In this era of modern warfare, access to cutting-edge, commercial technology is vital for warfighters and national security.
To ensure access to commercial technology, the Defense Department is promoting broader use of agile acquisition methods by training acquisition professionals on the Defense Innovation Unit's acquisition process, said Mike Brown, DIU director.
Recognizing the need to keep pace with commercial product cycles and adopt best practices for commercial procurement, Defense Acquisition University and DIU have joined forces to develop and implement the Immersive Commercial Acquisition Program, he said.
As part of the program, DOD acquisition personnel will work on service-aligned projects, alongside a DIU contracting officer and project team, as well as commercial solution providers on a variety of projects.
Program participants will also take virtual classes on other transaction authorities through DAU, said Jim Woolsey, DAU president.
"Acquisition professionals, especially those in contracting, work in an increasingly complex environment," Woolsey said. "Creating opportunities like this where they can develop specialized skills and gain experience that they take back and share with others is one of the great strengths of this program."
Up to six contracting officers will be competitively selected from across the DOD civilian and military communities to take part in the 12-month, immersive program.
Set to launch officially in October 2022, the first ICAP cohort will receive targeted training and hands-on experience in every aspect of the commercial solutions opening process. This will range from acquisition strategy to the basics of leveraging other transactional authorities and day-to-day project execution. Participants will also get first-hand knowledge of the commercial sector.
"To give our warfighters the best and most current technology available, DOD must embrace and leverage an acquisition process that maximizes competition and enables the department to operate at commercial speeds," said Brown. "To do this, we need to train our acquisitions talent from across the services on how to effectively transition technologies from the commercial sector into the DOD."
DIU focuses exclusively on accelerating commercial technology into the DOD and has transitioned 45 solutions in its first six years, Brown said. DIU prototypes, transitions and scales projects in six key areas where commercial technology leads: autonomy, artificial intelligence, cyber, energy, human systems and space. These solutions, ranging from small drones to commercial satellite imagery or artificial intelligence software, are fielded in one or two years instead of one or two decades.
Following the rotation, the graduates will provide an ongoing connection between DIU and their services for future projects. As it matures, this annual program may expand to other functional acquisition career fields such as program management, finance and legal. It will provide the acquisition workforce with more commercial acquisition experts who are fluent in new and different acquisition tools and methods to acquire innovative commercial technology, Brown said.
Submissions will be accepted from mid-April to early May 2022 on DIU's website.