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Changes In How The US Navy Incentivizes Innovation and Acquires New Solutions

Several years ago, the Navy selected Hondo (James) Geurts as their new Acquisition Chief.  His previous experience buying for Special Operations Command taught him some unique ways to incentivize innovation and improve speed-to-capability.  While some programs (ships, submarines, etc.) benefit from the full scrutiny of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, most IT systems do not.  The Navy is tired of delivering great technologies that are several years out of date by the time the Sailors see them.  In the past three years, the Navy has greatly improved the way they look at these cutting-edge technologies.  This includes new contract types (Other Transactional Authorities (OTA’s) are now commonplace for IT solutions).  The Navy can communicate their pain points quickly and directly with Industry via white papers, and commercial demonstrations or pilots are able to move rapidly from concept to contract without further competition.

The Navy recently made another change that will have significant impact on how things get fielded.  They disestablished their fourteen year old Program Executive Office (PEO) Enterprise Information Systems (EIS) and created two new PEO’s: PEO Digital and PEO MLB (Manpower, Logistics and Business Solutions).  PEO Digital is focused on digital transformation. Amazingly there are still many programs that are not fully digitized. This recognizes the importance of running a digital platform that is a strategic asset to the Navy. PEO MLB is focused on delivering IT applications to Navy users (and depends on full digitization to do so).

This realignment is meant to improve the Navy’s IT delivery into something more modern, removing redundancies and streamlining processes to focus on warfighting capabilities from end-to-end.  If you’re trying to find where your Company fits into this new structure, here’s a quick look at what ended up where:

PEO Digital, led by Ruth Youngs Lew, has Naval Enterprise Networks (PMW 205), Special Networks and Intelligence Mission Applications (PMW 260), Navy Commercial Cloud Services (PMW 270), Special Access Program Networks (PMW 280) and Enterprise Information Technology Strategic Sourcing (PMW 290).

PEO MLB, led by Les Hubbard, has Navy Enterprise Business Solutions (PMW 220), Logistics Integrated Information Solutions-Marine Corps (PMW 230), Sea Warrior Program (PMW 240), Enterprise Systems and Services (PMW 250), and Navy Maritime Maintenance Enterprise Solutions – Tech Refresh (PMS 444).

This is still the early days of transition, so stay tuned as things sort out in the future!

The Navy has also identified a need to better connect with industry and academia to share insights on current challenges and future mission needs. Their approach is to establish lead organizations for improving this liaison.

Last year, Navy established NavalX to connect both internal and external Navy partners to increase awareness and access the best practices and technologies.  Consider this as a “super-connector” which is focused on scaling nontraditional agility methods across the Navy. These organizations are tasked with bridging gaps between industry and government so are called “bridges.”

The first six Naval activities chosen to sponsor a Bridge were:

  • Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Keyport, WA
  • Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane, IN
  • Naval Information Warfare Command, Pacific, San Diego, CA
  • Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Newport, RI
  • Naval Information Warfare Command, Atlantic, Charleston, SC
  • Naval Aviation Warfare Center, Training Systems Division, Orlando, FL

Each bridge looks at different capabilities, depending on their sponsor, and focuses on resources available from their local communities.  The Crane bridge, for example, looks at artificial intelligence, data analytics and visualization and advanced manufacturing. The NIWC LANT bridge is focused on cybersecurity, autonomous systems and adaptative manufacturing.   Each one will develop differently depending on their local resources.

In Charleston, the Palmetto Tech Bridge, under NIWC LANT, is still in the early phases.  First efforts are to identify a physical space, off of the Navy Base, where the Bridge can host meetings and collaborative opportunities.  It’s really hard to get onto the NIWC campus, and COVID-19 had made in nearly impossible.  At the Bridge, NIWC can partner with start-ups, academia, corporations, small businesses, nonprofits, private capital groups and government entities to build a network of collaboration. This could lead to future experimentation inside the Navy labs (on campus) to address specific technical problems.

These are unfunded efforts; they rely on their surrounding ecosystem to create something of value.  THERE IS NO MONEY HERE!  You won’t get a contract through the Bridge.  But being involved in one of the NavalX activities will enable you to discover Navy’s pain points and engage in discussions about how to solve them.

The world of DoD procurement is changing in positive ways. That change is coming slowly but steadily! Let us know if we can be of assistance in understanding any of these changes.

Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris Ward (Commander, U.S. Navy (Retired)) has over 30 years of experience helping the Department of Defense (DoD) solve difficult technology requirements. She has a proven track record of building, maintaining, securing and certifying technology solutions for use within DoD. She works with Industry to identify key opportunities and provides strategic guidance and support. She is a strategic analyst and cybersecurity professional who has deep expertise in improving enterprise cybersecurity.