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CHIPS Articles: The Defense Acquisition Challenge Program

The Defense Acquisition Challenge Program
DAC gives small and medium-sized vendors the opportunity to inject innovative proposals into the Defense market
By CHIPS Magazine - April-June 2008
Authorized by Title 10, U.S.C. Sec 2359b, the Defense Acquisition Challenge Program (DACP), part of the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Advanced Systems and Concepts, provides increased opportunities for the introduction of innovative and cost-saving technologies into Defense Department acquisition programs. It provides an on-ramp to the DoD acquisition system for small and medium vendors: Seventy percent of projects selected have been small or mid-sized vendors!

What DACP Can Do

DACP provides oversight and funds for the test and evaluation of technologies that have potential to improve current acquisition programs at component, subsystem or system level. It uses an established network of the services and U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) liaison offices to more quickly field weapons systems and support technologies.

For innovators, it means faster entry into the defense acquisition system. For the DoD program manager, it means increased technology insertions to improve systems.

Technological developments and operational needs are emerging faster than ever before. Yet the defense programming and budgeting cycles cannot always keep up. On the supply side, many of America's companies generating technological innovations have found it difficult to break into the defense market, especially those classified as small and medium-sized U.S. businesses.

In an effort to remedy the technology-to-programming lag and overcome the "valley of death," the DACP provides opportunities for the increased introduction of innovative and cost-saving commercial technologies or products into existing DoD acquisition programs. Furthermore, the DACP is especially designed to give small and medium-sized companies the opportunity to introduce new technologies and inject innovation into current DoD programs.

To do so, the DACP provides any person or activity, within or outside the DoD, the chance to propose alternatives, known as Challenge Proposals, to existing DoD programs that could result in improvements in performance, affordability, manufacturability or operational capability of the systems acquired by that program. As a result of selecting, testing and inserting the best of these production-ready technologies, the DACP ultimately expands the opportunities for emerging defense suppliers, widens the U.S. defense industrial base, and leverages unique innovations for the benefit of the warfighter.

The Defense Acquisition Challenge Program's objectives are to improve the warfighter's capabilities and reduce expenditures through:

• Rapidly fielding quality military equipment;
• Eliminating unnecessary duplication of research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E);
• Reducing life cycle or procurement costs;
• Enhancing standardization and interoperability;
• Promoting competition by qualifying alternative sources; and
• Improving the U.S. military industrial base.

DACP aims to address three warfighter priorities including:

Improved Operations

– Effectiveness (lethality, accuracy, endurance)
– Survivability (protection, agility, stealth, medical)
– Force Protection (defensive systems, detection, armoring, chemical-biological defense)
– Sustainability (lighter/combined equipment, longer missions, better batteries)

Direct Warfighter Support

– Logistics (supply chain management in the field, equipment reliability)
– Teaming (network and info-centric operations at the tactical or operational level)
– Surveillance, tagging and tracking (blue and hostile forces tracking, friendly identification)

Warfighter Employment

– Planning capabilities (large unit employment)
– Coordinating capabilities (network/info-centric operations at the strategic level)
– Transport capabilities (getting to and from the fight)
– Operational readiness (equipment availability, maintainability, training)

Evaluation Criteria

An initial review of each proposal is performed based on merit and improvements to performance, affordability, manufacturability and operational capability at the component, subsystem or system level of an acquisition program.

DAC focuses on technologies that are ready to transition — technology readiness levels (TRL) 7-9. Further, the proposed technology must be ready for rapid implementation at acceptable cost and without unacceptable disruption of existing capabilities to a current acquisition program of record.

If the proposal passes initial assessment, then a full, independent review is completed by the program office and the prime system contractor using the criteria mentioned earlier that includes an assessment of the cost of implementing the proposal. Consideration is also given to intellectual property rights.

Any person or activity within or outside the DoD interested in participating can submit a DACP proposal along with a quad chart using the templates provided in the BIDS Web site: https://bids.acqcenter.com/ (unclassified only). Classified proposals can be accepted through the mail.

DACP proposals go through two-phase processes.

1. All proposals receive:
Administrative Review
Technical Review
Program Manager Review
OSD Review

2. Sponsoring government program offices refine the first phase proposal addressing:
Key performance parameters
Preliminary test plan
Cost analysis
Funding required for test
Length of evaluation period

A DACP final proposal will need a letter of endorsement with intent to procure, project chart and quad chart. Selection for funding is highly competitive and submitters are notified of the outcome of their proposal evaluation.

In fiscal year 2007, the military services and U.S. Special Operations Command nominated more than 85 projects for Comparative Testing Office (CTO) funding consideration. Each proposed project was carefully reviewed to ensure the mature equipment or technology addressed valid warfighter needs, and to confirm that the U.S. military sponsor had developed a viable acquisition strategy to procure and field the equipment if it tests successfully and offers best value.

Some technology problem solvers for the warfighter include:

• SprayCool™ Counter Targeting System (CTS)/Weapon Surveillance System (WSS) – Provides weight and volume savings over traditional air-cooled systems and operates in harsh environments of high temperature, high humidity and dust with increased reliability. Weight was reduced 80 percent, from 335 pounds to less than 100 pounds.

• Enhanced Gunfire Detection System (EGDS) – Locates snipers in noisy, urban environments by acoustic detection of gunfire/location of origin. It provides relative azimuth, elevation and range to origin of 5-20 mm weapons fire with range to 1,200 meters. EGDS reduces vulnerability to sniper threat in military operations in urban terrain, desert and jungle environments.

• Mini-Combat Trauma Patient Simulation System – Improves the skills of combat medical personnel deployed forward, in mass casualty and triage. More than 3,500 medics and corpsmen have been trained and academic attrition rate of trainees has dropped from 23 percent to 6 percent — testimony to the effectiveness of this training tool.

Solicitation for FY 2009
The Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for FY 2009 is posted at: www.fedbizopps.gov and https://cto.acqcenter.com/osd/portal.nsf. To submit a proposal you must register on the CTO Portal homepage, then login, go to DAC and follow the instruction set.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Ward looks out to provide suppressing fire in support of a training exercise on Fort Knox, Ky., Oct. 20, 2004. Ward is assigned to the Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Six, which is conducting urban assault training in conjunction with SEAL Team Four. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Harbour. Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) simulation training is just one the successful investments that the DACP has made.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Ward looks out to provide suppressing fire in support of a training exercise on Fort Knox, Ky., Oct. 20, 2004. Ward is assigned to the Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Six, which is conducting urban assault training in conjunction with SEAL Team Four. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Harbour. Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) simulation training is just one the successful investments that the DACP has made.

Mini-Combat Trauma Patient Simulation System (Army): Participants
U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) Simulation and Training Technology Center (STTC);
USNS Mercy; Field Medical Service School (FMSS), Camp Pendleton; Medical Education Technologies, Inc. METI® of Sarasota, Fla.
Mini-Combat Trauma Patient Simulation System (Army): Participants U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) Simulation and Training Technology Center (STTC); USNS Mercy; Field Medical Service School (FMSS), Camp Pendleton; Medical Education Technologies, Inc. METI® of Sarasota, Fla.

Simulated Battlefield – Combat medics train on a simulated battlefield using the Combat Trauma Patient Simulation system at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Aug. 10, 2005. The simulators realistically replicate a vast array of conditions to include trauma, weapons of mass destruction and diseases. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith.
Simulated Battlefield – Combat medics train on a simulated battlefield using the Combat Trauma Patient Simulation system at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Aug. 10, 2005. The simulators realistically replicate a vast array of conditions to include trauma, weapons of mass destruction and diseases. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith.
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