In the world of ground vehicle and robotics science and technology, time can move slowly when it comes to contract award, sharing of information and collaboration opportunities with industry.
The first formal Collaboration Day, Oct. 8-9, sponsored by the Defense Mobility Enterprise (DME), the Vehicle and Robotics Alliance (VRA) and the National Advanced Mobility Consortium (NAMC), brought together leaders from the Department of Defense (DoD), industry and academia to discuss the Ground Vehicle Systems (GVS) Other Transaction Agreement (OTA), a mechanism designed to alleviate contracting, coordination and collaboration issues from today's current process.
More than 90 industry partners joined with military leaders from DoD agencies to discuss the impact of the DME, a consortium between the VRA -- which represents the government stakeholders in ground vehicles, robotics and survivability technology -- and the NAMC, an independent, industry-run, non-profit corporation that has begun partnering with the government to accelerate the advancement of ground vehicle and robotics technologies. The enterprise operates under an OTA that provides government, industry and academia opportunities to quickly and effectively develop partnerships that benefit the warfighter.
Dr. Mike Del Rose, VRA Director, stated that efforts to develop the GVS OTA began six months ago with a solicitation for a seven-year, $700 million GVS agreement. "We had a signed copy within 10 weeks -- 10 weeks time to go from solicitation published, to award, which is unheard of." The GVS OTA was formed under the legal agreement 10 U. S. C. 2371 Section 845 Other Transaction Agreement, and will allow for the facilitation of collaboration between DME parties, provide a streamlined contracting mechanism and create Integrated Product Teams (IPT) within the DME.
TARDEC Director Dr. Paul Rogers applauded the efforts that led to DME creation and how the OTA mechanism will mean good things for the community at large. "I want to complement the people involved with taking this initiative and taking a risk to do something we haven't done in this community before," he remarked. "This is our first foray into this type of mechanism. This is a different paradigm than what we have experienced in the past."
Rogers discussed the importance of Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) contracting and its place within the research and development realm, but added that it presents challenges. "One of our challenges is always taking decisive action," he remarked. "The whole process is very, very labor intensive and it takes forever to get anything on contract. What we are trying to go after are those challenges we have in the process that exist today. We are looking for something that is more flexible, more responsive and much more collaborative to give us that framework. This process offers us that potential."
Jose Gonzalez, Director, Land Warfare and Munitions, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said the OTA gives industry and academia a better understanding of future military requirements. "This will allow you to focus your investments and helps you to focus your planning," he explained. "One of the tasks coming out of Better Buying Power 3.0 is to increase the productivity of IRAD [Independent Research and Development]. Seeing early on what our needs and requirements are helps you focus your investments and become a stronger and more vibrant partner with the government."
Additionally, Gonzalez mentioned the opportunities for more innovation as the government partners with non-traditional partners. "This enterprise allows us to incentivize industry to team with non-traditional and small business partners," Gonzalez remarked. "This is very important. This is all about you talking with each other and figuring out what everyone has to offer."
Jim Parker, TARDEC Associate Director for Ground Vehicle Robotics, said that using the robotics OTA mechanism has allowed his organization to reach out to a diverse group in the membership and harness unique solutions. "We have had items worked on under the OTA which have been improved because we could reach out to non-traditional partners," he remarked. "It allows us at TARDEC to execute our programs more effectively, but the broad view is that we get a better product because it allows us to tap into the greater community."
The DoD and U.S. industry and academia are embarking on a path for implementing new business processes that will substantially improve the way ground vehicle systems, components and enabling technologies are developed and demonstrated. "The VRA Program Office will manage the OTA, as well as educate DoD agencies on GVS technologies, develop and fund STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] initiatives, facilitate collaboration between Government-Government and Government-NAMC, act as an avenue of information sharing, and provide a streamlined contracting process," concluded Del Rose.