Pentagon DIU Bringing New Commercial Partners Into The Fold And Expanding

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NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE

Armed with new contracting authorities and a mandate to help the U.S. military stay head of peer competitors, the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit is bringing new commercial partners into the fold and expanding its technological focus.

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“DIU was launched in 2015 by then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to bridge the gap between the military and the nation’s tech hubs. It is headquartered in Mountain View, California, in Silicon Valley, with additional outposts in Austin, Texas, Boston and the Pentagon.

“More and more of what the department needs going into the future is dual-use technology, which means it’s equally or more important in the commercial space as it is for the military. So we’ve got to leverage what’s going on with the tremendous innovation hubs that we have around the country and make sure those companies … are thinking about the Department of Defense,” DIU Director Michael Brown said during a panel at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.

The organization has three core mission sets: accelerate commercial technology to the warfighter; boost the military’s capability and capacity by taking on transformative projects that can be scaled across platforms and across the services; and grow the national security innovation base.

Its offices in Austin, Boston and Silicon Valley are focused primarily on commercial outreach, while the one in Washington, D.C., engages with military partners such as service acquisition executives.

“We start with the DoD customer with a DoD problem,” Mike Madsen, DIU’s director of strategic engagement, explained in an interview. “Then we put that out to the tech sector and get the imaginative minds in the tech sector to help solve our problems.”

Over the past year or so, DIU’s hand has been strengthened by a number of initiatives, he noted.

A crucial one was Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord’s decision to give the organization new contracting authorities, including the ability to directly enter into other transaction authority agreements that are intended to cut through bureaucratic red tape associated with the Pentagon’s traditional acquisition procedures.

“She delegated that authority so that we could award our own OTA contracts, which is a pretty big deal to continue moving fast,” Madsen said.

OTA mechanisms favor nontraditional suppliers, he noted, “whether it’s a couple of folks in a garage in Minnesota or whether it’s a Fortune 100 company in Silicon Valley that just have never done business before with the department.”

The Defense Innovation Unit has awarded about 150 contracts to 122 nontraditional vendors. Of those, 66 are first-time suppliers to the military, Madsen said.

In the past, high-tech companies in the commercial sector “evaluated the $740 billion defense market and said, ‘No thanks. I don’t want a slice of that. … It’s too complex, it’s too hard,’” he said. “What we’ve represented is a lowering of those barriers to entry, making it easier for those leading-edge technology companies to get their technology to the men and women in uniform.”

Madsen said DIU understands the commercial sector’s faster business cycles.

“We want to move at commercial speeds … and look like a commercial entity to those tech companies” that are wary of doing business with government agencies, he noted.

With other transaction authority agreements, DIU can transition from a prototype contract right into a production contract as long as the prototype contract was awarded under competitive circumstances.

The organization has stood up a defense engagement team and a commercial engagement team. The defense engagement team reaches out to the services, combatant commands and other agencies to learn about their needs.

“Then we put that problem [statement] out to the commercial sector and work with them for proposals and look to award a prototype contract as quickly as we can,” Madsen said. The goal is to award a contract within 60 to 90 days, and then move through the prototyping phase and field new capabilities within 24 months.

Once a successful prototype is developed, DIU’s defense engagement team looks for ways to scale it across the department. An example is a recent effort to use artificial intelligence for predictive maintenance.

An AI prototype developed by a company called C3.ai is capable of reducing unscheduled maintenance for the Air Force by about 30 percent, “which is pretty significant for our mission-capable rates for aircraft,” Madsen said.

“We took that successful prototype to the Army and said, ‘Hey, this works on aircraft, what do you think about trying to prototype on wheeled vehicles?’” Madsen explained.

“We worked a prototype for the Bradley fighting vehicle. Now we’re engaged with the Navy to apply the same concept to not only the aircraft in the Navy, but also shipbuilding.”

The commercial engagement team’s charter, meanwhile, is to pave the way for high-tech firms to enter the defense ecosystem and transition their products into a program of record.

It also reaches out to venture capitalists to gain greater visibility into the marketplace.

“They’re effectively the gateway to hundreds, if not thousands, of companies,” Tom Foldesi, DIU’s director of commercial engagement, told National Defense. “For any particular solicitation when we’re looking for specific technologies, they are … able to point us in the right direction.

“The VCs are always a really valuable source because oftentimes they have line of sight to companies that we might not even know about. They might be in stealth mode, they might not have announced their [funding] rounds. So we can gain a lot of insight into what might be going on in the market that might not be public.”

Being co-located in the tech hubs offers advantages. DIU also has its eye on other tech centers such as Seattle and Pittsburgh, Foldesi noted. The organization has received proposals from companies based in 44 states.

“We cast a very wide net across the country,” he said.

DIU is uniquely capable of reaching out to the commercial sector and venture capitalists on short notice, putting firms on contract and helping to scale solutions across the Defense Department, officials say.

“This is very important because most of the companies are [otherwise] pulled into a labyrinthine system within the Pentagon, and it’s really demotivating,” Foldesi said.

The often-cumbersome nature of the traditional defense acquisition system is one of the reasons why a lot of companies have opted not to do business with the U.S. military. But

DIU posts it solicitations directly on its website, with the aim of moving fast on all of its projects.

“There’s money on the table,” Foldesi said. “Someone will be awarded a contract within a few short weeks or months. And then there’s the opportunity to transition that prototype contract to a program of record.”

Over the past year, DIU has improved its decision-making process for taking on new projects, Madsen noted.

“We’ve really focused on building out that concept of transition much earlier in the process so we know what that transition from prototype to production to fielding that technology to the men and women in uniform really looks like before we’re even down the prototyping path,” he said.

The Defense Innovation Unit also helps companies navigate security and compliance issues.

“Part of the benefit of working with DIU is you have a trusted advisor and partner being able to help you manage through those … potential challenges, which can be quite significant for a company that isn’t used to doing business with the DoD,” Foldesi said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is trying to stay ahead of advanced adversaries such as China and Russia.

“In this great era of great competition, we think the tech race is the most important one,” Madsen said.

DIU’s top five technology focus areas are artificial intelligence/machine learning, autonomy, human systems, space and cybersecurity.

“Those are the areas that we see undergoing the greatest rate of change in the commercial sector. We think they also best represent the defense mission set,” Madsen said. “But we’re not just sitting back static on those.”

DIU is now broadening its aperture and eyeing other capabilities.

Foldesi and his team are talking to venture capitalists to get a better sense of the business sectors with emerging technology that might be of interest to the military.

“We’re looking at things like power and energy right now,” including lighter and longer-lasting batteries with faster recharge, Madsen said. Advanced materials, additive manufacturing, communications technology such as 5G, and virtual reality and augmented reality capabilities are other areas of interest.

Another new initiative being pursued by DIU is known as National Security Innovation Capital, or NSIC.

About 92 percent of U.S. venture capital funding currently goes toward software, resulting in an underinvestment in dual-use hardware. As a result, early-stage hardware development companies are in such need of capital that they might turn to foreign investors that will exert influence over their intellectual property, Madsen warned.

“The concern … from our perspective is once that happens, now that technology is probably unavailable to the department,” he said.

A key objective of NSIC is to pump money into critical hardware ventures so that they don’t have to look overseas for funding and endanger the supply chain.

DIU is also overseeing the National Security Innovation Network, or NSIN, which includes universities that aid the Defense Department. The network is growing and developing relationships with nontraditional partners in academia that are not typically involved in generating technology for the military, Madsen noted.

Pentagon efforts to engage with the commercial tech sector have not always gone smoothly. For example, in 2018 Google pulled out of Project Maven — an Air Force machine learning initiative focused on sifting through drone imagery — after employees protested the company’s involvement in aiding warfighting.

However, that case is not representative of the commercial tech sector writ large, DIU officials say.

“In fact, we see the opposite,” Foldesi said.

Madsen noted that a recent solicitation for AI technology generated responses from 50 companies. “To me, that indicates that folks definitely want to work with us.”

Foldesi said overcoming wariness of the Pentagon procurement process is the greater challenge.

“This is why our mission is so critical,” he said. “If we’re successfully able to demystify and de-risk doing business with the Pentagon, people will have perceived us having opened up arguably the single biggest [potential] customer” for some of these new technologies.

As DIU reduces some of the barriers to entry into the defense market, venture capitalists are taking notice, he said.

“You’re seeing a lot more of the top VC firms in the world start to put a little bit more money into defense[-related] startups,” he said. “This is just the start of a trend that we expect to accelerate as it becomes smoother and easier to field your technology within the Pentagon.”

The Defense Innovation Unit’s resources are growing. Its budget increased by about 60 percent between fiscal years 2019 and 2020, Madsen noted.
Brown said the organization has started 60 projects and completed 30, delivering about a dozen new capabilities to the military using cutting edge commercial technology. Total contract values exceed $500 million so far.

Companies doing business through DIU have, in turn, been able to raise more venture capital, he noted.

“For every dollar we provide in a prototype contract, on average, $10 of equity capital is raised,” he said. “We just need more volume in this to get the flywheel effect going.”

https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2020/2/11/defense-innovation-unit-shifts-into-higher-gear

Pentagon Intellectual Property And Enterprise Tool Challenges

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Image: DAU

FEDERAL TIMES

The Pentagon is in the midst of releasing a flurry of guidance related to its new adaptive acquisition framework. The public got its first look at the software pathway early in January when a Navy official informally released the interim guidance.

Besides the usual bureaucratic challenges of documentation and approval, two highlights could make or break the Pentagon’s ability to move fast on software.

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“Like the middle-tier acquisition pathway, the budding software pathway is exempted from the regular requirements and milestone review processes. But software programs must still submit abridged requirements documents through a parallel, but “expedited,” approval process. Similarly, an acquisition strategy and set of metrics must be submitted in lieu of formal milestone reviews.

Intellectual property

A crucial component of the acquisition strategy is a plan for intellectual property (IP). As the recently released intellectual property policy specified, IP plans emphasize “the criticality of long-term analysis and planning during the earliest phases of the program.” Long-term planning is required for IP so that specified terms and pricing can be set up front, for such things as who owns the data, whether third-parties can modify the code, and which interfaces will be used. But if used improperly, it could lock in technical plans at the expense of course correction.

The IP process may run against the stated intentions of the software pathway policy — that programs use agile development methods. Some of the values from the Agile Manifesto include: responding to change over following a plan; collaboration over contract negotiation; and working software over comprehensive documentation. The requirement of defining all IP needs upfront runs counter to the values of agile.

If software is supposed to be incrementally released, then the definition of IP needs and pricing should also be an iterative exercise. Otherwise, the Pentagon’s IP policy would in practice necessitate a waterfall planning process. Developers would have to execute within the constraints of the IP plan.

Enterprise tools

The challenges of defining — and the unresolved problem of pricing — IP rights may be alleviated by a second highlight of the interim software policy: enterprise tools. Using government-owned infrastructure and platforms, many parts of the software program do not need to be recreated and separately priced. Firms can compete primarily on the application layer.

Building on enterprise tools like a government cloud, for example, would have saved the Pentagon from its IP struggle with Lockheed Martin over F-35 sustainment data. The company claimed ownership of data collected by the Automated Information Logistics System and stored on its premises. Data reports delivered to the government had Lockheed’s proprietary markings.

The U.S. Air Force has taken the lead in standing up enterprise tools for the services. Chief Software Officer Nicholas Chaillan is in the process of releasing the Unified Platform layer upon which applications can be built and deployed. The Air Force has increased funding for its Unified Platform and related elements from just over $55 million in fiscal 2019 to a request of nearly $100 million in 2020.

The Unified Platform will in turn run on government cloud solutions, which will incorporate the forthcoming Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, contract expected to run $10 billion over the next 10 years.

Chaillan explained. “You go to big companies, they have infrastructure cloud team, they have a platform team, you don’t have each software team building the entire stack from scratch. They can reuse all these existing enterprise capabilities in terms of testing and security.”

Enterprise tools help minimize the amount of effort, and thus IP planning, required of individual software efforts. By reducing the cost of building and operating new applications, more modularized software can be written by competing suppliers. It increases participation from companies of all sizes.

With viable alternatives not only in development, but in operations, tugs and pulls of the market may reveal efficient pricing for IP without lock-in effects from sole-source providers. In other words, the government will be less reliant on lifecycle planning and cost data.

By building on government-owned infrastructure and platform layers, applications can be modularized and priced incrementally. That will help bring the business team into a culture that supports agile developers. Enterprise tools may then help move the software acquisition pathway away from “water-agile-fall” and toward a real agile development process.

Investments in enabling tools and technologies can accelerate program developments. They should be given higher funding priority as programs in themselves. If enterprise tools are built, the question remains whether the services and contractors will adopt them.”

https://www.federaltimes.com/opinions/2020/02/10/obstacles-and-opportunities-in-the-pentagons-software-acquisition-pathway/

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Is Treatable

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San Diego artists stop to appreciate one of the paintings featured in the Combat Arts exhibit in the Southwestern University art gallery, featuring art by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans with post-traumatic stress. (Sgt. Ken Scar/Army)

MILITARY TIMES

“Warrior Care Network Academic Medical Center (AMC) partners at Emory University, Massachusetts General Hospital, Rush University, and UCLA Health use tailored combinations of evidence-based, complementary, and alternative therapies.

Veterans who are struggling to do a brave thing — seek care because PTSD is treatable and treatment works.”

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“A recent study conducted by researchers at the New York University and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has led many to believe the leading evidence-based psychotherapies for post-traumatic stress disorder do not work for up to two-thirds of patients.

Our findings at Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) show very different results for veterans participating in our two- and three-week intensive outpatient programs (IOP) provided by our Warrior Care Network Academic Medical Center (AMC) partners at Emory University, Massachusetts General Hospital, Rush University, and UCLA Health. They all use tailored combinations of evidence-based, complementary, and alternative therapies within their IOP.

Under our IOP, veterans receive upwards of 70 hours of direct clinical care — more than a year’s worth of traditional therapy.

For the almost 2,000 veterans who have completed IOP with the Warrior Care Network, the results are extremely promising.

Veterans completing IOP show a clinically significant reduction in PTSD symptoms (measured using the PCL-5), and these lower levels are relatively sustained 12 months following treatment.

This decreased symptomology tends to result in increased functioning — empowering veterans to more actively engage in life.

Remarkably, our IOP program has a greater than 90 percent completion rate — double the national average. We believe this is due to a variety of factors including the condensed time period (two to three weeks), our cohort model where small groups of veterans start the program together and graduate together, and the inclusion of evidence-based therapies with alternative and complimentary therapies.

While we appreciate the discussion generated by the JAMA article on the challenges of delivering mental health care and the need for future research and better treatment models, we are concerned about the researchers’ approach of collapsing veterans’ results within active-duty military and civilian results due to wide variations in cultural characteristics and treatment goals and methods.

While mental health care challenges are a global issue, it is important to remember that the military is a collectivist culture that places the group and mission over the needs of the individual. This dynamic, combined with the potential for increased and prolonged exposure to traumatic events, may increase service members’ risk for specific mental health challenges.

These cultural differences are compounded when military members leave active duty following inadequate transition assistance support programs and begin assimilating back into civilian culture. Many veterans may feel isolated during this period and struggle with their mental health as they attempt to find their new cultural identities and reengage in civilian life.

Even within the military community, treatment goals, results, and completion rates differ between the active-duty and veteran populations and the broader civilian population.

Our outcomes and results treating veterans seems to outpace other methods in clinical reduction of depression and PTSD, overall completion rates, and patient satisfaction scores.

Differences between active-duty service members and veterans may be driven by desired outcomes. For instance, active-duty members may be more interested in managing symptoms of PTSD so they can continue their careers effectively. Whereas, veterans may tend to be more interested in symptom reduction, thereby increasing functionality, and reducing the impact on their families.

Countless articles and studies in the multicultural psychology field have warned against comparing minority, veterans in this case, with majority groups, such as civilians, as results may serve to further normalize the majority group culture.

Comparing military and veteran to civilian results may only further highlight the differences in the smaller military population when compared with the larger U.S. population.

There exists a large body of research that indicates that evidence-based treatment does work, however the effect tends to vary at the individual level.

To better determine which therapies work best for individuals, WWP invested in and is promoting research into biomarkers for PTSD.

With better understanding of these biomarkers, medical experts will be better able to tailor current therapies to individual patients and develop new models of care.

Until we gain a better understanding of individual differences in reacting to and recovering from trauma, we advocate for combining evidence-based therapies with complementary and alternative methods in an intensive outpatient format.

In conclusion, we welcome and support the need for further dialogue, discussion, research and innovation in the field of PTSD treatment, but suggest caution in how findings are disseminated and interpreted.

It falls on researchers and community partners to ensure that the dissemination of results provide both realistic expectations of treatment and refrain from creating additional barriers to care.

Most importantly, we strongly urge veterans who are struggling to do a brave thing — seek care because PTSD is treatable and treatment works.

https://www.militarytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2020/02/14/wounded-warrior-project-ptsd-is-treatable-and-treatment-works/

How Did The Aerospace And Defense Industry Perform In 2019?

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Image: “PWC

DEFENSE NEWS

For better or for worse, an unanticipated shift in the Middle East, America’s presidential race or Britain’s exit from the European Union could impact the global aerospace and defense industry in 2020

But it was the announcement of the Raytheon-United Technologies Corporation merge that mostly influenced the global A&D sector in 2019.

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In that context, let’s take a look at how the market fared based on PwC’s findings:

Illustrations by Brandon-Mykal Rambus

https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/singapore-airshow/2020/02/10/how-did-the-aerospace-and-defense-industry-perform-in-2019/

Future-Proofing Government By Fostering Connections

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FCW

More interagency collaboration, greater engagement with stakeholders and seamless interactions between agencies and the public are some of what’s needed for the federal government to excel in the years ahead.

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“That’s according to the Partnership for Public Service, which published a report on the future of IT, the federal workforce and data modernization efforts.

The report, written in collaboration with EY and published Feb. 5, is the product of months of interviews and workshopping with policy makers, industry experts and agency leaders. Some of the solutions addressed common complaints like siloed IT systems, inefficient competition between agencies and unsatisfactory customer experiences. It encouraged agencies to collaborate internally and with other agencies and to increase engagement with private-sector partners and the general public.

“When IT modernization first took place and we started with the Centers of Excellence, it was really about one agency taking a particular problem, solving that problem, and then sharing it,” Department of Agriculture Chief Information Security Officer Venice Goodwine said in a panel discussion on the report. “There’s no need to spend the money building something that’s already been built. To [build an interconnected government], we need to leverage investments that other agencies have already made.”

Goodwine said the ideal model would be having one Center of Excellence for each shared service that could act as the point of contact across the federal government.

Department of Veterans Affairs’ Deputy Chief Veterans Experience Officer Barbara Morton said that as customers have become accustomed to quick, frictionless service from private companies such as Amazon, federal agencies look slow and inefficient in comparison, leading to frustration. Reorienting services to address customers’ needs would be a key first step to changing the government’s reputation as unreliable and inert.

“In the next five or 10 years, the way we meet demand will be by listening and orienting around customers’ needs, rather than putting the bureaucracy first,” Morton said at the panel. “The expectations for us are being set outside of government. … It is our obligation to be able to catch up and meet those new needs.”

Nancy Potok, the former chief statistician for the Office of Management and Budget, concurred, adding that increasing engagement with external organizations would be one solution.

“Agencies should be encouraged to partner with outside companies and entities that are really good at this,” she said. “It’s true that the public has been now very well trained to expect instant service.”

Focusing on customer experience skills during hiring and in employees’ daily work would also help foster accountability and a service-oriented culture so workers can better meet the new demands being made of their agencies. 

“When people get supervisor training, they learn the rules. They learn compliance and how to fill out a performance evaluation. That’s not the skill set we need in today’s world,” Potok said. “We shouldn’t let anyone into a supervisory position until we’re sure that they have collaboration skills, that we’ve worked on their emotional intelligence, that they’re problem solvers, that they’re willing to take some risks.”

Agencies like the VA have taken the extra step of not only encouraging those skills in their workers, but actually writing them into official policy.

“In the department, we have core values and characteristics codified into our regulations such as integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence,” Morton explained. “We amended the regulations to include customer service principles as part of our core values. We updated our [Senior Executive Service] performance metrics as well, to include customer experience. To drive this culture change, to reorient, we need to consider customer service to also be part of our regulations and our core values.”

https://fcw.com/articles/2020/02/07/future-of-government-russell.aspx

When Starting A Business What Are The Most Important Steps?

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Image: Liquipedia Overwatch

MEDIUM” By Ken Larson

“Don’t let technology make a monkey out of you and your idea as well as raid your treasury before you launch. Define your business vehicle and its journey first. Then pick the right technology tools to make a successful trip.”

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Test your idea:

1. Do you have a product or service niche in mind?

2. Do you believe you have a market for 1 above and the means to reach it?

3. Are you willing to develop a business plan using the tool kit linked below to validate 1 and 2 above before you launch?

Plan your Enterprise:

If the answer to the above questions is “Yes”,use the below planning aids to design your business vehicle and the road map you intend to follow on your journey:

General Planning Considerations

Market Research Guidance

Free Sample Business Plans

Use Your Plan to Choose Your Tools:

When you have completed the above definition and planning process you will then be in a position to astutely select the tools you wish to use along the way and apply them successfully.

You will be able to network your vehicle, pick up riders as industry partners, and attract revenue fuel in the form of customers by marketing and social networking based on the thorough definition and content of your business plan.

Don’t let technology make a monkey out of you and your idea as well as raid your treasury before you launch. Define your business vehicle and its journey first. Then pick the right technology tools to make a successful trip.”

https://medium.com/@Smalltofeds/when-starting-a-business-what-are-the-most-important-steps-f97540904b71
Image result for Ken larson rosecoveredglasses

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ken is SCORE and Micro Mentor Counselor currently living in Hastings, Minnesota. His interests range from existing small businesses to startups. He specializes in strategic, market and business planning as well as advising on government contracting and business operations for small enterprises.


The Pentagon Wants Roadside Assistance In Space

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A rendering of Orbital ATK’s first Mission Extension Vehicle, MEV-1, a spacecraft capable of transporting satellites. The Defense Innovation Unit is looking for a commercial service specifically for on orbit satellite maintenance.

“C4ISRNET”

The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) wants physical access to its satellites in geostationary orbit through a multi-phased commercial effort, starting with a systems engineering study before moving on to demonstrations of on-orbit capabilities.

More information can be found on the DIU’s open solicitations A prototype should be ready for flight within 36 months of contract award. Responses are due Feb. 16.

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“Satellites are valuable due to their unique location — hundreds to tens of thousands of miles above the Earth — where they can produce unique imagery of the surface or extend communications to far-flung locales. But that unique vantage also puts limits on orbiting satellites.

Because they are largely inaccessible, operators can’t switch out broken or outdated hardware, and they can’t even refuel them. Whatever hardware and fuel is on a satellite at launch is all it’s got for its entire life span.

But what if there was a service dedicated to efforts in space that allows the military to access, repair and tow its on-orbit satellites?

That’s what the Defense Innovation Unit wants. The Pentagon technology hub has issued a solicitation for a low-cost logistics service that can provide physical access to military satellites all the way from low-Earth orbit to geostationary orbit, or even cislunar orbit.

Specifically, DIU wants multi-orbit logistics vehicles capable of ferrying payloads between satellites in completely different orbits, acting as on-orbit fuel depots, or transferring space vehicles to new orbits. Here are the different commercial services and vehicle types for which DIU is looking:

  • Light utility m-OLV: capable of transporting (hosting) one or more mechanically coupled payloads (about 50-kilogram payload capacity). The vehicle should have sufficient propellant capacity to transport one payload from low-Earth orbit to geostationary orbit with guidance and control to support cooperative rendezvous, proximity operations and release of its payload at the end of the transit.
  • Heavy utility m-OLV: capable of transporting (hosting) one or more mechanically coupled payloads or spacecraft (500-plus-kilogram payload capacity). Sufficient propellant for persistent operations and maneuver to another orbit. The vehicle should include guidance and control to support cooperative rendezvous, proximity operations, and berthing with a space outpost or servicer.
  • Fuel depot: capable of storing and transferring sufficient chemical and/or electrical propellant to a m-OLV or self-propelled satellite to achieve a transfer from low-Earth orbit to geostationary orbit. The depot should include the necessary mechanisms, sensors and controls to couple the customer vehicle to the depot for refueling.
  • Ride-sharing approach: provide transport of detachable payloads or propellant to an m-OLV or an outpost in geostationary, cislunar or another exotic orbit.

The timing of the solicitation is interesting. SpaceLogistics, a Northrop Grumman subsidiary, is expected to provide the first commercial instance of on-orbit satellite servicing this month. The company’s Mission Extension Vehicle-01 is expected to dock with an Intelsat communications satellite and then use its own propulsion system to move the Intelsat satellite to a new orbit.

MEV-01’s mission is to extend the life of on-orbit satellites that are low on fuel by acting as a replacement propulsion system. But SpaceLogistics plans for future vehicles to be able to complete more complex missions, such as using mechanical arms to conduct repairs, or to replace an on-orbit payload with a new, more advanced model delivered from Earth.

The Space Enterprise Consortium has issued a contract to SpaceLogistics to look into servicing four national security satellites.

Of course, SpaceLogistics isn’t the only entity pursuing on-orbit maintenance and transport services. Astroscale is building space vehicles that can secure and de-orbit space debris such as defunct satellites, while the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing robotic arms capable of performing maintenance on satellites in geostationary orbit.

NASA is also trying to build capabilities in this area, awarding a $142 million contract to Maxar last month for robotic arms to perform in-space assembly.”

https://www.c4isrnet.com/battlefield-tech/space/2020/02/05/the-pentagon-wants-a-roadside-assistance-service-in-space/

Your Small Business Federal Government Contracting Business Plan

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Your SBFGC Business Plan
https://www.smalltofeds.com

“SMALLTOFEDS”  By Ken Larson

“This discussion addresses meeting the unique aspects of federal government contracting, yielding a successful plan and more importantly a successful execution of that plan in the federal contracting venue.  

When visiting the SBA website on business planning, there are major topics in the business planning process which, when addressed in a plan, will insure the success of an enterprise and assist  in determining and supporting the amount of funding needed. SBA Write a Business Plan


“Marketing, advertising, competitor analysis and financing must be addressed.  Free articles on strategic planning and developing a marketing plan are at the “References” Box Net Cube at the top right margin of this site: https://www.smalltofeds.com They address evolving an operations vision for an enterprise showing its potential to present to a banker or to an investor.

Here is a site with free business plan samples:

Business Plan Sample

It may assist in visualizing business growth to look at an example of how someone else addressed a given topic.

NICHE DEVELOPMENT

Product entrepreneurs all face the same challenges. Those who succeed recognize they need to visualize themselves in the product development business, structuring an enterprise, generating a business plan, protecting intellectual property and then seeking industry partners and investors to bring the product to market.

In the process, copyrights, patents and royalty issues may come into play and development and distribution agreements are formed. Pricing is finalized based on cost and expense projections and competitive factors unique to the company as negotiation results are achieved with industry teaming partners, developers, manufacturers and distributors.

Product Development Insights

Service contracting to the federal government is a natural venue for small business. It does not require a product with a niche market or capital intensive manufacturing facilities. Service contracting does require skilled management and labor resources capable of performing a scope of work for which the government has identified a need and for which outsourcing to an industry contractor has been selected as the means to fulfill that need. The venue demands strong human resources management, industry teaming and an enhanced business system to price, account and bill on a job cost basis under government service contracts.

Service Contracting Insights for Success

REGISTRATION

Utilize the below link to register your company.  It provides excellent guidance and background, as well as access to the PDF file on NAICS Codes which are critical for you to choose before you begin the registration process.  Give these some careful thought when selecting them.  If there is a chance your firm may wish to be involved in a field, put the code in your registration.  No one will question your qualifications at this point.  That comes later during proposals.

When you have completed your registration at the link below you will received a Government CAGE Code, uniquely identifying your firm and its location as a government contractor.

Registering for Government Contracting

MARKET RESEARCH

As a small business becomes known in the federal government contracting community, successful marketing of sole source or group-designated business becomes easier, but it is always a challenge due to the need for taking early action in windows of opportunity.

Find those windows and communicate capabilities to the decision makers and industry team members who can help you.

If you are eligible for set aside designations make small business set asides or sole source procurements key elements in your marketing plan.

Marketing to Achieve a Federal Contract

TEAMING

Be straight-forward and honest with  industry teaming partners.

Do not violate share arrangements, teaming agreements or non-disclosure agreements. Such violations are a death knell for your reputation in the business.

Do not become known as a resource raider by hiring away from other firms with whom you have teamed.

Give it a best shot as a prime or a sub but involve the government contracting officer to resolve industry teaming disputes that may damage a past performance record.

Exclusivity is the practical way to go on any given program. Team early and exclusively and be a winner.
Reputation is key, ethics count and  customers as well as the industry are observing.

Managing Industry Teaming Relationships

BUSINESS SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT

Waiting for a contract award to achieve a government contracting business process is not advisable. A win may not happen at all without addressing the structure and process requirements in your proposal to convince the customer his business environment is understood.

If one is not prepared in advance and one is fortunate enough to win, then in a very short time frame one will have to evolve a business system to perform on the contract and submit a billing

This article will discuss a framework for a small enterprise to develop a business system in service contracting, which is the most frequent venue utilized to enter the government market.

Government Contracting Business Systems Development

PROPOSAL PREPARATION

Government contract proposal preparation is time consuming and can be costly. Meeting the agency Request for Proposal (RFP) requirements with a responsive proposal can be well worth the effort if a winning strategy can be formulated. When considering submitting a proposal to a given government solicitation, conduct a bid/no bid exercise.

By going through that process  a company  begins formulating your win strategy or it will discover that it should not bid this job for lack of such a strategy. The elements of the process are discussed below in the form of questions to ask  against topics for key consideration

This article offers guidance as a template to apply marketing operations for accommodating federal government contract proposal preparation. Proposals are special, sometimes exhausting projects, but a necessary part of doing business with government agencies. Like many other aspects of business, the more proposals that are prepared, the more that is learned and the more one can borrow from past practice for the next one.

Government Contracting Proposal Preparation

PROJECT MANAGEMENT

Strategic thinking must be applied to structuring a government service contract project management capability in your company. It must involve long term planning and designing a business system as well as establishing rates and factors to bid new work and control it while interfacing with the customer.

When one plans in detail to define the product or the service one reduces performance risk.

The project management challenge is not to launch significant and costly resources before the specification for the product is sufficiently defined, obviating the need for costly revisions or abandonment, yet knowing when the product definition and plan are suitable for release.

Good project management starts early.

Vital Tips for Project Management

SUMMARY

Consider the advice herein when developing and maintaining your business plan. Overlay approaches unique to the company against the guidance offered and place it in the standard format for business planning.  It will yield a road map for success and can be further evolved for growth.

For additional  details on these topics and other important information in developing and executing a government contacting plan, download the free books and supplements available in PDF format at the “Box” in the top right margin of the below site.”

Seizing the Moment

https://www.smalltofeds.com/2015/10/your-small-business-federal-government.html

How Marines And Robots Will fight Side By Side

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Illustrations by Jacqueline Belker/Staff

“MARINE CORPS TIMES”

This imagined scenario involves a host of platforms, teamed with in-the-flesh Marines, moving rapidly across wide swaths of the Pacific.

Those small teams of maybe a platoon or even a squad could work alongside robots in the air, on land, sea and undersea, to gain a short-term foothold that then could control a vital sea lane Chinese ships would have to bypass or risk sinking simply to transit.

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“Somewhere off the coast of a tiny island in the South China Sea small robotic submarines snoop around, looking for underwater obstacles as remotely-controlled ships prowl the surf. Overhead multiple long-range drones scan the beachhead and Chinese military ­fortifications deeper into the hills.

A small team of Marines, specially trained and equipped, linger ­farther out after having launched from their amphibious warship, as did their robot battle buddies to scout this spit of sand.

Their Marine grandfathers and great-grandfathers might have rolled toward this island slowly, dodging sea mines and artillery fire only to belly crawl in the surf as they were raked with ­machine gun fire, dying by the thousands.

But in the near-term battle, suicidal charges to gain ground in a fast-moving battlefield is a robot’s job.

It’s a bold, technology-heavy concept that’s part of Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger’s plan to keep the Corps relevant and lethal against a perceived growing threat in the rise of China in the Pacific and its increasingly sophisticated and capable Navy.

In his planning guidance, Berger called for the Marines and Navy to “create many new risk-worthy unmanned and minimally manned platforms.” Those systems will be used in place of and alongside the “stand-in forces,” which are in range of enemy weapons systems to create “tactical dilemmas” for adversaries.

“Autonomous systems and artificial intelligence are rapidly changing the character of war,” Berger said. “Our potential peer adversaries are investing heavily to gain dominance in these fields.”

And a lot of what the top Marine wants makes sense for the type of war fighting, and budget constraints, that the Marine Corps will face.

“A purely unmanned system can be very small, can focus on power, range and duration and there are a lot of packages you can put on it — sensors, video camera, weapons systems,” said Dakota Wood, a retired Marine ­lieutenant colonel and now senior research fellow at The Heritage ­Foundation in Washington, D.C.

The theater of focus, the Indo-Pacific Command, almost requires adding a lot of affordable systems in place of more Marine bodies.

That’s because the Marines are stretched across the world’s largest ocean and now face anti-access, area-denial, systems run by the Chinese military that the force hasn’t had to consider since the Cold War.

“In INDOPACOM, in the littorals, the Marine Corps is looking to kind of outsource tasks that machines are looking to do,” Wood said. “You’re preserving people for tasks you really want a person to handle.”

The Corps’ shift back to the sea and closer work with the Navy has been brewing in the background in recent years as the United States slowly has attempted to disentangle itself from land-based conflicts in the Middle East. Signaling those changes, recent leaders have published warfighting concepts such as expeditionary advanced based operations, or EABO, and littoral operations in contested environment.

EABO aims to work with the Navy’s distributed maritime operations concept. Both allow for the U.S. military to pierce the anti-access, area denial bubble. The littoral operations in contested environment concept makes way for the close-up fight in the critical space where the sea meets the land.

That’s meant a move to prioritize the Okinawa, Japan-based III Marine Expeditionary Force as the leading edge for prioritizing Marine forces and experimentation, as the commandant calls for the “brightest” Marines to head there.

Illustrations by Jacqueline Belker/Staff

Getting what they want

But the Corps, which traditionally has taken a backseat in major acquisitions, faces hurdles in adding new systems to its portfolio.

It was only in 2019 that the Marines gained more funding to add more MQ-9 Reaper drones. The Corps got the money to purchase its three Reapers in this year’s budget. But that’s a ­platform that’s been in wide use by the Air Force for more than a decade.

But that’s a short-term fix, the Corps’ goal remains the Marine Air-Ground Task Force unmanned aircraft system, expeditionary, or MUX.

The MUX, still under development, would give the Corps a long-range drone with vertical takeoff capability to launch from amphib ships that can also run persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic warfare and coordinate and initiate strikes from other weapons platforms in its network.

Though early ideas in 2016 called for something like the MUX to be in the arsenal, at this point officials are pegging an operational version of the aircraft for 2026.

Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, deputy commandant for aviation, said at the annual Sea-Air-Space Symposium in 2019 that the MUX remains among the top priorities for the MAGTF.

Sustain and distract

In other areas, Marines are focusing on existing platforms but making them run without human operators.

One such project is the expeditionary warfare unmanned surface vessel. Marines are using the 11-meter ­rigid-hull inflatable boats already in service to move people or cargo, drop it off and return for other missions.

Logistics are a key area where autonomous systems can play a role. Carrying necessary munitions, medical supplies, fuel, batteries and other items on relatively cheap platforms keeps Marines out of the in-person transport game and instead part of the fight.

In early 2018 the Corps conducted the “Hive Final Mile” autonomous drone resupply demonstration in ­Quantico, Virginia. The short-range experiment used small quadcopters to bring items like a rifle magazine, MRE or canteen to designated areas to resupply a squad on foot patrol.

The system used a group of drones in a portable “hive” that could be ­programmed to deliver items to a predetermined site at a specific time and continuously send and return small drones with various items.

Extended to longer ranges on larger platforms and that becomes a lower-risk way to get a helicopter’s worth of supplies to far-flung Marines on small atolls that dot vast ocean expanses.

Shortly after that demonstration, the Marines put out requests for concepts for a similar drone resupply system that would carry up to 500 pounds at least 10 km. It still was not enough distance for larger-scale warfighting, but is the beginnings of the type of resupply a squad or platoon might need in a contested area.

In 2016, the Office of Naval Research used four rigid-hull inflatable boat with unmanned controls to “swarm” a target vessel, showing that they can also be used to attack or distract vessels.

And the distracting part can be one of the best ways to use unmanned assets, Wood said.

Wood noted that while autonomous systems can ­assist in classic “shoot, move, communicate” tactics, they sometimes be even more effective in sustaining forces and distracting adversaries.

“You can put machines out there that can cause the enemy to look in that direction, decoys tying up attention, munitions or other platforms,” Wood said.

And that distraction goes further than actual boats in the water or drones in the air.

As with the MUX, the Corps is looking at ways to include electronic warfare capabilities in its plans. That allows for robotic systems to spoof enemy sensors, making them think that a small pod of four rigid-hull inflatable boats appear to be a larger flotilla of amphib ships.

Illustrations by Jacqueline Belker/Staff

Overreliance

Marines fighting alongside and along with ­semi-autonomous systems isn’t entirely new.

In communities such as aviation, explosive ordnance disposal and air defense, forms of automation, from automatic flight paths to approaching toward bomb sites and recognizing incoming threats, have been at least partly outsourced to software and systems.

But for more complex tasks, not so much.

How robots have worked and will continue to work in formations is an evolutionary process, according to former Army Ranger Paul Scharre, director of the technology and national security program at the Center for a New American Security and author of, “Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War.”

If you look at military technology in history, the most important use for such tech was in focusing on how to solve a particular mission rather than having the most advanced technology to solve all problems, Scharre said.

And autonomy runs on a kind of sliding scale, he said.

As systems get more complex, autonomy will give fewer tasks to the human and more to the robot, helping people better focus on decision-making about how to conduct the fight. And it will allow for one human to run multiple systems.

When you put robotic systems into a squad, you’re giving up a person to run them and leaders have to decide if that’s worth the trade off, Scharre said.

The more remote the system, the more vulnerable it might be to interference or hacking, he said. Built into any plan for adding autonomous systems there must be reliable, durable communication networks.

Otherwise, when those networks are attacked the systems go down.

That means that a Marine’s training won’t get less complicated, only more multifaceted.

Just as Marines continue to train with a map and compass for land navigation even though they have GPS at their fingertips, Marines operating with autonomous systems will need continued training in fundamental tactics and ways to fight if those systems fail.

“Our preferred method of fighting today in an ­infantry is to shoot someone at a distance before they get close enough to kill with a bayonet,” Scharre said. “But it’s still a backup that’s there. There are still bayonet lugs on rifles, we issue bayonets, we teach people how to wield them.”

Where do they live?

A larger question is where do these systems live? At what level do commanders insert robot wingmen or battle buddies?

Purely for reasons of control and effectiveness, Dakota Wood said they’ll need to be close to the action and Marine Corps personnel.

But does that mean every squad is assigned a robot, or is there a larger formation that doles out the automated systems as needed to the units?

For example, an infantry battalion has some vehicles but for larger movements, leaders look to a truck company, Wood said. The maintenance, care, feeding, control and programming of all these systems will require levels of specialization, expertise and resources.

The Corps is experimenting with a new squad formation, putting 15 instead of 13 Marines in the building block of the infantry. Those additions were an assistant team leader and a squad systems operator. Those are exactly the types of human positions needed to implement small drones, tactical level electronic warfare and other systems.

The MUX, still under development, would give the Corps a long-range drone with vertical takeoff capability to launch from amphib ships. (Bell Helicopter)
The MUX, still under development, would give the Corps a long-range drone with vertical takeoff capability to launch from amphib ships. (Bell Helicopter)

The Marine Corps leaned on radio battalions in the 1980s to exploit tactical signals intelligence. Much of that capability resided in the larger battalion that farmed out smaller teams to Marine Expeditionary Units or other formations within the larger division or Marine Expeditionary Force.

A company or battalion or other such formation could be where the control and distribution of ­autonomous systems remains.

But, current force structure moves look could integrate those at multiple levels. Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, deputy commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said recently that the Corps is considering a Marine littoral regiment as a formation that would help the Corps better conduct EABO operations.

Combat Development Command did not provide details on the potentially new regimental formation, confirmed that a Marine littoral regiment concept is one that will be developed through current force design conversations.

A component of that could include a recently-proposed formation known as a battalion maritime team.

Maj. Jake Yeager, an intelligence officer in I MEF, charted out an offensive EABO method in a December 2019 article on the website War On The Rocks titled, “­Expeditionary Advanced Maritime Operations: How the Marine Corps can avoid becoming a second land Army in the Pacific.”

Part of that includes the maritime battalion, creating a kind of Marine air-sea task force. Each battalion team would include three assault boat companies, one raid boat company, one anti-ship missile boat battery and one reconnaissance boat company.

The total formation would use 40 boats, at least nine which would be dedicated unmanned surface vehicles, while the rest would be developed with unmanned or manned options, much like the ­rigid-hulled inflatable boats which the Corps is currently experimenting with.”

https://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/your-marine-corps/2020/02/03/war-with-robots-an-inside-look-at-how-marines-and-robots-will-fight-side-by-side/