Army emphasizes prototyping, incremental development
February 18, 2010
By Kris Osborn
Army leaders said testing, prototyping and incremental development are needed to ensure the successful and rapid delivery of goods and services to warfighters in months and years ahead --- outlining key elements of the Army acquisition communities' strategy at the Functional Leader IT Summit Jan. 9, in Orlando, Fla.
Developing technologies which can bring incremental benefit to soldiers while evolving toward greater maturity is preferable to emphasizing long-term acquisition programs which do not deliver results for many years, said Dean Popps, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA ALT).
"I don't believe that after all these years of war we can wait for the development of things where we come back and tell people we need to develop something over the next five to ten years. I find there is less and less tolerance for big bang programs where you have nothing until you have the big bang in five, six or seven years. It becomes difficult to sell those programs," Popps told the audience at the Summit speaking via teleconference from Virginia. "The best strategies are incremental buys and incremental builds."
Popps cited the Army's "capabilities packages" --- technologies such as IT networks, robots, sensors and UAVs being developed by Program Executive Office Integration and now being spun out into the current force -- as sterling examples of an incremental approach.
Testing, competition and prototyping early in the developmental process are crucial to the success of this strategy, Popps said.
The Army's Program Manager AcqBusiness, which focuses heavily on information technologies, aims to emulate this approach by developing and acquiring cutting-edge products in cycles of six months or less in some cases, service officials said.
"Prototyping is critical," said Mr. Stephen French, Chief Information Officer for ASA (ALT). "When we do the prototyping right and we have quick development time, we get the certifications and justifications that we need to spend the money. We can get you products quickly and we can assure that you will be happy with it. Prototyping and testing will ensure that the materiel developer understands what the requirement was. A prototype is a mechanism for validating the requirements."
In fact, often times the prototyping process leads developers to make needed adjustments to requirements early in the process, thus saving time and money while increasing efficiency, French said.
"The acquiring community can only procure goods and services as well as they are defined by the requirements," said Popps.