Promoting Collaborative Teaming For Systems Readiness

VADM Dean Peters
U.S. Naval Air Systems Command
Patuxent Naval Air Station, MD

From NP&FP, Annual 2020 Issue

Vice Admiral Peters assumed responsibilities as Commander, Naval Air Systems Command in May 2018.

VADM Peters is a native of Louisville, Kentucky. He’s a 1985 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. Peters has earned post-graduate degrees in Aeronautical Engineering and Telecommunications and is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, Class 102.

After earning his wings as a naval aviator in 1986, he flew the SH-2F Seasprite in support of multiple detachments deployed to the North Atlantic, Persian Gulf and Gulf of Mexico, completing anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare and counternarcotics operations embarked on four different ship classes. He served as detachment officer-in-charge aboard USS Thomas C. Hart (FF 1092).

As commanding officer of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21, the squadron accomplished over 11,000 flight test hours and was the 2006 recipient of the CNO Safety Award.

Peters has served in numerous acquisition billets. From Nov. 2007 through July 2011, Peters served as program manager for the H-60 Helicopters Program Office (PMA-299), delivering over 150 helicopters, numerous upgrades, and supporting the first three carrier strike group deployments of the MH-60R and MH-60S Seahawks. From Aug. 2011 to July 2014, Peters commanded the Presidential Helicopters Program Office (PMA-274), leading the program through Milestone B and contract award for the Engineering and Manufacturing Development Program.

Peters’ flag assignments include commander, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division; assistant NAVAIR Commander for Research and Engineering; and Program Executive Officer, Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Assault and Special Mission Programs (PEO(A)).

VADM Peters, NAVAIR Commander, spoke recently with NP&FP, regarding current and forward-looking efforts the Navy’s primary air support entity is pursuing, in particular, material readiness and capabilities development.

NP&FP: What are NAVAIR’s top priorities?

VADM Peters: NAVAIR’s top two priorities are improving material readiness and increasing speed of capability development. We are fleet focused – committed to delivering capabilities that meet expectations and enable our Sailors and Marines to win in today’s dynamic and competitive environment.

Our toughest near-term challenge in achieving Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and Command Master Chief (CMC) goals for mission capable aircraft and weapon systems is restoring the material condition of our aviation fleet and depot level repairable components. Efforts include dramatically improving capability and production capacity at our Fleet Readiness Centers (FRCs), eliminating quality escapes in equipment delivery and repair, and collaborating with Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to improve forecasting and on-time delivery of equipment and parts.

The collective efforts of the Naval Aviation Enterprise are paying off. On Sep. 24, 2019, Naval Aviation met the Secretary of Defense’s goal of 80% mission capable Super Hornets and Growlers. The Air Boss, Vice Adm. Miller, has challenged us to up our game, expanding our progress to increase lethality and survivability across all mission sets and across all Type/Model/Series (T/M/S) aircraft.

Our second major priority is increasing the speed of developing and delivering effective and sustainable aircraft and weapons systems. Efforts range from strengthening our rapid-response capabilities to reducing acquisition cycle time and improving quality and reliability through our contracting process.

Over the past year, we redesigned NAVAIR’s organizational structure and Concept of Operations (CONOPS) for increased responsiveness – placing people and resources closer to the product and the fleet and inspiring shared focus and accountability for fleet outcomes.

The three tenets of NAVAIR’s “Mission Aligned Organization” are delegating authority closer to the point of execution; integrating functional disciplines for increased collaboration, innovation and speed; and adapting our approach to the outcome – designing and executing with the end in mind.

NP&FP: How are you addressing readiness and sustainment?

VADM Peters: We have several initiatives underway that are demonstrating exciting results. At the Naval Aviation Enterprise level, implementation of the Naval Sustainment System for Aviation (NSS-A) has been instrumental in achieving our 80% mission capable goal for Super Hornets and I expect similar improvements across all platforms as we expand and replicate lessons learned.

NAVAIR’s contribution to NSS-A includes increasing Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) intermediate and depot-level maintenance capabilities and production capacity. We are leveraging data analytics to identify and close performance gaps and reduce the number of days lost through depot-level availability extensions. Our aviation depot plan expands NSS-A improvements to all T/M/S aircraft and component repair lines. In addition, we are increasing repair capacity and capability at intermediate-level FRCs to reduce component repair turn-around time and improve parts availability for the flight line. FY19 results across FRCs showed increased throughput on aircraft, components and engines.

Another component of the NSS-A initiative is improving reliability of systems and components. Leveraging industry best practices, we implemented Reliability Control Boards (RCB), which occur monthly for all T/M/S aircraft and focus on the top 20 components degrading readiness. These activities have yielded action against both specific component reliability issues and systemic/cross-platform issues such as corrosion and systems common to multiple T/M/S. RCBs also help identify issues related to data availability and analytic capabilities critical our reliability goals. To address these issues, we’ve established a cross-organizational NAE data analytics team, implemented common metrics and tools across all T/M/S aircraft, and identified an Artificial Intelligence (AI) solution to address the integrity of existing data. Improvements in troubleshooting and repair practices have led to a 37% improvement in our F/A-18E/F and Generator Control Units since February 2019.

Our FRCs are committed to delivering the highest quality airframes, engines, components and support equipment to the Fleet. One of our goals is to eliminate quality escapes for repairs. In 2017, we implemented a Quality Management System aligned with the Aerospace Standard for Aviation Maintenance Organizations (AS-9110). This standard focuses on the control of repair schemes and maintenance plans, configuration management, and skills and qualifications necessary to perform maintenance and repairs. Since implementing this system, we’ve achieved a 57% reduction in quality escapes.

We’re working with NAVSUP and DLA to improve forecasting and on-time delivery of equipment and parts. Our Sustainment Group is developing the Informed Demand Dashboard and Informed Demand Calculator; both will pull from multiple data sources to create a more “informed demand signal” from fleet and FRC maintenance activities that ensures accurate data on supply posture throughout the system and enables effective and appropriate response to true demand.

Finally, our additive manufacturing (AM) program team reviews aircraft dashboards for equipment and parts challenges that can be resolved with AM parts. To date, we’ve achieved a 70% cost reduction and 97% faster delivery time for low criticality, low-risk polymer parts. AM is definitely a game changer for both readiness and speed!

NP&FP: What initiatives are you pursuing to increase speed of capability delivery?

VADM Peters: Increasing the speed of capability delivery is one of our strategic imperatives. Our NAWCAD AIRWorks team is a rapid response capability created to address urgent warfighting needs discovered during fleet operations. AIRWorks tailors traditional acquisition processes for speed; and leverages in-house government talent and infrastructure capabilities to design, prototype and execute complex solutions fast. This pre-set, lead-systems-integration environment enables great proficiency in fielding aircraft modifications with repeatable success and high quality.

AIRWorks brokers partnerships with mid-tier companies and small businesses to quickly integrate, certify and produce solutions across a fleet of similar Navy aircraft. With a basic technical data package and initial specification in hand and our set of pre-awarded, competitive contract vehicles, we can have a solution on contract within a fiscal quarter! In addition, NAWCAD has a growing additive manufacturing network and industrial base to speed AM projects through design, qualification and certification.

NAVAIR has significantly increased its use of AM in recent years. Since flying our first flight-critical part on the V-22 in 2016, we’ve qualified over 190 parts across our platforms and systems; over 120 of these parts can be produced by Fleet maintainers using their own printers, giving them the agility the Fleet needs to be ready. This summer, we qualified a part for our MALS-12 maintenance squadron enabling them to get an aircraft back in the air in 7 days instead of the average 500. NAVAIR produced over 3,500 parts in 2019 – but we need industry with us to scale and integrate AM across the enterprise.

Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) has great potential to increase speed of capability development in today’s rapidly evolving threat environment. MBSE enables programs to adapt quickly to emerging threats and fleet needs and ensure operational relevance by continuously assessing weapons system requirements and design attributes from a “mission context” throughout the development process.

Our Mission Integration and Special Programs Office (PMA298) is applying MBSE to increase of capability development in three product areas: the Next Generation Fighter program, Battle Management Aids (an integrated set of tools to support the high-end fight), and the Naval Integrated Fires capability. MBSE methods and tools enable the program office to identify mission-level needs and allocate resulting system performance attributes to individual platforms and weapon systems with increased speed and operational relevance. An Integrated Modeling Environment (IME) enables the government-industry team to continuously collaborate using a single technical baseline developed in an interactive construct. This facilitates early discovery of performance limitations or integration challenges, automates verification and validation, and results in earlier fielding of initial capability and upgrades.

We are also increasing speed through innovative procurement strategies. Our total acquisition cycle time for FY19 competitive procurements reflects a 20% decrease year over year from FY16 – a 48% decrease from four years ago! We are making great strides in reducing the sole-source total acquisition cycle time as well, deploying advances in machine learning and other innovative tools. Our use of Multiple Award (MAC) Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts for hardware and services has reduced acquisition cycle time, in some cases up to 75%.

NAWCAD AIRWorks recently used its Prototype and Limited Production MAC IDIQ contract to competitively award manufacture of 28 production-representative MH-60 Gunner Seats for testing and fleet validation. In one year, AIRWorks and industry designed, developed, tested, validated and awarded a full rate production contract for 600 Gunner seats. If we had employed traditional acquisition methods, this work would have taken two to three times as long, and the government would likely not have acquired the technical data package for the design. This approach saved significant time and money and addressed a top safety priority for the fleet.

We’re also increasing speed by reducing repetition in the acquisition process. Our program managers and business experts have increased their use of option quantities and production lots in major weapons system production contracts. This allows for budget and planning foresight and allows for advances in data forecasting accuracy so teams can leverage historical actual costs and negotiated pricing. Success stories in this area include AIM-9X and AARGM missile programs, where we leveraged available data to include FY20 quantities. This eliminates the FY20 solicitation, proposal, evaluation and negotiation cycle, enabling us to adapt to fleet demands with variation in quantity procedures built into the contract.

Advanced analytics holds even greater promise to increase speed of capability delivery. Software such as RStudio enables the government to identify the correct data to request to establish a fair and reasonable price, including supplier data and historical labor actuals. Targeting the right data has the potential to reduce the data demand on Industry, decreasing the proposal preparation portion of the total acquisition cycle time. Our proposal analysis division is developing tools both industry and the government can use to decrease the time it takes to propose, analyze and negotiate deals. We plan to mature and expand this capability to all of our major primes in FY20 and beyond.

Reducing the volume of financial transactions and associated turn-around time also holds great potential for increasing speed. In FY19, we achieved a 12% reduction in funding document volume and a 10% reduction in turnaround time overall. We reduced the number of funding documents for sustaining engineering by 41%. We will continue to pursue efficiencies in FY20With a specific goal of reducing reimbursable work orders by combining like efforts from the same program lines.