Category Archives: Small Business

Army Futures Command Selects Software Factory Location

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Image: AFC

“C4ISRNET”

Army Futures Command has picked Austin Community College District as the home of its software factory to collaborate with student software developers at a time when the service is hungry to bring software developers to its ranks as it modernizes in a digital age.

The factory will offer training in new technologies like data science and artificial intelligence and curriculum will be developed by the college, the AFC leadership and help from global software development companies.

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“The factory “will be the first of its kind and will provide a training pipeline for soldiers and ACC students,” a Sept. 17 Army press release states. “The factory is designed to help students rapidly scope and solve real-life problems through advanced software development processes.”

Through collaboration between Army soldiers, the students at the college and the greater community, “it’s going to force us to think differently about how we think about the future,” Army Futures Command Commander Gen. Mike Murray said in the statement. “There’s nothing but goodness here in terms of bringing fresh ideas to solve problems.”

The entity is the first soldier-led software factory in the Army and “the vision is to develop a pathway to two- and four-year degrees and connect soldiers and students with industry partners,” the statement reads.

After a nationwide search, the Austin-based college, which is also home to Futures Command headquarters, was chosen based on its reputation for “being a feeder for talent, innovation of its advanced ACCelerator learning lab and launch of its recent bachelor’s degree in software development,” according to the statement.

Software development has become central to the way the Army wants to modernize going forward. It is playing a key role in the development of new weapons systems. Software factories, most notably the Air Force’s Kessel Run program, have become popular in recent years across the department as a way to quickly boost capabilities.

The Army is in the middle of a major campaign of learning called Project Convergence at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, which is seeking to connect assets across the battlefield to fight together to shorten the decision cycle and the kill chain against near-peer adversaries.

Murray told Defense News in a recent interview there are three key technologies today that when paired together in novel ways can provide a strong advantage against possible conflict. Those technologies, which are entirely reliant on software development, are artificial intelligence, autonomy and robotics in the air and on the ground.

“To make those three work in a digital environment, you have to have an underlying robust and resilient network,” Murray said, “and you have to have a data architecture and the data and the talent to put all that together.

A recent ground robotic combat vehicle exercise at Fort Carson, Colorado, is another snapshot highlighting the need to focus on software development.

As the Army ventures into developing robotic vehicles that don’t just do the dull, dirty and dangerous work, “the biggest thing is going to be software development, improving autonomous and automation software,” Lt. Col. Chris Orlowski, the service’s robotic combat vehicles product manager, said at a recent AUVSI unmanned systems defense conference.

“Teleoperation is nice, it works okay if you’ve got the right radios and the right environments, but long term, when those environments become tested, I think teleoperation will be less viable and we will have to really push the automation and autonomy on these platforms,” he said.

The software factory will open in January with 30 soldiers and civilians. More than 15,000 service members expressed an interest in participating within the first week after an internal announcement.”

https://www.c4isrnet.com/land/2020/09/17/army-futures-command-picks-austin-community-college-for-software-factory/

Other Transaction Agreements (OTA’s) – A Tool For The Fed 4th Quarter Spending Spree?

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Image: “The Fiscal Times

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY”

With many agency leaders facing a “use-it-or-lose-it” deadline for utilizing their budgets before the end of the fiscal year, the use of OTAs may be a critical and needed weapon for agencies to acquire the resources needed to execute on their fiscal 2020 initiatives.

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“The federal government’s year-end fourth quarter spend has become an annual ritual in Washington, D.C., every September, similar to the anticipation of kids returning to school and the start of fall sports.

It’s more than just the numbers that have revealed this new reality for fourth quarter spending. The entire contracting market has felt it. Government contractors anticipate the release of RFPs over a typical “federal summer” with contract awards to follow in the fall.

In 2018, the year-end spend was referred to as a spending spree of “historic proportions” with nearly 40 percent of contracts being awarded in the last quarter of the government’s fiscal year. Even in a normal year, it was anticipated that 2020 would continue the trend and final quarter spending was predicted to increase. Of course, 2020 has been anything but normal. And it appears this year’s final quarter spend will surpass the previous ones, but with good reason.

The Impact of COVID-19

Suffice to say, 2020 has had a few more challenges than previous years for federal executives. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended all facets of life, business and government. With so much uncertainty throughout the year, many agencies were not able to move forward with some initiatives as quickly as they hoped, thus they did not spend as much as anticipated in the spring and summer months.

Combined with the now-annual Q4 spending frenzy, it means that this year’s fourth quarter will be unlike any before when it comes to government spending. In IT spending alone, Bloomberg Government estimates that nearly $28 billion will be spent by agencies in fourth quarter of fiscal 2020.

An example of the spending push comes from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA has spent only $1.7 billion on IT contracts so far this fiscal year, compared to its $7.8 billion IT budget request, which leaves a massive $6.1 billion that must be spent in the final quarter. Furthermore, the CARES Act appropriated the VA an additional $2.2 billion to modernize its IT and electronic health records systems.

OTAs May Be the Answer

While GSAs push to best in class (BIC) government wide acquisition contracts, has created preferred paths to the market, and the use of those BICs can often lend themselves to short turnaround times to make awards, OTAs seem to be on the rise as another alternative.

Other transaction authority (OTAs) have soared in recent years, as they allow agencies to enter into contracts quicker than some of the traditional procurement methods. These have been most popular within the Department of Defense, as they aim to seek to enlist capabilities faster. Their spending through OTAs has increased from about $1 billion in fiscal year 2015 to $7.8 billion in 2019, according to Bloomberg Government data.

However, the use of OTAs could quickly expand to other agencies in a response to COVID-19 and the need to utilize funding in a timely manner to keep pace with the increased demands that have risen in helping our Country get past this pandemic.

According to federal market analyst Chris Cornillie, this may also become the new normal for procurement moving forward.

“We expect that HHS will continue to use OTAs as it meets the needs of the COVID response, and we may see HHS normalize OTAs as a larger part of their R&D portfolio in future years,” he said.”

Watch Carefully – GSA’s “Verified Product Portal (VPP)” Development

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Image: GSA

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY”

“GSA is beginning Phase I of the Verified Products Portal (VPP), with a target audience of OEMs and wholesalers. The goal is to have the portal up and running sometime in 2021.

Whether you are an OEM, distributor or reseller, you’ll need to keep your eye on this initiative as it continues to take shape.”

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“The General Services Administration recently issued an RFI regarding their catalog management processes and product data details. What is driving this market research, and why should OEMs care? 

One thing is certain: VPP needs to be done right or it could cause tangible issues for you and your supply chain.

Improving supply chain risk management

The purpose of the VPP is to host authoritative product content such as standardized manufacturer names and part numbers with the aim of improving GSA’s supply chain risk management and modernizing the customer experience. This information ideally would be provided directly by OEMs. In addition to the OEM profile, GSA will allow resellers and distributors to create a profile in the VPP. 

The VPP will include information such as product specifications, with the option of adding additional information such as product specs, pictures, and pricing data. The current plan is to allow participating OEMs to authorize and deauthorize products and resellers through the portal in real-time, potentially eliminating the need for resellers to provide letters of supply. (More on this later.) 

What does this mean for OEMs and wholesalers? While the VPP will be optional, OEMs should carefully consider whether to participate. If they choose not to maintain a portal entry, OEMs should still pay special attention to product data their authorized resellers and distributors post.

That last part is particularly important. Any data (such as product number, description, pricing, etc.) that is inaccurate or out of date could potentially cause confusion within the OEM’s channel and with GSA. Such confusion, in turn, could delay processing GSA Schedule Contract modifications, as it would leave GSA in the predicament of deciding which data is accurate.

Recognizing this potential for confusion, GSA is proposing a tiered system for non-OEM entities. The idea is that higher-tier portal entities (likely distributors) will take precedence over the lower entities (likely resellers) in the event of a conflict or inconsistent data. 

The criteria and details for tiering entities other than the OEM, however, is still uncertain. In the recently released GSA RFI, GSA states the following in their Terms of Use: “GSA reserves the right, at any time, not to use data submissions if a higher tier has submitted conflicting data.” This could lead to confusion and uncertainty within the channel if OEMs decide not to maintain their own portal entry and do not closely monitor the entries of their resellers and distributors.

This is precisely why it’s important for OEMs to pay attention to the VPP, and to keep descriptions up to date. Any discrepancy between reseller and OEM information could lead to contract delays and, ultimately, the timing of future federal business.

Advantages for both sides, GSA says

For the GSA, the advantage of VPP would be cohesion of data across the agency and a more secure supply chain. It’s no secret that counterfeit parts have become a growing concern – which is promoting other initiatives such as the DOD’s new Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC).

Because buyers want to ensure they are getting authentic parts from a vendor, GSA has long required resellers and distributors to provide a written letter of supply confirming OEM authorization to provide products along with other representations.

For vendors, then, GSA maintains there are benefits as well. First, resellers will no longer have to obtain and provide that letter of supply, which reduces the administrative burden on the organization. Second, the VPP will also ensure that an OEM’s product is represented accurately.

So, what do you do if you are an OEM and decide to participate in the VPP? At a minimum, you’ll need to keep product data up to date, in real time, both on the portal and with resellers and distributors. Failure to do so could easily lead to confusion and delay when trying to update the GSA catalog. 

For now, GSA is trying to take baby steps, which is why participation is voluntary, although the agency would prefer to have OEM participation. But the program is not just going to disappear and will likely become even more important as supply chain security continues to be a top government priority.

Regardless of how your organization does business with the government, pay attention to the VPP – because your buyers certainly will be.”

U.S. Navy Actively Aiding And Soliciting Small Businesses

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Image: U.S. Navy Office of Small Business Programs

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

Assistant Secretary Geurts:

“We are spending … $10 billion a year-plus every year on ship maintenance. I think there are tons of ideas out there in small business that [would] allow us to do that more cheaply, more effectively with less manpower if we had programs to go after and look at it.”

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“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to persist, the Navy is making sure that small businesses are not left behind, according to officials.

For example, the service is taking steps to cut down on program acquisition timelines for small businesses. Awarding contracts early has been one its strategies to account for potential complications that may arise during the pandemic. In many cases, the Navy’s overall time to release contract awards was reduced from 120 days to 24 days, Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Lorin Selby said Sept. 1 during the Department of the Navy Gold Coast Small Business Procurement Event. The webinar was hosted by the San Diego Chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association. 

To reduce acquisition cycles, the Navy has taken steps such as changing project proposal requirements to be less stringent by reducing page count requirements and speeding up evaluation times, Selby noted. The service has also “opened aperture” by accepting more project proposals than usual, he said.

“We put in place a lot of changes,” Selby said. “We sped up our processes. Our proposals, we made them broader. … By the end of June, we were about $80 million ahead of where we would have been last year. We’re pushing money out the door.”

However, small businesses must ensure that they continue to provide adequate work during all phases of an acquisition cycle, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James “Hondo” Geurts said during the event. The Navy, for its part, must be “reasonable at all steps” and avoid putting workers at risk during the pandemic, he noted.

“You’ve got to perform” on programs, Geurts told members of industry. Some companies seem to take the approach that they can complete the first couple of phases of work and then “get rich on phase 3,” he said. “Then it gets priced to the point where it’s not competitive or fair and reasonable.”

Meanwhile, the Navy is hoping to leverage more innovation from small businesses to help it solve some of its existing problems. For example, they may be able to provide ideas on how the service can reduce the amount of money it is spends on ship maintenance, he said. The Office of Naval Research is examining the possibility of setting up a fund dedicated to adopting existing technology that could help cut down on these costs, he noted.”

https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2020/9/1/navy-trying-to-aid-solicit-help-from-small-businesses

Defense Acquisition System Directive Goes Into Effect

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Image: Roper Center, Cornell University

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE PRESS RELEASE”

Representing one of the most transformational changes to acquisition policy in decades, the DoDD 5000.01 re-write was part of a comprehensive redesign of the DoD 5000 Series acquisition policies.

Streamlined and modernized to empower program managers, facilitate flexibility and enhance our ability to deliver capability at the speed of relevance.

https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releases/Release/Article/2340746/defense-acquisition-system-directive-goes-into-effect/source/GovDelivery/

WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY

“The Defense Department released a new directive for its overarching policy guidelines governing its buying practices.

DOD issued Directive 5000.01, the overarching guidance that focuses on the roles and responsibilities for DOD’s acquisition process, DOD announced Sept. 9. The update also includes new tenets implemented by the Adaptive Acquisition Framework, a streamlined set of pathways aimed to help speed up buying and delivering DOD’s needs.

Ellen Lord, DOD’s acquisition chief, has made it a priority to overhaul the defense acquisition practices during her tenure by reforming the DOD 5000 series instructions with a simplified rewrite to improve the process of buying everything from software to services.

“We have a much more flexible way of doing business now codified in policy,” Lord said at the Defense News virtual conference Sept. 9 regarding the move that comes after previous updates in the last year to mid-tier and urgent acquisition policies.

Lord said the changes to 5000.01, paired with the already released 5000.02 instructions that address the use of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework pathways, lay a foundation for more flexible acquisition in DOD and can help get technology fielded to the warfighter faster.

“Now we have software policies where we can move in a much more modern way,” she said.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2020/09/09/williams-dod-5000-update-acquisition.aspx

Insurance Policies And Defense Contractor Cyber Security

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Image: Securityscorecard.com

“C4ISRNET”

“Ubiquitous application of cyber business interruption (cyber BI) coverage across the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) supply chain would materially improve supply chain resiliency and reduce unwanted supply chain behaviors.”

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“One way the Pentagon could improve the cybersecurity of its supply chain would be for standardized insurance policies that cover cyberattacks, according to a new report to be released today from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

The report, titled “The Time for Cyber Insurance: Coverage Improves Supply Chain Resiliency,” stems from a tabletop exercise the thinktank and brokerage firm Lockton Companies held with former government officials and private sector leaders and using real-world cyber incidents.

Cyber disruptions can lead to a freeze in contractor operations, a failure to perform under contract or the need to find replacement parts to due to supply chain disruption. However, “due to a lack of Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement requirements, many critical DIB businesses still lack this important coverage,” the report states.

What’s more, traditional insurance models are based upon factors that don’t always apply to defense companies such as personally identifiable information or health information.

Thus, getting insurers, defense companies and the DoD itself on a level playing field is of the utmost importance, Trevor Logan, one of the report’s authors, told C4ISRNET.

He said a contractor may spend a lot of money on a cyber insurance policy only to later discover a breach wasn’t covered in the policy.

“That’s pretty scary stuff,” he said. “There’s not a standardization behind how this process is laid out, but it is ultimately what is going to get us better cybersecurity at the company level, which is better for all of us.”

The report recommends DoD study how cyber insurance across the industrial base improves the security and resiliency of the supply chain.

Logan said potential disruptions can hurt small and medium sized businesses the most because those companies may have to cease manufacturing when notifying the insurance broker of the cyber incident. This puts companies in a rough place putting in jeopardy their ability to fill contract requirements thus hurting the reliability DoD needs to get equipment, parts and systems to operators that need them.

Logan also noted that there needs to be greater clarity between how cyber insurance polices relate to the forthcoming Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), a tiered cybersecurity framework that grades companies on a scale based on the level of classification and security that’s necessary for the work they’re performing.

“There are unclear and sometimes conflicting standards and models for cybersecurity, leaving companies – especially the small and medium-sized enterprises critical to the DIB – confused and uncertain,” one of the report’s key findings state. “Some insurance companies are seeking to underwrite to Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) guidelines. DoD could advocate for this approach (or others) to be included in cyber insurance underwriting and could help socialize these guidelines to the broader DIB.”

He said clarifying how cyber insurance impacts underwriters’ assessments as it relates to CMMC compliance would be helpful.”

https://www.c4isrnet.com/cyber/2020/09/02/standardization-of-insurance-policies-could-improve-defense-contractors-cybersecurity/

Air Force Looks To Bridge ‘Valley Of Death’ For Small Tech Firms

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Image: “National Research Council” – Charles W. Wessner, Ph.D.

The Air Force’s top buyer is looking to revamp how small businesses interact with the service through its innovative research program.

A separate matching [program and investment dollar] paradigm for “defense unique companies” to ensure the tech is commercially viable.

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“Will Roper, the Air Force’s acquisition chief, said the U.S. government effectively created a technological “trench” that kept small businesses from transitioning their capabilities from the Small Business Innovative Research program without program dollars.

“There is no phase 3 funding that’s allocated by Congress. That is where you have to have a program office working with you,” Roper said during a 90-minute “ask me anything” event on AFVentures, the Air and Space Force’s investment arm, Sept. 1. “We could’ve built a better process; we could have built a better bridge.”

Roper called the lack of process a “trench” that fails to bridge funding accounts and can leave companies hanging. Instead, the acquisition chief said he wants to create more mechanisms that pair program dollars to SBIR recipients.

“That is typically what’s happened to companies in the Small Business Innovation Research fund as a whole,” he said, “it wasn’t connected to the big acquisition system, the market that we represent. And that created a valley of death and so unfortunately the option that was left for many companies hitting the end of the SBIR pipeline was to be acquired by a prime and then ultimately that technology would be charged back to us, probably with a little higher rate than we would have gotten from a small business.”

“So we are endeavoring to fix that, that’s why we’ve got a separate matching [program and investment dollar] paradigm for defense unique companies” to ensure the tech is commercially viable.

Roper also said he hopes to get more authorities and mimic the Intelligence Community’s venture capital structure to get involved with promising companies at an early stage.

“What I hope we do in the future, beyond the authority we have now is explore greater authorities — things like the In-Q-Tel model,” Roper said. That means owning equity, issuing emergency contracts and funding to “avoid procurements that maybe aren’t’ in a company’s best interest or are maybe adversarial in nature.”

“There’s a deeper level of competition that we can achieve but we need a deeper level of authority to achieve it.”

Roper called the lack of process a “trench” that fails to bridge funding accounts and can leave companies hanging. Instead, the acquisition chief said he wants to create more mechanisms that pair program dollars to SBIR recipients.

“That is typically what’s happened to companies in the Small Business Innovation Research fund as a whole,” he said, “it wasn’t connected to the big acquisition system, the market that we represent. And that created a valley of death and so unfortunately the option that was left for many companies hitting the end of the SBIR pipeline was to be acquired by a prime and then ultimately that technology would be charged back to us, probably with a little higher rate than we would have gotten from a small business.”

“So we are endeavoring to fix that, that’s why we’ve got a separate matching [program and investment dollar] paradigm for defense unique companies” to ensure the tech is commercially viable.

Roper also said he hopes to get more authorities and mimic the Intelligence Community’s venture capital structure to get involved with promising companies at an early stage.

“What I hope we do in the future, beyond the authority we have now is explore greater authorities — things like the In-Q-Tel model,” Roper said. That means owning equity, issuing emergency contracts and funding to “avoid procurements that maybe aren’t’ in a company’s best interest or are maybe adversarial in nature.”

“There’s a deeper level of competition that we can achieve but we need a deeper level of authority to achieve it.”

DOD Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) Proposing Hybrid Acquisition Model

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Image: “Meritalk.com

C4ISRNET

The JAIC is “considering” starting a competition for a 501(c) nonprofit manager or managers of its prototype “Artificial Intelligence Acquisition Business Model” that looks to use other transaction authorities to more quickly purchase AI products.

“The JAIC will therefore prototype a new AI Acquisition Business Model to assess the potential for non-FAR-based contracts mixed with FAR-based contracts to meet JAIC requirements.”

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“The Pentagon’s top artificial intelligence office released a request for information Aug. 28 outlining interest in establishing a new acquisition approach for standardizing the development and procurement process for AI tools according to the solicitation.

The JAIC’s prototype business model could deliver “AI capabilities through meaningful market research/front-end collaboration and optimal teaming arrangements of both traditional and non-traditional companies for AI product procurement,” the RFI said. If the plan moves forward, the JAIC would also “explore the possibilities of using the model to enable agile AI acquisition processes to the DoD at scale.”

The JAIC is the Defense Department’s main hub for artificial intelligence and is responsible for increasing adoption of AI across the department. It works with the services and combatant commands to develop AI tools that have practical use.

To meet the military’s needs, the JAIC uses the traditional government contracting process, known as Federal Acquisition Regulation-based contracts, and works with the General Services Administration, the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Defense Innovation Unit. The traditional acquisition strategy currently being used is unlikely sufficient enough to help the JAIC carry out its mission, the RFI stated.

“To scale this strategy to other DoD service requirements or respond to emergent requirements such as COVID-19 is challenging and may not be the most efficient use of acquisition tools,” the RFI read.

JAIC’s goals are to streamline awards while maintaining flexibility between FAR and non-FAR awards, and to maximize competition while minimizing restrictions, the RFI explained.

The JAIC recently awarded major contracts through DISA and GSA. In May, it awarded a five-year contract with an $800 million ceiling to Booz Allen Hamilton through the GSA for its new joint war-fighting national mission initiative, though JAIC officials have continuously noted that the value of the contract won’t hit $800 million.

The JAIC also announced a $106 million contract award to the consulting firm Deloitte for its Joint Common Foundation, a critical element for sharing datasets and AI tools across Department of Defense components.

The JAIC has said for several months that it needs its own acquisition authority to be effective. Before he retired in June from his position as JAIC director, Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan called on Congress to give the center its own acquisition authority. He said on a webinar in late May that the center’s lack of acquisition tools will hinder the organization’s ability to increase AI use across the DoD.

“It’s not going to be fast enough as we start putting more and more money into this capability development,” Shanahan said, speaking on a webinar hosted by the AFCEA Washington, D.C., chapter. “We need our own acquisition authority. We have to move faster.”

The solicitation outlined six “high-level goals” for the prototype AI Acquisition Business Model.

  1. “Maximize outreach to non-traditional (e.g.., small business) industry and academic partners.
  2. “Create an acquisition model that is utilized by the Services and DoD agencies.
  3. “Maximize use of automated processes (e.g., online portal for requirements definition, collaboration, source selection, and performance monitoring).
  4. “Facilitate integration and transition to Acquisition programs of record (PoR) using agile and DevSecOps practices.
  5. “Increase use of agile methods for training, tools, and policy development.
  6. “Maximize utilization of the JAIC’s Joint Common Foundation (JCF) AI Development Platform.”

Responses are due Sept. 16.”

https://www.c4isrnet.com/artificial-intelligence/2020/09/01/pentagons-central-ai-office-wants-to-standardize-its-acquisition-process/

DARPA – Science Fiction To Real Life

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Image: “Technology Times

MILITARY TIMES

The agency responsible for the internet, GPS and stealth aircraft has produced a whole lot of weird in the 62 years since its foundation.

The agency also has fewer financial limitations, enabling it to invest in longshot projects with the hopes they’ll pay off – they’re basically the military’s innovative venture capitalists.”

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“For every one of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s wild successes, there seem to be a plethora of wild failures – projects like mechanical elephants or telepathy research. What makes DARPA so unique is its ability to go outside the red tape of bureaucracy to innovate.

DARPA isn’t subject to the same acquisition rules as other agencies, which means it has fewer restrictions on the scientists and innovators it can hire and the salaries it can offer.

Here are some of the more interesting projects to come out of DARPA’s “high-risk, high-reward” environment.

1. Plant-eating robots

Perhaps the most aptly named project on this list, the Energy Autonomous Tactical Robot program sought to create robots that could feed off plants just as animals do. EATR would have enabled robots to remain in surveillance or defensive positions without resupply much longer than humans or robots with more limited power sources.

“We completely understand the public’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission,” Cyclone Power Technologies CEO Harry Schoell said in a press release.

Before the project stopped development in 2015, its engineers estimated that EATR would be able to travel 100 miles for every 150 pounds of biomass consumed.

2. Houses that repair themselves

Imagine soldiers fashioning buildings and fortifications out of lightweight scaffolds instead of plywood, two-by-fours, and heavy sandbags. Then, those scaffolds quickly begin to fill in with durable material all on their own. And when that material is damaged, it grows right back to where it was.

That’s the goal of DARPA’s Engineering Living Materials program – to create building materials that can be grown where needed and repair themselves when damaged. As researchers make progress with 3D printed organs and tissues, DARPA hopes to use similar technologies to create hybrid materials that can shape and support the growth of engineered cells.

“Instead of shipping finished materials, we can ship precursors and rapidly grow them on site using local resources. And, since the materials will be alive, they will be able to respond to changes in their environment and heal themselves in response to damage,” project manager Justin Gallivan said.

3. Lab-grown blood

Blood pharming successfully decreased the cost of transfusable units from more than $90,000 to less than $5,000.

Blood pharming successfully decreased the cost of transfusable units from more than $90,000 to less than $5,000.

Blood pharming is the process of creating red blood cells from cell sources in a lab rather than inside a human body. DARPA’s Blood Pharming program was projected to increase the efficiency of production and lower the high costs associated with growing red blood cells.

If completely successful, the program would have greatly increased access to transfusable blood for soldiers and hospitals around the world and reduced the risk of disease transmission during a transfusion.

The program was successful in decreasing the cost of synthetic blood from over $90,000 down to under $5,000 per unit, a 2013 press release stated, but new information has not been released since, and the program was not listed in recent budget documents.

4. Cyborg insects

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles may be all the rage, but they’re clunky and require people to design and assemble every piece. What if there were a way to piggyback sensors on flying creatures for free?

DARPA’s spy bugs were part of a 2006 project that wanted to implant transmitters in insects to use them for surveillance. The Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems program was run by teams from the University of Michigan and Cornell University.

Within a few years, researchers had developed interfaces capable of controlling insects’ actions. And if plain old spy bugs weren’t wild enough, the insects eventually received nuclear power as well.

In 2009, Cornell engineers revealed a prototype of a radioactively-powered transmitter for the cyborg insects. Nickle-23 isotopes would provide ample power to the sensors and transmitters the bugs might carry while remaining harmless to humans.

5. Brain implants for PTSD

DARPA doesn’t just focus on cool gadgets for fighting wars. The agency also funds research on solutions for the negative effects war can have on soldiers.

The Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies program is tasked with creating “an implanted, closed-loop diagnostic and therapeutic system for treating, and possibly even curing, neuropsychiatric illness,” according to a DARPA press release.

Basically, the program wants to make a brain implant that will help soldiers struggling with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, anxiety, substance abuse, and more.

Because of the ramifications of such a device, SUBNETS has special ethics experts to help them create a safe piece of neurotechnology.

6. Robotic infantry mules

The Legged Squad Support System (LS3) walks around the Kahuku Training Area July 10, 2014 during the Rim of the Pacific 2014 exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Dietz/RELEASED)

The Legged Squad Support System (LS3) walks around the Kahuku Training Area July 10, 2014 during the Rim of the Pacific 2014 exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Dietz/RELEASED)

Heavy lifting is one of the largest challenges affecting troops’ health and performance. Recognizing the affect the weight of soldiers’ loads can have on them, DARPA began working with robotics company Boston Dynamics to create the Legged Squad Support System.

Capable of carrying 400 pounds, the LS3 is intended to deploy with an infantry squad. DARPA’s website states the program’s goal as “to develop a robot that will go through the same terrain the squad goes through without hindering the squad’s mission.”

7. Nuke-propelled spaceship

DARPA also invests in researching space travel. Project Orion is a program from 1958 intended to research a new means of spaceship propulsion. This hypothetical model of propulsion relied on nuclear bomb detonations to power a craft forward and was supposedly capable of hitting astonishing speeds.

However, DARPA officials were worried about nuclear fallout, and when the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 outlawed detonations of nuclear weapons in outer space, the project was dropped.

8. Mechanical elephants

In the 1960s, DARPA began researching vehicles that would enable troops and equipment to move more freely in the dense terrain of Vietnam.

Following the footsteps of Hannibal before them, DARPA researchers decided that elephants could be the right tool for the job. They began one of the most infamous projects in DARPA history: the quest for a mechanical elephant. The end result would be capable of transporting heavy loads with servo-actuated legs.

When the director of DARPA heard of the project, he immediately shut it down, hoping that Congress wouldn’t hear of it and cut the agency’s funding, according to New Scientist.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2020/09/04/8-weird-darpa-projects-make-science-fiction-seem-like-real-life/

Juggling Priorities Without Dropping The Ball During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Image: Getty Images

SCORE By Nellie Akalp

The competing priorities entrepreneurs have always faced—client work, administrative duties, staffing issues, family responsibilities, self-care—have become even more daunting to address.

5 Tips to Help Small Business Owners Manage Competing Priorities When Working from Home

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“1. Maintain Independent To-Do Lists

It may seem convenient to rely on one to-do list that covers everything you have on your plate. However, that can become overwhelming. In addition to having a master to-do list, make separate to-do lists for each of your responsibilities. For example:

  • Work
  • Family
  • Health and wellness
  • Volunteerism

2. Prioritize Your Priorities

Your to-do lists will contain a mix of tasks—some more urgent than others. To make sure you tend to the most mission-critical responsibilities first, organize your lists to put essential items to the forefront. But what happens when the lines blur about what should get your undivided attention? Consider trying one or more of the following techniques for prioritizing tasks.

  • Priority Matrix – This involves organizing tasks into quadrants to determine which should take precedence. Check out the Eisenhower Decision Matrix and Stephen Covey’s time management matrix for more information.
  • ABC Method – This technique involves reviewing and ranking tasks on an “A,” “B,” “C” level of importance. When multiple tasks seem to have the same degree of urgency, you may identify several As, Bs, and Cs. You would then rank the tasks within each of those priority categories to determine your plan of action.
  • Eat the Frog – Sometimes, I find this is a valuable method for tackling my days. “Eating the frog” involves doing the tasks you like least first. Rather than dreading those nasty to-dos all day long, you get them out of the way. This allows you to work more intently on the other responsibilities you have awaiting you. 

3. Delegate to Get It Done 

Surely, not EVERY task on your list must be done by you personally. Carefully look over your to-do lists to determine what responsibilities you can delegate to others. For example:

  • Can someone else run your financial report?
  • Can your significant other go grocery shopping?
  • Can a staff member respond to inquiries on social media?
  • Can your kids do their own laundry?

When someone else is perfectly capable of knocking a few to-dos from your list, by all means, take some pressure off of yourself and allow them to contribute.

4. Negotiate Due Dates

Communicate with stakeholders to discuss rescheduling lower-priority activities. Most people cooperate when asked if it’s okay to set a new deadline for non-urgent tasks that won’t have a ripple effect if not accomplished by a specific date.

5. Use Tools to Your Advantage

Old-school tools like a day planner, desk calendar, and notebook can help keep priorities top of mind. However, consider using cloud-based collaboration and productivity tools to communicate with team members, organize tasks, and manage projects. Several software platforms that might serve your needs include:

While these tools are geared toward helping businesses, you might also find ways to use their capabilities for managing your home projects and tasks, too.”

https://www.score.org/blog/tips-juggling-priorities-without-dropping-ball-during-coronavirus-pandemic

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 Nellie  Akalp

Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, business expert, professional speaker, author, and mother of four. She is the Founder and CEO of CorpNet.com, a trusted resource and service provider for business incorporation, LLC filings, and corporate compliance services in all 50 states.Nellie AkalpCEO, CorpNet