On Thursday, the Navy launched an innovative acquisition strategy aimed at bringing mature consumer technology into the department on an accelerated timeline.
Dubbed the “Innovation Cell,” the framework works to streamline the Navy’s requirements development process to provide industry with a clearer view of the branch’s information technology challenges.
As solutions are found, the Navy will adhere to federal acquisition regulations to expedite the solutions’ inclusion in the Navy’s network.
“The traditional model is simply not working,” Victor Gavin, the Navy’s program executive officer for Enterprise Information Systems, told a crowd at a PEO-EIS Industry Day, hosted by the Northern Virginia chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, better known as AFCEA. “This is about transition, not experimentation. We want to keep pace with technology and provide the fleet with the best equipment possible.”
As part of the launch, the Navy identified three enterprise challenges it will work with industry as part of the inaugural wave of technologies to go through the Innovation Cell. The challenges center on data analytics, enhanced virtual desktops and unified communications.
For each challenge, Innovation Cell leaders will meet with mission users across the Navy to help define the requirements the technology must meet. The Navy will then work with industry, who can help clarify the requirements further, alerting the Navy to what they think is both possible and practical.
Once those requirements are set, the Navy will do a technical assessment of the technologies being discussed with a program management office meeting with Innovation Cell leaders to fulfill the Enterprise Challenge requirements.
In an interview with Federal News Radio, Navy Capt. Paul Ghyzel, the deputy program executive officer, said the Innovation Cell will be a resource, much like Consumer Reports magazine, that managers can turn to for the best ways to address capability gaps.
"If you're buying a microwave oven, Consumer Reports has already gone and assessed 20 microwave ovens, looked at the evenness of heating, how easy the keypad is to use, and puts that all on one sheet," he told the radio station. "If you're a program manager that wants to buy IT, you can take that kind of information and say, ‘OK, a lot of the work for me is already done, I know where to focus my efforts.' That kind of process helps streamline, because the program manager's not starting from scratch every time."
Jeff Frailey, the Innovation Cell’s operations lead, emphasized to the AFCEA audience that the Innovation Cell was not a laboratory for technology development. Instead, it is a process to approve technologies that reached a certain maturity level in the commercial space and find ways to accelerate into the Navy technology ecosystem.
“We are not looking to prove concepts and then go through the long development process until a technology is ready,” Frailey said. “This is about setting up a process to vet technologies faster.”
Dan DelGrosso, the technical director for PEO-EIS, said timelines are tough to predict, but the hope is that technologies can be brought into the Navy within months using the Innovation Cell framework, a jump from the traditional process, which sometimes can take several years.