Chris Miller, the Executive Director at SSC LANT had a busy week. On Wednesday, he briefed the Tidewater Association of Service Contractors (TASC) in Norfolk, VA and on Thursday he briefed the Charleston Defense Contractors Association (CDCA) in Charleston, SC. His message left the audience with mixed feelings.
Obviously, budget constraints are severe and real, and they will probably get a lot worse before they get better. But the crippling uncertainty that was weighing down DoD like a heavy blanket of frigid snow appears to be melting. The funding has been secured through 2013, preventing another $5B cut. And although the 2014 budget suggests a decrease (the President’s budget for FY14 includes $155.8B for the Navy, compared to $160B in FY13) I just don’t think that the high end C5ISR work that SSC LANT does will be proportionally impacted.
This week, ADM Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, briefed congress that CYBER and EW are key focus areas and critical capabilities for future conflicts. These investments are important and he has pledged to retain the funding for them. “Taking Cyber to the Next Level” will require some innovative acquisition strategies. To achieve this, Chris promises that his folks are “doubling down more on process improvements” to look at how they spend their overhead dollars. He is focused on trying to reduce the labor and cycle time involved in getting contracts and task orders in place to support the customer. Anyone doing business with SSC LANT already knows that his new Pillar Contract Strategy has pushed hundreds of contracts into six functional groupings: Battlespace Awareness, Transport Computers and Infrastructure, Production Installation and In-Service Engineering, Business and Force Support, Decision Superiority, and Integrated Cyber Operations. Most of these Pillar contracts have already been awarded, and pretty much anyone who put together a solid proposal is “on” a Pillar. Getting actual FUNDING from these Pillars will be through Task Orders, which are slowly starting to emerge. Having a robust process to issue and award these task orders is essential to everyone’s success. SSC LANT has decided to use SEAPORT O, a new tool within SEAPORT-E to compete and evaluate these awards. Chris promises to make this process streamlined, agile and fast. (Ask any contractor and they will tell you that this should have been done BEFORE the Pillars were awarded, but oh well… it is still being tweaked.)
Also in the works are the following governing documents that should be completed in the next month: Competency Aligned Organization (CAO) CONOPS, CAO Integrated Process Team (IPT) CONOPS, and CONTRACTs CONOPS. Many of the details on processes and workflow are detailed here.
Chris discussed non-Navy work in some painful detail. This has been a contentious issue that swings back-and-forth like a pendulum. During his first few years onboard SSC LANT, he found himself defending the time and energy and quality of work provided to non-Navy customers. Although lucrative (DHS, VA, etc. were spending a large amount of money at SSC LANT), it tied up SSC LANT resources and potentially provided a distraction to their core mission: provide quality C5ISR engineering solutions to the Fleet.
From another perspective however, non-Navy work, funded by non-Navy, provided additional expertise and training and competency in areas that MIGHT benefit Navy customers. As you can expect, most C5ISR problems have common elements that can benefit multiple programs. So, depending on where you stood on this issue, you could defend your position.
If I were SSC LANT, I would worry about Base Closure and Realignment Commissions (BRAC). Anyone who has lived through a BRAC before knows it’s mostly politics. And with South Carolina’s strong Republican stance, the current administration has nothing to gain by sparing jobs there. SSC LANT should make sure that their supporter, NAVY, will stand up for them. VA, DHS, etc. won’t go to bat for them in a BRAC war. Navy will. So, I expect to see that pendulum continue to swing back towards Navy work. Currently, new requirements for approval to accept non-Navy work have been put in place; each request must be signed by a Flag Officer.
One of these programs desperately looking for solutions is the Veteran’s Affairs iEHR (integrated Electronic Health Records). Chris mentioned that there are considerable discussions ongoing whether SSC LANT will take this work onboard. I would emphatically argue that this IS NAVY WORK, since every sailor and marine suffers under the current, uncoordinated kluge of disconnected health records.
The win-win here is exactly this: 1.) SSC LANT will get multiple bids on each task order (competitive pricing and quality delivery) 2.) Industry will see lots of work move quickly through this process – getting funding out rapidly to the solution providers that will deliver the solutions, and 3.) Challenging and skill enhancing “non-Navy” work that is fully supported (funded) AND will enhance the competency of SSC LANT engineers AND will benefit the Navy should continue to be supported.
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