Fast Acquisitions: Not an Oxymoron at Hanscom

U.S. Air Force Capt. Brett Pierson, a pilot with the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, refers to his personal computer tablet during preflight checks aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft bound for a refueling mission in Afghanistan May 8, 2011, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Hanscom Collaboration and Innovation Center at Hanscom AFB, Mass., is working with industry to provide Air Mobility Command pilots with hardened digital tablets, which can withstand digital attack and electronic interference during flight, replacing hundreds of pages of printed material with secure electronic flight bags. This acquisition method, known as a plug-test can quickly put needed tools in the hands of warfighters, before the technology is outdated. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. William Greer)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Brett Pierson, a pilot with the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, refers to his personal computer tablet during preflight checks aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft bound for a refueling mission in Afghanistan May 8, 2011, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The Hanscom Collaboration and Innovation Center at Hanscom AFB, Mass., is working with industry to provide Air Mobility Command pilots with hardened digital tablets, which can withstand digital attack and electronic interference during flight, replacing hundreds of pages of printed material with secure electronic flight bags. This acquisition method, known as a plug-test can quickly put needed tools in the hands of warfighters, before the technology is outdated. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. William Greer)

Russ Blaine, chief operating officer of Beyond Mission Capable Solutions, discusses military acquisition strategies with Dr. Tim Rudolph, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center chief technology officer, at a Feb. 15 meeting of the Hanscom Representatives Association at Waxy Oconnor’s restaurant near Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts. Rudolph moderated a panel at the event outlining Other Transaction Authorities and other defense acquisitions mechanisms that could lead to faster purchasing of needed weapons, tools and software for Airmen. The Panel was attended by employees of more than 35 companies, ranging in size from local businesses to multi-national corporations. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Jerry Saslav)

Russ Blaine, chief operating officer of Beyond Mission Capable Solutions, discusses military acquisition strategies with Dr. Tim Rudolph, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center chief technology officer, at a Feb. 15 meeting of the Hanscom Representatives Association at Waxy Oconnor’s restaurant near Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts. Rudolph moderated a panel at the event outlining Other Transaction Authorities and other defense acquisitions mechanisms that could lead to faster purchasing of needed weapons, tools and software for Airmen. The Panel was attended by employees of more than 35 companies, ranging in size from local businesses to multi-national corporations. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Jerry Saslav)

Brittany Ridings, Hanscom Collaboration and Innovation Center program manager, Dr. Bernadette Johnson, Defense Innovation Experimental chief technology officer and panel moderator Dr. Tim Rudolph, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center chief technology officer, discuss how to work with the defense department to quickly provide tools, software and weapons to the military , at a Feb. 15 meeting of the Hanscom Representatives Association at Waxy O’Connor’s restaurant near Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts. Thirty five companies, ranging in size from local businesses to multi-national corporations attended the panel and heard about Other Transaction Authorities and plug-test models as ways to meet warfighter demands. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jerry Saslav)

Brittany Ridings, Hanscom Collaboration and Innovation Center program manager, Dr. Bernadette Johnson, Defense Innovation Experimental chief technology officer and panel moderator Dr. Tim Rudolph, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center chief technology officer, discuss how to work with the defense department to quickly provide tools, software and weapons to the military , at a Feb. 15 meeting of the Hanscom Representatives Association at Waxy O’Connor’s restaurant near Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts. Thirty five companies, ranging in size from local businesses to multi-national corporations attended the panel and heard about Other Transaction Authorities and plug-test models as ways to meet warfighter demands. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jerry Saslav)

LEXINGTON, MASS. -- Personnel from Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, and Defense Innovation Unit Experimental told industry members gathered at a luncheon event here Feb. 15 that new defense acquisition mechanisms can get critical capabilities into the hands of Airmen faster.

Speaking at a Hanscom Representatives Association gathering, panel members Brittany Ridings, Hanscom Collaboration and Innovation Center program manager, and Dr. Bernadette Johnson, DIUx chief science officer, said increased cooperation between private-sector innovators and defense acquisitions experts will allow DoD to better meet warfighting needs.

“We must align the needs of our user, the warfighter, with what private sector innovators can provide, and as acquisition professionals do it faster,” said Dr. Tim Rudolph, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center chief technology officer, moderator of the panel. “These new ways of acquiring tools and technology aren’t widely used yet, but we hope industry takes note and works with us on how to meet requirements quickly and securely.”

Several acquisition techniques, like Other Transaction Authorities and plug-test prototype demonstrations, where Airmen get hands-on exposure to test equipment they need before purchasing, are available to industry through the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Hanscom. These techniques could lead to putting cutting-edge tools in the hands of deployed Airmen in a matter of weeks and months, rather than years.

OTAs and other expedited authorities are a Defense Department response to the reality of technology development outpacing traditional contracting methods. Cyber technology presents a specific challenge to Air Force acquisition personnel, due to the fast pace of development. Occasionally, what was considered “new” technology is replaced with something newer by the time the acquisition process is complete.

“We’re not going to build ships or buy planes with these types of acquisition techniques,” said Johnson. “But these are great ways for existing programs of record to acquire better tools, technology and hardware.”

Sometimes, defense projects have pop-up additional requirements within them. An aircraft may need a small software upgrade, or a radar may need a tool used for diagnostics. OTAs and plug-tests are options to bring the update to fruition with existing, modern technology, without reworking the original acquisition. 

“One of the biggest impediments for us dealing with the government, or the Defense Department, is the bidding process itself,” said Peter Beer, director of technology development at Riverside Research, a not-for-profit provider of technology and scientific capabilities. “We want to respond quicker to the warfighter, so anything allowing us to do that helps.”

Employees of more than 35 companies, ranging in size from local businesses to multi-national corporations, attended the panel discussion.