A Navy official said the service’s changing missions are driving open architecture structures and that quickening prototype work is important for the service going forward.

As the Navy returns to more sea patrols and recognizing single systems can no longer do a whole job by themselves, this means integration is more important, William Bray, deputy assistant Secretary of the Navy (DASN) for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E), said Thursday at Defense Daily’s 2017 Open Architecture Summit. Bray is new to the job, having become DASN less than two months ago.

William Bray, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E). (Photo: U.S. Navy)
William Bray, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

“I think there’s a strong recognition that a single system no longer can do the job all by itself” while potential adversaries are bringing forward new capabilities like unmanned systems, Bray said during his lunch keynote address. Therefore, taking sensor data from various assets and delivering it into surface ships or submarines is important.

Bray said this new Navy dynamic drives home interoperability and integration. “Integrating those capabilities across systems. And I don’t know how you do that unless you have open systems, well-designed systems and you have the development structure available to be able to bring those systems together.”

The DASN said the Navy is trying to move faster in acquisition but “you can’t go fast in everything, but there are key technologies where you can be able to do that quickly” like software where modifications can move quicker.

He acknowledged modifying software is not easy in itself, but it is much easier than modifying who new hardware systems in radar or electronic warfare programs.

Bray also highlighted rapid prototyping is “absolutely critical” and how the Navy is trying to do more of it.

He said coming on to the job he has seen a lot of prototyping in the Navy and is focusing, through his program manager background, on what they are transitioning to and able to get to the warfighter.

“Because if you’re prototyping and going fast to prototype that’s good. But then you can’t turn over to the acquisition community and say ok the warfighter needs these, go build these.”

He said the acquisition community responds they will get the first system delivered in five years, including two years to hit the contract.

“That kind of defeats the purpose of prototyping upfront. So since I’ve come on board what I’ve tried to do is try to connect up the work that’s in the prototyping and how that gets connected into the broader acquisition system.”

Bray said Congress is trying to help the Navy in this area, citing a pair of statutes added in recent years to the National Defense Authorization Act.

Section 804, regarding mid-tier acquisition, gives the service some flexibility to do prototyping and rapid fielding while Section 806 concerns acquisition agility. The provisions add small capabilities and cannot buy an entire aircraft. However, Bray noted if a program has an open design system and the Navy wants to replace a small number of key components, they can do that more easily. The Navy can prototype the component, bring it forward, rapidly test it, and then add it to the system.

Now the Navy is working through how to expand this process on a larger scale. For now they are thinking through the right processes and how to get the rest of the acquisition community on board, Bray said.