to the magazine’s mailing list, subscribe online; if you’d like multiple subscriptions, please send an email to email@example.com. Subscribe to Army AL&T News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce. Related posts: Creating a Defense Acquisition Consulting Team Network Assisted GPS … Coming Soon to a Precision Fire Mission Near You! 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Per Vivo Labs warms to tech transfer
By Mr. Troy Carter In 2005, Russ Hubbard went through boot camp like everyone in the Army, and he saw fresh-faced recruits overheat even while they chugged canteens of water and bawled: “Beat the heat, drill sergeant, beat the heat.” After several overseas deployments, Hubbard left the Army in 2012, transitioned back to civilian life in Kingsport, Tennessee, and founded Per Vivo Labs Inc. to address some of the problems plaguing Soldiers. The startup’s first product was called Polar Skin Ice Sheets, a highly portable lifesaving solution for on-site treatment of heat injuries. The company’s first customer was the U.S. Army Cadet Command. After the success of the ice sheets, Hubbard began exploring new mission-focused technologies for the U.S. military. And for that, he began looking within the DOD lab system, assisted by TechLink. “We’re expanding,” Hubbard said recently, “and TechLink has been helping us access the technology to do so.” Two technologies identified by TechLink caught his attention. The first was rate-actuated tethers, which contain a shear-thickening fluid first explored by the Army for body armor applications. Shear-thickening materials stiffen when exposed to high strain. The original ballistic application involved aramid fibers in a shear-thickening fluid pouch. It was envisioned that at low rates (walking or running), the armor would be flexible. When impacted by a bullet, the armor would stiffen at the point of impact and provide increased ballistic protection. The tethers exhibit the same behavior: Pull slowly and the tethers stretch. Pull quickly and the tethers resist. Hubbard envisioned physical therapy applications, such as braces and resistance bands. The second technology was a Navy-developed training device for bomb-sniffing dogs. The mixed odor delivery device (MODD) enables safer, more effective K-9 training on homemade explosives without actually blending oxidizers and fuels. Developing those products meant licensing patented DOD technology. While the rate-actuated tethers are still being developed, Hubbard began selling the MODD in October 2017, under the trademark Odor Trace, to military and law enforcement customers. Per Vivo Labs is just one example of how the well-orchestrated transfer of DOD technology can reap benefits for industry and the economy. The same DOD technology can benefit multiple businesses simultaneously. As an example, Per Vivo Labs is now partnering with other small businesses to develop the rate-actuated tethers for applications including chin straps and ankle braces. This article is published in the January – March 2018 issue of Army AL&T magazine. Subscribe to Army AL&T News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce. Related posts: BEYOND GPS Medical Operations in the Multidomain Battlefield The next ground combat vehicle Survive and project indirect fires
Creating a Defense Acquisition Consulting Team
By Capt. Christopher W. Piercy Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed or implied in this essay are those of the author and should not be construed as carrying the official sanction of the Department of Defense, Air Force, F-35 Joint Program Office, or other agencies or departments of the U.S. government. Background In 2009 I commissioned into the Air Force as a Second Lieutenant and was assigned the Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) 64P, which designated me as a Contracting Officer. As a Contracting Officer it is my responsibility to support the warfighter by acquiring the supplies, services, and weapons systems necessary to defeat our enemies and protect our citizens. It is also my responsibility to spend congressionally appropriated American tax dollars wisely and abstain from practices that result in fraud, waste, or abuse. I have served at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, GA, Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Incirlik Air Base in Adana, Turkey, and at the F-35 Joint Program Office in Arlington, VA. Most recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a Mid-Level Development Program at the Air Force’s Contracting Headquarters in the Pentagon. During this program, I met with Senate Armed Service Committee (SASC) Professional Staff Members (PSMs) in order to discuss the recently drafted fiscal year (FY) 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I also witnessed a weekly meeting of the Defense Acquisition Regulation (DAR) Council where updates to the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) were being discussed and drafted for revision. It is during these two most recent experiences that I realized an opportunity for realistic and meaningful acquisition reform. Problem Each year the NDAA is drafted by Professional Staff Members (PSMs) with numerous competing interests, influences, and motivations. PSMs are frequently contacted by industry representatives and other non-government agencies with requests for changes to the law; some even submitting verbiage their organization would like to include in the next NDAA draft. Although PSMs have diverse backgrounds and impressive resumes, many lack extensive experience in Federal or Defense Acquisition. As a result of their lack of acquisition experience and outside-the-government influences, revisions and updates are made to the NDAA that are not in the best interest of the Government, the Department of Defense (DoD), the warfighter, or the tax payer. If the PSMs have specific questions for the DoD, they work through military Legislative Liaison personnel to staff questions through senior ranking military officers or defense officials. Through the inherent nature of staffing (or requiring multiple layers of review), answers can often be watered down to the most basic or vague response. Additionally, the staffing process takes time in order for multiple reviews to be conducted. The more detailed the response, the longer the delay. Also, questions do not always flow down to the working-level or appropriate subject matter expert(s), resulting in less than complete responses. Decisions are then made by PSMs with potentially inadequate, misleading, delayed, or outdated information. Solution Create a Defense Acquisition Consulting Team (DACT) to serve as advisors for the Armed Services Committee (HASC/SASC) Staffers during their drafting of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The team should consist of competitively selected working level employees with diverse experiences and backgrounds in government acquisition. It is recommended the group consist of technical experts in Program Management, Contracting, Finance, Legal, Logistics, and Engineering from each of the defense services. Team members should have a minimum of 10 years’ experience in their specialized fields with reputable track records of unwavering integrity and exceptional communication skills. It is also recommended each service send both military and civilian representation to enhance diversity of thought and experience. The consulting group would then be available on an as-needed basis to advise and assist PSMs as they develop and draft the NDAA. The DACT could research acquisition related topics for the PSMs and utilize their professional networks to gain additional insight into complex subjects. Outcome The anticipated outcome of creating the Defense Acquisition Consulting Team is the creation of more favorable and executable Acquisition laws, regulations, and policies. Laws established in the NDAA drive changes to the DFARS and FAR. Per the DFARS Operating Guide (www.acq.osd.mil), the current estimated timeline for publishing a change to the DFARS is 12 months. Much of the 12 months is spent in DAR Council, Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review. During these reviews, acquisition professionals attempt to reconcile laws from the NDAA with current acquisition policies and procedures. In theory, if laws were drafted after consultation with the proposed DACT’s input, they would be more in-line with the concerns of the acquisition reviewers, leading to a more expeditious review process. The DACT’s feedback and advice could also prevent conflicting or inexecutable laws as well as laws or policies that would put government acquisition professionals at a severe disadvantage when negotiating or contracting with major defense corporations or contractors operating in expeditionary (or deployed) locations. DACT feedback to PSMs would also be dramatically faster than the current staffing processes. The increase in candid, accurate, and speedy information would likely increase trust and thereby strengthen relationships between the Department of Defense and Congress. Example One example of an unfavorable update to the NDAA is Section 823 of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s proposed FY18 NDAA, “Limitation on Unilateral Definitization.” For those that may not be familiar, a “unilateral definitization” is an action that can only take place after an Undefinitized Contract Action (UCA) has been issued. A UCA is when the Government authorizes a contractor to begin work based on a “Not to Exceed” dollar amount prior to reaching a negotiated agreement on the final price of a contract action with the contractor. UCAs are primarily used for urgent situations when work must begin immediately and cannot wait for a negotiation or contract award process to complete. However, after work begins the Government and contractor must continue the contracting process in order to negotiate a final price. If an agreement (or “definitization”) is met, definitization is considered “bilateral” (or mutual). However, if the Government and contractor cannot reach an agreement, the Government has the right per FAR 16.603-2(c)(3) to determine a reasonable price of the contract action without the contractor’s consent. This is referred to as a “Unilateral Definitization.” I witnessed a Unilateral Definitization while working at the F-35 Joint Program Office. After 14 months of good faith negotiations, a determination was made that it was in the best interest of the Government to unilaterally definitize a $6.1 Billion contract with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company for the Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 9 purchase of 57 F-35 aircraft. The Program Office made the determination that all negotiation resources had been exhausted in an attempt to reach a mutual agreement with the sole-source contractor, and that the Government’s award determination was fair and reasonable for the scope of effort based on significant and thorough cost and pricing data. If the contractor disagreed with the Government’s assessment, they maintained the right per Disputes Clause 52.233-1 to appeal the Government’s decision. They did not appeal. However, less than one year following this unilateral award decision, the Senate Armed Services Committee proposed the following verbiage in Section 823 of their FY18 NDAA draft: The committee recommends a provision that would apply limitations and a notice and wait period to all undefinitized contractual actions of $50.0 million or greater. Such limitations would require that if an agreement is not reached on contractual terms, specifications, and price by a date certain, the contracting officer may not unilaterally definitize those terms, specifications, and price over the objection of the contractor until the head of the agency approves the definitization in writing, the contracting office provides the written approval to the contractor, and the head of the agency notifies the congressional defense committees of the approval. The contract modification unilaterally definitizing the action should not take effect until 60 calendar days after the congressional defense committees have been notified. Unfortunately, should this proposed section of the NDAA become law, it would further delay the progress of an already lengthy acquisition process in order for political bureaucracy and influence to pressure contracting officers to accept deals they may not otherwise determine to be fair and reasonable. Such delays and pressures are not beneficial to the warfighter or the taxpayer. In the example of the F-35 unilateral award determination, an already 14 month negotiation would have been extended several additional months had the Section 823 language already been incorporated into law. Additionally, Program Office resources would have inevitably been applied to the drafting of additional justification documents and answering 60 days’ worth of questions from the agency head and defense committee members. Such strains on personnel resources would not only have resulted in delayed completion of the LRIP 9 efforts, but would have also hindered progress on other coinciding contract actions, such as ongoing LRIP 10 negotiations for an additional 92 F-35 aircraft. Solution Applied to the Example Problem In the case of the Section 823 Limitation on Unilateral Definitization example, I believe a DACT could have provided greater insight to SASC PSMs on the effects the recommended language will have on Acquisition professionals. By utilizing personal experiences, such as the F-35 example, the DACT could advise the PSMs on where processes are already sufficient and therefore have no need for additional oversights, and where they are inadequate and in need of improvement. The PSMs I spoke with during my Mid-Level Development Program experience explained how they are interested in acquisition reform and expediting lengthy procurement processes by removing unnecessary bureaucratic barriers. Yet, the Section 823 language contradicts their desired outcome by potentially adding unnecessary reviews that will further burden an already detailed acquisition structure designed to ensure fairness for both parties engaged in negotiations. Conclusion According to the SASC’s FY18 NDAA Executive Summary, “Congress has for the last 55 consecutive years passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes funding and provides authorities for the US military.” This is quite an amazing feat considering the political discord and divisiveness our country has often experienced during the same timeframe in history. To me, this success rate illustrates the importance we all place on National Defense regardless of political leanings. It also demonstrates the importance of unity. We simply accomplish more and are our best selves when we work together as a nation. It is in this same spirit of unity and collaboration that I recommend the creation of a Defense Acquisition Consulting Team. I believe such a team, when working alongside those on Capitol Hill, will develop more innovative, effective, and executable acquisition reforms than what has historically passed within the current framework. Greater reform will enable us all to better support the warfighter, protect our national treasures, and ultimately defend our nation and its sovereignty. Capt. Christopher W. Piercy currently serves as an Acquisition Staff Officer, Air Force Installation Contracting Agency, Operating Location Air Combat Command (OL-ACC), Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. He supports the Air Force’s largest and most complex OL contracting portfolio by providing contract clearance reviews and policy oversight to 22 ACC contracting activities which award and administer $2.3 billion in contracts annually in support of global operations. In October 2009, Capt. Piercy graduated from Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the contracting career field. As a contracting officer, his duties included Flight Team Lead, Flight Commander, and Procurement Contracting Officer. Prior to his current position, Capt Piercy served as an Executive Officer for the Deputy Program Executive Officer at the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office in Arlington, Virginia where he coordinated worldwide travel, prepared official General Officer level correspondence, and interfaced with senior staff at the Department of Defense and other civilian and international military equivalent agencies. In August 2011, Capt. Piercy deployed to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan as a Contingency Contracting Officer in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. This article is a winner in the 2017 Maj. Gen. Harold J. “Harry” Green Awards for Acquisition Writing competition. A special supplement featuring the winning entries is online now, and will accompany the print version of the April – June 2018 issue of Army AL&T magazine. If you wish to be added to the magazine’s mailing list, subscribe online; if you’d like multiple subscriptions, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribe to Army AL&T News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce. Related posts: A Model and Process for Transitioning Urgent Acquisition Driving out “the Stupid” Leveraging IT Lessons Learned from DOD and Industry The Top Five Lessons I Learned While Working at Amazon.com, Inc. Seeking Innovative Ways to Restore Our Warfighters
From minds to markets
TechLink public-private intermediary helps small businesses access Army inventions, benefiting the U.S. military and the national economy. by Mr. Thomas Mulkern and Mr. Troy Carter Putting Army research and technology in the hands of capable partners in industry is crucial for fielding decisive Army capabilities. To be successful, technology transfer requires dedication, commitment and trust. Since 1999, Army research labs have trusted TechLink, DOD’s national partnership for technology transfer, to help bring innovative technology advances to the marketplace and the warfighter, supporting the U.S. military and the national economy and proving the value of the Army laboratory enterprise. The Army conducts large amounts of scientific research that leads to cutting-edge inventions in virtually all technology fields, with the primary goal of maintaining our battlefield dominance. From 2014 to 2016, for example, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted the Army an average of 151 patents per year on new inventions. TechLink, based in Bozeman, Montana, is an outreach center at Montana State University with 38 full-time employees that is wholly funded by DOD through a partnership intermediary agreement. TechLink helps the DOD lab system transfer its patented technolo-gies to businesses nationwide, primarily by marketing DOD inventions and helping establish license agreements for them. TechLink is involved in about 60 percent of DOD’s license agreements across the U.S. MISSED CONNECTIONS Until recently, DOD had trouble connecting with small, entrepreneurial companies, which are eager adopters of new technology, will-ing to serve small specialized markets and able to develop new products rapidly for those markets. The problem was one of DOD’s approach to technology transfer. Traditionally, DOD labs posted their inventions on their websites and featured some of them at trade shows. However, most small companies and entrepreneurs were not aware that Army research and development (R&D) labs were generating patented inventions or that companies could acquire the rights to use those inventions to develop new products. TechLink’s traditional way of bridging the gap was to frequently review all new DOD inventions, assess their commercial potential and market the most commercially viable inventions to industry, using highly targeted website searches to identify companies that appeared to be good matches. While successful in reaching well–established companies, this approach failed to identify smaller or newer companies that lacked a well-developed website but could be promising licensees. EXPANDING THE UNIVERSE In 2015, TechLink and the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder conducted an economic impact study of all DOD technology licensing from 2000 to 2014. This study showed that the overwhelming majority of companies that licensed DOD technology were small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. In fact, most of those had fewer than nine employees. The question TechLink then asked was: How can we market Army technology to small companies that might not even have a web-site? The answer was to let those small companies find TechLink. In 2017, TechLink launched a new website that makes it easier to search for DOD technologies—by keyword, industry area and laboratory—and greatly expand DOD’s connection to companies and entrepreneurs nationwide. “We paired this new website with a robust digital marketing strategy that can leverage the power of the internet and social media to greatly expand our outreach,” said Austin Leach, senior technology manager at TechLink. “This allows us to move beyond the tradi-tional marketing approach that reaches hundreds of companies per year to a potential reach in the tens of thousands.” TECHNOLOGY LAUNCHSgt. Justin Carrington, unmanned aircraft system repairer with 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division (2-3 IBCT), prepares an RQ-7 Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle for flight at Evans Army Airfield near Fort Stewart, Georgia, last January. TechLink’s website makes it easier to search for Army technologies that are available for license—by keyword, industry area and laboratory. A search for “UAV,” for example, brings up an Army system for collisionless flying. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Efren Rodriguez) NEXT STEP: EXPRESS LICENSING The online presence of Army technology began to expand in 2016, when the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) moved to im-prove technology transfer by increasing public access to its patents through a novel process called express licensing. “This was a team effort utilizing two of ARL’s existing partners in the technology transfer arena, TechLink and Leidos,” a private, for-profit defense solutions company based in Reston, Virginia, said Jason Craley, the ARL technology transfer specialist who led the project. The team began in January 2016 by identifying 40 patents believed to be good candidates for express licensing, notably those ap-proaching their second maintenance fees at 7½ years. (Maintenance fees are required by the Patent and Trademark Office to main-tain a valid patent.) Army policy is to not pay second maintenance fees on patents for technologies that are not being used or have not garnered outside interest. The team selected half of the 40 patented technologies, conducted detailed interviews with inventors and gathered marketing materi-als. TechLink posted the inventions on ARL’s Intellectual Property (IP) Store, which is hosted by TechLink’s website and is also ac-cessible through ARL’s home page. ARL’s IP Store currently features 433 patented technologies, of which 30 are available via express licensing. Companies or entrepre-neurs can browse these technologies, select a specific opportunity, download the patent and published papers, then apply for a license to make, use and sell the technology—all online. “A few of our patents were sunsetting before the marketplace was ready or before we could adequately advertise them,” said Craley. “Our hope is that by placing ARL’s technologies in the online store and making them conveniently accessible through express licens-ing, we’ll boost their exposure and reduce transaction costs to licensing. This is part of our push to reduce obstacles for small busi-ness,” he said. A BOOST FROM NATICK LABS In June 2017, the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) began publicly offering express licensing on the TechLink website, which currently features a total of 112 NSRDEC technologies available for licensing. Entrepreneurs and businesses can shop those patented technologies online, including the Insulated Container for Cold Beverages, a high-tech ice chest that keeps water bottles cool for 56 hours in 100-plus-degree weather—far longer than existing ice chests—resulting in less waste, better hydration and improved Soldier morale. The Army’s patented invention is constructed with Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment webbing for secure storage, ad-dressing concerns about traditional ice chests becoming projectiles inside vehicles hit by explosions. The U.S. Army Tank Automo-tive Research, Development and Engineering Center has slated the improved cooler for use in future Army ground vehicles, and sev-eral small businesses are pursuing licensing the design for production. “The express licensing portal enhances the visibility of technologies that are valuable to the warfighter but may have significant com-mercial applications as well,” said Sheri Mennillo, technology transfer manager at NSRDEC. “The simplified online process featuring standardized terms reduces the uncertainty of the negotiation process, which may be particularly attractive to small business and en-trepreneurs.” The TechLink website provides a summary of each available technology. For technologies eligible for express licensing, it also gives standardized, prenegotiated financial terms for the types of licenses being offered. The types include exclusive, partially exclusive (lim-ited to a particular field) and nonexclusive. Items that have the “express license” designation are eligible for the faster automated pro-cess. “Express licensing provides transparency to industry, lowers barriers for everyone involved and reduces transaction costs,” said Dan Swanson, TechLink’s licensing lead. Above all, express licensing accelerates the process of getting cutting-edge Army inventions into production, where they can support the U.S. defense mission, help save lives and boost the nation’s economy. The Army’s technology transfer partners—mostly small and midsize companies—also build surge capacity into the defense supply chain. This is especially true with dual-use inventions like improved batteries and pest control devices. By licensing these inventions, the Army develops a reliable supply chain of companies that are manufacturing dual-use products on an ongoing basis for their com-mercial customers. This increases the likelihood of timely supply when the product is needed. The economic impacts are impressive. A 2015 survey by TechLink and the University of Colorado showed that DOD technology license agreements between 2000 and 2014 led to more than $20 billion in sales of new products and services, including $3.4 billion in sales back to the military. The 602 companies in the survey generated a total of $48.8 billion in economic output from those li-censes, along with the direct support of 182,985 full-time jobs with an average annual salary of more than $71,000. IMPLEMENTING INNOVATIONU.S. Army Spc. Victor Ramirez, 3678th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 191st Regional Support Group, replaces a reverse osmosis water purification unit filter in November 2017 in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico. The Army’s scientific research leads to cutting-edge inventions in virtually all technology fields. Licensing those inventions pays numerous dividends for the Army as well as private industry. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Avery Cunningham) IMPORTANCE OF PATENTING Years of working with Army laboratories has convinced TechLink Executive Director Will Swearingen that without intellectual prop-erty protection, private firms rarely make the investment needed to bring new technology to the market. “Without patent protection, other companies can simply copy the product, making it difficult for the company that developed the product to recoup its investment and make a profit,” Swearingen said. “That’s why we encourage labs to patent their inventions. It’s essential to technology transfer and convincing a company to invest its resources in converting a lab invention into a commercial product the DOD can procure.” Patents also recognize the effort that scientists and engineers have made, conferring prestige that encourages continued excellence in the field. Last but hardly least, they provide a quantifiable measure of lab productivity. Some Army researchers are extremely produc-tive. Herbert A. Leupold, a recently retired ARL physicist whose discoveries advanced radar, satellite communications and electronic warfare systems, received 116 patents assigned to the secretary of the Army dating back to the 1970s—the record for an Army em-ployee, according to the Patent and Trademark Office database. COST BENEFITS FOR DOD “Typically, the DOD’s investment in a new defense-related product, licensed from a DOD lab, is only around 15 percent of the total investment necessary,” said Swanson. “By licensing to industry, DOD can offload the large expense of converting an early-state proto-type into a final product. It’s a very cost-effective way to acqure cutting-edge technology.” Many products derived from Army inventions have both military and civilian applications. In those cases, the Army frequently saves money on procurement because it benefits from manufacturing economies of scale. Where there is a sizable commercial market for a dual-use product, the Army will need to spend far less on acquiring that product than if it contracted with the defense industry to de-velop it. For example, rate-actuated tethers invented at ARL, which stretch and relax easily at normal stress but provide dramatically increased resistance force when pulled quickly, are being explored by small businesses for health care and sports applications. (See “Per Vivo Labs warms to tech transfer,” Page 183.) “Contracting with a prime supplier for a custom design and production of a defense product is usually far more expensive,” Swanson said. “By patenting its inventions, the Army also protects itself from defense contractors and others laying claim to a technology,” he added. “Without patent protection, the Army and other branches can end up paying twice for a product—once for the original R&D, and a second time by paying the contractor a premium price to use the patents that should belong to the DOD.” Finally, when licensing its inventions to industry for commercial use, the Army earns revenue and is no longer responsible for patent maintenance costs. COOL CUSTOMERSThis insulated container for cold beverages, a high-tech ice chest that keeps water bottles cool far longer than existing ice chests, is one of 112 technologies developed by NSRDEC that are available for licensing. (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm, NSRDEC) CONCLUSION Partnerships between the private sector and the Army’s science and technology community benefit the warfighter and the American taxpayer, and help grow the national economy. “Businesses provide upfront payments and ongoing royalties on the inventions they license. That enhances the return on the R&D investment while keeping the fighting force at a technological advantage,” said Swanson. “And by bringing industry partners into the fold, TechLink helps the Army’s science and technology community continue to innovate in ways that benefit the acquisition work-force.” For more information, go to http://techlinkcenter.org or contact Will Swearingen at email@example.com. MR. THOMAS MULKERN is chief of the Technology Transfer and Outreach Office at ARL, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. He is responsible for directing technology transfer programs as well as support for outreach programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. He holds an M.S. in plastics engineering from the University of Massachusetts and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Northeastern University. He has published dozens of technical papers on polymer matrix composite research, and holds one U.S. patent. He is Level II certified in program management. MR. TROY CARTER is the senior writer and editor at TechLink. He provides original reporting on technology transfer, visual media and marketing activity in support of the DOD laboratory system. He holds an M.A. in political science from American University of Beirut and a B.A. in political science from the American University in Cairo. He is a former infantry sergeant and combat veteran from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, serving in Afghanistan in 2003-04 and in Iraq in 2005-06. Technology Transfer: The Economic Impacts $20.4 billion in total sales of new products and services. $3.4 billion in sales of new products to the U.S. military. $48.8 billion in total economic output nationwide. $1.6 billion in new tax revenues (federal, state and local). 182,985 full-time jobs created or retained. 12,199 full-time jobs per year with an average salary of $71,337. (SOURCE: “National Economic Impacts from DoD License Agreements with U.S. Industry, 2000-2014,” https://techlinkcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/2016-DoD-Licensing-Study-E-Publication.pdf) –––––––––––––––––––––––––– Related Links: “National Economic Impacts from DoD License Agreements with U.S. Industry, 2000-2014”: https://techlinkcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/2016-DoD-Licensing-Study-E-Publication.pdf “Technology Transfer: Use of Federally Funded Research and Development,” Congressional Research Service, De-cember 3, 2012: https://www.nist.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2017/05/09/Technology_Transfer_Use_of_federally_funded_research_-development.pdf This article is published in the January – March 2018 issue of Army AL&T magazine. Subscribe to Army AL&T News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce. Related posts: A FLIR for Innovation A better ‘reality’ Sensor overload The Changing Face of Soldier Lethality
Bench-building at Army labs
Attracting an elite cadre of scientists and engineers is essential for the Army mission; Army labs need to be able to offer better pay and shorter hiring timelines to do so. by Dr. Matt Willis A core enabler for technology superiority in a constantly evolving and asymmetric threat landscape is technological excellence at the Army laboratory enterprise, empowered by a strategically shaped and highly competent technical workforce. Attracting, recruiting and retaining an elite cadre of Army scientists and engineers is essential for success in the science and technology (S&T) domain that is critical to the Army’s mission. Army scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians—among other technical specialists—make fundamental S&T contributions to national security and to the nation as a whole. The Army must instill an open laboratory culture—steeped in innovation and collaboration, and a systems thinking approach—that is accommodating to creative, free minds and a stimulating atmosphere to break through the bureaucracy and attract future technical experts. The Army, as an S&T incubator, competes with the private sector and academia for high-demand science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals. Army S&T success—and by proxy, dominance in the future fight—depends on tenets such as: The dynamic recruiting of high-caliber, future-focused STEM professionals, with timely initial hiring and flexible compensation. The responsibility, authority and flexibility for Army laboratories to manage workforce strength, structure, positions and compensation unencumbered by limitations on appointments, positions or funding. Talent management policies and strategies that fuel growth, innovation and market advantage with an agile and flexible operational structure designed to accomplish evolving S&T priorities. A robust group of senior STEM leaders to enable effective and efficient execution of S&T programs, with support from a balanced blend of administrative, technical and professional staff. WHO’S WHOSeventy-eight percent of Army civilians are specialized scientists and engineers, sorted into 42 U.S. Office of Personnel Management occupational codes, ranging from microbiology (0403) to aerospace engineering (0861) to physiology (0413) and chemistry (1320). More than half of the Army S&T workforce hold an advanced degree, with 14 percent holding a doctorate. (SOURCE: The author) ARMY STEM WORKFORCE The Army must instill innovative workforce management practices to empower the Science and Technology Reinvention Laboratories (STRLs) to be an attractive venue for technical careers. The Army STRLs—all Army labs that execute joint S&T funds are designated as such, which confers additional authorities in how they’re run—represent a unique segment of the broader Army workforce, including a highly educated, highly technical and highly recruited population. Recruiting and hiring into specialized positions within the Army STRL enterprise is often inhibited by the traditionally tepid hiring timeline and smaller compensation packages as compared with the private sector or academia. An innovative S&T enterprise requires an agile policy posture and hiring construct to attract, recruit and retain the current and future Army STEM leaders. HOW DIRECT-HIRE IS USEDDirect-hire authority lets Army labs hire who they need without regard to regulations that slow down other federal hiring—but that authority is limited. This shows the Army laboratory use of the direct-hire authority in 2016. The number of direct-hire actions per calendar year is limited to a given percentage of the total number of scientists and engineers at the STRL in the previous fiscal year. For potential hires with an advanced degree, a lab can use direct-hire authority to bring on board 5 percent of the previous year’s workforce level; for those with a bachelor’s degree, it’s 6 percent; veterans, 3 percent; and students, 10 percent. (SOURCE: The author) STRL WORKFORCE AUTHORITIES Unique personnel and operational authorities are required for the labs to develop the S&T that is critical to success in the future asymmetric multidomain battle. In recognition, Congress established Section 342(b) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 1995, which authorizes the secretary of defense to conduct personnel demonstration projects at DOD STRLs. The personnel management authorities granted in the original provision have evolved into a permanent, continuing program to give all Army labs the freedom to build the necessary S&T workforce without the constraints that govern most federal hiring. The STRL personnel management demonstration projects involve broadbanded pay systems and simplified classification; compensation linked to performance; recruitment and staffing changes; and enhanced training and development, including critical skills training, distinguished scholastic achievement authorities, modified term appointments, voluntary emeritus appointments, an entrepreneurial leave program and sabbaticals. The purpose of the STRL personnel management demonstration project is to demonstrate the efficacy of specified management changes in improving the productivity and effectiveness of basic and applied research and exploratory development at the STRLs, while attracting high-impact STEM leaders. Further, the laboratory demonstration project provides a suite of dynamic tools that allow STRL directors to shape the mix of technical skills and expertise in the workforce to achieve one or more of the following strategic goals: To meet organizational and DOD-designated missions in the most cost-effective and efficient manner. To upgrade and enhance the scientific quality of the workforces of such laboratories. (See Figure 2.) To shape such workforces to better respond to such missions. To reduce the average unit cost of such workforces. Title 10 of the U.S. Code (USC), Section 2358a permanently codifies additional authorities for directors of the STRLs. The directors manage each STRL’s workforce strength, structure, positions and compensation without regard to any limitation on appointments, positions or funding and in accordance with the budget available to the facility. The directors are further authorized to implement a direct-hire authority, which expedites hiring by eliminating procedures such as competitive rating and ranking, and veterans’ preference. (See Figure 1.) All laboratories are under command-imposed hiring restrictions that inhibited full use of the direct-hire authority. Direct-hire authority has reduced the elapsed time between the close of the job application and the conditional offer to the candidate from more than 90 days to often less than 20 days. The Laboratory Personnel Management Demonstrations Project has allowed Army labs to remain agile and competitive with the private sector, providing job offers in a matter of weeks versus months, with the option to offer more competitive compensation. Congress has further embraced a future-focused STEM-oriented workforce and innovative laboratory enterprise by initiating a pilot program for operational streamlining of DOD laboratories. Section 233 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2017 challenges STRL directors to instill innovation in their organizations by streamlining management operations, rapid deployment of warfighter capabilities, experimentation, prototyping and partnership with universities and private-sector entities to generate greater returns on research and development activities. The Section 233 pilot program is a tailorable solution that will enable efficient and effective customization of activities such as facility management, construction and repair; business operations; personnel management policies and practices; and intramural and public outreach. The pilot program is authorized through the end of FY22. I’M WORKING ON TUNNELS. YOU?Jen Picucci, a research mathematician at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Structural Engineering Branch, explains tunnel detection equipment at the Pentagon’s lab day in May 2017. Smart, technical specialists seek the stimulation and creativity of an “open lab” where scientists interact across disciplines and organizations. (Photo by David Vergun, ARL) CONCLUSION Structured organizations like the Army are constrained in their ability to evolve toward a flexible, cross-organizational STEM workforce. Cross-organizational workforce utilization allows the Army to broaden capacity for critical focus areas while increasing efficiency within each organization. Congressional leadership has recognized the unique personnel recruitment challenges at Army STRLs and has given unique hiring and retention authorities to the laboratories, via mechanisms such as the direct-hire authority, 10 USC §2358a and the Section 233 pilot program. However, challenges remain. Many STRLs remain subject to command-imposed hiring restrictions, inhibiting the laboratories’ ability to reshape the workforce and keep pace with the rapid change of technology. Every echelon of Army leadership must embrace a paradigm shift to a flexible Army operational structure, ensuring clear goals and personnel accountability while fostering a systematic approach that prioritizes success but does not punish failure. For more information, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. MATT WILLIS is the director for laboratory management in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology. As such, he shapes policies that impact the workforce, infrastructure, technology transfer and STEM educational outreach posture at the Army STRLs. He holds a Ph.D. and an M.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. in chemical engineering from Cornell University. He is Level II certified in S&T management and is a member of the Army Acquisition Corps. This article is published in the January – March 2018 issue of Army AL&T magazine. Subscribe to Army AL&T News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce. Related posts: A FLIR for Innovation A better ‘reality’ Sensor overload The Changing Face of Soldier Lethality
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