MONTEREY, Calif. (NPS) – For the first time in four years, acquisition professionals from the government, academic and private sectors gathered in Monterey as the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) hosted its 20th annual Acquisition Research Symposium, May 10-11. This year’s event marked a return to in-person sessions after three years of virtual gatherings, offering nearly 800 registered attendees the chance to engage with senior officials from the DOD and Department of the Navy.
Co-hosted by NPS’ Acquisition Research Program (ARP) and the Naval Warfare Studies Institute (NWSI), the symposium provided an invaluable opportunity for NPS faculty and students, as well as other attendees from academia and industry, to experience a wide range of perspectives from leaders in the defense acquisition domain.
“I've come to this event as a researching practitioner, writing papers and giving presentations to both improve the business of acquisition, but also to stretch the things that I want to investigate and see different,” said Nickolas Guertin, the Department of Defense’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) and one of the event’s keynote speakers. “This time I came because I wanted to give back to a venue that has been of great value to me.”
Guertin, who has attended and presented at the Acquisition Research Symposium for more than a decade, was joined this year by a number of DOD and DON senior leaders, including U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Francis Morley, Principal Military Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (RD&A), and U.S. Army Lt. Gen. David Bassett, director of the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA).
Remote participation was also offered as an option for attendees and speakers, including William LaPlante, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, who delivered the symposium’s kickoff address. During his remarks, LaPlante brought up a major theme of the symposium – the continued importance of research and analytics to inform decision-making and fuel innovation in the defense acquisitions process.
“What are the production rates? Are the production rates truly going up? How are we fixing the supply chain? Data-driven analytics on all those things is sorely needed,” said LaPlante. For him and others, this data is important to help DOD better understand and optimize its relationship with industry partners that provide many of the United States’ warfighting capabilities.
Speaking from his perspective in the testing and evaluation realm, Guertin echoed LaPlante’s sentiments, encouraging members of the acquisition community to use their skills and the tools at their disposal to tackle the big issues – not just those facing the T&E world, but in other research and development areas within DOD.
“We want to be a part of it – that changing dynamic landscape. We want to be customers of acquisition research,” said Guertin. “And we must engage these changing practices from the position of informed research – which you can help us with – that can show our progress.”
As with previous events, this year’s Acquisition Research Symposium featured presentations of research papers and briefings, with a focus on recently completed and ongoing projects sponsored by the DOD and DON and conducted by researchers at a variety of institutions.
Panel topics included the use of emerging technologies such as additive manufacturing (AM), artificial intelligence (AI), and digital engineering in the acquisition process; strategies for acquisition in the space domain; the current state of investment in the United States’ defense industrial base; and the future of acquisition for the U.S. Navy and Army.
NPS students also had an opportunity to present and discuss their research with attendees during a student poster show on May 10. Senior defense acquisition officials and other researchers, many of whom served as panelists or keynote speakers during the two days of the symposium, offered their comments and critiques on the students’ research projects and priorities.
“When you hear these research projects, please ask questions, challenge assumptions, challenge the work and the analysis,” said retired Vice Adm. Ann Rondeau, president of NPS, during her opening remarks. “If we're not doing that, this is the opportunity to do it.”
NPS established the Acquisition Research Program in 2003 to deliver research that informs and improves acquisition policy and practice for the warfighter. A year later, the Acquisition Research Symposium made its debut, expanding on the ARP’s mission by providing an open forum for the presentation of scholarly research on acquisition.
Ever since, the symposium has helped to foster dialogue among scholars, policymakers and acquisition practitioners on important procurement and logistics issues. ARP uses these connections to enhance research from graduate students in NPS’ Department of Defense Management, providing research topics and other resources that help students deliver professional final research projects with operational relevance.
Morley explained how NPS students benefit from the opportunity to present their research at the symposium.
“I would put it in one word – perspective,” said Morley. “So the best definition I think I've ever read on strategic thinking, strategic leadership, is having perspective of being able to see a problem from multiple different angles and truly understanding it. And that is the only hope of coming up with a mostly right answer and direction to go.
“So this type of forum, this type of event provides them with perspective, learning from current practitioners, learning from thought leaders, learning from multiple different organizations, military, civilian, other countries. And interacting gives extreme perspective which will benefit them as they go forward and solve the problems that we leave them.”
The Naval Postgraduate School provides defense-focused graduate education, including classified studies and interdisciplinary research, to advance the operational effectiveness, technological leadership and warfighting advantage of the Naval service. For additional information, visit NPS online at https://nps.edu.
Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJtmlbCNRik&feature=youtu.be