NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md.–Small businesses are not only a primary source of naval aviation innovation and future capability, but also key partners in the Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) disciplined approach to increasing speed of capability, affordability and availability, according to NAVAIR Deputy Commander Tom Rudowsky.
Rudowsky was the keynote speaker on March 14 at the joint NAVAIR and Naval Sea Systems Command Small Business Innovation Research Program/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Innovative Technology Showcase. The three-day event, part of the DoN’s SBIR/STTR Program and held this year at the VTG Defense Conference Center in Washington, D.C., connected more than 150 small businesses, nonprofit research institutions, acquisition professionals and technologists.
“Much of today’s fleet capability is generated by individuals, companies and groups such as this. You let us know what is possible, what’s over the horizon and how we can bring them into fruition,” Rudowsky said in his remarks to small businesses on the event’s opening day. “The technologies we need to infuse into the battlespace today are increasingly critical, and the timelines to transition those technologies are shorter than they have been in the past. You are instrumental in determining what the future will be. That’s why your role is so essential to mission success.”
Joint events such as the Innovative Technology Showcase provides acquisition professionals and technologists from across two different system commands and other government agencies the opportunity to talk in person with representatives from companies that have developed technologies in their areas, said Kristi DePriest, NAVAIR SBIR/STTR Program manager. “It also encourages them to have in-depth conversations with other companies and offer insights as to how they can leverage each other’s technologies,” she said.
Rudowsky shared NAVAIR’s transformation focus areas that will provide the command with the necessary direction, alignment and disciplined approach to procuring, testing and delivering the next generation of integrated warfighting capability. “Capability is about delivering integrated warfighting capabilities at increased speed. Availability focuses on the number of assets ready for use by combatant commanders; and affordability focuses on opportunities for reduced cost and by maximizing every dollar for warfighter outcomes. Safety is a fourth focus area that will be added soon,” he explained.
This approach, commonly referred to as CAA, will touch all naval aviation stakeholders, including small businesses. “Most of a weapons system’s cost is in its sustainment phase and is determined by the decisions made in its design and acquisition phase. So, it starts here with you.
“Change is hard work,” Rudowsky added. “We are challenging ourselves at every turn on how we think, act and operate.”
In support of CAA, he asked small businesses to take a critical look at their operations and concentrate on efforts that matter. “There’s a lot of activity going on in all of our organizations, but they aren’t necessarily the ones that drive toward critical mission outcomes,” he said. “Our common focus is providing the warfighter with the capability to perform the mission and come home safely; that is what we need to see today from all stakeholders. It’s action to outcome. If you understand what can be brought to bear, we can field much-need technologies quicker.”
Part of that success depends on small businesses communicating with their customers, the NAVAIR Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP) and the NAVAIR SBIR/STTR Program Office. “We need to understand the challenges, the barriers you face and what help is needed. Only when we identify them, can we partner with you to address them, create capability, improve affordability and enhance availability,” he advised.
Guest speaker Jimmy Smith, Department of Navy OSBP director, also asked small businesses during the question and answer session to be proactive in their engagement and feedback. “The work you do is absolutely required,” he reiterated. “If you have any challenges, tell OSBP. You have a perspective and insight that is different from ours. It’s our job to eliminate barriers to your success.”
The intellectual capacity of small businesses is much needed by naval aviation, Rudowsky said. “Think beyond the ideas presented here, design systems for reliability and deliver capabilities on time. I ask you to better understand what the expected outcomes are and build them. That starts here with in-depth discussions and engagement with the program office representatives.”