Navy encouraged in tech pursuit

Navy Transition of Advanced Technology Programs to Military Applications

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The Navy is doing a good job of moving technology from the research phase to the warfighter, according to a recent report from the Defense Department inspector general's office. However, the report noted that more can be done to ensure the best technology is pursued and distributed to those who can best benefit from it.

The report, dated Feb. 4, evaluates the Navy's process for enhancing the likelihood that emerging technology would reach the warfighter.

In preparing the report, "Navy Transition of Advanced Technology Programs to Military Applications," the IG examined 39 science and technology projects funded with research, development, test and evaluation funds to determine how they were handled from conception to either deployment or termination.

The report suggested that the Office of Naval Research establish working-level integrated product teams. "Unless ONR improves its coordination by establishing the working-level integrated teams...the Navy cannot make informed and prudent decisions on whether continued investment [in a particular technology] is warranted," the report stated.

It also said that the Office of Naval Research does not have an effective management control program to evaluate technology transition operations.

"Continued expenditure of advanced technology development funds on technologies that do not have coordinated paths or plans for transitioning to acquisition programs ignores lessons learned and training on successful science and technology transitioning provided to [DOD] officials," the report read.

The report recommended that closer coordination take place between management and development teams to ensure that effort and funds are funneled to the right projects.

The Navy, through William Schaefer, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for planning, programming and resources, concurred with most of the report's recommendations, but took issue with two.

One of the IG's recommendations was to require that an acquisition program office's prime contractors be included in the integrated product teams established for advanced technology development efforts.

Schaefer asserts that requiring the inclusion of prime contractors in all cases would leave the government open for potential problems, "including the appearance of pre-selection for future solicitations and possible abuses of proprietary information."

The IG further recommended that the Office of Naval Research discontinue product development for any technology scheduled for transition in fiscal 2002 to 2003 unless it has identified funding from an acquisition program.

Schaefer argued that this recommendation "would limit [advanced technology development] funding to projects that had already passed acquisition milestone 'A,' and thereby forestall nearly all transformational technology development."

"It is essential that [advanced technology development] programs be able to demonstrate unproven options, mitigate risks and offer alternative solutions before an acquisition program commits to transition the project," he said.

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