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The Acquisition Research Program publishes a weekly email newsletter, Need to Knowin 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 7.3.2020

July 3, 2020

Noteworthy in Issue #15: The House Armed Services Committee finished its marathon NDAA markup remarkably early on Wednesday (before midnight) and voted to name the bill the “William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.” Thanks for all the reform legislation, Mac! We’ve updated our tracker of Section 809 Panel recommendations as reflected in the latest versions of these committee bills, finding at least 9 recommendations have landed so far. And we continue to bring you more research from the Acquisition Research Program, with the next video in our student research series and the next panel from this year’s Acquisition Research Symposium.

It’s a holiday weekend, when we celebrate the day colonists published the Declaration of Independence to explain why they were fighting for freedom from British rule. Reading this founding document is a great way to celebrate.

ARP Research: Symposium Spotlight

Panel #6: Unmanned Vehicles in a Model Based Systems Engineering Universe

Evaluating Current Systems Engineering Models for Applicability to Model-Based Systems Engineering Technical Reviews​
Ronald Carlson (Naval Postgraduate School), Warren Vaneman (Naval Postgraduate School)

  • Micro-abstract: Current technical reviews are based around lengthy evaluations of static, contractually obligated documents. Using data-driven model-based systems engineering technical reviews instead will provide greater insights with faster comprehension for the details across a program’s life cycle.  Read the Paper and Presentation.       

Architecture-Based Security for UxVs
Valdis Berzins (Naval Postgraduate School)

  • Micro-abstract:  Navy acquisition has applied Open Systems Architecture principles to improve affordability of system development, test, evaluation, and upgrade. This paper explores extension of such principles to improve security of unmanned systems within affordable costs.  Read the Paper and Presentation.

The Lightly Manned Autonomous Combat Capability (LMACC)​
Johnathan Mun (Naval Postgraduate School), Shelley Gallup (Naval Postgraduate School)

  • Micro-abstract: The new vessel, called Sea Fighter, would have a crew of 15 and have a single combat mission: to deliver long-range precision weapons and distribute secondary combat functions among the pack of Sea Fighters and Sea Hunters. An analysis of total ship costs is applied in a simulation and comparison to other vessels.  Read the Paper and Presentation.         

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


This Week’s Top Story

The Navy Needs a Course Correction: Prototyping with Purpose
Senators Jim Inhofe and Jack Reed, USNI Proceedings

As leaders in the Pentagon, Capitol Hill, and industry come to grips with great power competition with China and Russia, we all agree: We must accelerate innovative research and development, acquire new capabilities faster, and transform the way the U.S. military fights if it is to prevail. This is hardly the first time U.S. national security leaders have felt a sense of urgency and attempted to do so.

Unfortunately, results have been mixed at best, with absurd acquisition debacles that have set back the country tens of billions of dollars and delayed necessary weapon systems for years. While examples abound in each military service, we are particularly concerned with Navy shipbuilding. We believe there is a better way to develop new first-of-class ships.

As the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has documented, lead ships in new classes of naval vessels routinely fail to meet expectations. For the eight most recently delivered lead combatant ships—the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), Zumwalt (DDG-1000), Freedom (LCS-1), Independence (LCS-2), America (LHA-6), San Antonio (LPD-17), Virginia (SSN-774), and Texas (SSN-775)—the GAO found that a total of $8 billion more than the initial cost estimate was required to construct these ships, each lead ship experienced cost growth of at least 10 percent, and three lead ships exceeded their initial budgets by 80 percent or more. Further, each lead ship was delivered to the fleet at least six months late—five were more than two years late—and most lead ships had dozens of uncorrected deficiencies when the Navy accepted them.

GAO experts have continually noted a key step in successful shipbuilding programs is technology development—the maturation of key technologies into subsystem prototypes and demonstration of those subsystem prototypes in a realistic environment prior to the detailed design of the lead ship. This type of technology maturation was not performed effectively, or at all, on the CVN-78, DDG-1000, LCS-1, LCS-2, and LPD-17 programs.

… As an alternative approach, we believe these four principles should guide lead-ship development:

  • Department of Defense (DoD) and Navy leaders should lead on defining the future force architecture and, just as important, personally sign off on realistic system- and subsystem-level plans.
  • New critical subsystems should be proven before building a full-scale platform.
  • Contracting for a full-scale platform prototype should occur only after all critical subsystems have been proven and should focus on system integration.
  • The objective of subsystem and full-scale platform prototyping is to close the government’s technical knowledge gaps.

Read more.


News from the Acquisition Research Program at Naval Postgraduate School

Student Research Video. U.S. Naval Shipbuilding Capacity: Is There Enough And What Can Be Done To Improve?

LCDR Rudy Mason presents his team's thesis research on how to expand the nation's shipbuilding capabilities to fulfill the Navy’s 30-year, 355-ship goal.


The U.S. Navy Is Making Plans to Replace the F-35 Stealth Fighter
Kris Osborn, The National Interest

Note that this article mentions an ARP-supported thesis:

… This challenge, explored by a Naval Postgraduate School essay called “The 6th-Generation Quandry,” poses the question as to whether it might be equally if not more effective to postpone formal sixth-generation development until truly breakthrough advances emerge, while pursuing advanced variants of current, yet upgradable platforms in the interim. The 2016 paper, from the Naval Postgraduate School Acquisition Research Program, cites a handful of current systems showing significant long-term promise. The paper cites “new models of the F-35 optimized for air combat,” the emerging B-21, drone-launching C-130 “mother ships” and “weapons truck arsenal planes” are positioned to optimize current technological progress.


Acquisition and Innovation

Here’s how the Space Force will be organized
Valerie Insinna, Defense News

Use of military contractors shrouds true costs of war. Washington wants it that way, study says.
Alex Horton and Aaron Gregg, The Washington Post

Risk Aversion Impedes Hypersonics Development
Staff Sgt. Todd C. Lopez, DoD News

GSA still must answer supply chain risk questions with e-commerce platforms
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

How the Navy beat its own timeline for its largest cloud migration
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

DoD withdraws Defense Production Act small launch contract awards
Sandra Erwin, Space News

A Synopsis of Preaward Reviews of VA Federal Supply Schedule Pharmaceutical Proposals Issued in Fiscal Year 2019
Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General

Alliant 2 Small Business (A2SB) Governmentwide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) cancelled


Events (Upcoming)

Is Great Power Competition a Constructive Framework for Formulating U.S. Policies in sub-Saharan Africa?
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Tuesday, July 7, 2020 9:00 am - 10:00 am

Decoding the DoD Innovation Alphabet
Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), in collaboration with National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), the Defense Innovation Board (DIB), AFWERX, Army Applications Lab (AAL), and NavalX.
July 9, 2020  3:00-4:00pm ET



Acquiring Space Capabilities with Agility and Discipline at the Speed of Relevance
National Security Space Association Studies & Analysis Center

Party on the Bridge: Political Commissars in the Chinese Navy
Jeff Benson and Yi Zang, Center for Strategic & International Studies


Defense and Federal Government

Navy ‘Education for Seapower’ Program Under Review by New SECNAV
Sam LaGrone, USNI News

DoD Spotlight: Protecting America's Global Positioning System
U.S. Department of Defense

Why Data Governance is Critical to a Successful JCF
The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center

US Navy’s first 4 littoral combat ships to leave the fleet in 9 months
David B. Larter, Defense News

FCC bars Huawei and ZTE from subsidies, citing national security
Margaret Harding McGill, Axios

Marine Corps creates first ‘Network Battalion’ for cyberdefense and modernization
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Audit of Governance and Protection of Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Data and Technology
Department of Defense Inspector General

Turkey to Keep Making F-35 Parts Through 2022, Pentagon Says
Anthony Capaccio, Bloomberg

US could buy Turkey’s Russian-made S-400 under Senate proposal
Joe Gould, Defense News

The Navy aims to install cyber baselines aboard 180 ships
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

Upgradeable Birds: AF Taps Hypergiant For ‘Reconfigurable’ Satellites
Theresa Hitchens, Breaking Defense


House panel approves $740.5B defense policy bill
Rebecca Kheel, The Hill

Thornberry talks acquisition reform in 2021 NDAA
Lauren C. Williams, FCW

Pentagon’s chief reform job would be scrapped under House plan
Joe Gould, Defense News

Ligado would be banned from DoD contracts under House plan
Joe Gould, C4ISRNET

Proposals would make extremist activity a military crime, create DOD oversight office for racial issues
Leo Shane III, Military Times

HASC amendments question space acquisition reforms, challenge DoD plans to procure new systems
Sandra Erwin, Space News

Congress Inches Closer to Creating a National Cloud for AI Research
Brandi Vincent, Nextgov

Senators Introduce Deepfake-Focused Amendment to Defense Authorization Act
Brandi Vincent, Nextgov

HASC Wants To Stop Year-End Spending Sprees
Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., Breaking Defense

Full Committee Hearing: “Department of Defense Authorities and Roles Related to Civilian Law Enforcement” (Thursday, July 9, 2020)
Witnesses: The Honorable Dr. Mark T. Esper, Secretary of Defense and General Mark A. Milley, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
House Armed Services Committee


Section 809 Panel Updates

We are watching the NDAA process closely, with an eye for acquisition reforms related to recommendations from the Section 809 Panel. So far, we see several areas influenced by at least 8 panel recommendations.

Sec. 884: Pilot Program Exploring The Use Of Consumption-Based Solutions To Address Software-Intensive Warfighting Capability (Amendment to S. 4049 offered by Mr. Rounds of South Dakota)

  • References panel recommendation #43: Revise acquisition regulations to enable more flexible and effective procurement of consumption-based solutions.

Section 827—Report on Transfer and Consolidation of Certain Defense Acquisition Statutes (H.R. 6395)

  • Continues implementation of panel recommendation #90: Reorganize Title 10 of the U.S. Code to Place All of the Acquisition Provisions in a Single Part, and Update and Move Acquisition-related Note Sections into the Reorganized Acquisition Part of Title 10

Three sections of H.R. 6395 address the need for a more comprehensive planning for weapon system sustainment, showing influence from two panel recommendations.


  • Recommendation #41: Establish a sustainment program baseline, implement key enablers of sustainment, elevate sustainment to equal standing with development and procurement, and improve the defense materiel enterprise focus on weapon system readiness.
  • Recommendation #42: Reduce budgetary uncertainty, increase funding flexibility, and enhance the ability to effectively execute sustainment plans and address emergent sustainment requirements.

Item of Interest: Efforts to Streamline the Internal Control Audit Framework Used to Evaluate Contractor Business Systems (H.R. 6395)

  • References panel recommendation #72: Replace 18 system criteria from DFARS 252.242-7006, Accounting System Administration, with an internal control audit to assess the adequacy of contractors’ accounting systems based on seven system criteria.

Sec. 803—Contractor Business Systems (H.R. 6395) and Sec. 845—Definition of Business System Deficiencies for Contractor Business Systems (S. 4049)

  • Implements part of panel recommendation #10: Replace system criteria from DFARS 252.242-7006, Accounting System Administration, with an internal control audit to assess the adequacy of contractors’ accounting systems.

Sec. 826—Assessment of the Requirements Processes of the Military Departments (H.R. 6395)

Sec. 10__. Temporary Authority to Extend Unobligated Operations and Maintenance Funds (Amendment to H.R. 6395 offered by Mr. Thornberry of Texas)

  • Similar to panel recommendation #49: Provide increased flexibility to the time periods within which contract obligations are permitted to occur.

This amendment discussed in the article: HASC Wants To Stop Year-End Spending Sprees
Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., Breaking Defense

Selected highlights from the article: Because Operations & Maintenance is over 40 percent of the Pentagon budget, the requirement to obligate every penny of it before Oct. 1 distorts decision-making over billions of dollars, year after year, and one of Congress’s most respected defense reformers has decided to take it on as a last hurrah before retiring. […] Thornberry introduced an amendment this morning to allow DoD to keep 50 percent of unobligated O&M past 1 October – and then immediately withdrew it. […]  “The Section 809 panel referenced this issue in their final report, Volume 3, which may well be what Smith and Thornberry are responding to,” said Andrew Hunter.

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