How Acquisition Programs Can Exploit New Technologies

This is a dynamic page to offer acquisition professionals novel strategies and solutions to overcome common challenges.

 

Scenario: You are an acquisition professional in a program office. Your program is currently in development, possibly with some recent deliveries. You are eager to identify and exploit new technologies and novel approaches to improve performance, address key Warfighter needs, and mission impact. 
 
You may be facing some of these common challenges. Click on the below section headers to see some recommended strategies you can take to address them.

Innovation Challenges Graphic

Technology and Design

Challenges You May Encounter.

  • Locked into a closed vendor architecture that does not easily integrate new technologies or requires prime to integrate at significant costs.
  • Unclear what are the new and emerging technologies that could be matured and integrated into your program and who are the leading government and/or commercial developers of these technical solutions.
  • Uncertainly around how integrating new technology could impact accreditation and how to address.

Potential Solutions.

  • Encourage contractor teaming arrangements between the prime and new technology provider to address integration and intellectual property concerns.
  • Explore the potential of fielding a separate and unique capability that complements the current program.
  • Consider a Middle Tier of Acquisition (MTA) pathway program to rapidly prototype or produce a promising technology and gain insights with operational capabilities before integrating into a baselined program.
  • Establish relationships and recurring update sessions with appropriate divisions of DoD laboratories. and other relevant innovation organizations (e.g., DIU, AFWERX, NSIN) to discuss your operational requirements, key operational and technical challenges, and opportunity space to see if they can identify key technologies, leading orgs, etc.
  • Explore temporarily incorporating DOD laboratory representatives into the program office to help with a lab transition.
  • Collaborate with test community to configure testing environments and processes that enable new technology test and insertion.

What You Can Do!

  • Gain leadership support to discuss potential approaches with the prime & identify points of resistance.
  • Draft a plan for leadership consideration that address the identified challenges – push for new approaches!
  • During planning, ensure modular open systems approach (MOSA) standards are being used to the maximum extent possible.
  • During planning, ensure acquisition and contract strategies have flexibility in anticipation of innovation/new technical insertion opportunities.
  • Engage certification authorities early.
Proprietary, Immature, Dynamic. “It’s Too Hard, Let’s Just Go With What We Have.”

Locked-in Effects

Challenges You May Encounter.

  • Program has an approved requirements document (e.g., JCIDS ICD, IS-ICD, CDD, IS-CDD) or equivalent (MTA, SWP, DBS) and unclear if new technologies or solutions fall within requirements documents.
  • Stakeholder concerns regarding program cost, schedule, and performance impacts.
  • Restrictive policies or interpretation of policies.

Potential Solutions.

  • Use flexible pathways – Middle Tier of Acquisition and Software Acquisition Pathway do not require an acquisition program baseline (APB). Either transition to the pathway or use in parallel for novel solutions.
  • Explore the potential of substituting new technology for elements of current baseline to minimize impacts.
  • Explore ways to operate within the current program plan through collaboration with stakeholders and tailoring processes/documentation to accommodate new technology insertion during program execution.
  • Develop future requirements that outline the operational capability needs without overly defining the system design and technologies included.
  • If significant scope, shape as a separate follow-on increment/release.
  • Early socialization of any program baseline updates; convey the value of the change.
    • Spend time with cost estimators to convey expected risk and help expedite update (long lead time).

What You Can Do!

  • Draft a strategy and communication plan to get leadership/stakeholder inputs, feedback, and buy-in.
  • Include planned updates as part of Staffer Day briefings (if available) to minimize Hill concerns.
Baselines, Requirements, Policies. “You Better Check With Everyone.”

Contracting

Challenges You May Encounter.

Potential Solutions.

What You Can Do!

  • Proactively collaborate with contracting office and legal to establish expedited processes for inserting new technology into existing acquisition programs that addresses funding, existing contracts, IP/cybersecurity considerations, etc.
  • Collaborate with leadership and General Counsel while planning to gain buy-in and support for new strategies.
Barriers, Timelines, Legacy Approaches. “The Cards Seem Stacked Against Us.”

Awareness and Interest

Challenges You May Encounter.

  • Program office unaware of commercial or DoD laboratory solutions.
  • Program manager/contracting officer uninterested in pursuing new practices/processes to integrate/insert new technology in existing programs.
  • DoD laboratories uninformed about program office process considerations to transition technology.
  • Industry uneducated about processes to move forward with innovative solutions in the DoD.

Potential Solutions.

  • Understand and leverage existing frameworks and processes for transitioning technology from DoD labs.
  • Provide relevant threat briefings to highlight specific mission impacts to acquisition workforce.
  • Expand use of accelerators and incubator organizations within the DoD Innovation Ecosystem.
  • Broaden exposure to considerations and topics challenging non-traditional innovators to participate in DoD acquisition processes.
  • Expand understanding of innovation opportunities and challenges through training and broadening opportunities.

What You Can Do!

  • “Networking is working” – join the larger innovation ecosystem.
  • Establish visits to key labs/orgs and recurring engagements to connect research and acquisition.
  • Acquisition portfolio brief roadmaps, operational needs, and tech challenges to labs and industry.
  • Do the reading – stay on top of recent developments – Google alerts, RSS feeds.
  • Find good trainings and recommend to others.
  • Share your questions (and find others who are asking the same thing).
  • Share your answers (to create collaboration opportunities).
  • Reach out beyond the usual suspects.
Uninformed, Unaware, Uninterested. “How Do We Break Through?”

Stakeholder Concerns

Challenges You May Encounter.

  • Decision authority skeptical about cost and schedule impacts.
  • Functional support concerned about impacts and changes to plans i.e., test, engineering, sustainment.
  • Users/operators are excited about innovative technical solutions and want to see demonstrations quickly followed by operational availability.

Potential Solutions.

What You Can Do!

  • Find successful examples to demonstrate precedent and lower the bar for adoption.
  • Find unsuccessful examples to demonstrate what’s been tried and understand/address challenges.
Skeptical, Concerned, Intrigued. “I Thought There Would Be More Excitement.”

Funding

Challenges You May Encounter.

  • Is funding identified in budget documents?
  • Is additional funding needed?
  • Will a revised cost estimate be necessary?

Potential Solutions.

  • A portfolio-level funding strategy may offer new start flexibility and enable easier funding reallocation across the portfolio.
  • Scale integration appropriately. Start small and anticipate non-traditional defense contractor growing pains as well as buying time for the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) process.
    • Minimize need for large influxes of cash that might disrupt the ongoing program.

What You Can Do!

  • Investigate if the new technology can be captured as a derived requirement and therefore captured in current program approved budget docs to mitigate new start issues.
  • Investigate available innovation funds as source of authorization/resourcing.
  • Investigate current budget documents for potential pigeonholes.
  • If needed, build support for Above Threshold Reprogramming.

 

Approved, Resourced, Estimated. “But The Money Is Right There.”
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