SSC Atlantic Teams with Industry to Augment in-house Engineering Efforts
By Susan Piedfort, SSC Atlantic Public Affairs
CHARLESTON, S.C. – Providing information warfare solutions to warfighters effectively and affordably across five continents and seven time zones is a monumental task, but Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SSC) Atlantic is up to it.
That is thanks to more than 9,000 industry partners working in tandem with SSC Atlantic’s over 4,100-strong civilian and military workforce to augment the center’s in-house engineering efforts. This proven government-industry partnership not only helps SSC Atlantic put lifesaving information warfare products in the hands of warfighters cost effectively, but also accelerates the pace of innovation and technological advancement.
“Given the amount of work we do, with approximately 850 projects in parallel today, it is essential that we are able to augment our workforce and procure commercially available solutions via contractual relationships with our industry partners,” said SSC Atlantic Commanding Officer Capt. Scott Heller. “I’m very thankful for our many industry partners who are helping us achieve our goals. We need each other, and we need the great competition of ideas our partnerships bring,” he added.
SSC Atlantic has unlimited contracting authority for awarding and administering contracts in the information warfare domain, including the areas of research and development, systems engineering and other services associated with production, installation and sustainment for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems (C4ISR) and information technology (IT) initiatives.
Primarily a Navy Working Capital Fund Organization, SSC Atlantic relies on Department of Defense (DoD) customers paying for its engineering services rather than direct Congressional appropriations. SSC Atlantic generates adequate revenue to cover the cost of operations and break even at the end of the fiscal year. Since each project is directly tied to customer funding, the SSC Atlantic workforce must remain agile and dynamically allocated to meet customer needs.
“Industry partners are key to our success in bringing the best C4ISR solutions forward to our nation’s warfighters,” said SSC Atlantic Executive Director Chris Miller. “We are heavily engaged with our industry partners because without them we could not do what we do,” he added.
Many of SSC Atlantic’s contractors have worked with the center for years on projects ranging from ForceNet to information dominance and now information warfare and cybersecurity. One of the more visible examples of SSC Atlantic’s successful teaming with industry was the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle integration effort, which began in May 2007 and ramped up to 50 vehicles being integrated each day by December 2007. All told, more than 30,000 vehicles, including MRAP-All Terrain Vehicles (M-ATVs), were integrated with lifesaving C4I suites thanks to the government-industry partner effort.
SSC Atlantic’s Internet café project was another successful collaboration resulting in more than 1,000 Internet cafés established for use by warfighters and civilians supporting Operations Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn and Enduring Freedom.
The effort began in 2003, and by April 2011 warfighters had used more than a billion call minutes to call home to loved ones.
More recent SSC Atlantic collaborations with industry partners were availabilities on aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and U.S. 6th Fleet command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20). Truman received a full upgrade of the Consolidated Afloat Network Enterprise Services (CANES) network to include more than 3,400 local area network (LAN) drops, impacting more than 2,700 ship spaces. All work was completed on track and within cost.
Capt. William Albin of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) Fleet Readiness Directorate (FRD) Installation Office Atlantic (FIOA), project lead for the Truman availability, steered the team through an aggressive schedule of milestones, including a CANES Light-Off (CLO) completed in less than 120 work days. The CLO schedule milestone was the most aggressive and unprecedented in SSC Atlantic history. As Truman departed Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) one day early for sea trials in July 2017 following the availability, the Truman’s commanding officer, Capt. Ryan B. Scholl, praised ship forces, NNSY and civilian contractors for working together to stay on schedule and making an on-time departure from the shipyard.
Mount Whitney entered a dry-dock at Viktor Lenac Shipyard in Croatia last December 2016 for a six-month shipyard period during which vital systems and a hospitality upgrade was installed.
“Completing this first major milestone on time sets the stage for a strong cooperative effort as we focus on completion of the 2017 Mount Whitney service life extension program,” said Capt. Kevon Hakimzadeh, USS Mount Whitney Commanding Officer, after the dry-docking. The scheduled life-cycle maintenance and C4I upgrades by the SSC Atlantic and industry team will extend the life of the 1970s-era command ship to 2039.
SSC Atlantic is also teaming with industry to design and develop the WSN-12 Inertial Navigation System, the next generation inertial navigation system for the surface and submarine fleet. One primary component, the Navigation Processor Module (NPM), is being designed and developed by SSC Atlantic leveraging previous investments made by the Navy in the submarine navigation control system. Development of the other primary component, the Inertial Sensor Module (ISM), was awarded as a competitive industry contract. This partnership between SSC Atlantic and industry allows the government to obtain cutting edge sensor technology while lowering the overall system cost.
SSC Atlantic is a pioneer in leveraging commercial cloud services for Navy and federal applications hosting, teaming with various industry integrators and commercial cloud providers with experience in cloud deployment and services. Industry partners also assist in the center’s 24/7 sustainment services, including cloud security services, and in adapting Navy application hosting behaviors and culture to this newer form of hosting services. SSC Atlantic has also leveraged commercial cloud services as part of the Navy Data Center consolidation strategy, providing customers the option to transition into an approved commercial cloud environment vice a Navy-owned data center.
SSC Atlantic actively engages with industry to improve collaboration and break down barriers to innovation. In Charleston this engagement is facilitated through the Charleston Defense Contractors Association (CDCA). In SSC Atlantic’s detachment in Hampton Roads, Virginia, that connection is enabled through the Tidewater Association of Service Contractors (TASC), and in New Orleans, Louisiana, to members of the former Gulf Coast Government Contractors Association (GCGCA).
According to Joshua Hatter, CDCA president, major innovation and convergence is happening between defense and technology organizations, and CDCA plays a crucial role in preserving, sustaining and growing that business. Since the CDCA’s inception in 2002, SSC Atlantic has been teaming with them. Hatter, a senior manager of business development for General Dynamics Information Technology, has been on the CDCA’s board of directors since 2010 and has seen industry partnerships grow, along with SSC Atlantic’s economic impact.
“If you look at Boeing and their 8,000 to 9,000 employees, the economic impact is obvious. SSC Atlantic has about 4,000 employees, then another 8,000 to 9,000 contractors supporting them from hundreds of different firms, so the impact is collectively much bigger, but not so obvious because there is not a singular voice conveying that message,” Hatter said. “Our number one goal is our partnership with SSC Atlantic to be that voice. They have such an important mission to execute. There is no other contracting command in Charleston supporting the industrial base the way SSC Atlantic does,” he added.
According to Hatter, the partnership between the CDCA and SSC Atlantic is stronger than it has ever been. “We look for ways to add value to each other and make each other’s lives better. When people attend our annual summit or quarterly small business outreach gatherings, they are blown away by how open SSC Atlantic is about contracts, timing and what they are looking to buy. This is what people want to hear,” he said.
“We want to give our industry partners more venues and opportunities to get their ideas in front of the right people,” said Miller. “Great partnerships are what it takes to do what we do for the Navy and the nation.”
SSC Atlantic has also made great strides on the development, execution and administration of its contract actions.
“We work hard to be a good partner and to improve our contracting processes,” Heller said, pointing to improved accountability on making timely awards, and the communication between acquisition professionals and integrated product teams. “We have improved upfront planning and establishment of realistic expectations with customers,” stated Heller. “Our progress is noteworthy, but we need to continue to focus our collaborative efforts. We are looking at our enterprise tools and how to keep improving shared situational awareness and collaboration,” the captain added.
SSC Atlantic has several initiatives centered on improving communication with industry. Steve Harnig, the center’s chief of the contracting office (CCO), leads a concerted effort to increase two-way communication and remove barriers in the government contracting process that can, by nature, be cumbersome. On a quarterly basis, the CCO and his team brief industry at the Small Business and Industry Outreach Initiative (SBIOI). These briefings include information on contracting office performance, contract strategy, forecasting of future orders and contracts, and question and answer sessions.
“The intent of these exchanges is to be transparent with industry,” Harnig said, adding that SSC Atlantic views industry as stakeholders in the contracting process since they are impacted by decisions made on individual contract actions and strategies. To that end, he also chairs a Contracts Industry Council (CIC), made up of different contractors (size, socio-economic status, etc.). The CIC covers “hot topics” that impact the government team or industry.
“We intend to keep each of these communication methods going so that we can continue to leverage different perspectives, and explore better ways to deliver timely solutions to the warfighter,” Harnig said.
SSC Atlantic’s recently instituted technology exchanges are also fueling collaboration. Several of these quarterly exchanges have already been held and resulted in productive networking and a sharing of ideas. Each exchange focuses on one of SSC Atlantic’s technical growth areas – such as cloud computing, data science analytics, assured communications and cyber warfare – and features relevant industry white papers, panel discussions and break-out sessions.
Industry days are another way SSC Atlantic communicates with industry partners. SSC Atlantic hosted 23 of them in FY17, and the two-way exchange and feedback at these events has resulted in more efficiency in the contracting process. At an industry day held in Norfolk June 20, 2017, SSC Atlantic Deputy Executive Director Bill Deligne noted that SSC Atlantic is always looking for opportunities to engage with industry, through roundtables, the CIC and technology exchanges.
“The driving force behind SSC Atlantic’s mission to rapidly deliver and support solutions that enable [information warfare for our] naval, joint, national and coalition fighters is Information Warfare,” he said, “and industry partners are instrumental in carrying out that mission.”
SPAWAR Industry Engagement Council (SIEC), a quarterly roundtable discussion at SPAWAR headquarters between SPAWAR and Program Executive Office (PEO) leadership and two members from industry groups such as CDCA, the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) and the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) enables an understanding of issues, challenges and opportunities that are facing the Navy and industry partners.
An Information Warfare Research Program (IWRP), modeled after the National Shipbuilding Research Program (NSRP), is now being investigated at SSC Atlantic. IWRP will allow the center to partner with industry in research endeavors that can help respond to emerging requirements in a rapid way and with nontraditional ideas.
On the contracting front, SSC Atlantic has a history of effectively working with small businesses and innovative startups that can offer needed and novel solutions. SSC Atlantic’s partnerships with small businesses have consistently exceeded the DoD statutory targets established by the Small Business Act. SSC Atlantic’s target is 32 percent of total eligible obligated dollars on prime contracts to small business concerns. Out of the $3.25 billion in contracting effort for fiscal year 2016, 35 percent was obligated to small businesses (468 small business firms).
“Our success in consistently exceeding this goal is a result of acquisition planning and meaningful market research to understand small business capability while we minimize the barriers to entry,” Miller said. “We invest greatly in our relationship with small business through focused communication and outreach,” he added.
The quarterly SBIOI provides a venue for government and industry to understand future opportunities and the constraints of both industry and the government. Mutual understanding helps all parties recognize technical requirements, seek opportunities to be innovative and reduce the cost of doing business. More information about SBIOI can be found at http://www.charlestondca.org/. A recent SBIOI featured Director of Navy Office of Small Business Programs Emily Harman. Another highlight was an innovative “reverse industry day” which allowed a panel of industry partner leaders to provide valuable feedback to the entire SSC Atlantic contracts team.
According to Robin Rourk, the head of SSC Atlantic’s Office of Small Business Programs, small businesses provide flexibility and innovation to the SSC Atlantic information warfare mission.
“Typically, our small business partners have special niche capability and want to make a difference in the day-to-day lives of our warfighters. The sense of pride and ownership of our small businesses make them responsive and committed,” she said.
“As part of our outreach, we meet one-on-one with potential new entrants to our market. SSC Atlantic is very fortunate to have partnerships with nonprofit organizations such as the CDCA, TASC, AFCEA and Women in Defense to help those new entrants network and understand our requirements,” Rourk said.
For industry representatives interested in partnering with SSC Atlantic, a current, detailed contracts listing is posted at http://www.public.navy.mil/spawar/Atlantic/Pages/Home.aspx, and there is also a link to SSC Atlantic’s E-Commerce portal (https://e-commerce.sscno.nmci.navy.mil).
As Heller noted, expectations for SSC Atlantic are great as cyberspace is the fifth Navy warfighting domain, on a par with the physical domains of land, sea, air and space.
“I believe SSC Atlantic is in the right place at the right time to deliver solutions that operationalize cyberspace,” Heller said. “Our industry partners will continue to give us a strategic advantage as we develop and field information warfare solutions.”