HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – At the annual New Horizons event March 10-11, Department of Defense and Air Force speakers highlighted acquisition successes and also looked to the future.
Kevin Fahey, assistant secretary of Defense for Acquisition, spoke about how well the department has been doing with acquisition reform, or what he calls “acquisition innovation.”
“We threw out (DOD) 5000 as it existed,” he said. “We don’t need to tell everybody what to do and tailor it out. They need to do the critical thinking to decide what’s the right thing for their program and not just create documents to put on a shelf until the next milestone.”
He said that DOD is well on its way to an adaptive acquisition framework, but now we need to train people to understand the new way that we’re going to do business.
Fahey talked about the acquisition workforce, saying they are “unbelievably talented,” and if you “give them the tools to succeed, that’s where you’ll see innovation.”
For future efforts, Fahey highlighted the need to secure and strengthen the industrial base, including addressing supply chain issues and cyber maturity model certification.
Program executive officer for Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks, Maj. Gen. Michael Schmidt, noted that he and some industry partners felt “uncomfortable,” referring to all the changes occurring, but said that was a good thing for the Air Force and DOD.
“I see it bringing out a lot of innovation,” he said.
Schmidt presented an overview of his organization and spoke on where some of their programs align with Air Force and DOD priorities.
While talking agile contracting, the general noted that his organization tries not to rely on sole source contracts. He said his team is now able to have “true competition in days and weeks, versus months and years, in order to get capability to the warfighter faster.”
Senior materiel leaders from C3I&N also presented business opportunities within the portfolio.
Steve Wert, program executive officer for Digital, noted that his organization is promoting “speed, innovation and technology,” and the Air Force wants to go fast, not just in acquisition.
Mentioning “strategic pivots,” he said he was “more than willing to compete an ongoing program within my portfolio with a startup effort that might have better results.”
“We’re ending the era of programs that are too big to fail,” he said.
Wert also spoke about big Air Force and DOD changes from Air Battle Management System, or ABMS, and Joint All Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, to new levels of delegation and engaging tech startups.
When talking about ABMS, he noted, “If you’re working on an individual program or individual system, think of every one as a data producer for wide use, not single use.” He added that, “at the same time, with the same system, think of that as a data consumer.”
In addition, Wert presented business opportunities within his portfolio.
Bill Marion, deputy chief information officer for the Air Force, said it’s an “unprecedented time” for the service with regard to IT.
“This last [program objective memorandum] cycle I would argue was the largest plus-up in the IT spend area,” he said. “The Chief (of Staff of the Air Force) talks about Joint All Domain Control and Control, and Enterprise IT as a Service is fundamental to that discussion.”
Dr. Adil Karim, chief engineer, Architecture Initiatives – ABMS, from the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, noted that the Chief Architect Office was stood up to look across programs.
“PEOs have a lot going on in their day-to-day jobs and it’s difficult to look across programs within the Air Force and Space Force,” he said. “There’s no “Easy Button” to see all efforts going on and tell you what could and should be done.”
Karim noted that’s why events like New Horizons are so important.
“We can learn from each other and try to figure out the best way forward.”
Other speakers were from the PEO for Nuclear Command, Control and Communications, Air Force Research Lab, Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, MIT Lincoln Laboratory and General Services Administration. There was also a panel on “Empowering Today’s Workforce to Tackle Tomorrow’s Problems,” and innovative startup technology pitches, coordinated through the AF Accelerator powered by Techstars.
New Horizons is sponsored by the Lexington-Concord chapter of AFCEA.