Competitive Advantage Pathfinders - Bringing Together the Defense Acquisition System to Accelerate the Fielding and Scaling of Vital Capabilities

Mar. 30, 2023 | DOD News

As President Biden and Secretary Austin have said, “We are now in the early years of a decisive decade for America.”

The Department faces a rapidly evolving strategic environment - our competitors are creatively using leapfrog technologies to improve their global posture, the digital revolution has turned old business and societal paradigms upside down, and the speed of innovation is faster than ever before.

Defense Acquisition professionals stand at an exciting and challenging moment in time. Actions taken today will have long-term benefits for the next generation of warfighters and how the Department does business. We are embracing bold, innovative approaches to drive scalable reforms, improve the transition of emerging technologies to capability at scale, and shorten timelines that may be the difference between mission success and failure.

Innovation does not happen in a vacuum; efforts across the Department must be in sync with one another. As such, a holistic approach to enterprise acquisition is necessary, one that integrates policies and processes at the micro level but also aligns other key aspects of defense acquisition at the macro level.

The U.S. has also rallied nations of goodwill from around the planet to condemn Russia's aggression and rush urgently needed assistance to Ukraine, he stated.

"The engine of our efforts is the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, an extraordinary coalition of some 50 countries that I convene regularly to coordinate support to Ukraine's defenders," Austin stated.

Allies and partners in the contact group have committed more than $20 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, including hundreds of tanks, thousands of other armored vehicles, vital air-defense systems, hundreds of artillery systems and other crucial capabilities, he stated.

One of these approaches is the Competitive Advantage Pathfinders (CAPs) that demonstrate common challenges and solutions to barriers in capability fielding. By bringing together a cross-Department team, each CAP quickly identifies disconnects among the three legs of delivering warfighter advantage: Requirements (Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System), Resourcing (Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution), and Program Management.

Each CAP brings together a team that is uniquely qualified to identify common problems and inform pathways to fix, while still delivering the capability (“building the plane while flying it”). Depending on the issue, this team can be comprised of the Services, OSD organizations, the Joint Staff, Combatant Commands, and Defense Agencies and Field Activities - ensuring the right people are “in the room” to quickly solve the problem.

To date, the first sprint of six pathfinders was undertaken in the areas of long-range fires; counter-command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting; and Joint All Domain Command and Control. Each of these efforts is delivering significant benefits, including:

  • Accelerating capability delivery by two to four years
  • Rapid reprogramming or moving funding to support reprioritized acquisition strategies that meet evolving warfighter needs
  • Placing advanced manufacturing in the hands of the warfighter

One pathfinder that has proven successful is in the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) program office. This effort was facing rigid funding and an inability to reprioritize acquisition strategies that prevented the Navy from taking advantage of new technology. Through a CAP, the US Navy is leveraging an improved Above Threshold Reprogramming process and agile acquisition to accelerate technology development and performance of the LRASM by two years.

The shared knowledge gained from the CAPs benefits our world-class acquisition professionals by eliminating the need to reinvent the wheel each time they face a capability delivery challenge. Through Competitive Advantage Pathfinders, we are thinking, collaborating, and delivering state-of-the-art capabilities at speed and scale that are critical to securing our enduring military advantage.

To view the original article, click here.