The Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) recently hit a significant milestone and transitioned the first wave of Information Warfare Research Project (IWRP) prototypes to production through an Other Transaction Authority Production (OTP) award using 10 U.S.C §2371b(f) Authority.
At the close of fiscal year 2020, NAVWAR awarded three OTPs marking the beginning stages of an accelerated pathway designed to take successful IWRP prototypes into production and rapidly deliver key technology for warfighter application. The IWRP uses an alternative acquisition method, called an other transaction authority (OTA), to streamline acquisition processes, develop prototypes, and rapidly provide advanced technologies to the fleet. The three OTPs had a combined ceiling value of approximately $104 million.
“These transitions into production are a huge win for the Navy and illustrate our ability to use this unique acquisition authority to rapidly deliver solutions on behalf of our Sailors and Marines,” said NAVWAR Commander Rear Adm. Doug Small. “I'm extremely proud of our IWRP team, who showed that bringing the right tool to the acquisition job can quickly bring results.”
Follow-on production agreements are allowed as sole source awards under 10 U.S. Code section 2371b(f). These original agreements must be completed in advance, stated as potentially having a follow-on production opportunity at the time of solicitations. The prototype must be determined to be successful in order for it to transition into production. Production agreements can be either an OTP or a Federal Acquisition Regulation-based contract.
“This process provides a unique opportunity to leverage an OTA to not only rapidly prototype – which we are actively and successfully doing through IWRP – but also to rapidly produce technology and place it in the hands of our Sailors and Marines faster,” said Don Sallee, Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic acquisition planning services manager.
The three IWRP prototypes moving into production include the U.S. Marine Corps’ Low Altitude Range Communication System (LARCS), the Chief of Naval Operations Navy Programming Division’s (OPNAV N80) Analytic Performance Assessment Capability (APAC) and the Defense Health Agency’s (DHA) Healthcare Master Data Management (MDM) software tool.
“Our first OTPs demonstrate the breadth and reach NAVWAR is striving for through IWRP,” said Jee Youn Fickling, program manager for IWRP at NIWC Atlantic. “We are making connections across the Naval enterprise and collaborating with nontraditional partners to leverage the right knowledge base and expertise to innovate information warfare technologies and address the most immediate needs of the Navy and Marines Corps – and that’s exactly what these initial production agreements are doing.”
NIWC Atlantic’s LARCS team received the first prototype award through IWRP in 2019, and now represents a Marine Corps-tested technology that will be at the disposal of the warfighter in the future.
LARCS takes the Marine Corps’ analogue air-to-ground communications system and modernizes it to a voice over internet protocol user environment with graphical user interfaces to bridge gaps between different systems.
“It feels incredible to be pioneers of this process and to be able to see LARCS go from initial concept all the way to production award,” said Allen Hillman, NIWC Atlantic LARCS team lead. “The streamlined process of IWRP and the ability to communicate with all the key players while developing the requirements were key to creating an information warfare solution that directly aligns with the needs of the Marine Corps.”
The IWRP’s second production award, APAC, takes a larger Navy-wide data management challenge and offers a robust informational library that provides leaders immediate decision-making material. Through the application of innovative artificial intelligence, machine learning algorithms and data analytics, the capability connects millions of key exercise documents, historical papers, research and war gaming materials into a centralized location that can be accessed by leaders on demand.
The databases of the Naval Postgraduate School, Naval War College, Defense Technical Information Center and the Center for Naval Analysis were used in the APAC pilot.
In a similar vein, the third OTP addresses Master Data Management through the lens of medical repositories and data analytics servicing all branches of the military. NIWC Atlantic’s Medical Information Delivery (MID) team and its defense health customer, DHA’s Program Executive Office (PEO) Defense Healthcare Management Systems’ (DHMS) Enterprise Intelligence and Data Solutions (EIDS) Program Management Office (PMO), oversaw the prototyping effort of the solution.
“The IWRP gave us a forum and an opportunity to present our problem to ‘crowd source’ ideas from a very broad swath of expertise and domains with which we may never have an opportunity to engage,” said Sean Smith, NIWC Atlantic MID team lead. “That part of the process alone was innovative when compared with the traditional FAR-based industry interaction. That unhindered interaction ultimately helped us shape and define the solution we truly needed.”
The prototype was built on a commercial off-the-shelf product to understand its growing DHA data repositories, easily identify redundant data, categorize the data for use, create and maintain effective data dictionaries, and provide the DHA with useful data catalogs to guide consumption.
“This software tool ultimately benefits everyone,” said Brian Palmatier, NIWC Atlantic MDM project lead. “Not only will it replace the current implementation, which NIWC Atlantic is supporting for the EIDS PMO, but it also allows us to help the EIDS PMO orchestrate a data governance model that uses data management best practices.”
Once produced and fully implemented, the solution will save time and money, explained Palmatier, and allow data scientists to access and locate medical data quickly and efficiently, ensuring both the security and quality of the data.
“The collaborative experience with IWRP, initially, was a small stretch from our team’s comfort zone. However, once we gained a better understanding of Other Transactions and how the agreements worked, we really came to appreciate the open interaction with industry,” said Smith. “This initial run from prototype to production was a great learning opportunity and we see the IWRP as another valuable tool in our box to help us drive faster delivery of necessary solutions to the DoD.”
In addition to the three referenced prototypes, at least four other successful IWRP prototypes, rigorously tested by the projected end-user, are slated to receive OTP awards in the next three to four months. This year, IWRP awarded over $100 million in prototype awards. As more IWRP prototypes complete their milestone demonstrations successfully, the number of follow-on production agreements is expected to grow.
“Success for our team is the ability to put relevant and timely technology into the hands of the warfighter,” said Kevin Charlow, IWRP Executive Steering Group chair and NIWC Atlantic deputy executive director. “Over the last two years, we’ve placed a great deal of emphasis on executing successful prototyping opportunities with the end goal of producing and inserting these innovations into the fleet. We’re extremely proud to have moved the needle forward on this initiative, and we’re excited for the growth and opportunities still to come.”