As a key component of the Acquisition Directorate since its creation in 2006, the Office of Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation (RDT&E) upholds the directorate’s motto - “mission execution begins here” - by taking actions to incorporate the priorities of the operational and sustainment communities during the development of future research and development portfolios.
The most recent example occurred March 10-11 when field operators and headquarters commands gathered to present, evaluate and prioritize mission needs for future research and development projects at the third annual Idea Submission Review (ISR).
Bert Macesker, executive director of the Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center (RDC), described the ISR as a coming together of “raw project ideas that might not be very well developed, but we know there’s something to them.” Ideas for future research projects are chosen by a combination of priority level according to research capabilities of the RDC and the ISR voting session’s results. Approximately 80 new projects are built into the RDT&E program annually.
The event is part of the Strategic Project Portfolio Alignment (SPPA) process, which the RDT&E program uses to build its annual project portfolio. The ISR was initiated three years ago as a response to the need for input from the field to determine which research would most effectively aid in mission execution. Before that, the RDT&E program relied solely on informal conversations and discussions held by different domains for its information. The ISR offers a more efficient and streamlined process by bringing a wide spectrum of interested parties and potential end users together to review a full slate of potential project areas.
This year’s ISR builds off of lessons learned from the previous two years and was considered by participants to be the most effective one to date. The first ISR was a less formal discussion of ideas, and the second was held online. Both formats lacked the opportunity to hold effective and detailed conversations with all participants.
ISR 2014 was a two-day structured event in which ideas were formally presented to the entire group by five domains: aviation, surface, environment and waterways, modeling and simulation, and command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR). Each of the domains held breakout sessions to allow for more in-depth conversation about each idea presented.
Dr. Joseph DiRenzo, senior advisor for science, technology, innovation and research to the Atlantic Area Commander, found that this year’s ISR allowed operational commanders to influence the research, which supports the operational community’s capability to execute the mission. He said he felt “fully listened to. We had the chance to sit down and change the outcome … This year the ISR showed true collaboration, true unity of effort. We really had a sense of the benefit.”
Cmdr. Eric Miller, the chief of the industry and interagency coordination division within the Office of Marine Environmental Response Policy, said that this year event organizers did a better job communicating details to the field about the ISR. He noted that the ISR is a critical tool to plan for the best use of limited RDT&E resources and is “the way of the future” in determining the priority of research and development projects to be conducted by the Coast Guard.
The ISR is not the only way command staff can influence the choice of research and development projects. Macesker reminded the voters that “there is no season for good ideas.” In addition to the ISR, feedback is consistently encouraged by the RDT&E project, and SPPA workshops provide more opportunities to pitch ideas each November.
Capt. Matthew Stanley, chief of requirements and analysis for the Office of Aviation Forces, said that his organization relies on the research the RDC conducts. “The Coast Guard RDC is our main provider of campaign level and operational specific modeling. The work they do for us plays a critical role in our ability to analyze capability and keep senior leadership well informed,” he emphasized. He is “comforted in knowing that the ISR is only one of many ways” he can voice his opinion to the project.
Results from this year’s ISR will be used by Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate and RDT&E leadership later this year to begin building a proposed research portfolio for future fiscal years.
More information on the current projects being conducted by the Coast Guard’s Office of Research, Development, Test and Evaluation can be found at http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/rdc , and a copy of the most recent project portfolio can be accessed at: http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/rdc/pdf/RDT&E%20Project%20Portfolio.pdf