HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The Army has been working to refine policies and practices to alleviate some of the stress surrounding the acquisition process and improve relationships between the military and civilian enterprise, said the Army's most senior acquisition official.
"The Army needs private sector innovation," said Dr. Bruce Jette, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. "We no longer have the luxury of ignoring technology development in the commercial sector."
Jette spoke Wednesday during the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Global Force Symposium and Exhibition here.
Moving forward, Jette said he has encouraged his program managers and lab directors at all program executive offices and within the science, technology, research and development communities to actively engage and improve relationships and with industry partners.
By focusing on the product, not the process, Jette said he is trying to streamline efforts to get products into Soldiers' hands as quickly as possible.
"Readiness is critically important, but modernization is essential," Jette said. "Today's modernization is tomorrow's readiness. The Army ... is trying to make this country so strong that nobody dares to threaten us or attack our interests."
Improved Acquisition Policy
On Monday, March 26, Jette announced creation of the "Army Technology Incubator Accelerator."
The new initiative, he said, is "designed to enable the Army and span the chasm between critical Army modernization challenges and the vast community of non-traditional innovators."
At this AUSA conference, the ATIA team received pitches from small businesses and companies and was also looking for innovative solutions to modernize the Army's command and control systems, as well as its position, navigation and timing systems.
"We're putting our money where our mouth is," Jette said. "Even at this [conference,] we awarded ... phase one contracts to those people who have some innovations that we want, and we want quickly."
At the next AUSA conference, he said, the team will expand its search into directed energy, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, the internet, and altered materials — or materials that provide the Army with a more significant capability.
Focused Funding for Modernization Efforts
With the recent boost in the Army's budget, funding for R&D and S&T projects must be prioritized to support modernization objectives and outcomes, Jette said. To accomplish this, the assistant secretary is implementing an 80/20 and 60/40 percent funding solution.
Under the new policy, 80 percent of a lab director's funding can be spent on a project or on research that has a clear connection to a military application. Additionally, lab directors can spend 20 percent of their funding on any project that might have the ability to produce tangible results in support of military initiatives.
A 60/40 percent solution can also be applied, he said. In those cases, however, the program needs to have a clear connection to an Army program of a record, Jette said.
"We can't incrementally engineer breakthroughs," Jette said. "And that's what we're trying to do is give [lab directors] the freedom to do that."
In addition to the new method of funding, ASA(ALT) is implementing a "stage gating" methodology to protect the Army's interest during the R&D process.
Often used by the commercial sector, stage gating breaks the development timeline into stages — or tangible objectives. Gates provide the Army with opportunities to continue or end projects as needed.
Protecting Intellectual Property
In addition to ensuring proper funding, Jette is also trying to find a better way to protect the intellectual property of both the Army and industry during all stages of the development and acquisition process.
"I know that we've been sloppy on both sides of the table on how we manage our intellectual property," Jette said, referencing previous transactions between the Army and the commercial sector. "I don't like it when people take my work. [And] I don't want to steal your work."
Moving ahead, the assistant secretary is trying to adopt a commercial model to help protect the interests of everyone during the bidding process.
"Show me the box [with] your IP. I don't want to know what's in the box. That's yours," he said. "Tell me what you want to do for licensing. Do you maintain it? Do you want [the Army] to maintain it? What's the price? Then I'm going to design the box that goes next to it."
Overall, Jette said, he is more interested in a product's functionality and limitations, rather than the actual product.
"If I pay for it, I own it. If you pay for it, you own it. If you find another application, I'm willing to talk about licensing fees," he added. "You know, most people don't realize, but the government can get paid for their intellectual property."
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