GovCon Updates of the Week Part 2

4/7/2021 - By Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund

DoD Doubles Down on AI Adoption:

We’ve reported before on the Department of Defense’s (DoD) desire to increase and expedite the adoption of cutting-edge technological solutions and tools, with artificial intelligence (AI) commonly being at the forefront.  To double-down on this critical initiative, the DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) has launched a department-wide development platform that is designed to expedite and expand the testing and overall adoption of AI-related tools.

This platform, dubbed the Joint Common Foundation (JCF), is a development, security and operations (DevSecOps) platform spearheaded by the JAIC that seeks to remove existing barriers to AI adoption through providing a protected testbed where DoD users can share data, trainings and algorithms across the various DoD components. JAIC Director, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, colloquially describes it as a “lending library,” where one DoD entity can utilize AI data and trainings from another DoD entity and subsequently adapt them to their own algorithms and requirements.

In a broader sense, the JCF is designed to help the JAIC become the catalyst for expediated AI adoption within the DoD. This was outlined in a report from the National Security Commission on AI and calls on the DoD to be “AI-ready” no later than 2025. So, if you are a contractor in the AI-space, the DoD may need your help!

For more information, please click this link.

Too Many Eggs in One Basket?

Department of Defense (DoD) spending is up 18%, but the number of DoD prime contractors is down 36% over the last 10 years. Further, the number of subcontractors is also down, and the supply chain is being viewed as weak. Congress has taken notice, and the House Armed Services Committee has activated the Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force to investigate what can be done, with hopes of significant new legislation to bolster the domestic supply chain by the end of the year.

One trend that analysts are tracking is mergers and acquisitions among prime contractors. Larger contractors continue to acquire smaller contractors and merge with other large companies, which has created a smaller group of primes with more resources to propose on and perform the work. Additionally, some products and requirements are complex and highly technical; there are only so many small to mid-size U.S. manufacturing and engineering companies that can meet those specifications; and dealing with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)-based acquisition process doesn’t exactly have these companies pushing each other out of the way to work with the government.

While the House’s Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force will be focusing on potential new legislation, the DoD, under Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, will also be tackling these matters, as well. We’re still awaiting the naming of an acquisition chief, but Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks has openly expressed concern about the consolidation of the defense industrial base. Stay tuned for developments from the DoD and Congress on these matters.

For more information, please click this link

Science Agencies May Soon Be Doing the SALSTA Dance:

Although it’s not a legitimate dance style … yet, the Securing American Leadership in Science and Technology Act (SALSTA) may soon be giving lawmakers and federal science agencies a reason to dance in celebration. The re-introduced bill proposed on Tuesday, March 23 would nearly double the current research funding across several science agencies.

According to the bill’s legislative framework, total authorization levels would increase from $17.6 billion as enacted for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 to a total of $34.5 billion in FY 2031. From an individual agency perspective, investments would increase from $7.4 billion to $15 billion at the Department of Energy; from $8.5 billion to $16.2 billion at the National Science Foundation; from $1 billion to $1.9 billion at the National Institute of Standards and Technology; and from $600 million to $1.2 billion at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The original bill was introduced under the same name by House Science, Space and Technology Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas, R-Okla., but the latest version includes an additional section that focuses on research integrity and the establishment of a National Supply Chain Database. “While SALSTA is a comprehensive proposal for investing in American [research and development], there are quite a few sections that can be introduced as individual bills, and we expect to see that soon on critical minerals, advanced recycling and fusion energy, among others,” a member of the legislative staff who helped draft the bill said. “Those all have solid bipartisan potential.”

If the bill is passed in full or on a piecemeal basis, the additional funding in research and development could lead to significant opportunities for government contractors in the science and technology sector.

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