NIWC Atlantic Pioneering New Acquisition Strategies

With technology continually evolving, the need for Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic to outpace adversaries and rapidly deliver technical solutions into the hands of the warfighter has led to the implementation of several new acquisition methods and streamlined processes to obtain cutting-edge technology.

To address the need for rapid acquisition methods, acquisition planning processes such as Acquisition Planning Group (APG), Acquisition Management System (AMS) and Procurement Planning Conference (PPC) were streamlined internally to be more efficient for NIWC Atlantic project leads and technical requirements owners. Acquisition planning allows requirements owners to leverage the Information Warfare Research Project (IWRP). The Commercial Solutions Openings (CSOs) was launched last year to enable faster access to commercial information warfare technologies.

“To keep up with emerging technology, we needed to change our strategy to cultivate successful teams that rapidly transition prototypes to production to the warfighter,” said Don Sallee, Acquisition Planning Services manager. “To stay agile, the APS team has leveraged new planning products to illuminate other acquisition opportunities both within the government and externally within industry and academia.”

Created in 2021, APG meets quarterly and consists of representatives from NIWC Atlantic’s departments, competencies and Office of Small Business Programs. They meet to discuss procurement, acquisition processes tools, future procurement initiatives, learning and disseminating information, and gain perspectives from the integrated product teams (IPTs).

“Since we’re such a large command, it can sometimes be difficult for everyone to get the correct or newest information. APG was created to ensure that everyone is communicating and getting necessary information while also enabling a discussion about our wins and lessons learned for procurements,” said Sasha Pascual, NIWC Atlantic program manager. “APG is integral in our procurement and acquisition process as we are always learning and strategizing the best ways to support our IPTs so they can successfully execute the mission.”

Just launched in March, AMS is an enterprise tool that will manage procurement data to drive improved acquisition discipline and collaboration decisions in procurement planning and execution. AMS provides visibility and real-time, accurate procurement data, combined with acquisition dashboards to drive discipline and rigor into the NIWC Atlantic procurement processes.

To match the changes that AMS will bring, PPC evolved and transitioned from other similar processes. PPC is the entire planning process that is utilized to procure services or tools an IPT needs and ensures the procurement process transitions smoothly.

“PPC forces everyone involved to plan, oftentimes one to two years out, so that we have all of our bases covered, questions answered and a plan for potential problems,” said Pascual. “There are several steps in the award and procurement process, and it’s easy to miss one that could set back the entire timeline. By planning years in advance, we are able to avoid pitfalls, anticipate difficulties and, overall, award contracts quicker than if we didn’t have the PPC in place.”

Each department has an assigned technical acquisition manager (TAM) that oversees the process and serves as an acquisition advisor by receiving and reviewing the necessary documents and ensuring all the requirements are met to move forward. The TAMs coordinate meetings between the IPT lead, business financial managers, technical leads and contracting to discuss and collaborate on timing, funding and strategize the best procurement vehicle. Once a strategy and plan has been approved by contracting, a contract specialist will take over for the TAM to execute the award process.

TAMS and PPC also offer guidance to IPT leads as to which acquisition method would provide the most success and best results, whether it’s traditional contracting methods, CSO or IWRP.

IWRP launched in October 2018 with a $100 million ceiling limit and three-year performance period (PoP). Due to its success, the ceiling limit was increased to $500 million and a five-year PoP in July 2020. IWRP 2 was awarded in November 2021 with a ceiling limit of $500 million and a five-year PoP. IWRP uses an Other Transaction Authority (OTA), an alternative acquisition method, which streamlines the acquisition process to rapidly develop prototypes and provide advanced technology solutions to the fleet. IWRP is also unique in that it is a consortium formed by industry and academia partners to compete for prototype projects aligned to 15 different technology focus areas.

“We have seen tremendous success with IWRP,” said Jee Youn Fickling, program manager for IWRP at NIWC Atlantic. “We have transitioned 12 prototypes into production and identified another seven that are in the workflow to be transitioned during fiscal year 2022-2023. We are the only Navy organization to have successfully transitioned prototypes into production.”

Since IWRP is a newer concept, there has not been a community of practice (CoP) in place. As other Navy organizations adopt the same framework, however, one is being established, and a first-time meeting is planned for May in Charleston, which will be led by NIWC Atlantic and the IWRP project manager. With the formation of an OTA CoP will come Navy-wide collaboration, networking, sharing lessons learned, and, ultimately, strengthening the Navy’s acquisition community.

The CSO is a competitive program NIWC Atlantic started utilizing in 2019 to streamline the acquisition of innovative commercial solutions beyond the traditional Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and non-FAR procurement methods. Specifically, it is used to select solution proposals that fulfill requirements, close capability gaps or provide potential technological advances for items that are currently in the production/commercialization phase as well as adaptations of existing commercial items.

“The CSO is a great option to take what is commercially immediately available and use it in our operational setting,” said Sallee. “The CSO is still in its infancy for us, but we are continually working with our team leads to find ways to use it to accelerate technology and solutions into the hands of the warfighter.”

NIWC Atlantic’s CSO was designed to reduce barriers for entry and increase collaboration —especially for small businesses — as the down-select process is executed.

“These new strategies are an integral part of improving our overall acquisition process,” said Kevin Charlow, NIWC Atlantic deputy executive director. “The APS team has worked tirelessly to implement these new strategies to ensure we are rapidly moving through the processes to get the latest technology to the warfighter.”

About NIWC Atlantic

As a part of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.

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