As part of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (ASN(RDA)) and NavalX initiative to inspire and empower the Department of the Navy (DON) workforce, several job support tools were created to assist program managers in the Navy's use of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF).
The AAF, rolled out in early 2020, changes the DoD acquisition process to a more agile and tailorable approach by minimizing bureaucracy and further empowering program managers to think critically about the needs of their program and developing the right contracting vehicles to accomplish their missions.
The challenge is getting program managers to take advantage of the AAF pathways on their programs of record. To help propagate knowledge about the AAF capabilities, Dr. Marina Theodotou, NavalX Director of Learning Experiences, on rotation from DAU, and Robert Borka, Director for Acquisition Policy in ASN (RD&A) created a set of job support tools that will help "demystify" the AAF and enable acquisition decision-makers to understand how they can apply elements of the AAF to an existing program of record, increasing speed and readiness for the warfighter.
“Even though the AAF was launched over a year ago, it has not been embraced or utilized to the extent it could be,” Theodotou said. “We wanted to help increase the awareness and insights of how the framework works and how it can benefit existing programs. User-centered support tools assist in understanding how the AAF can be applied.”
Theodotou and Borka collaborated, assembling more than 25 people - including Navy program managers, DAU professors and MITRE personnel - in 3 teams to develop vignettes that guide and assist program managers on ways they can incorporate the principles of the AAF into existing and new programs.
“The AAF is definitely a change in the way we do business. It gives program managers more flexibility and allows them to think a little differently on how to execute their programs to deliver capability to the warfighter at the speed of relevance. As part of this pivot we are excited to help provide more tools to enable the acquisition workforce.” Borka said.
The teams, formed in November 2020, were given free rein to come up with a product that users would most benefit from, according to Theodotou. They developed three user-centric tools – team 1 focused on AAF application; team 2 on cost estimation; and team 3 on data and cybersecurity.
Team 1, led by Lisa Haney, Deputy Program Executive Officer for Acquisition Management, Plans and Strategy at Program Executive Office C4I, used playbooks with acquisition scenarios and use cases in the form of “if this, then that.”
“Our goal was to promote the new acquisition pathways available within the AAF by creating a simple way for program office personnel to identify the most appropriate pathway to use and begin executing,” Haney said.
“We were very focused on ensuring that the program offices were aware of the various pathways available to them, understood the nuances of each of the pathways, and were able to execute the pathways using templates, sample documents, etc., created for the new pathways,” Haney added, referring to the Software Acquisition and Middle Tier Acquisition pathways.
This tool can be found on Intellipedia.
Thomas Demas, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Financial Management and Comptroller), Naval Center for Cost Analysis (FMB6/NCCA), Deputy Division Director, led team 2, focused on cost estimation and developed questions to be considered and resources needed in each phase of the acquisition process. DAU’s Josh Flores, a user experience expert, helpe to further refine their efforts into an interactive and engaging tool.
“Our goal was to encourage Program Office out-of-the-box thinking when developing cost estimates in the new acquisition pathways," Demas said. "We built upon the prior efforts of PEO (C4I) vignette's to provide cost estimating streamlining suggestions to help navigate through the statutory and regulatory requirements within the pathways."
This tool can be found on the NavalX website.
Team 3, led by DAU Professor of Program Management Michael Holbert, used a “design thinking approach.” Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Hilger led the design thinking sessions, which included brainstorming and story boarding. Guided by this collaborative process, the team developed a vignette with characters that also weaved in an AAF narrative that includes documents and tools, highlighting the teamwork, leadership and forward thinking needed to effectively implement the AAF as a solution to problems programs face.
“The idea was for potential users to put themselves in these characters' shoes, thinking about which part they play in the process, tackling similar challenges and opportunities of using the AAF pathways to tailor their program,” Holbert said.
The Cybersecurity, IP and data vignette can be found on the DAU, AAF and NavalX websites.
“The whole idea is that we need to think differently and collaboratively to scale innovation in acquisition and deliver better and faster outcomes to the warfighter,” Theodotou said. “That’s what NavalX as a whole offers to the [Department of the Navy], and this project is one of many initiatives empowering the workforce to ask new questions of old and new problems and collaborate to create agile solutions."
To listen to Mohawk Matt’s podcast featuring Dr. Theodotou, Robert Borka and Lisa Hainey click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUmwQ0BbPfs.
For more information on the AAF, visit: https://aaf.dau.edu
For more information on NavalX, visit: https://www.secnav.navy.mil/agility/Pages/default.aspx.
Watch the latest episode of Think Differently, featuring a panel with NAVAL-X participants at https://media.dau.edu/media/1_3sqonbn7
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