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CHIPS Articles: Battlespace Awareness and Information Operations (PMW 120) is leading the pack in implementation of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework

Battlespace Awareness and Information Operations (PMW 120) is leading the pack in implementation of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework
By Joshua W. Miller, PMW 120 Strategic Communications - February 23, 2021
National security and warfighting capabilities increasingly rely on a rapid delivery cycle to mitigate threats and maintain U.S. advantage. The revised Department of Defense Instruction, DoDI 5000.02, released in January 2020, outlines an Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF) with six tailorable acquisition pathways and instructions for each functional area: Urgent Capability Acquisition, Middle Tier Acquisition (MTA), Major Capability Acquisition, Software Acquisition, Defense Business Systems (DBS) Acquisition, and Defense Acquisition of Services. The ability of PMW 120 programs to quickly develop, deploy, and continuously improve software is central to U.S. national defense.

The PMW 120, Battlespace Awareness and Information Operations program office is operating on the cutting-edge of this emergent acquisition policy, leveraging the Software Acquisition Pathway (SWAP) and MTA under the AAF. The new policy aligns with the program office’s existing approach for multiple programs, allowing them to leverage existing documentation, processes, and strategy to quickly transition from a more traditional approach to a modernized, adaptive paradigm. Leveraging the AAF enables innovative acquisition approaches that deliver warfighting capability at the speed of relevance, while multiple pathways facilitate the flexibility and efficiency needed to capitalize on advanced acquisition methods and allows for a tailored approach ¬which meets the unique needs of individual programs.

“The new acquisition framework is a welcome policy change,” said Captain Samuel Hanaki, PMW 120 Program Manager. “Many of our programs were able to quickly shift to the updated policy because it aligned with our existing acquisition strategies.”

The SWAP approach is founded on an iterative process with two major phases. First, the planning phase focuses on the user/system needs and formulates an approach to meet those needs. Second, the execution phase focuses on scoping, developing, and deploying a minimum viable product, a minimum viable capability release, and iterative releases at least annually for the end user. The Naval Integrated Tactical Environment System – Next (NITES-Next), in the Meteorology and Oceanography (METOC) mission area, received Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (PEO C4I) and Space Systems approval to use the SWAP which reinforced the program’s current approach for continuous development, testing, fielding, and integration of METOC capabilities.

While NITES-Next has successfully fielded incremental software updates to the fleet over the past five years, the adoption of the SWAP aligns policy with practice and facilitates increased frequency of capability deliveries. Faster delivery cycles ensure fleet users have the tools they require to inform warfighting missions.

PMW 120’s Distributed Common Ground System – Navy (DCGS-N), within the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Mission Area, received an Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) Jan. 15, 2021 from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition authorizing the transition of DCGS-N from the acquisition category (ACAT IAC) program to the SWAP. This codifies DCGS-N’s iterative approach to capability releases, and releases DCGS-N from previous traditional milestone and waterfall acquisition policy. This transition also solidifies PMW 120’s strategy for regular user engagement on requirements and allows rapid capability delivery to the fleet. Similarly, the Information Operations (IO) Mission Area’s Real-Time Spectral Operations (RTSO), as a software-intensive effort, plans to leverage this pathway to facilitate rapid and iterative delivery of software capabilities. This simplified acquisition model will enable continuous integration of software capability on timelines that are relevant to the fleet.

“Information warfare capabilities are in high demand and frequent fleet engagements are appropriately emphasized in the updated policy,” said Captain Hanaki. “We are committed to active warfighter involvement through design and development of capabilities.”

The MTA pathway allows rapid prototyping and/or rapid fielding of relatively technically mature capabilities. Using the MTA Rapid Prototyping Pathway, IO’s Integrated Communications and Data System (ICADS) is leveraging proven technologies to quickly develop field-ready prototypes that demonstrate new capabilities and meet emerging warfighter needs. This pathway enables ICADS to accelerate the development of a prototype that can be demonstrated in an operational environment and fielded to the fleet in less than five years. ISR will also leverage the MTA for Rapid Prototyping for Tactical Edge Targeting (Clutchshot) which was added to the PMW 120 portfolio in FY21.

PMW 120 recognized the opportunity to leverage the AAF to more effectively deliver battlespace awareness and information operations capabilities to the warfighter. In many cases, programs had already adopted an iterative, agile approach to delivery; however, with the release of the AAF, the policy became more closely aligned with intended execution and will enable quicker delivery of critical capability to the fleet. With a user-focused mindset, PMW 120 has leaned forward, adapted quickly, and remained flexible while leading the pack in implementation of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework.

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