Bending the Cost Curve (BTCC), one of the 13-Make-Every-Dollar-Count cost initiatives launched by the Air Force, includes a growing and evolving set of more than 20 acquisition reform activities. These activities are focused on finding ways the Air Force can be more effective at how it spends money to get better capabilities to the warfighter faster.
“BTCC is coming up with ideas with industry, then going out and trying those ideas to see if we can actually drive down cost, increase capability and get it delivered faster,” said Dr. Camron Gorguinpour, the director of the Air Force Transformational Innovation Office, Air Force Office of Acquisitions. “Everything we do with BTCC is in collaboration with industry. (They are) a big part of the solution, so working closely with them helps us come up with better ideas of things that we should be doing.”
One program, Open Systems Acquisition, has reached a level of success. The concept is to move Air Force weapons systems toward a more open architecture, allowing traditional and non-traditional industry partners more flexibility for future improvements.
“Basically, OSA is a plug and play type of model. You have a system that anyone can understand and plug into if they develop a product that complies within certain requirements,” Gorguinpour said. “That way one company can create a system, but down the road, when you need a new capability, another company can create the new part and it can be changed out without a huge contracting action.
“This new open architecture environment will allow us to rapidly change out capabilities, to compete to a very broad segment of industry and be able to build on certain designs rather than having just one fixed product.”
As part of this program, the Air Force Research Laboratory created its own acquisition vehicle tailored to the new OSA model. With this new system, it will take only three weeks from the time companies demonstrate their capabilities to the time the winner is funded and doing work.
“This is getting us closer to the point of where you can acquire at the pace of global innovation,” Gorguinpour said. “There is definitely a lot more work to be done to smooth out the process for everyone to use, but we are getting it closer to being a reality.”
Thinking outside of the box and in the spirit of innovation, the Air Force launched the largest cash prizes ever conducted by one of the military services called Air Force Prize — worth $2 million to the entity that can produce a lightweight, mid-sized turbine engine.
“Turbine engines are important, especially if it can be installed into a smaller vehicle, the engine can double the fuel efficiency and improve the lifecycle cost,” Gorguinpour said. “The opportunity to win the cash prize started in May and companies will have two years to provide a product.”
Also included in BTCC is the Cost Capability Analysis program that would create better transparency by providing more awareness of Air Force requirements to industry to reduce the costs and development times for Air Force systems.
“When buying something as simple as a computer, you can see where a small increase of speed or memory is going to dramatically increase the cost,” Gorguinpour said. “So you need to find the optimal setting for your requirement. Because of BTCC, the Air Force is working with industry early in the acquisition process to refine what the requirements should be.”
The Air Force is looking to provide more tools to help navigate the complex acquisition process with AQ Prime, a beta website powered by a learning computer with the knowledge of the federal acquisition regulation. This website will serve as a resource for businesses not used to working with the military, as well as the public, an easy way to understand the complex government regulation.
“Even if we do the best job at streamlining bureaucracy, the fact is that it is going to be complicated because the work we do is incredibly complex,” Gorguinpour said. “We not only need to streamline the process, but also give people the right tools to navigate this better.”
BTCC activities will continue to improve the internal Air Force acquisition process, enhance interactions with industry throughout the acquisition lifecycle, and expand competition among traditional and non-traditional industry partners.