AFWERX, Army partner in first multiservice contracting sprint
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) — The AFWERX contracting team partnered with two Army organizations to execute the first multiservice Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, and Small Business Technology Transfer, or STTR, contracting sprint. The exercise, in which AFWERX partnered with the Army Futures Command, or AFC, and Army Contracting Command, or ACC, was a collaborative, knowledge-sharing experience between forces.
This two-week sprint, which occurred Oct. 24 to Nov. 4, 2022, culminated in over 300 SBIR and STTR Phase I contract awards valued at over $20 million. The 300-plus small businesses that received a Phase I award went on contract just three weeks after being notified of their selection.
“I am very proud of the multiservice teams involved,” said Col. Martin Salinas, AFWERX Spark division chief. “A year ago, the sentiment was that a multiservice SBIR Sprint was impossible. We put some terrific folks together to characterize the roadblocks and find ways to mitigate them. This is a great example of our nation’s Soldiers, Airmen, defenders and defense civilians forging a way forward with groundbreaking innovation.”
The multiservice effort involved approximately 80 contracting professionals, both civilian and military, from across the U.S. Air Force, Space Force and Army. Personnel hailed from 21 states and included, for the first time, six Army contracting specialists, highlighting AFWERX’s ability to leverage a distributed team and virtual contracting activities for an efficient sprint process.
“AFWERX and the Army were able to successfully collaborate on this multiservice SBIR sprint because of a strong multiservice partnership,” Salinas said.
Army Applications Laboratory, or AAL, aided the sprint team during the discovery and idea generation process. AAL is collocated with the AFWERX Austin Hub in Capital Factory, a technology accelerator and venture capital firm that invests in entrepreneurial innovators. AFC Combat Capabilities Development Command, or DEVCOM, also maintains a liaison embedded on the AFWERX leadership team, which helped streamline coordination and execution of the contracting sprint with ACC.
Preparations for this multiservice SBIR involved a thorough training process that emphasized collaboration between the contracting officers, customers and contractors. Team members from across the AFWERX organization, including contracting, finance and program analysts, educated Army augmentees, training them on specific programs, requirements, systems and processes.
“As AFWERX and other innovation organizations look for new ways to get after dual-use commercial technologies, it is imperative that we seek out and experiment with creative ways to execute an ever-changing mission – balancing speed with discipline,” said John McCanney, AFWERX contracting sprints lead. “Contracting plays a critical role. As mission-focused business leaders, it is incumbent on us to seek out new ways of doing business, even if it means taking on challenges that have historically been avoided.”
McCanney said collaborating with sister services provides an opportunity to get after innovative requirements in a unique way.
“Contracting sprints are just one activity wherein we can work effectively and efficiently as multiservice partners to get after common objectives, share knowledge and systematically implement continuous improvements,” McCanney said. “The success of this sprint shows, yet again, the value of taking calculated risks and never settling for what is known to be achievable – continuing to push the envelope and do more.”
However, Salinas said this sprint does not represent the first multiservice effort; rather, it is a continuation of the practice of finding multiservice innovation opportunities, such as the joint-force participation in the Defense Ventures Fellows Program. He also said AFWERX Agility Prime has found success with joint partners, such as with the first Army-piloted flight of an electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle with BETA Technologies in July 2022.
Salinas said AFWERX and the Army are considering expanding partnerships with the possibility of conducting more multiservice sprints to continually share knowledge and collaborate on modernization efforts.
“We set out to see how a multiservice sprint would work, to trailblaze a development opportunity with our service partners and to share our practices for managing AFWERX’s open topic SBIR process, which is now [an action] from Congress,” Salinas said. “We couldn’t have done it without the exquisite teamwork from our Army team. Next stop is to open the aperture even further with other interested service partners.”
The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit www.afresearchlab.com.
AFWERX is an Air Force Research Laboratory Directorate that connects innovators across government, industry and academia. Through innovation and collaboration with our nation’s top subject-matter experts, AFWERX harnesses the power of ingenuity of internal talent while expanding technology, talent and transition partnerships for rapid and affordable commercial and military capability. Additional information is available at https://www.afwerx.com/.
AFVentures invests in emerging technologies to scale Department of the Air Force capabilities, strengthening the US industrial base that empowers Airmen and Guardians by incentivizing private, for-profit investment in national security interests. Our success is achieved by connecting novel commercial solutions with defense problem sets, de-risking Airmen and Guardian initiatives to fill capability gaps and transition technologies. Learn more at https://afwerx.com/afventures-overview/
About Army Applications Laboratory
We don’t make things — we make things possible. The Army Applications Laboratory (AAL) is Army Futures Command’s innovation unit and a partner for industry, the Army, and government organizations. We discover practices and processes to speed capability development and turn cutting-edge ideas into real, relevant solutions for Soldiers. Learn how we do it at aal.army.
About Army Futures Command
Army Futures Command (AFC) is the operational architect of Army transformation – developing Army concepts, future force design, and requirements for future materiel. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, AFC has more than 19,000 people worldwide. The Army’s six modernization priorities are the focus of AFC’s eight Cross-Functional Teams: Long Range Precision Fires; Next Generation Combat Vehicles; Future Vertical Lift; Network; Air and Missile Defense; Soldier Lethality; Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space; and Synthetic Training Environment. The Army Artificial Intelligence Integration Center, Army Software Factory and Army Applications Laboratory also support AFC efforts. Collaborating with entrepreneurs, scientists, industry and academia, AFC strives to create the best solutions to keep Soldiers safe and America strong. For more information, visit armyfuturescommand.com.
About Army Combat Capabilities Development Command
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. DEVCOM is the Army’s technology leader and largest technology developer. DEVCOM ensures the dominance of Army capabilities by creating, integrating and delivering technology-enabled solutions to our Soldiers.