Recent trend shows DoD using DAU as a way to dynamically flesh out policies

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The Defense Department is giving its Defense Acquisition University (DAU) a little more flair as it adds new ways for the schoolhouse to teach students, and trends toward giving it more of an ability to flesh out Pentagon policy.

Acquisition and Sustainment Undersecretary Ellen Lord at a Defense Writers Group event in Washington D.C.

DoD has relied on the Defense Acquisition University to help build out its 5000 series update. The update — which is due out at the end of this month according to Acquisition and Sustainment Undersecretary Ellen Lord — provides simplified pathways for weapons to be procured, and makes it more intuitive for businesses to work with DoD.

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One of the pathways DoD is growing is mid-tier acquisition, which is “intended to fill a gap in the defense acquisition system for those capabilities that have a level of maturity to allow them to be rapidly prototyped within an acquisition program or fielded, within five years of middle-tier acquisition program start. The middle-tier acquisition pathway may be used to accelerate capability maturation before transitioning to another acquisition pathway or may be used to minimally develop a capability before rapidly fielding,” according to the DoD directive on the contracting method.

The Pentagon is using DAU to create a companion guide to expand on the guidance.

“They are putting together vignettes of how it’s been used effectively, and then they have modules they will put into all the key courses about what middle tier acquisition is and how to appropriately use it,” Lord said at a Tuesday Defense Writers Group event with reporters in Washington D.C. “We have begun quite a bit of that.”

This isn’t the only time DoD relied on DAU to help explain to industry exactly how policy will work and the best practices for it.

DoD used DAU to flesh out questions and case studies about other transaction authorities, another new authorization aimed at quick acquisition.

It seems DoD is laying down ground rules and starting to practice some of its new acquisition tools, and then relying on DAU to further solidify the standards in its curriculum.

The Pentagon is also changing the way the university teaches.

“We are really transforming DAU from pushing information in the old lecture way to a much more interactive group that uses a variety of different media to communicate,” Lord said. “We did TEDx talks last year, which I think we are doing again this year. We’re doing more podcasts. We are also trying to take the training to the people who are on site instead of making them come to DAU brick and mortar.”

Counter-drone office

DoD’s acquisition and sustainment office is also setting up a new office to counter unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

Lord said the office will be run by the Army, and act as an executive agent for counter-UAS. Maj. Gen. Sean Gainey will lead the office, and it will develop three to five systems for the whole military.

“Gainey will have about 60 people,” Lord said. “We are just finishing up on the policy that directs the activities. We are in the process of working with the department of test and evaluation of the currently fielding systems so we can look at what the best is.”

The office will also leverage the Defense Digital Service.

“The adversary is very agile and updates their technology and product development very quickly, so we are looking at a very nimble system where we can push patches and stay ahead,” Lord said.

The evaluation will be completed in April, which will coincide with when DoD will want to whittle down the number of products it wants to use for counter-UAS to three to five.

“We are looking at a variety of sensor modalities and we are looking at number of defeat mechanisms,” Lord said. “What the preliminary finding is one size does not fit all. You need a system with multiple sensors, multiple defeat systems. The key is command, control and communication across theater about that.”

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