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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 11.20.2020

November 20, 2020                                                                                                    Issue 33

This week, the House and Senate Armed Services began conferencing on the National Defense Authorization Act, with a few remaining sticking points (such as the question of Confederate-named bases). Both the Army and the Navy are moving forward with unmanned capabilities; our top story details how the Navy worked with DIU and mid-tier acquisition authorities to speed these new capabilities along. We’re also seeing more conversations about how to develop and coordinate open architectures, as well as guidance about developing, using, and procuring AI—including a recent NPS student thesis supported by ARP.  And NPS faculty share research on educational approaches to wargaming and the RFP process, in two new articles.  Next week, the newsletter is taking a break as we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Stay healthy, eat well, and we’ll see you in December!


This Week’s Top Story

Admiral: Submarine-Launched UAS Proving ‘Awesome Capability’
Richard R. Burgess, Seapower Magazine

The Navy has developed and demonstrated a submarine-launched unmanned aerial system (SLUAS) for beyond line-of-sight targeting solutions and deployed it to the fleet in September 2020, the Navy’s submarine procurement admiral said.

Rear Adm. Dave Goggins, program executive officer for Submarines, speaking Nov. 18 in a webinar for the annual symposium of the Naval Submarine League, said the SLUAS was “a pretty awesome capability to provide to the fleet.”

Goggins said in a PowerPoint briefing that mid-tier acquisition authorities approved in March 2019 were used to begin the project in May 2019. Three demonstrations were conducted in 2019 and 2020. Initial operational capability was achieved in September. 

Only eight months after the project was started, the Navy conducted an at-sea demonstration of the SLUAS from the Los Angeles-class SSN USS Annapolis, launching them “from periscope depth, control them out to tactically significant ranges — well beyond the line of sight,” Goggins said. “By doing so she was able to target and conduct a rapid simulated torpedo attack against a participating surface ship, in case the USS Charleston, pretty much at near-maximum effective range of that torpedo, by flying that UAV to obtain a fire-point solution after gaining that initial sonar gain.”

Another demonstration was conducted against a surface ship and a land site. So far, 21 SLUAS UAVs have been employed in demonstrations. The Defense Innovation Unit, which partnered with non-traditional industry companies to reduce cost and enhance capability, completed final flyoffs in July.

“I have five SLUAS shipsets in the fleet today and we will continue to deliver this capability,” Goggins said. “We’re really working on the evolution of that capability going forward.”   


ARP and NPS News

How Can The DoD Adopt Commercial-Style Artificial Intelligence For Procurement?
Kory D. Krebs

This ARP-supported thesis by NPS MBA student Kory Krebs, one of our June 2020 graduates, was recognized as an NPS outstanding thesis. (Advisors: E. Cory Yoder and Neil C. Rowe)

This thesis examines the potential impact of artificial intelligence on DoD procurement. It studies organizations that have incorporated the technology in business practices, and on the basis of interviews with key personnel analyzes how well businesses have improved speed and agility. The technology could be helpful for procurement in market research, negotiations, insight, and contract management, among other ways. Recommendations address the two biggest DoD challenges when implementing emerging technologies: data integrity and change management.

Getting to a Win
Dr. Charles K. Pickar, Army AL&T Magazine

Commentary from NPS professor Charles Pickar explores the RFP process and how students can learn program management from diving into the process.  “The U.S. defense industry and DOD communicate with each other in many ways, but none is as significant as a request for proposal (RFP), nor carries such high stakes. RFPs are long, tedious, confusing and filled with legalese, which is not a very good way to communicate. But to paraphrase Winston Churchill, an RFP is the worst form of government-industry communication, except for every other form of communication.  In some of the acquisition classes I teach at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), I use an RFP as a catalyst for term group projects. Students are divided into teams and role-play as government program management offices and contractor companies. Actual RFPs provide NPS students an opportunity to think about the way we communicate with the defense industry and to learn project management.”

Revamping Wargaming Education for the U.S. Department of Defense
Jeff Appleget, Jeff Kline, and Rob Burks  |  Center for International Maritime Security

Commentary from three NPS professors on the value of wargaming within the DOD, and the contributions NPS has made to that effort:  “Since 2009, the Naval Postgraduate School resident student wargaming teams have conducted over 70 wargames for 35 Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Joint, International, and Industry sponsors. NPS views the wargaming course graduates as wargaming apprentices. They have enough knowledge and experience to make useful, often significant, contributions to any wargaming effort required in the department. Several recent graduates have actually led wargaming design initiatives at their respective organizations soon after graduation.”


Acquisition and Innovation

Navy seeing ‘explosion’ in use of OTA for IT, cyber development work
Jared Serbu, Federal News Network

Pentagon Seeking Input from Industry on Future of Space Launch
Mandy Mayfield, National Defense Magazine

NGAD Strategy Faces Hill Headwinds
Theresa Hitchens, Breaking Defense

10 winners chosen in International Space Pitch Day
Nathan Strout, C4ISRNET

It’s Open Architectures For ALL New Weapons As JROC Sets JADC2 Requirements
Theresa Hitchens, Breaking Defense

Army wants new proposals for an 'optionally manned' infantry vehicle
Slobodan Lekic, Stars and Stripes

GSA explains lowered DEOS price tag
Mark Rockwell, FCW

OMB’s IT Vendor Management Office will help agencies buy AI
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop



Managing Obsolescence: New DoD Instruction for a Chronic Problem
George Mason University Government Contracting Center
Dec. 2, 2020  |  11:30 a.m. ET



“Cool Projects” or “Expanding the Efficiency of the Murderous American War Machine?”  AI Professionals’ Views on Working With the Department of Defense
Catherine Aiken, Rebecca Kagan, and Michael Page  |  Center for Security and Emerging Technology

Performance and Accountability Report Fiscal Year 2020
U.S. Government Accountability Office



DoD Instruction 5000.88: Engineering Of Defense Systems
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering

DoD Instruction 5000.89: Test And Evaluation
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering
Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation

Memorandum: Extension of Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI)
Michael Rigas, Acting Federal Chief Information Officer

Memorandum: Guidance for Regulation of Artificial Intelligence Applications
Russell T. Vought, Director of Office of Management and Budget


Defense and Federal Government

DOD-Wide Audit Improves Efficiencies to Benefit Warfighter
David Vergun, DOD News

Pentagon Expands Hypersonics Transition Office
Connie Lee, National Defense Magazine

Project Rainmaker: Army Weaves ‘Data Fabric’ To Link Joint Networks
Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., Breaking Defense

How Will Joe Biden Shape the U.S. Navy?
James Holmes, Real Clear Defense

U.S. Military Wants to Bring Allies into AI Fold
Jon Harper, National Defense Magazine

Tech workers don’t hate the military that much — most don’t even really care
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop



Top GOP post on House Armed Services Committee draws tough competition
Joe Gould, Defense News

Formal NDAA talks to begin under shadow of Confederate renaming issue
Joe Gould, Defense News

Senate committee calls for large cuts in Marine Corps end strength
Philip Athey, Marine Times

Lawmakers introduce resolutions to block Trump’s F-35 sale to UAE
Joe Gould, Defense News


Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Where do I find the most current Sharing of Best Practices and Lessons Learned in DoD?

Last week’s newsletter included a link to the 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium scheduled for May 11-13, 2021. What an opportunity to hear presentations from top acquisition leaders, policymakers, and innovators. The presentations include research papers and presentations on recently completed and ongoing Department of Defense and US Navy (DoD/DON)-sponsored projects conducted by researchers at a variety of research institutions. This will be a great learning experience and sharing of best practices and lessons learned. But wait! What do I do now to find best practices and lessons learned?

I immediately checked the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) site, since I have presented at numerous NCMA World Congress events, and it a great forum for sharing best practices and lessons learned. To my chagrin, the World Congress is not until July 25-28, 2021. Add this one to your list; it’s a great event for contract management, procurement, and acquisition professionals.

Since the Army is doing all these innovative OTAs, my next move was to go find their best practice and lessons learned site for OTAs. What I found instead was a GAO Report from October 2020 that the Army should “Improve Use of Alternative Agreements and Approaches by Enhancing Oversight and Communication of Lessons Learned.” The Army did agree that Army organizations need to demonstrate consistent, coordinated practices that support sharing of lessons learned information on alternative agreements and approaches. But it was another dead end for me.

My next idea was Defense Pricing and Contracting (DPC). They have an excellent resource on Peer Review Best Practices, Lessons Learned, and Recommendations. I remembered it had some great information and feedback from peer reviews. But the only issue of this publication was dated December 2013, and I was not comfortable with seven-year-old information.

If we want our people to be innovative, we need to give them the most updated information and tools. One of them is the experience of sharing best practices and lessons learned among the military services and defense agencies. After reviewing all the different sources for this kind of information, I realized that the defense acquisition workforce needs one centralized portal for best practices and lessons learned, dedicated to knowledge sharing. The site needs to include the good, bad, and ugly of what worked and didn't work, along with a POC to talk to.

To create this site, we can build on a resource community that already exists.  I can’t think of a better home than the Defense Acquisition Innovation Repository (DAIR) maintained by ARP. With over 2,500 technical reports from practitioner-scholars (students, faculty, academics, and nonprofit researchers), DAIR is the largest body of applied research (aka, lessons learned) anywhere in the DoD. It has room to grow into the resource we need, ensuring our acquisition workforce is well informed to make good decisions and to avoid the mistakes of those who have gone—and failed—before.