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The Acquisition Research Program publishes a weekly email newsletter, Need to Know, in which we highlight key developments in acquisition, policy, government innovation, and research—as well as the latest news about ARP events and research. We hope you enjoy the newsletter, and let us know if you are doing work we can highlight in future issues. 

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Newsletter 8.14.2020

August 14, 2020                                                                                                          Issue 20

What a week! The JEDI contract may be on hold again. Implementation of contract terms banning Chinese technology in the supply chain is officially in effect, although the terms are still unclear. DOD has recently released three new policy documents in line with the Adaptive Acquisition Framework. The Space Force has released its new doctrine on space as a warfighting domain. And we happily announce a new collaboration with the American Society of Naval Engineers, represented as a special section of ARP symposium papers published in the latest issue of Naval Engineers Journal. Enjoy, and Happy Friday!

ARP Research: Symposium Spotlight

Panel #17: Performance of the Defense Acquisition System

Defense Acquisition Trends 2020: A Preliminary Look
Rhys McCormick (Center for Strategic and International Studies), Andrew Hunter (Center for Strategic and International Studies)

  • Micro-abstract:  This year’s study focuses on whether there is an ongoing transformation in the defense acquisition system in response to the 2018 National Defense Strategy and use of new acquisition approaches such as Middle Tier acquisition and Other Transaction Authority Agreements.   Read the Paper.              

Building a Broader Base for Evidence-Based Acquisition Policymaking
Jeff Drezner (RAND Corporation), Elizabeth Bartels (RAND Corporation), Joel Predd (The RAND Corporation)

  • Micro-abstract: This report, intended for acquisition professionals, summarizes the case for a broader evidence base for policymaking and then focuses on one specific tool that we suggest may add analytic value: policy gaming.  Read the Paper.        

See more research in the full Proceedings of the 17th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium.


This Week’s Top Story

Ban on Chinese products starts today despite confusion over acquisition rule
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

The second and more arduous deadline for agencies and vendors to ensure they are no longer using certain Chinese made telecommunications products and services is here, and few are happy about it.

Industry and agencies alike continue to sound the alarm about the potential and real impacts of the interim rule implementing part B of Section 889 of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

“There is likely going to be significant impacts that will be felt across the federal sector,” said one government official, who requested anonymity in order to talk more candidly about the interim rule. “It’s very clear that the Defense Department and other agencies fully support the intent of the rule. We all know there is a lot of information about how China transmitted data and stole intellectual property so the intent of the rule is to protect our national security is good. But there will be unintended consequences because of how the specific language was written.”

Under the interim rule, which remains open for comments through mid-September, agencies cannot award new contracts, task orders or modify existing contracts to any vendor who doesn’t self-certify that they are not using products from Chinese companies like ZTE and Huawei.

Read more.


ARP and NPS News

Special collaboration with ASNE’s Naval Engineers Journal
ARP is thrilled to announce our collaboration with the American Society of Naval Engineers in the latest issue of Naval Engineers Journal. This prestigious journal has been in publication since 1888. The June 2020 issue showcases six technical reports from the ARP symposium on topics including systems engineering, the technology OODA loop, acquiring artificial intelligence, open systems architecture, and more. Normally this journal is behind a paywall for ASNE members only. This month, ARP friends get a full view of the whole issue, including the special ARP section.

Build Your Team’s Resilience — From Home
David Sluss and Edward Powley, Harvard Business Review
This article features research from faculty in NPS’s Graduate School of Defense Management—and it gives advice on succeeding in the new normal.

Rear Adm. Michelle Skubic Confirmed as DLA Director
Matthew Nelson, ExecutiveGov
Skubic studied acquisition and contract management as a student in the Graduate School of Defense Management at NPS. Congratulations to this alumna!


Acquisition and Innovation

New ‘color of money’ for DOD software gaining traction, Lord says
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Deloitte wins $106 million contract with the Pentagon’s AI hub
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

Major federal procurement rule gets first try with DoD and NASA
Tom Temin, Federal News Network

The Pentagon is failing to scale emerging technology, senior leaders say
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Air Force moving Project Maven into Advanced Battle Management System portfolio
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Pentagon Requests More Time to Review JEDI Cloud Contract Bids
Frank Konkel, Nextgov

Commentary: Biotech Acquisitions a Different Ballgame for Defense Department
Eric Du, National Defense



The DoD Budget Process: The Next Frontier of Acquisition Reform
George Mason University Center for Government Contracting
August 19, 2020  2:30 p.m. ET

“From Sea to Space and Back Again: Lessons from an Unconventional Leadership Journey” – Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture with Dr. Kathryn Sullivan
Naval Postgraduate School
August 25, 2020  3:00 p.m. PT

2020 Defense News Conference
Keynote speakers include Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry, The Hon. Ellen M. Lord, Gen. John E. Hyten, and The Hon. David Norquist
September 9-10, 2020

US Air Force STTR HBCU Virtual Collider
August 19-20, 2020 


COVID-19 and Contracting

DEFAERO Report Daily Podcast with Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment, Alan Shaffer
Defense & Aerospace Report

Coronavirus Impacting B-21 Bomber Program
Yasmin Tadjdeh, National Defense

Operation Warp Speed on Track for End-of-Year Vaccine Delivery
Jim Garamone, DoD News

Geurts: Navy Modernization At Risk Without COVID-19 Acquisition Relief Funds
Mallory Shelbourne, USNI News



Next Generation Defense Strategy: Space
Sarah Mineiro, Center for a New American Security


Defense and Federal Government

VA targets October for modernized EHR launch
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

The new strategy from Navy’s cyber command
Mark Pomerleau, C4ISRNET

Air Force's Hypersonic Weapon Hits 'Major Milestone' in New Test
Bing Xiao,

Flournoy: Next defense secretary needs ‘big bets’ to boost ’eroding’ deterrence
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

Initial efforts to merge OPM and GSA cost more money, watchdog finds
Jessie Bur, Federal Times

DEF CON Hackers Compete to Hijack a Satellite in Orbit
B. David Zarley, Freethink

Truth Dies First: Storyweapons on the InfoOps Battlefield
Renny Gleeson, The Cyber Defense Review

Griffin joins Rocket Lab board following Pentagon exit
Nathan Strout, C4ISRNET

Space Force: New Service’s Future Coming into Focus
Yasmin Tadjdeh, National Defense

New Pentagon tech chief to focus on improving project coordination
Andrew Eversden, Defense News



DoD Instruction 5000.85: Major Capability Acquisition
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment

DoD Instruction 5000.84: Analysis of Alternatives
Office of the Director, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation

DoD Instruction 5000.83: Technology and Program Protection to Maintain Technological Advantage
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering

Space Capstone Publication: Spacepower
Headquarters, United States Space Force



Air University teaches space as a warfighting domain
Phil Berube, Air University

Naval Academy to hold mix of in-person and online learning
The Associated Press, Navy Times

Military students — unsure of what to expect for online classes in the fall? You aren’t alone
Hannah Graf and Leo Shane III, Navy Times  



Lawmakers Want More AI for Military
Jon Harper, National Defense

Senate Confirms Air Force, Space Force Leaders
Brian W. Everstine, Air Force Magazine

What the Rest of Government Should Watch When the Defense Authorization Bill Goes to Conference
Mariam Baksh, Nextgov


Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Get to know a Section 809 Recommendation. This week: the expertise behind #74, which calls for eliminating redundant acquisition documentation.

Recommendation 74 achieves at least two goals: it streamlines acquisition processes, and it allows contracting officers to spend more time on customer support. This recommendation was developed by contracting officers from each military service who were motivated to find solutions for duplicative requirements that routinely frustrate them and unnecessarily slow down the contracting process. Some of the changes called for in Recommendation 74 can be done today, such as combining the acquisition strategy and acquisition plan. But culture has not let this consolidation become the normal course of business.

One of the largest changes I’ve seen in my career was in the Mid-1990s when Secretary of Defense Dr. William Perry’s released the Military Specifications and Standards memorandum. This memo changed the norm from Military Specifications and Standards to use of Performance Specifications and Standards when purchasing new systems, major modifications, upgrades to current systems, and non-developmental and commercial items, for programs in any acquisition category. The reason it was effective in changing the culture was that the use of Military Specifications and Standards were now authorized as a last resort, and their use required an appropriate high level waiver, i.e., Milestone Decision Authority. For example, at the Army the approval of any acquisition that did not use Performance Specifications and Standards required a General Officer or SES equivalent. This motivated people to use Performance Specifications and Standards because it did not require a higher level approval.

DoD can help change the culture immediately by implementing a major piece of Recommendation 74 by consolidating Acquisition Strategies, Acquisition Plans, and other documentation into one document. DoD should then issue guidance that Acquisition Strategies and Acquisition Plans shall be one document and will include other higher level approval documents, such as justification for single award >$112m IDIQ contracts and justification for use of an incentive or award fee contract. Once this guidance is released, a memorandum should be issued making this consolidation a "shall" and requiring a waiver be approved by GO or SES if not used. 

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