PEO C3T develops broad-based approach to leverage industry innovation
By Bridget Lynch, PEO C3T Public Affairs
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MD (August 19, 2016) – Rapidly changing technology in the marketplace and unpredictable conditions abroad make it imperative for the Army to quickly adopt the best solutions from industry.
Despite the dominance of large, specific-use weapon systems within the Army, there is increasing recognition that niche solutions can have a big impact. As such, the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications –Tactical (PEO C3T) has developed an approach to engage industry through various outreach venues.
The Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program is one part of that approach. This competitive, awards-based program funds small businesses that develop a capability to meet specific needs for DOD programs. Three times a year, PEO C3T announces topics for which it is interested in receiving concept descriptions. From there, it selects up to two vendors to participate in Phase I of the SBIR program by producing white papers that detail the capability. In the end, only one vendor is selected to move onto Phase II prototyping.
“SBIRs provide the Army with a tremendous benefit,” said Michael Badger, chief for PEO C3T’s Futures, Systems Engineering and Architectures Branch. “Small businesses, through SBIRs, have the ability to focus on a particular aspect of a system and can utilize innovative methods to take some risks. Their expertise in that niche area can make a big difference.”
Earlier this year, PEO C3T received 31 proposals in response to an Army need to better share information between systems on the battlefield. Known as the “Internet of Things,” this capability gives every person and electronic device a unique name and address and makes it easier for systems to share information and interact in novel ways—such as anticipating the needs of the Soldier and optimizing a response.
After conducting technical evaluations, the top three proposals were recommended to the Army SBIR Source Selection Board for funding, and all three were selected. These three vendors received contract awards last month.
RIF: Fielding Faster
While the focus of the SBIR program is on researching and developing capabilities in the infant stage, the Rapid Innovation Fund, or RIF, is designed to transition innovative technologies that can be rapidly inserted into acquisition programs that meet speciﬁc defense needs. The RIF benefits small businesses, but also creates opportunity to look at the capabilities that larger businesses can provide.
“The RIF is designed for mature capabilities with a technology readiness level of 6, meaning that a fully functional prototype already exists,” Badger said. “The SBIR program is more about innovative research and exploring a concept in hopes of creating a prototype, whereas the RIF is geared to get things to the field fast.”
In 2015, PEO C3T accepted a proposal and awarded a contract through the RIF for position, location and information (PLI) beacons. Similar to the Joint Battle Command platform, a mission command system that can determine the position of vehicles, PLI beacons provide a way to locate dismounted Soldiers on a battlefield.
Topics for the 2016 RIF were released earlier this year, with PEO C3T seeking a low-cost selective availability anti-spoofing module (SAASM) to integrate into the Rifleman Radio. Simply put, a SAASM is a military-level encrypted version of a commercial GPS.
Putting Ordnance Front and Center
A third approach to working with industry is through the DOD Ordnance Technology Consortium (DOTC). DOTC enables large and small companies and Army program managers to work collaboratively to perform research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) to create prototype solutions. These prototypes advance and transition ordnance systems and related mission command systems, subsystems and component technologies.
Much like the RIF, DOTC is intended to look for innovative ways to move new technology to the field quickly. However, the DOTC is unique in that it strictly deals with mission command and fires ordnance. Another major difference with DOTC is the way it is funded: While funding for RIF and SBIR is readily available through the Army, DOTC funding must be found from within the existing PEO C3T budget. PEO C3T can approve topics, but often contracts may not come to fruition if funding is not approved.
Right now, PEO C3T is using the DOTC approach to find a new prototype in the cyber protection realm. Tactical Cyber Intrusion Detection and Automated Recovery (TIDAR) is host-based software that monitors performance behavior, calculates integrity confidence of peer actors, adjusts access and interaction permissions, restores baselines and reports status.
TIDAR assesses risk and informs the network of risk and response to potential and known threats. Initial applications of the system will be fielded for operations in tactical systems such as the Warfighter Information Network – Tactical, the Common Operating Environment, the Network Operation Center, command and control applications, Voice-over-Internet Protocol, emails and instant messaging.
The network is an integral part of current and future Army missions, and keeping pace with technology requires being open to new tactics and to the vital impact that small businesses can provide. By using multiple approaches and exploring innovative concepts and capabilities, the Army can better evolve the tactical network and take advantage of rapidly developing, state-of-the-art technology.
PEO C3T plans to use all three approaches to industry in 2017. Potential topics include remote radio antennas for command posts; radio frequency interference monitors; and small form factor, low-power, lightweight position, navigation and timing devices for dismounted Soldiers. For more information on these opportunities please refer to the websites below.
- SBIR: https://sbir.defensebusiness.org
- RIF: http://www.defenseinnovationmarketplace.mil/rif.html
- DOTC: http://www.nac-dotc.org/