Deputy Executive Director Bill Deligne may have only recently begun his newly minted position at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, but he’s an old hand at one of the command’s most important initiatives — its competency aligned organization — where projects are organized around integrated products teams. “I’m a big believer in competency alignment,” Deligne said to an audience of industry and government partners at the Tidewater Association of Service Contractors’ SPAWARSYSCEN Atlantic Industry Information Day in Norfolk, Virginia on June 20. “We’re committed, and I’m huge into that.”
The intent behind the information day is to give government and industry the opportunity to communicate and collaborate. Deligne, who served as executive director of Naval Sea Systems Command before accepting his current position at SSC Atlantic, was the keynote speaker.
The driving force behind SSC Atlantic’s mission to “rapidly deliver and support solutions that enable IW for [our] naval, joint, national and coalition fighters” is information warfare, and industry partners are instrumental in carrying out that mission, Deligne said.
Headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina, SSC Atlantic is primarily a Navy Working Capital Fund organization, which means that the command relies on sales revenue rather than direct congressional appropriations to finance its operations, Deligne explained. In fiscal year 2016, the total obligation authority was $3.25 billion, 35 percent of which went to supporting 468 small business firms.
With locations on five continents and seven time zones, collaboration between nearly 4,000 civilians, 128 military members and approximately 9,000 industry employees is a must.
“We can’t execute our mission without small business. We operate on customers placing orders with us — no gain, no loss. That’s where we want to end up,” Deligne said.
Impressively, SSC Atlantic exceeded all of its small business targets in fiscal year 2016. The goal for Small Business Prime was set at 32 percent; nearly 35 percent was achieved. The Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business goal saw a more than 4.5 percent increase.
In Deligne’s words, “It’s incredible.”
Deligne discussed plans to improve the Work Acceptance to Contract Award process, emphasizing the need to use data-driven decisions and improvements to increase efficiency focused on “key events.”
According to Deligne, there is also a need to accomplish certain tasks early in the process, such as fostering early engagement between project and contracting teams, and focusing on early development of contract plans with measurable milestones throughout the life cycle of the process.
“We need to do better at meeting the demand signal,” Deligne said. “If we’re successful at this, you [small businesses] will like it a lot better.”
SSC Atlantic is committed to its relationship with small businesses. Two other industry days were held at the end of June, where the command’s strategy and requirements were shared and industry partner input was sought. This coming October, a Technology Exchange day focused on collaboration and mobility will take place; a location has not been announced yet. Based on SSC Atlantic’s Technology Strategy, the event will be used to investigate and identify efficiencies and innovative solutions in technical growth areas.
Deligne asked the crowd to indicate by a show of hands who had read Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson’s Design document — “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority.”
“Read it and re-read it. It’s very well thought-out; there’s a message in there. Most of the time when he’s talking to the press, he’s talking to us. Where IT is going, the CNO thinks everyone will have the same access to the information,” Deligne explained. “Whoever can intercept it will succeed in the battle.”
To combat the adversary, the Navy must move as quickly as it can and embrace agility in future naval capability processes. “The rate at which things change needs to be overlaid into the Navy’s acquisition process,” Deligne said. “There’s no big bang answer here. … We agonize over the requirements process … That’s got to change.”
In regard to the plan to increase the number of U.S. Navy ships, Deligne said, “I think all of us understand that we need to get to a 355 ship Navy. Affordability always has to be at the forefront. We all have to look at it that way,” Deligne said.
Deligne supports the CNO’s viewpoint on the matter of expanding the fleet. Richardson said in his May 2017 white paper, The Future Navy: “ … more platforms are necessary but not sufficient. The Navy must also incorporate new technologies and new operational concepts.”
“The backlog will get us to 308. It will take a monumental effort to get to 355,” Deligne explained.
Deligne also talked about SSC Atlantic’s four “warfighting thrust areas,” including Fleet C4I and Readiness; Expeditionary Warfare; Enterprise Systems; and Shore C2ISR and Integration. Each warfighting thrust areas also have four areas of emphasis:
- Continuously look for new and innovative ways to reduce the time it takes to transition technology to the warfighter,
- Create opportunities to engage with industry (“We will have roundtables and other events like CIC [Contracts Industry Council],” Deligne said. “It’s on my radar and the portfolio’s [manager] radar, too.”),
- Continuously look for opportunities to reduce the cost of the products and services provided; and
- Leverage the Naval Research and Development Establishment (NRD&E) and employ high velocity learning in all that SSC Atlantic does. The NR&DE is a valuable fount of knowledge composed of scientists, engineers, mathematicians and technical personnel who conduct DON research, development, test and evaluation. This establishment encompasses the technical resources required to explore, develop and field future naval warfighting capabilities such as laboratories, test facilities and test ranges.
Deligne reiterated SSC Atlantic’s commitment to providing information warfare capabilities today and in the future. The command’s intent is to remain relevant in responding to naval cyber warfighting requirements while upholding SPAWAR Systems Command’s vision to rapidly deliver those requirements rapidly, from seabed to space.
SSC Atlantic’s command overview for fiscal year 2017 calls for shaping its work on naval capabilities for now and in the future; accelerating and streamlining capability delivery; making improvements in optimization and communication; developing and retaining a credentialed workforce and building technical leadership; and increasing systems engineering and project management discipline, an area which Deligne placed particular focus on in view of SSC Atlantic’s robust relationships with industry partners.
“We do a lot of contracting. We interact with the service contracting industry a whole bunch. It doesn’t get the same level of vigor that material contracts do,” he said.
SSC Atlantic makes its position clear: the command intends to deliver on its promises and make every dollar count. The dishonest actions of just a few employees can be damaging to the entire Navy, financially and otherwise, Deligne explained. “I need your help,” Deligne said. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of everyone is doing the right thing. I just plead with you — if it’s not on the up and up, doesn’t look right, doesn’t feel right, I need you to call it out.”
“We have to stay focused on the warfighter and getting technology to the fleet,” Deligne said.