Sign In
App icon


Available Now!
Get the App
Click Here to Continue Browser Session   ❯



How to Accelerate Change in Your Program Office to Accelerate Change in Your Program Office2021-10-11T16:00:00Z,<div class="ExternalClass9B72E4EF1AC24FB39659E00E49C36681">The Secretary of the Air Force’s challenge to “accelerate change” marks yet another call from the highest levels of military leadership to fundamentally reconsider how we provide warfighting capability. As we previously observed in the May-June issue of Defense Acquisition, it is crucial to understand the distinctions and synergies between innovation, speed, and agility if we are to institute meaningful organizational change. However, precise terminology does not necessarily translate into decisive action. Organizational change is thoroughly studied in business contexts—a search on for books with the word “innovation” in the title yielded more than 60,000 results. Appending terms like agility, team performance, and risk to that search expands the potential reading list to a truly daunting magnitude that would take many lifetimes to consume.<br> <br> Fortunately, one needs only to read a handful of the most celebrated thinkers on these topics to realize that they have all arrived at a similar constellation of ideas. Though some of the books are new, the major themes for creating a high-performing organizational culture are not. Gen. Bill Creech tackled a similar cultural challenge with the transformation of Tactical Air Command (TAC) in the 1970s and 1980s. Current Department of Defense (DoD) agile and high-innovation organizations still list similar principles as critical to their culture and their success. These organizations include the Joint Special Operations Command (and more broadly, U.S. Special Operations Command), AFWERX, the Defense Innovation Unit, the Rapid Capabilities Office, and numerous others. But it can be difficult for managers to see how these old lessons, visible in the practices of boutique acquisition shops, can be applied in their acquisition offices.<br> <br> This article aims to guide perplexed acquirers, especially middle managers in traditional acquisition offices, by summarizing major themes in prevailing literature on organizational change into seven tailored “axioms” that recommend concrete action for increased speed, agility, and innovation. Want to accelerate change in your program office?<br> <br> Take the following steps.<br> <br> <img alt="a hand holding a glowing cube" src="/library/defense-atl/DATLFiles/Sept-Oct_2021/defacq-datl_septoct2021_article1_image01.jpg" style="width:500px;height:123px;" /> <h3>Use cross-functional teams to solve problems.</h3> The scope and complexity of individual fields like contracting, logistics, and cyber security require specialization and expertise that is best brought to bear through broad functional collaboration on tight-knit, outcome-focused, teams. These teams are dubbed Integrated Product Teams (IPTs) in government work, or Cross-Functional Teams (CFTs) in industry. While this first axiom may appear obvious, if not trite, it is common to find program offices that do not employ an IPT structure. Many offices merely identify team membership on paper, and some do not even go that far. Acquisition “centers” sometimes separate IPT functions into homogenous silos that are intended to service the entire organization, ostensibly reducing manpower costs. However, this separation makes interactions fewer and unnecessarily formal, reduces mission buy-in, and increases friction. Execution of program managers’ (PM) plans is made more difficult by the sparse interaction with these functional experts, and the functionals are frustrated by the PMs’ inability to provide timely information. The resulting formalized iterations cost time and money.<br> <br> Consider that few of the high-performing teams mentioned above are structured in a stovepiped manner. Instead, many use a Skunk Works-style model wherein the lawyer, logistician, contracting officer, PM, and security officer (to name a few) sit physically close to each other. These personnel are assigned to work only a few projects, and the frequent team interactions force almost instantaneous planning iterations, limiting administrative churn, and increasing speed and agility. Personal familiarity and physical proximity also foster trust, which is a crucial enabler of speed, agility, and innovation. Breaking up functional stovepipes serves the triple benefit of placing expertise where it belongs (on the IPT), eliminating administrative strata, and allowing the PM to balance the huge range of program considerations against commanders’ tolerance for risk.<br> <br> <strong>Do this:</strong> Assign names, not functions, to IPTs. Ensure that these people are working a small subset of programs long term. Move teams physically to sit next to each other, and administratively to have the same chain of command.<br> <br> <strong>For more, read:</strong> <a href=""><em>Skunk Works</em> (Ben R. Rich and Leo Janos, 1994)</a> <h3>Push authority down to where the knowledge is.</h3> For most of military history, leadership has been synonymous with decision-making authority. In the modern world characterized by ambiguity, complexity, and speed, we can no longer use the antiquated model of funneling decisions up the chain of command to be made by a single empowered leader. Even if we could afford the bureaucratic delay, we cannot afford the dual tax on quality and trust. Decision quality suffers because those with the most familiarity are in the best position to make trade-offs affecting their work. Trust suffers because centralized decision making sends the message that you are not empowered to run your program. As Gen. Creech frequently noted, empowerment creates ownership which, in turn, creates pride—a determinant pillar of success. Of course, pushing authority down assumes competence on the part of the workforce: Decisions should not be passed down to junior members who lack the basic education and experience to make responsible decisions. The authority should only be pushed down to where the knowledge exists (more on this in axiom Number 4). The authority delegated to the team must be measured and accountable.<br> <br> This strategy does not mean that team leaders should be laissez-faire managers; rather, responsible stewardship empowers leadership to spend time focusing on strategic issues and broadcasting their commander’s intent to inform decisions. Creech understood how empowerment sparked pride and professionalism in TAC teams. Pushing decision-making authority down engenders speed, agility, and innovation through empowerment of those most capable of making decisions quickly.<br> <br> <strong>Do this: </strong>Encourage subordinates to keep you informed of their intentions, not to come to you for decisions. Address “bad” decisions by better communicating strategic intent, not by overruling lower-level managers. In Gen. Creech’s words, “Drive pride and professionalism, humanize the workplace, and provide everyone with a stake in the outcome.”<br> <br> <strong>For more, read: </strong><a href=""><em>Turn the Ship Around! </em>(David Marquet, 2012)</a> <h3>Keep the organization small.</h3> Creech’s saying, “Think big, organize small” applies here. While organizations benefit from a clear command structure, minimize the number of levels in the hierarchy. This lean structure is enabled by the practice of pushing authority down.<br> <br> Conduct the following thought experiment: If an acquisition strategy is a good one, then what value is added by requiring it to be repeatedly approved by a lengthy chain of command? OK, you might ask, but don’t we need middle managers to review IPTs’ decisions and screen out the “bad” ones? Not if we are properly applying the other axioms. If a PM’s strategy is rejected by a senior leader or functional manager, such feedback comes far too late and should have been corrected by knowledgeable IPT members earlier in the plan’s formation. In other words, management strata should be thought of as denial authorities, rather than approval authorities. Former Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Heidi Shyu likened the effect to driving a bus where every passenger has a “steering wheel and a brake pedal, but no gas pedal.” This thought experiment illustrates that a focus on effective teams, and less on layers of oversight, is more efficient. Relying on your boss as a “red team” is a highly risk-averse structure that might be appropriate in some contexts, but not all.<br> <br> This doesn’t mean that middle management is not needed. While the Rapid Capabilities Office and AFWERX might be able to report their program status directly to the Service Secretary or the Senior Acquisition Executive, this practice probably is not scalable to the entire acquisition enterprise. Leadership in a lean, decentralized environment requires two management functions. First, clear intent must be passed down, and resources provided accordingly to achieve this intent. Second, the manager should foster healthy competition between teams and conduct meaningful measurements, rewarding productivity and innovation, another key tool Gen. Creech used to reinvigorate the TAC. Both functions are bolstered by frequent interactions between PMs and higher levels of leadership (not just when a document requires approval). Creating the environment for success is a key part of the manager’s leadership responsibility.<br> <br> <strong>Do this: </strong>Distribute functional expertise among IPTs and utilize functional enclaves in a “train and assist” function, not an oversight function. Minimize approval layers and ensure that teams are appropriately resourced.<br> <br> <strong>For more, read: </strong><a href=""><em>Speed of Trust </em>(Stephen M.R. Covey, 2008)</a> <h3>Use experts to grow experts.</h3> High-performing teams like the Rapid Capabilities Office, Defense Innovation Unit, and SOFWERX enjoy the benefit of selective hiring that skims the cream from the larger workforce (and industry). These organizations can simply hire experts, which allows them to confidently grant stewardship to aggressively small and flat teams that move with great speed. However, everyone’s career starts somewhere. Leaders should view education and experience as job Number 1 for junior members. Each IPT should include members with various degrees of experience. This structure makes the team slightly larger than it might otherwise be, but still allows delegation to the IPT-level (i.e., “where the knowledge is”). In fact, talent management may be one area where middle managers are most useful. Proximity to daily execution promotes a personal evaluation of competence and allows careful balancing of teams.<br> <br> Never squander opportunities to broaden experience and increase expertise. A senior leader traveling solo to a high-level program review is a tragic waste of organizational insight for both the junior member (who would get to see how strategic decisions are made) and for the boss (who misses a mentorship opportunity). The cost of a few extra airline tickets is minuscule compared to the training value.<br> <br> Perhaps most of all, understand that innovation is a skill that is both teachable, and perishable! It is a misnomer that simply reducing bureaucracy will automatically result in innovation. On the contrary, it requires a new mindset that may be learned through numerous programs like the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, the U.S. Special Operations Command’s Ghost program, or the Air University’s Project Mercury.<br> <br> <strong>Do this:</strong> Become a talent management expert. Distribute those with the most experience among those with the least, and actively seek opportunities to provide new experiences to the most junior acquirers. Be sure that innovation and productivity are rewarded!<br> <br> <img alt="a city with blueprints" src="/library/defense-atl/DATLFiles/Sept-Oct_2021/defacq-datl_septoct2021_article1_image02.jpg" style="width:500px;height:147px;" /><br> <br> <strong>For more, read: </strong><a href=""><em>A Passion for Excellence: The Leadership Difference </em>(Tom Peters and Nancy Austin, 1985)</a> <h3>Learn fast, fail small.</h3> A culture of allowing teams occasionally to fail is both a result and a feature of the preceding axioms. The dogmatic acquisition mindset is to eliminate costly failures through detailed planning. Yet, no plan is perfect, and some level of failure usually occurs anyway. Beginning a large project with small steps, anticipating off ramps for dead-end ideas, testing with users as early as possible, and incorporating lessons into the next revision of the product will often put your team months or years ahead of trying to scrupulously plan a decades-long program before bending any metal. The acknowledgment that it is acceptable, even good, to fail is a core lesson of Silicon Valley and is foundational for a culture of innovation and agility.<br> <br> This axiom must be used with care and is sometimes misunderstood. Failure is not the goal, learning is. Gen. Creech had a saying for this, too: “A mistake is not a crime, and a crime is not a mistake.” The manager must separate one from the other, accepting only the first. Sometimes the cost of failure is extreme, but there also are circumstances where the cost of risk aversion is extreme—the two must be balanced. An advanced jet fighter program in full-scale production might not be the right place to throw procedure to the winds. However, most program offices are a blend of production, sustainment, and new development. Subsets of these organizations are ripe for small, rapid learning events. Middle management’s response sets the tone for the whole office.<br> <br> <strong>Do this: </strong>Judiciously create enclaves of innovation in your larger team; have the courage to celebrate experimentation and implement successes. Develop metrics that appropriately reward innovation and productivity towards leaders’ intended goals.<br> <br> <strong>For more, read: </strong><em><a href="">Team of Teams (Gen. Stanley McChrystal, et al., 2015)</a><br> <br> <img alt="a man running with a laptop" src="/library/defense-atl/DATLFiles/Sept-Oct_2021/defacq-datl_septoct2021_article1_image03.jpg" style="width:500px;height:196px;" /></em> <h3>Involve the Warfighter.</h3> Nearly all the axioms above have discussed the importance of an integrated team. However, there is a tendency to label the Warfighter as “the customer”—a distinction that can promote an aloof attitude toward the end user, often perhaps reducing the acquisition program to a dull procession of tedious paperwork. Weapon system acquisition should feel exciting! Gen. Creech used a surprisingly simple trick to fix a broken aircraft maintenance system: painting the crew chiefs’ names on the aircraft for which they had become newly responsible. This simple gesture created pride and unleashed creative productivity in TAC.<br> <br> Motivation is a powerful force in organizational culture, and according to Adam Grant, author of the book Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World, no one is better at motivating the workforce than the product’s end user. For this reason, all the rules about high-performing teams apply. The end user should participate with and, ideally, have physical proximity to the rest of the acquisition team. The opposite relationship is important, too. Operational units should encourage program office personnel to visit tactical conferences, tour facilities, and take incentive rides. Dialogue with the users’ major command is not a sufficient substitute. Formal requirements may come from Air Combat Command, but real understanding and buy-in comes from direct interaction with operational units. It is not enough to view the Warfighter as a member of the IPT; the IPT must come to understand that its work is a crucial foundation for the Warfighter’s job.<br> <br> <strong>Do this:</strong> Include operators in your programs as often as possible. Request TDYs to operational units to gain hands-on time with the system and strengthen relationships with the program office.<br> <br> <strong>For more, read:</strong> <a href=""><em>Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World </em>(Adam Grant, 2016)</a> <h3>Plan for uncertainty, capitalize on agility.</h3> Experienced managers will acknowledge that all programs have unknowns. Development is a risky and complex endeavor, and the existence of unknowns is one reason for the array of different contract types. Why, then, on even the most ill-defined efforts, do many IPTs labor in vain to perfect the wording in a constraining statement of work? Even before potential vendors can cobble together a prototype, IPTs toil to produce an “accurate” cost estimate (reported to the cent). These efforts give a false sense of procedural certainty and are not the best use of limited resources. Software efforts suffer an especially high administration-to-productivity ratio. A few lines of code that might take a week to change and thoroughly test will take several months of contract work—even years, if this work falls outside the scope of the congressionally authorized budget. This demand for predictability might be appropriate in full-rate production, but it will crush the creativity of your highly agile innovation enclave (see axiom Number 5).<br> <br> Fortunately, tools exist to permit and even profit from this uncertainty. Many high-performing organizations have noted the benefit of innovative contracting officers who possess experience with the vast range of tools at their disposal (Federal Acquisition Regulation-based contracts, Other Transaction Authorities, Cooperative Research and Development Agreements, Commercial Solutions Openings, etc.). These professionals use their best judgment to balance flexibility with accountability and craft contractual language with sufficiently broad scope to permit programs to seize opportunities and respond to urgent needs. Of course, senior management must trust that these experienced officers are working within the bounds of the law (see axiom Number 2). If a program office only uses one tool, it probably isn’t taking full advantage of the authorities at its disposal.<br> <br> <strong>Do this:</strong> Seek out dexterous, forward-leaning contracting officers and financial managers. Provide the transparency and advocacy necessary to enable senior managers’ comfort with broad scope and rapid contract changes. Expect changes to programs!<br> <br> <strong>For more, read: </strong><a href=""><em>The Black Swan </em>(Nassim Taleb, 2007)</a> <h3>Conclusion</h3> None of these axioms can be declared most important, and few of them would work in isolation. They are dependent and mutually reinforcing enablers of cultural change. No amount of acquisition reform or tactical-level procedural changes will result in significant improvement if the culture is not right.<br> These axioms have been proven in the Air Force, both with the “TAC Turnaround” under Gen. Creech, and with the success of pilot programs initiated by our acquisition executives. We hope you are convinced that these basic principles encouraging innovation, speed, and agility are tailorable and applicable in different degrees to all sizes and functions of acquisition programs. Ultimately, the artful tailoring and application of these concepts is a leadership problem. Organizational change is uncomfortable but, given the inertia of decades of bureaucratic build-up, discomfort is probably a sign you are on the right track.<br> <br> For more on the “TAC Turnaround,” read: <a href=""><em>The Five Pillars of TQM </em>(Bill Creech, 1995/2002)</a> <hr />DeNeve is an Air University Fellow, teaching in the Department of Joint Warfighting at the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Air Command and Staff College (ACSC). He has master’s degrees in Systems Engineering and Military Operational Art and Science, as well as experience with various USAF, Special Operations Forces, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and nuclear programs.<br> <br> Price is a former Silicon Valley executive with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from UCLA and a doctorate in military history from the University of North Texas. At the ACSC, he teaches courses on War Theory, Joint Warfighting (JPME I), Airpower, as well as courses within the Joint All-Domain Strategist concentration. He is completing a book on USAF modernization in the post-Vietnam War era under contract with Naval Institute Press. Opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this article are solely those of the authors.<br> <br> The authors can be contacted at <a class="ak-cke-href" href=""></a>, and <a class="ak-cke-href" href=""></a>. <hr /><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="tweet" src="/library/defense-atl/DATLFiles/Sept-Oct_2021/tweetbutton.jpg" style="border-width:0px;border-style:solid;float:left;width:200px;height:80px;" /></a><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="subscribe" src="/library/defense-atl/DATLFiles/Sept-Oct_2021/suscribebutton.jpg" style="border-width:0px;border-style:solid;float:left;width:200px;height:80px;" /></a></div>string;#/library/defense-atl/blog/How-to-Accelerate-Change-in-Your-Program-Office
Revisiting John Boyd and the OODA Loop in Our Time of Transformation John Boyd and the OODA Loop in Our Time of Transformation2021-10-04T16:00:00Z,<div class="ExternalClass6AC88BC522FD4E68927BDCC62032F92A"><h2 style="text-align:center;">An Introductory Note from DAU President - Frank Kelley</h2> When I taught at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, my Marine majors (and I did consider those in the class as my majors) broke the code on Kelley and discovered that if you wrote a paper and included John Boyd and the OODA loop you got an “A.”<br> Mark Phillips was just as astute as those majors when he reached out to me recently with his novel observations on DAU’s transformation. I really appreciated his “no notice” Teams call to me, in which we shared our common appreciation for Boyd’s principles of warfare and combat … the most intense of competitive environments.<br> <br> Our current National Defense Strategy states that we are in a competitive environment—and that “we” includes DAU. The application of Boyd’s OODA loop is more than appropriate with regard to our transformation.<br> <br> Mark took it up a few notches and discovered other areas where he and I shared the same view. By including management guru W. Edwards Deming and psychologist Gary Klein, Mark concedes that the environment we find ourselves in is complex and the solutions to our problems are likely to come from many sources.<br> <br> But the simplicity of the Guiding Principles that Mark examines, paying attention, and keeping an open mind are keys to our transformation. Mark’s call to action, his challenge “to promote an acquisition system that rapidly delivers warfighting capability,” resonates with me.<br> Read this article and ask yourself where are you in the OODA loop … and what will it take for you to take action. <hr />The DAU 2021-2023 Strategic Plan rolled out the DAUNext initiative, and its theme is “Empowering the Workforce Today for Their Future.” This subject can be approached in a variety of ways. One way is to look through the lens of U.S. Air Force Col John Boyd and his OODA Loop.<br> <br> The Vision section of the Strategic Plan states, “An accomplished and adaptive workforce giving the Warfighter the decisive edge [emphasis added].” The phrase decisive edge leads us to the thoughts of Col Boyd and his OODA Loop, or the Observe, Orient, Decide, Act cycle. This can be done to achieve what DAU terms frictionless learning, dynamic networking, and world-class content.<br> <br> Col John Boyd was a fighter pilot and scholar. He is known for developing the Energy Maneuverability theory (EM), and many claim that he was the author of the First Gulf War battle plan. Arguably his greatest contribution is as the originator of the OODA loop, less often referred to as the Boyd Cycle or simply the Decision Cycle. <h3>The OODA Loop</h3> To get to the OODA Loop, it is important to understand how Boyd got there. He wrote a 1976 paper titled <a href="">Destruction and Creation</a>. From the outset, Boyd pursued a deeper meaning. He posited that one had to be constantly destroying and creating new views of the world. He expanded on that idea in the 1987 paper titled The Strategic Game of ? and ?.<br> <br> It has been said that, if you want a fresh apple, you go to the tree. A quote from Destruction and Creation explains:<br> <br> <em>When acting within a rigid or essentially a closed system, the goal-seeking effort of individuals and societies to improve their capacity for independent action tends to produce disorder toward randomness and death. On the other hand, as already shown, the increasing disorder generated by the increasing mismatch of the system concept with observed reality opens or unstructures the system. As the unstructuring, or as we’ll call it the destructive deduction, unfolds, it shifts toward a creative induction to stop the trend toward disorder and chaos to satisfy a goal-oriented need for increased order.</em> <h3>Transformation</h3> From the context of transformation, we break down and use Boyd’s “observed reality” from Destruction and Creation:<br> <br> <em>When acting within a rigid or essentially a closed system, the goal-seeking effort of individuals and societies to improve their capacity for independent action tends to produce disorder toward randomness and death.</em><br> <br> As changes occur, we see people trying to adapt to transformation. Here, within the context of a monolithic operation, transformation is happening in a closed system. According to Boyd, one would expect a closed system to become more chaotic as people try to figure out what to do.<br> On the other hand, as already shown, the increasing disorder generated by the increasing mismatch of the system concept with observed reality opens or unstructures the system.<br> <br> Issues arise that are related to the mismatch between the system and observed reality, as people question how things should work and how they actually work.<br> <br> <em>As the unstructuring, or as we’ll call it the destructive deduction, unfolds, it shifts toward a creative induction to stop the trend toward disorder and chaos to satisfy a goal-oriented need for increased order.</em><br> <br> When people try to function, they are going to surmount transformation so that their part of the world can make sense and function in an orderly way. Boyd considered this to be a good thing that should be exploited. That’s an example of frictionless learning. <h3>Other Influences</h3> It appears that Boyd was a student of management guru W. Edwards Deming and had a firm understanding of Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge. According to, this is:<br> <br> <em>… a highly integrated framework of thought and action for any leader wishing to transform an organization operating under the prevailing system of management into a thriving, systemically focused organization.</em><br> <br> The conclusion can be drawn that the Orient phase of the OODA loop is tied to that concept.<br> <br> Boyd also was influenced by Gary Klein and understood Recognition Primed Decision (RPD), as mentioned by Chet Richards, in his book Certain to Win. Klein’s book, Sources of Power, describes RPD as the ability to arrive at a decision more rapidly based on a person’s level of experience. That is, increased experience enables a person to arrive at a decision more rapidly.<br> <br> RPD gives the OODA loop its velocity and as Boyd states, “It’s like they’re moving in slow motion.” (Boyd was referring to the action within an enemy’s OODA Loop.)<br> <br> As one becomes more adept at the OODA loop (see Boyd’s model), Boyd postulated that you can essentially skip orientation and decide and go straight to Act. This is what gives speed to the decision cycle. Another example of frictionless learning.<br> <br> As Boyd stated in Destruction and Creation:<br> <br> <em>As the unstructuring, or as we’ll call it the destructive deduction, unfolds, it shifts toward a creative induction to stop the trend toward disorder and chaos to satisfy a goal-oriented need for increased order. </em><br> <br> Boyd also talked about “standard work” as being able to move faster through OODA loops. Standard work as defined by Toyota is a detailed definition of the best practices for performing a process. Standard work drives continuous improvement. Standard work helps speed the decision cycle. This is an example of world-class content.<br> <br> <img alt="Figure 1. Boyd’s OODA Loop Sketch" src="/library/defense-atl/DATLFiles/Sept-Oct_2021/defacq-datl_septoct2021_article2_figure1.jpg" style="width:800px;height:287px;" /> <h3>The OODA Loop Explained</h3> So what does the OODA loop do? The OODA loop provides a context to add order to this chaos.<br> <br> Robert Coram, in his book, <em><a href="">Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War</a></em>, explained the two “implicit guidance and control” arrows as:<br> <br> <em>Note that Boyd includes the ‘Implicit Guidance & Control’ from ‘Orientation’ with both ‘Observations’ and ‘Action.’ This is his way of pointing out that when one has developed the proper Fingerspitzengefuhl [fingertips feeling] for a changing situation, the tempo picks up and it seems one is then able to bypass the explicit ‘Orientation’ and ‘Decision’ part of the Loop, to ‘Observe’ and ‘Act’ almost simultaneously. The speed must come from a deep intuitive understanding of one’s relationship to the rapidly changing environment. This is what enables a commander seemingly to bypass parts of the Loop. It is this adaptability that gives the OODA Loop its awesome power. </em><br> <br> Perhaps the following example can illustrate how the OODA loops:<br> <br> You are driving on a slick road. As you drive you start to slide. You Observe the unfolding conditions. As you Orient (am I on sand, ice, snow, etc.?) … Decide is almost instantaneous, based on my experience as, I Act quickly to maintain control of the vehicle.<br> <br> If you have never slid in a car, your decision cycle will be slow. If you have driven on a wet road and experienced a slide, your decision cycle will be quicker. If you have driven on a variety of slick surfaces, your decision cycle will be very fast. (A good book to read is Klein’s Sources of Power. Klein describes the theory of RPD as referred to earlier. <h3>What’s Next?</h3> Here is how DAU is exploiting lessons from Boyd and the OODA loop in the DAUNext transformation: <ol> <li>By emphasizing frictionless learning in deconstructing what we did in the past and promoting what we must do. By getting inside students’ decision cycle to anticipate learning.</li> <li>By developing world-class content to set the standard in the field. As Boyd would say, we should be “unstructuring the system to creative induction” to think, “faster and in new ways” to drive critical thinking skills. We need to leverage what we have as templates for what the customer needs instead of reinventing the wheel.</li> <li>By creating Dynamic Networks utilizing the natural decision cycle that DAU offers its customer. Engage all in the service line to drive participation and improvement.</li> </ol> <br> Boyd was ahead of his time and remains so in 2021. His scholarly work and the introduction of the OODA loop can be applied to transformation. His belief, as evidenced in his writings, was that transformation can occur, but it requires effort and thought. By getting inside our customers’ decision cycles and then inside our own decision cycle, we can anticipate the needs of our customer and promote an acquisition system that rapidly delivers warfighting capability.<br> It is not easy, but it is needed for the future of both defense capabilities and DAU. <hr />Phillips is a professor of Quality Assurance in the College of Contract Management at DAU in Huntsville, Alabama.<br> <br> The author can be contacted at <a class="ak-cke-href" href=""></a>.</div>string;#/library/defense-atl/blog/revisiting-john-boyd
The Magic of Delegation and Empowerment Magic of Delegation and Empowerment2021-09-27T16:00:00Z,<div class="ExternalClass7F49210B73AE4BB8B3A80012FB42F4F7">Program management is a demanding career field that requires skillful integration of a diverse set of acquisition disciplines. Most DoD program managers (PMs) have strong technical backgrounds along with significant “hands on” experience dealing with cost, schedule, and performance issues. They earn their selection as PMs by rolling up their sleeves, facing problems directly, solving them, and then moving on to the next set of problems. That approach works on the way up the career ladder but not as well when you become the PM and have a host of people and projects to manage. <blockquote> <p style="text-align:center;">“HOW DO I HAVE TO CHANGE TO SUCCEED IN THIS NEW ROLE?”<br> FAILURE TO ADDRESS THIS QUESTION COULD LEAD TO FAILURE TO ADAPT AND FAILURE TO SUCCEED.</p> </blockquote> <h3>Painful Experience</h3> <p>I can illustrate this with an example from my last acquisition job before I came to teach at DAU. This was several years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was the deputy PM on a new missile program working for a colonel at the Air Force Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. This and other conventional weapon programs were in turn managed by a program executive officer (PEO) who was an Air Force brigadier general. The PEO was a seasoned officer, an experienced pilot, and an academy graduate with a Ph.D. in engineering. Given both his operational background and depth of technical expertise, the PEO was quite interested in the technology we were designing into these weapon systems. In fact, he was so interested that every time we briefed him he would ask for more detail and backup information on the technical and test issues.<br> <br> The PEO’s interest and intense focus on these issues reached a point where none of the PMs who worked for him felt they had enough freedom to make any decisions in these areas without checking with him first. That became a problem since the PEO had a large number of programs in his portfolio and was frequently out of the office on travel. Somehow his interest in these technical details unknowingly resulted in him becoming a micromanager who handicapped his PM direct reports. Since he was the “big boss,” none of his PMs felt they had enough freedom to even bring up this topic when they met with him.</p> <h3>Micromanagement as the Norm</h3> <p>While this may seem like an isolated example, I have found micromanagement to be the norm in every acquisition organization I have worked in throughout both my military and civilian careers in defense acquisition. It is such a repeated phenomenon that I consider it part of our acquisition culture. Our organizations are full of military and civilian acquisition professionals who simply can’t let go of the “hands on” detailed decision-making skill set that got them promoted to a senior level, even when this is no longer required for success in their new roles.<br> <br> The brigadier general in my previous example was actually a well-meaning and even charming leader who was eventually given a second star. But at the same time he contributed to an extremely dysfunctional organizational culture that stifled his capable subordinates.<br> <br> In reflecting on how this continues to happen in our forward-looking acquisition organizations, I am reminded of the Marshal Goldsmith book with the appropriate title What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. As acquisition professionals, we are reluctant to put aside the skill set that gave us success early in our careers.<br> <br> But give it up we must if we are to succeed in the higher calling of program management. Every job move, every career change, every promotion requires a thoughtful answer to the question, “How do I have to change to succeed in this new role?” Failure to address this question could lead to failure to adapt and failure to succeed.</p> <h3>The Essential Skills of Top-Performing PMs</h3> <p>What it takes to succeed as a PM actually is quite different than what it takes to succeed as a working member of a program office. This is illustrated in a class exercise that I ran for several years in our residential program management course. Students were asked to bring in specific workplace examples of good and poor leadership they had observed and arrange them by categories within their groups of six students. Each small group would then report out the five skills its members determined were most important for top-performing PMs.<br> <br> I collected the results over five years, which included almost 2,000 students, and the top three skills in rank order were: communication, setting strategy (or vision), and delegation and empowerment. While this result was very interesting in and of itself, I compared it to our 360-degree feedback assessments of these same students by everyone around them over a much longer period, totaling almost 8,000 program-management students. While the top-rated communication skill correlated with high ratings on 360-feedback, the other two skills—setting strategy; and delegation and empowerment—were both in the bottom third of the 360-feedback categories. In fact, delegation and empowerment came in as the lowest rated of the 24 skill categories used in the assessment. This bottom rating has persisted beyond this study, even as we changed to use different 360-feedback assessments.<br> <br> I found this result almost shocking, but it really shouldn’t have been, given the example and context presented earlier. Still, it doesn’t address the question of why such an important skill set is rated so low in our population of high-achieving PMs.<br> <br> Somehow a quote comes to mind from the original Star Wars movie, “the Force runs strong in your family,” meaning that we remain a product of our enduring culture (of micromanagement). Even when you know it’s important, it can be hard to delegate and empower when you’re in the middle of a bureaucracy that doesn’t value or practice this skill.<br> <br> In a major research study I did with top-performing PMs selected by the military Service acquisitions commands, I found that every one of the PMs in the study excelled at delegation and empowerment.<br> <br> As an example, one selected PM said of his team members, “They had an environment where they were given the freedom to go and develop the ‘how to get there.’ ” So I said, “Fine. Let’s do what you want to do. You’re responsible for it. My experience has been that works. It works over and over and over again!”<br> Another selected PM said, “I have found that 90 to 95 percent of the people, if they understand clearly what they are supposed to do and achieve, they will go off and make it happen. Now, they won’t if they believe you’re going to come in and second-guess them on everything. So you’ve got to trust them to do things.”<br> <br> Unfortunately, these select PMs appear to be exceptions rather than the rule in our defense acquisition organizations. Much more attention and skill development is needed before we can truly take advantage of the many benefits of delegation and empowerment.<br> <br> <img alt="a soldier and civilian shaking hands" src="/library/defense-atl/DATLFiles/Sept-Oct_2021/defacq-datl_septoct2021_article3_image01.jpg" style="width:400px;height:248px;float:left;margin-left:6px;margin-right:6px;" /></p> <h3>Benefits of Delegation and Empowerment</h3> <p>This first benefit of an empowered workforce is that program outcomes improve since team members are working up to their full potential. A second benefit is that the PM can back away from detailed day-to-day oversight and concentrate on the “bigger picture” issues that will impact future program performance. Another benefit for the PM is the personal stress reduction and work-life balance improvement that can be gained from no longer needing to control every aspect of a program. Finally, delegation and empowerment enable workforce skill development so team members can step into higher roles in their current or future programs.<br> <br> I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the journey toward more delegation and empowerment is not an easy one. Delegation is not abdication and empowerment is not “freewheeling.” As the PM, you are still in charge and responsible for outcomes. It may actually take more time at the start to make the process effective than if you looked over peoples’ shoulders and did many tasks yourself. So it is the long-term benefit that you are really working toward.<br> <br> I have also found that even at DAU, which focuses on training the acquisition workforce, delegation and empowerment are not viewed as important skills. They are either seen as not relevant for acquisition training or as part of basic management skills that should be taught by our customer organizations. As a result, we have no current focus on these topics in any of our training.</p> <h3 style="text-align:center;">A Six-Step Approach</h3> <p style="text-align:center;">There are choices we can make on how to implement effective delegation and empowerment, and I share below a simple six-step approach advocated by Michelle Randall in her March 6, 2013, Fast Company magazine article.</p> <p><strong>(1) Prepare. </strong><br> Take the time and have the discipline to clearly “map out” what you want your team member to do and the expected result.<br> <br> <strong>(2) Assign. </strong><br> Effectively communicate the task and supporting details such as schedule, budget, tools, and other expectations to the team member.<br> <br> <strong>(3) Confirm Understanding. </strong><br> Don’t assume that just because you communicated the assignment your team member understands it. Have him or her repeat to you the task in their own words and ask them some questions to make sure they understand all aspects of what is required.<br> <br> <strong>(4) Confirm Commitment. </strong><br> Don’t assume that just because the team member understands the assignment they are fully committed to doing it. Just like a runner in a relay race, you are handing off the baton to your team member. So you need make sure they take it and run with it. Again, asking questions is often the best approach to ensuring that you’ve gained their commitment.<br> <br> <strong>(5) Avoid “Reverse Delegation.” </strong><br> Make sure the team member knows it is their task to complete and cannot be handed off to someone else or even back to you. This last action is called “reverse delegation” and can often occur when a team member comes back to you asking for more guidance or support. Just by saying “let me check on that” or “I’ll get back to you” you have unwittingly taken back the delegated task! Even if you help him or her, you need to be clear that it is still their task so they will take the next actions to complete it. This topic of “reverse delegation” is the subject of a classic 1999 Harvard Business Review article, “Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey,” by Bill Oncken. I recommend reading the article to gain further insight on avoiding reverse delegation.<br> <br> <strong>(6) Ensure Accountability. </strong><br> Effective delegation implies accountability. Based on the skill set and motivation of the team member, you need to set up periodic reviews on progress and deliverables so there are no surprises as the work is being done.<br> To be clear, effective delegation also includes empowerment. The act of delegation is simply giving a team member a job or task to perform. That team member also needs the “power” (responsibility and authority) along with the budget, staff, and tools to do the task.<br> Coaching is another tool that the manager can use to help the team member succeed. With the team member as the lead for performing the task, you can still be a thinking partner, provide suggestions, and offer other support. This one-on-one coaching can be very helpful to the team member, again with the caveat that you don’t get in the team member’s way or stumble into a reverse delegation error.<br> <br> <img alt="two soldiers sitting together" src="/library/defense-atl/DATLFiles/Sept-Oct_2021/defacq-datl_septoct2021_article3_image02.jpg" style="margin-left:6px;margin-right:6px;float:left;width:400px;height:174px;" /></p> <h3>The Future Challenge</h3> <p>I will end by sharing the results of a class exercise I have used for years to highlight the importance of delegation and empowerment. It’s a simple exercise in which I ask each student to recall their most rewarding and least rewarding jobs along with the factors that explain the reasons for their choices. You might think that the factors would relate to the type of work, but that is usually a minor part of the story.<br> <br> What gets the most attention in both the most- and least-rewarding examples is how the students were treated by their supervisors. In the least-rewarding examples, my students said that they essentially were treated as day laborers who needed to be told what to do and to be checked on frequently to make sure the work was done properly. In the most-rewarding examples, my students were given some autonomy and freedom to decide how to perform their jobs and the ability to ask for support or guidance from their manager if they needed help. Also amazing was the vivid and emotional reaction elicited in my students by recalling these jobs even years later.<br> <br> As we unpacked these rich experiences in class, it was very easy to make the connection between the most-rewarding jobs and the managers who had delegated and empowered these younger workers. It also was easy to see the contrast in the least-rewarding examples that featured bosses who were micromanagers. My only hope is that my students will not forget this lesson since they have now switched roles and become managers themselves. Will they in turn be able to give the magic of delegation and empowerment to their junior employees? Our future success in defense acquisition depends on it!</p> <hr /> <p>Gadeken is a DAU professor of Program Management in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. He has a doctorate in Engineering Management from George Washington University.<br> <br> The author can be contacted at <a class="ak-cke-href" href=""></a>.</p></div>string;#/library/defense-atl/blog/The-Magic-of-Delegation-and-Empowerment
DoD’s Small-Business Innovation Research —How It Contributes to the Defense Mission’s Small-Business Innovation Research —How It Contributes to the Defense Mission2021-09-20T16:00:00Z,<div class="ExternalClass427560AFF8294B258D53260870FAA7C1"><p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="/library/defense-atl/PublishingImages/Tweet%20Button.jpg" style="width:150px;height:57px;" /></a></p> <p> </p> <div style="padding:56.25% 0 0 0;position:relative;"><iframe frameborder="0" src="" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></div> <p> </p> <p><em><a href="">Air Force SBIR: Appareo's Vision 1000 Flight Data Recorder</a> from <a href="">TechLink</a> on <a href="">Vimeo</a>.</em></p> The Department of Defense (DoD) relies on the private sector to create many of the new technologies required to maintain battlefield dominance. A surprisingly large number of these innovations are developed by small, non-traditional defense contractors. Small research and development (R&D) firms throughout the United States are important contributors to the U.S. defense mission. Their primary source of R&D funding is from the<a href="" target="_blank"> DoD Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program</a>.<br> <br> This article first provides an overview of the federal SBIR program, focusing primarily on DoD. Next, it presents the findings from a recent TechLink comprehensive study of products resulting from the DoD SBIR program. Finally, it highlights several examples of how this program has resulted in new technologies that are benefiting the U.S. Warfighter and harnessing the ingenuity of thousands of innovative small businesses. <h2>What Is SBIR?</h2> SBIR programs originated when Congress passed the <a href="" target="_blank">Small Business Innovation Development Act in 1982</a>. Their purpose was to help the federal government address high-priority technology needs and benefit the national economy. These programs reflected Congress’ belief that small businesses are the principal sources of innovation in the United States.<br> <br> All 11 federal agencies with extramural R&D budgets exceeding $100 million are required to dedicate a small portion of these budgets to SBIR—currently 3.2 percent. In addition, DoD and the other four agencies with the largest extramural R&D budgets are required to spend a small additional percentage, currently 0.45 percent, on a closely related program known as Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR). In this article, references to “SBIR” include STTR. Each agency determines its own R&D topics, solicits proposals from small businesses (with no more than 500 employees), and makes awards on a competitive basis.<br> <br> SBIR programs have three phases. Phase I funds short-term (typically six-month) feasibility studies of proposed innovations. These awards usually have a $150,000 cap, but can be larger under certain circumstances. Companies that establish the scientific and technical merit as well as commercial potential of their proposed innovations can compete for follow-on Phase II funding. Phase II provides additional funding for successful Phase I projects. Awards are typically for a two-year R&D effort and usually have a $1 million or $1.5 million cap. They frequently result in development of a prototype. In Phase III, the post-SBIR phase, companies that have successfully developed new technologies attempt to convert them into products or services for sale to the commercial or government sectors.<br> <br> Approximately $3.5 billion is awarded annually through the federal SBIR programs. DoD is the largest participant, accounting for nearly half of all funding. In FY 2019, DoD provided slightly more than $1.7 billion in SBIR contracts. Within DoD, there are currently 11 different components with individual SBIR programs. <h2>Assessing the Results</h2> How successful have these programs been? To what extent has SBIR helped DoD meet its critical technology needs and also benefited the U.S. economy?<br> In 2019, TechLink completed a massive economic impact study of the DoD SBIR program. This study was the first comprehensive analysis of an entire federal agency SBIR program and was intended to answer a key question: What resulted from the DoD’s investment of approximately $14.4 billion in SBIR Phase II R&D projects by more than 4,400 U.S. small businesses? More specifically, it was intended to quantify the extent to which DoD SBIR-funded small businesses have contributed to the national economy and defense mission.<br> <br> The research team contacted all 4,412 DoD SBIR Phase II award recipients about the outcomes of their 16,959 separate Phase II contracts. Companies were asked about total sales of new products and services directly related to their Phase II contracts. They also were asked about related economic outcomes—including sales to the U.S. military, follow-on R&D contracts, revenue from licensing their SBIR-funded inventions, and sales by licensees and spin-out companies. Companies provided comprehensive information on the outcomes of 96 percent of the contracts.<br> <br> The TechLink study found that well over half of the DoD Phase II contracts (58 percent) had resulted in sales of new products and services. Total cumulative sales were slightly more than $121 billion. The average sales per contract, when considering all DoD Phase II awards (including those that had not yet generated sales), was approximately $7.1 million. This is more than 8 times the size of the average contract amount. In short, the DoD SBIR program achieved more than an 8:1 return on investment (ROI) from funding small R&D companies nationwide.<br> <br> The following table breaks out these results by sales category. It shows that sales of new commercial (civilian) products and services totaled nearly $73 billion. Sales of military products or services to DoD—either directly or through a prime contractor—were nearly $28 billion.<br> <br> However, sales to the U.S. military are undoubtedly a larger portion of the total. The $28 billion figure does not include products and services that U.S. military entities or acquired from third parties such as wholesalers. In addition, it does not include widely available commercial products and services resulting from DoD SBIR and extensively purchased by the U.S. military.<br> <br> For example, the primary laser used in LASIK eye surgery was developed with Air Force SBIR funding. Tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel have now undergone LASIK corrective vision procedures. In fact, LASIK has enabled thousands of U.S. military pilots to remain operational. Another example is that SBIR funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) resulted in the pioneering chip technology that enables the wireless connectivity found today in virtually every smartphone, tablet, and computer.<br> <br> The TechLink study used state-of-the-art IMPLAN economic-impact modeling software to estimate the overall effects on the U.S. economy from the DoD SBIR program. This procedure analyzed the multiplier effects on the U.S. economy of the $121 billion in sales of new products and services. IMPLAN estimated that the DoD SBIR program had generated $347 billion in total economic impacts—a 22:1 ROI. In addition, it estimated that the program supported more than 1.5 million jobs (66,000 per year) with an average compensation of around $73,500. <table border="1" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" style="width:700px;"> <caption>Table 1. Sales From DoD SBIR Phase II Contracts, by Sales Category | FY 1995-2012</caption> <thead> <tr> <th scope="col">Sales Category</th> <th scope="col">Total Sales ($ Billions)</th> <th scope="col">Percent of Total</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td>Commercial Product/Service Sales</td> <td style="text-align:center;">$72.7</td> <td style="text-align:center;">60</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Military Product/Service Sales</td> <td style="text-align:center;">$27.5</td> <td style="text-align:center;">23</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Follow-on Research and Development Contracts</td> <td style="text-align:center;">$15.2</td> <td style="text-align:center;">13</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Royalties or Sales from Licensees</td> <td style="text-align:center;">$1.8</td> <td style="text-align:center;">1</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Sales by Spin-out Companies</td> <td style="text-align:center;">$3.9</td> <td style="text-align:center;">3</td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Total</strong></td> <td style="text-align:center;"><strong>$121</strong></td> <td style="text-align:center;"><strong>100</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <h6>Source: National Economic Impacts from the DoD SBIR/STTR Program, 1995-2018, TechLink, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, 2019.</h6> <h2><img alt="U.S. Army Soldiers launching a Switchblade precision tactical missile" src="/library/defense-atl/DATLFiles/Sept-Oct_2021/defacq-datl_septoct2021_article4_image02.jpg" style="margin-left:6px;margin-right:6px;float:left;width:400px;height:347px;" />Specific Examples</h2> While impressive, these figures do not convey the importance of the DoD SBIR program to the U.S. defense mission. This program has resulted in thousands of innovations that have increased defense mission capabilities and Warfighter agility and performance, enhanced survivability, and improved combat lethality. In addition, it has expanded and strengthened the defense industrial base and contributed to U.S. technological superiority. The following are specific examples of critical technologies and capabilities developed through the DoD SBIR program. <h3>Switchblade unmanned air-vehicle tactical missile systems</h3> With SBIR funding from the U.S. Air Force, AeroVironment, based in Simi Valley, California, developed a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) able to deliver an explosive payload to a distant target with pinpoint accuracy. The company subsequently converted the SBIR-funded prototype into a family of UAV tactical missile systems that enable forward-deployed troops to quickly deliver lethal precision payloads with, minimizing collateral damage. This UAV family includes the following: <ul> <li><strong>Switchblade 300</strong> is a back-packable UAV system that weighs only 5.5 pounds, including the payload, launcher, and transport bag. It is rapidly deployable from ground, sea, or air. The front and rear sets of wings fold up for storage and transport, then automatically deploy upon launch. The quiet electric motor provides a range of 10 kilometers (km) or about 6.2 miles, enables cruise speeds of 63 miles per hour (mph) and dash speeds of 100 mph, and allows it to loiter, as needed, for a total flight-endurance time of up to 15 minutes. Designed for beyond-line-of-sight targets, the Switchblade 300’s real-time GPS and video capabilities enable U.S. Warfighters to effectively surveil enemy activity, identify targets, and deliver precise strikes.</li> <li><strong>Switchblade 600</strong> is a larger, more capable version of the Switchblade 300 and is equipped with an anti-armor warhead. It is designed to take out larger hardened targets, such as light armored vehicles. With a total system weight of 120 pounds (including launcher), this UAV tactical missile has a range of more than 90 km, or nearly 60 miles, cruises at 70 mph, dashes at 115 mph, and has at least 40 minutes of flight-endurance time.</li> <li><strong>Blackwing </strong>is capable of deployment from submarines in addition to ground and ship launches. In the submarine application, the Blackwing is packed into a canister. When ejected, it floats to the surface before launching. Its size, weight, range, speed, and loitering time are similar to the Switchblade 300’s. However, it can conduct cross-domain command-and-control relay operations between submarines, ships, and underwater drones. Its modular payload bay enables the U.S. Warfighter to achieve a range of mission objectives.</li> </ul> <h2><img alt="Test launch of next-generation long-range missile for U.S. Army Precision Strike Missile program" src="/library/defense-atl/DATLFiles/Sept-Oct_2021/defacq-datl_septoct2021_article4_image03.jpg" style="margin-left:6px;margin-right:6px;float:right;width:265px;height:500px;" />Resonant acoustic mixing for rocket and missile propellants</h2> In 2000, Montec Research in Butte, Montana, received an SBIR contract from the U.S. Army to demonstrate the viability of using acoustic mixing to produce gelled propellants for rockets and missiles. Gel propellants are safer than liquid propellants, are easier to handle, and have improved shelf life. They also have performance advantages over solid propellants. However, one challenge involves getting uniform mixing of the constituent ingredients. Traditionally, this was addressed with long multi-phase mixing times.<br> <br> With SBIR funding, Montec developed a highly effective method for mixing gel propellants called ResonantAcoustic Mixing (RAM) to overcome the drawbacks of conventional mixing methods. Using low-frequency, high-intensity acoustic energy, RAM can rapidly mix even the most viscous compounds without using rotating blades or components in the mixing chamber. This reduces processing waste and enables mixing of the propellant directly in the propellant casing, which eliminates costly cleanup.<br> <br> With the success of the Army SBIR project, Montec changed its name to Resodyn Acoustic Mixers. The initial SBIR funding led to subsequent DoD contracts to design and manufacture production-scale RAM equipment for other propellants and explosives. The RAM technology has much faster cycle times. In the case of one energetic material, conventional processing takes up to 116 hours per batch, compared to RAM’s 10 hours. In another application, RAM achieved a sixfold increase in production capacity. RAM mixers are now used by the U.S. Army, Air Force, and Navy as well as major munitions manufacturers.<br> <br> RAM has enabled DoD customers to make advanced propellants with greater power, which increases weapons ranges. In addition, it has enabled development of new energetic materials that cannot be manufactured in any other way. Resodyn is a good illustration of how the DoD SBIR program has led to critical new defense-related capabilities by leveraging the ingenuity of America’s small businesses. <h3>Rapid cleaning system for aircraft carrier decks</h3> With SBIR funding from the Navy, Triverus in Palmer, Alaska, has developed an innovative cleaning system for aircraft carrier decks. Called the Mobile Cleaning Reclaim Recycle System (MCRRS), this proprietary technology, which is built into a compact yellow vehicle, rapidly and effectively cleans foreign-object debris, dirt, and spilled petroleum products from carrier decks.<br> <br> <img alt="Triverus MCRRS aboard the USS America. " src="/library/defense-atl/DATLFiles/Sept-Oct_2021/defacq-datl_septoct2021_article4_image04.jpg" style="margin-left:6px;margin-right:6px;float:left;width:400px;height:230px;" />For the safety of Navy crews and equipment, it is essential that aircraft carrier decks be frequently cleaned. Foreign-object debris, such as small aircraft parts, fasteners, bolts and screws, tire fragments, and other debris can be sucked into jet engines, incapacitating valuable aircraft and possibly injuring personnel. In addition, oil, grease, and jet fuel on the deck can hinder takeoff and cause aircraft to slide into each other in rolling seas.<br> <br> The MCRSS combines high-pressure water jets, a powerful vacuum, and a magnet bar to accomplish its task. It uses only water—no chemicals—and its ingenious built-in recycling system cleans and reuses the wastewater, conserving fresh-water supplies. With a single-pass efficiency, it can clean up to 15,000 square feet per hour, enabling carriers to maintain operational readiness for flight operations.<br> <br> The Navy has been contracting with Triverus for aircraft carrier cleaning services while waiting to procure its systems. The MCRRS is shipped overnight to ports along the Pacific. In 2019, Triverus received its first Navy procurement contract for 43 MCRSS systems. These initial systems are being deployed on Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carriers and America class amphibious carriers. <h3>SEAKR data storage and communication systems for space applications</h3> SBIR funding from the Air Force in the 1980s enabled a start-up company, SEAKR Engineering, in Centennial, Colorado, to develop the first solid-state recorder (SSR) for reconnaissance satellites. This system replaced physical tape with semiconductor memory, providing a much more reliable, trouble-free way to store data and images of Earth on spacecraft. There was immediate demand for the resulting SSR devices from both the U.S. military and NASA. Meeting this demand established the company’s early dominance in the SSR market.<br> <br> Subsequently, with additional Air Force SBIR funding, SEAKR Engineering developed the first onboard processors for space and air platforms, able to transmit real-time data directly to ground-based facilities. <div style="max-width:850px;"> <div style="position:relative;padding-bottom:52.941176470588%;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="450" id="kaltura_player" src="" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;" title="Kaltura Player" width="850"></iframe></div> </div> <br> Today, SEAKR Engineering has approximately 450 employees and remains an innovator in space-qualified electronics. Its product line now includes systems for data management, processing, avionics, and communication. SEAKR provided advanced electronics for NASA’s Juno Mission, which currently is studying Jupiter, and is developing systems for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which will take humans to the moon and beyond.<br> <br> The U.S. military continues to be a major customer. Many of SEAKR Engineering’s R&D contracts involve classified projects, including developing anti-jamming capabilities for protecting satellite communications. In 2019, DARPA awarded a major contract to SEAKR to develop the “pit boss” artificial intelligence system to enable autonomous operation of the Blackjack satellite network. This was followed by a DARPA contract in March 2021 to develop a data processing system for autonomously operating satellites. SEAKR Engineering is a prime example of how DoD SBIR has led to important new enabling technologies while recruiting innovative small businesses that will help the defense industrial base maintain U.S. technological superiority. <hr />Swearingen is the senior advisor at TechLink, DoD’s national partnership intermediary and has a Ph.D. in Economic Geography.<br> <br> Wallner leads TechLink’s economic impact studies. He has a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration and is completing a Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree.<br> <br> Peterson, who has an MBA, is TechLink’s chief data analyst.<br> <br> The authors can be contacted at <a class="ak-cke-href" href=""></a>, <a class="ak-cke-href" href=""></a>, and <a class="ak-cke-href" href=""></a>. <hr /><br> <a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="/library/defense-atl/PublishingImages/subscribe%20button.png" style="width:100%;" /></a></div>string;#/library/defense-atl/blog/DoDs-Small-Business

Chat with DAU Assistant
Bot Image