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Defense Acquisition moving towards “as-a-service” model

The rising cost of new weapons systems has long been a concern for the Department of
Defense (DoD). And, as DoD seeks to transform itself for the 21st century, it can anticipate an extended period of downward budgetary pressure. Moreover, growing costs will require difficult choices for DoD just to maintain the status quo. Consequently, DoD must spend every dollar with the objective of getting the best value for the department.

As DoD adjusts to these reduced budgets, it will operate within a global security environment that continues to present a wide range of threats that have increased significantly since the start of the 21st century.  DoD must deal with instabilities caused by the continued evolution of transnational terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the growing cyber threat, and potential regional threats such as those in Africa, the Middle East, and the Far East.

In light of the current financial climate in Washington (with reduced defense dollars), it is likely
that there will be increased pressure to find innovative strategies to maximize the effectiveness
and efficiency of DoD’s investments in order to affordably meet all operational requirements
and modernization needs in sufficient quantities.

To maintain a strategic advantage over its adversaries, the Department of Defense (DoD) must field new technologies rapidly. “It is not about speed of discovery, it is about speed of delivery to the field,” Michael D. Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee in April 2018.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has made numerous attempts to reform its acquisition
system over the last 50 years. These initiatives, combined with many in Congress, have produced only modest improvements.

The architecture of Department of Defenses (DoD) acquisition organizations is based on a big-bang/spiral development for systems of systems (SoS). This strategy has proved too slow and negates the opportunity to make small changes rapidly and deliver them on a continuum.

With commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) tools, platforms, and building blocks available to all nation-states, near-peer competitors to the DoD are implementing new approaches and developing new technologies rapidly in key warfare areas faster than the DoD. “It is a dangerous and unpredictable time, and the United States must reverse any erosion in its military capabilities and capacities,” General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated during an interview at the Pentagon in October 2018. In this new era of near-peer competition, the DoD needs to evolve capabilities quickly and robustly to help warfighters as they face ever-changing challenges.

Delivering a more lethal force requires the ability to evolve faster and be more adaptable
than our adversaries. The Department’s adaptability increasingly relies on software and the
ability to securely and rapidly deliver resilient software capability is a competitive advantage that
will define future conflicts. Transforming software delivery times from years to minutes will
require significant change to our processes, policies, workforce, and technology.


US Army moving towards “as-a-service”

The Army is moving away from its old buying processes and rethinking how it buys technologies, starting with procurement of more than 350,000 tactical radios under a new “as-a-service” pilot, the service’s undersecretary said on Wednesday.

The Army has over 350,000 radios across the service, an amount that’s “simply too large to upgrade at an adequate pace,” and its current inventory is driven by hardware and the limitations of the industrial base, Camarillo said.

The Army needs “to experiment with different buying models, especially for our capabilities in which technology trends do not support the serial process of defining a requirement, entering a development phase and then pursuing a continuous fielding process of that exact same version of a capability over a long period of time,” Gabe Camarillo said at the Army Technical Exchange meeting in Nashville, TN. “That, my friends, is almost exactly how we initially pursued the purchase and procurement and development of our tactical radios in the past.”

“So the purchasing model that we currently use, which is buying and maintaining a large quantity of radios, may not be as flexible or frankly as affordable as it needs to be in order for us to solve the long-term challenge of making sure the Army can fight and win the nation’s wars,” he continued.

To that point, the Army will pursue an “as-a-service” pilot for its radios in the fourth quarter of this fiscal year with the aim of driving down costs, improving access to innovation and helping to “change the paradigm” the service currently faces in terms of long-term sustainment. Under the model, the Army would contract with a vendor to provide a minimal number of radios for training, centrally store or lease radios for operations and upgrade software as required.

The as-a-service model might require the Army to take a broader look at the processes it uses to fund and field equipment. But the potential cost savings, ability to tailor radio packages and the flexibility to provide upgrades over time is a “compelling” reason to experiment with the model, Camarillo added.

The service’s tactical radio program office will also be releasing two requests for information to industry on Friday. The first will conduct market research on the as-a-service model, and the second will ask vendors what they can provide in terms of their own investments and innovation to meet the Army’s requirement for a low-cost, single-channel, secure unclassified radio.


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