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NUWC Division Newport teams win Excellence in Partnership Awards in Acquisition and Innovation

By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs | Jan. 24, 2020

NEWPORT, R.I. —

Coalition for Government Procurement Excellence in Partnership Awards have been awarded to two Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport teams. The Division Newport Other Transaction Authority (OTA) Team won in the acquisition category, and the Division Newport-NUWC-Office of Naval Research (ONR) Team won in the innovation category. The Coalition for Government Procurement Excellence in Partnership Awards honor an organization for creating innovation solutions and/or an innovative process for a federal agency that improves and facilitates mission performance.

The Division Newport OTA Team researched the best way to establish an OTA to ensure maximum flexibility and speed in acquisition.

Team members include Thomas Carroll, OTA program manager; Tejal Patel, technical project manager, Submarine Warfare Federated Tactical System; Beata Jones, contract negotiator; Kaitlin Simoes, contracting officer; Christopher Kenney, head, Acquisition Policy and Oversight Division; and Robert Turnbull, Virginia-class chief engineer. Three other team members are from Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).

OTAs are contract-like vehicles that offer advantages over traditional government contract mechanisms, including access to non-traditional defense contractors, deeper collaboration between industry and government, and greater technology and prototype acquisition speed, getting solutions to end-users sooner than traditional methods. Prototype projects would be streamlined to ensure industry would have maximum flexibility in response, giving the government as many options as practicable when acquiring new technologies.

Flexibility was built in to allow programs to employ innovative acquisition approaches, including making multiple awards and later down-selecting, making partial awards as acquisition approaches change, and shaping requirements based on industry feedback. To date, the team has generated 13 prototype project awards, the first of which was solicited and awarded in only two months. All have maintained a brisk pace, with more than 30 topics solicited in the first two solicitations.

The Division Newport-NUWC-ONR Team collaborated across organizations to implement the first Department of Defense Prize Challenge from the NAVSEA enterprise.

Division Newport team members include Christopher Hebert, contracting officer; Kerry Hotopp, NAVSEA associate counsel; Christopher Kenney, head, Acquisition Policy and Oversight Division; Stephen Lamb, head, Contracts Department, and Michelle Estaphan Owen, engineer. NUWC Headquarters team members include Denise Abraham, NUWC contracts director; Dr. Vittorio Ricci, NUWC chief technology officer; and Maria Medeiros, ONR program officer.

Traditional Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR)-based contracting has two issues associated with the rigidity of the regulations that are often counter to the objective of innovation. First, the many rules and regulations often cause some non-traditional industry partners as well as academia to avoid Navy contracts. Second, traditional FAR-based contracting requires rigid compliance to competitive processes.

To overcome these issues, the team sought ideas and best practices in materials that could withstand undersea challenges. In order to maximize innovation and attract companies, universities, and individuals outside the traditional companies that propose under FAR-based acquisitions, the Prize Challenge was determined to be the best strategy. The Prize Challenge is structured in three phases with a total purse prize up to $755,000 and the possibility of a contract under OTA for prototype development. Once the problem was identified and finalized, along with legal review and concurrence and approval from the chief of the Contracting Office, the challenge was posted within two months. An overwhelming number of non-traditional companies and universities at the forefront of technological innovation responded to the challenge and are now being evaluated. The team is currently developing two additional Prize Challenges.

Both Division Newport teams were honored in November at the Excellence in Partnership Awards dinner held in Falls Church, Virginia.

NUWC Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater  systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.

NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869.  Commanded by Captain Michael Coughlin, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.