Since declaring full operational capability (FOC) in October 2018, the Information Warfare Research Project (IWRP) continues to surpass significant milestones designed to accelerate the delivery of technology to the warfighter.
The IWRP uses an alternative acquisition method, called an other transaction authority (OTA), to streamline acquisition processes, develop prototypes, and rapidly provide advanced technologies to the fleet.
“IWRP is something we are very proud of and excited about – the engagement through this process with industry and the rapid capability we’ve been able to achieve for the entire NAVWAR enterprise and Navy is evident,” said Peter C. Reddy, Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic executive director.
In the last 12 months, the project provided industry and government organizations more than 400 opportunities to collaborate on prototype projects, exceeded the fiscal year forecast with $35 million awarded in prototype ceiling and reduced the contracting award timeline by 80 percent compared to traditional contracting methods.
“When we started this journey a year ago, we didn’t know where the program would go or the fruit it would bear,” said Don Sallee, IWRP program manager, NIWC Atlantic. “Since few agencies have done what we are doing, even understanding what collaboration was going look like and what benefits it would provide was unknown.”
Despite the initial uncertainty, the project now boasts a consortium of 439 companies – a number unmatched by similar projects – and through the OTA construct, awarded prototype opportunities with industry.
“NIWC Atlantic has really moved out in establishing this consortium to benefit our industry partners and the warfighter,” said Michael Bachmann, IWRP executive committee chair. “In our particular consortium, the company makeup is almost 25 percent traditional and 75 percent non-traditional. Through this venue, industry partners are bringing transformational technologies that the warfighter actually needs.”
Through IWRP, the agile OTA process takes industry’s innovative ideas from concept, collaboration, proposal, demonstration, to prototype in rapid succession, with the opportunity to transition the technology into the fleet.
“There really is no other contracting vehicle that enables this – and it’s a very powerful change that the Navy and other services are now employing,” said Bachmann.
Though the number of prototype awards serves as key achievement for the project, Sallee said the increased collaboration with industry in the last year holds the greatest value for the continued success of the project.
“Our job is to give our Sailors and Marines – our service members – the best opportunity they can have, through technology, to win the fight and protect our freedoms,” said Sallee. “The synergy and relationships we foster with industry through IWRP ensures we put the best possible solutions into the hands of our military members.”
The Navy’s Sea Warrior Program (PMW-240) within the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS) is already seeing the benefits of IWRP for today’s military members. A team from OPNAV N1 and PMW-240 have completed the first successful IWRP prototype called Authoritative Data Environment (ADE) 3.0, which aims to solve a major human resources (HR) challenge for Sailors.
“ADE 3.0 is the third generation of a single source of truth for human resources matters – things like your personal records, training records and dependent information, and it gets us to a server-less world,” said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Pyne, OPNAV N1N6, platforms and infrastructure resource manager.
Pyne and Lt. Cmdr. Stevie Greenway, PMW-240 Sea Warrior Program assistant program manager, submitted a proposal to advance the Navy’s current human resources database to a commercial cloud environment. Once launched, ADE 3.0 will allow a Sailor to update records in one location, rather than multiple, and have it reflect accurately across all HR platforms. Through the collaborative design of IWRP, Pyne and Greenway are seeing immediate cost and timesaving benefits.
“The IWRP has created an environment that allows a requirements officer – N1 – and an executive agent for execution – PMW-240 – to foster an environment where we could go from an idea to delivered code in eight months at a cost of $20 million cheaper than competing architecture,” said Greenway.
In January 2019 IWRP awarded its first prototype for a new Low Altitude Range Communication System (LARCS) for the U.S. Marine Corps. NIWC Atlantic’s LARCS project team found the collaborative, open communication with industry as the key to their continued success to finalize a groundbreaking solution for the Marines.
“When you write a standard federal acquisition regulation-based contract, you have to put down exactly what you want from a requirements standpoint,” said Allen Hillman, NIWC Atlantic engineer. “But the OTA process allows you to submit the basic requirements of what you want, and then see what else industry can offer.”
The LARCS prototype takes the Marine Corps analogue air-to-ground communications system and modernizes to a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) user environment with graphical user interfaces (GUI) to bridge gaps between different systems. The virtual communication system mirrors a scaled down version of an air traffic control tower, eliminates interference and enhances the connectivity to multiple radio systems.
“This version of LARCS is like going from a Volkswagen to a spaceship – it gives the warfighter so many more capabilities,” said Hillman. “The open collaboration with industry to make modifications quickly is an incredible capability and a necessary function to deliver the technology our nation needs now.”
Moving into fiscal year 20, the IWRP team isn’t slowing down. In fact, they are expanding with projections of $50 to $60 million in prototype awards.
“With the ever-narrowing technological advantages of our adversaries, we have to work very hard to maintain our competitive advantage,” said Reddy. “That competitive advantage comes from technological innovation coupled with the capabilities, fighting spirit and determination of the American warfighter.”