Tag Archives: DDG-51

CIMSEC Interviews Captain Mark Vandroff, Program Manager DDG 51, Part 2

By Dmitry Filipoff

CIMSEC sat down with Captain Mark Vandroff to solicit his expert insight into the complex world of acquisition and the future of the U.S. Navy’s destroyers. CAPT Vandroff is the Program Manager (PM) of the U.S. Navy’s DDG 51 program, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, which is the most numerous warship in the U.S. Navy. In Part One, CAPT Vandroff discussed the differences in warship design between the Flight IIA and Flight III destroyer variants, acquisition best practices, and the Navy’s Future Surface Combatant Study. In the second and final part of our interview, CAPT Vandroff goes into depth on his publications Confessions of a Major Program Manager published in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, and An Acquisition System to Enable American Seapower, published on USNI News and coauthored with Bryan McGrath. He finishes with his thoughts on building acquisition expertise in the military and his reading recommendations.

In your U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings article Confessions of a Major Program Manager, you used an elaborate metaphor to illustrate your responsibilities. What are the various stakeholder pressures in your program and how do you manage them?

I have great stakeholders, each of whom are great at doing their job, which is part of the challenge, and part of the fun. A program manager is responsible for turning money and a requirement into a product. Each of the other stakeholders is responsible for making sure a specific part of that process happens properly. I have been totally blessed in my five years as PMS 400D. I have had excellent contracting officers. When my contracting officer signs the contract, she is responsible to ensure what we do complies with the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) and all the other regulations governing contracting. I compete for the resources of the NAVSEA contracting directorate with every other program that NAVSEA has to support. There are more programs with more good ideas of things we could do than we have contracting officers to go execute them. I have a pressure there where I am trying to get a contracting officer to either move at the speed I want to move, or to be flexible for things I want to do for the program, but he or she’s got a responsibility to make sure that the contract bears scrutiny.

In SEA 05, our technical directorate, the Navy has a technical warrant holder for ship design called the ship design manager who brokers all the other technical requirements. I have one each for both Flight IIA and Flight III. They are responsible for a safe and effective design that meets the requirement, but not necessarily for the full range of mission accomplishment. So when it comes to funding I might say “I know that’s a requirement, but its really not going to deprive us of a critical capability, and I need the money somewhere else in the program to do something else.” That is the classic program manager to ship design manager tension. The classic PM to tech warrant friction is when we want to do something different. If I think it makes sense to do something different, and if the technical community thinks it doesn’t make sense, we spend time resolving it.

So why did I write that article? People who want to be program managers, they spend their time building those relationships so you can have good communication and understanding. When you get there, I know what my contracting officer, ship design manager is going to be worrying about. I understand my supervisor of shipbuilding, who is responsible for the quality of the shipbuilder’s product. I know what they are responsible for and what their concerns are.

January 15 2009, Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Pascagoula, MS, shipbuilders add the 160-ton bow section of William P. Lawrence (DDG 110) to the guided missile destroyer. Photo by Bill Gonyo.

Every time we make a Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) or Contractor Furnished Equipment (CFE) decision; if that decision is GFE usually it means the Navy has another program manager. So I don’t buy computers or communications systems for a DDG 51 directly, I send money to SPAWAR (Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command) and they deliver the program those products. They’ve got their own set of challenges. I am trying to fit them into the schedule and the budget that I need to get a DDG 51 delivered on time and on cost. They have got their own challenges and it is not easy what they are trying to do with  MOUS (Mobile User Objective System) or CANES (Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services). That is hard on their part because they are trying to deliver the very best technology possible for those IT systems in a short amount of time. A good program manager spends his or her time building those relationships so you always know what is going on with all those different players so you can get people together and get agreement.

When I went to the Naval Academy I majored in engineering, and I became an engineering duty officer, and then I became a program manager, and then I end up as everyone’s psychologist. “The therapist is in” is what you end up doing in order to get a ship built. The end of that article is that you can be frustrated with it, but after a while you can find that you love it. I don’t know if psychology is my next career after the Navy or not, but the point of the article is that you have to spend your time building relationships with all those different stakeholders because each of them is part of a puzzle to get something as complicated as a ship built and built properly.

In the article published on USNI News, An Acquisition System to Enable American Seapower, that you co-authored with Bryan McGrath, how did you come up with your recommendations for reform?

I wanted to state the problem right. Let’s think about acquisition from the perspective of a program office.

Requirements: This is the JCIDS (Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System). This is the hardest of all of them, and it is the least regular. It is the most unbound because this is the one that is threat based. Your enemies in the world come along at irregular intervals and give you undefined or hard to define problem sets. And they don’t do that when Congress is ready to appropriate money, or when you’ve decided you’ve engineered a really good solution. They show up with new problems for that. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs runs this. 

Tasking: At the end of tasking a product appears. All the taskings together add up to a product. This was written by USDAT&L (Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics), DOD 5000 on how do program offices spend their money? Whether that’s contracting, the FAR, or whether that’s the way one part of the government tasks another part of the government, all of that is apart of the DOD 5000 and its regulations, and the service regulations under that. The Navy has the Navy 5000. So this is your milestone, milestone B-C, or in the Navy this is two pass-six gate. This is your system for how you do tasking, whose permission do you need to do the tasking, how do you write the contract, the statement of work, and design reviews.

This was written by engineers. If you go to Exxon today and ask Exxon to share their system on how they decide when to explore for oil, once they’ve explored and found it how do they make a decision on how to get it out, once it’s out how do they get it into production, and then how to get it to people who want to buy, it will look a whole lot like the Navy’s two pass-six gate system, and not by accident. It’s the way any engineer would approach a problem. You start by defining the problem, what do you need. Can I go buy that yes/no, what do I need to invent to have it, if I invent it I better test it to make sure it works, how do I build it efficiently, how do I put it into production, and how do I dispose of it safely. It is the exact same life cycle whether it’s a tank, airplane, warship, or oil rig. It is the way an engineer approaches a problem. Notice this is not how the requirements or appropriations folks approach their problem, they have their own cycles.

A visualization of the acquisition system from the perspective of a Program Office.

Resources: What system controls the money? PPBE (Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution) controls that. It was written the way it is to service Congress. The events in here are coordinated to the schedule of the Congress of the United States i.e. when does the budget go, when do the committees mark, etc. All of these things sync up in time with how Congress appropriates money. If Congress appropriated money monthly or in five year increments, the PPBE would be different. The tasking and who runs the PPBE is the OSD Comptroller. The OSD Comptroller writes it because of the way Congress does their business.

The biggest point to my article is that you are not going to get all of these perfectly synced because the tasking is an engineering based process, the PPBE is a congressional appropriation based process, and the requirements process is threat based and our ability to react to that.

The problem is that there is no unified decision making in any of this. There is supposed to be, and certainly lots of senior DoD officials try. The Vice Chiefs are constantly inviting Secretary Kendall to their reviews, and vice versa. They try and piece themselves together. The point of our article is, it would really help to find someone, for a given set of programs or capabilities, to tie all these people together. One entity, somewhere. Some people say it’s the service chief, some say the service secretary, some say for a given program make an entity within OSD. My point is that for the program office, the influx of requirements, the influx of money, and the outflux of tasking need to be drawn together. It needs a single unified purpose behind it, or they will be at cross-purposes. How do you see these cross-purposes? It’s taking more time, costing more money, and all the things that can happen in a program that are undesirable. Of course human error is an inherent part of this.  

I would like people to be working in a system at the center of all this, where the inputs and the outputs are coordinated and synchronized to the best possible level. When you read the article, you may see requirements and tasking getting synchronized to appropriations. This is part of the constitution. You synchronize to your appropriations cycle, and you need to put one entity in charge of this. You need someone to be responsible for the process in its entirety whether a service chief or a service secretary, but it needs to be at an appropriate level of seniority and who can do all of this for a set of programs. That was the point of the article.

What do you think about the current state of acquisition expertise in the military and how can it be improved?

We have had a lot of talk about that and it goes back and forth, if you’re going to have military people doing acquisition. That’s an “if,” not a “must.” Unlike fighting in combat which is a uniquely military mission, buying stuff for the military could be done and is done often, and done very well, by government civil servants. You do not necessarily need uniformed military although all four services like to have military personnel at some points in the process.

The challenge there is finding the right balance between acquisition experience and operational experience. Different services and different subcommunities within services have explored different paths for that. I think the Navy continues to look at that, and continues to try and ask ourselves “are we getting it right?” For leadership positions in acquisition there is the current DAWIA (Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act) policies that we are implementing, I believe it is now eight years of acquisition experience and four years in a program office to be a major program manager.

I think a program manager needs to understand how a program office works. For someone in the military, you don’t want to make them a program manager if they have never served in a program office. I think program managers also need to understand their product, and that can take a lot of different forms. In shipbuilding, for example, we usually want someone to have done a tour as a supervisor of shipbuilding to understand how the product gets built. For some of the weapons systems that can be how the product gets built or how it gets certified at a place like NSWC Dahlgren, or how it gets supported in-service at a place like Port Hueneme, or maybe out at Raytheon in Tucson where we have people on-site managing Raytheon’s missile production. You have to have some experience in the field and see how it happens. A program manager also needs to have lived the aforementioned acquisition processes. If you add that up, that amounts to about nine years worth of work. That is what is recommended for a military program manager as the standard.

Employees work on missile production at Raytheon Missile Systems's facility in Tuscon, AZ.
Employees work on missile production at Raytheon Missile Systems’s facility in Tucson, AZ. Photo: Raytheon.

The next question is how much operational experience do you want on top of that. We have a couple models in the Navy. In my case I am an engineering duty officer. I have two operational tours, about six-seven years of sea duty. I have served in multiple program offices, different tours at supervisor of shipbuilding, so I have a breadth of experience there. There are folks in the unrestricted line community who may only have the minimum of the acquisition experience but have more operational experience, maybe five or six more years of sea duty than me. That may have included command at the commander level, an O-5 command, and that gives them a different perspective. I think the Navy continues to go back and forth and figure out what the right balance between those two models is, and to make sure we identify folks to grow their talent early enough and give people those experiences so by the time they are running a program they have built those relationships I mentioned. They understand the people and understand what that other stakeholder’s job is like because they dealt with it before and know their legitimate concerns and motivations across all those different competencies that go into building a ship.

It takes a while. We can roll that nine year minimum into an unrestricted line officer’s career and come up with a certain kind of officer, you can roll it into someone who has had more acquisition experience and less operational and come up with a different person. I think either one can work, and the Navy keeps going back and forth and tweaking what that sweet spot is. But if we are going to have military officers doing acquisition, we have to balance acquisition experience with operational experience. If the PM does not bring much operational experience, then it might be more efficient to have a civilian doing it. The benefit of the military is to bring operational experience into the acquisition world.

What books do you recommend?

The best book I read in the past year and a half is General Stanley McChrystal’s Team of Teams. I cannot recommend it too highly. It is a fabulous book on leadership and thinking through problems, especially in today’s highly networked world. That’s the newest book I recommend, the oldest book I recommend is Aristotle’s Ethics. In his very first paragraph, he makes the famous statement “All human activity aims at some good.” The different activities he lists include, and I am paraphrasing here, “the purpose of medicine is to bring health,” that “the purpose of economics is to bring wealth,” and that the purpose of “strategy is to bring victory.” He also adds “and the purpose of shipbuilding is to build a ship.”

Why did Aristotle say that? Aristotle lived in a unique society. He lived in a democracy that was a maritime power which depended upon that maritime power for both its security and trade prosperity. What is the United States? It is a democracy, it is a unique society, and it is a maritime power that depends upon its maritime power for economic prosperity and its security in the world. That is why I think, although written almost 2500 years ago, what Aristotle has to say is still relevant to us in the United States today. He was worried about shipbuilding as an informed citizen, and I think informed citizens should still be worried about shipbuilding today for the same reasons they worried about it in Aristotle’s Athens.

Thank you for your time Captain.

My pleasure.

Captain Vandroff is a 1989 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. With 10 years as a surface warfare officer and 16 years as an engineering duty officer, he is currently the major program manager for Arleigh Burke – class destroyers.

Dmitry Filipoff is CIMSEC’s Director of Online Content. Contact him at Nextwar@cimsec.org.

Featured Image: CAPT Vandroff at the Keel Authentication Ceremony of USS john Finn DDG 113 at Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss. 

CIMSEC Interviews Captain Mark Vandroff, Program Manager DDG 51, Part 1

By Dmitry Filipoff

CIMSEC sat down with Captain Mark Vandroff to solicit his expert insight into the complex world of acquisition and the future of the U.S. Navy’s destroyers. CAPT Vandroff is the Program Manager of the U.S. Navy’s DDG 51 program, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, which is the most numerous warship in the U.S. Navy. In the first part of this two part interview series, CAPT Vandroff discusses the capability offered by the SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar, the differences in warship design between the currently serving Flight IIA and upcoming Flight III variants, and the U.S. Navy’s ongoing Future Surface Combatant Study. 

This is a big year for your program. It is the fiscal year where you begin procuring the new Flight III destroyers. Can you talk about the differences from the Flight IIA to the Flight III?

The raison d’etre of Flight III is fielding AMDR. SPY 6 is the designation for that radar as it goes on a DDG 51. That radar program may yield other radar technologies because it is very exciting technology. The Flight III gets the AMDR SPY-6 radar onto a DDG 51 platform, replacing the SPY-1 radar currently in use. That radar is a significant, multi-generational leap forward in radar technology. In the same space and roughly twice as much power, it produces over 35 times as much power out. Between the power efficiency and sensitivity of the radar, it is a huge step forward. It also includes other very desirable radar features such as a much improved resistance to advanced counter-radar jamming techniques and the ability to integrate seamlessly through a radar system controller, not only the S-Band SPY-6, but also an additional separate frequency input. It can use the multi-frequency input for better targeting, and a lot of good things happen for targeting and your reaction time by synthesizing multi-band input. We hook up the SPY-6 AMDR, which is a S-BAND radar, with the existing and already planned for DDG 51 X-Band emitter AN/SPQ-9B to get the full radar suite for the Flight III.

Primary Flight III changes.
Primary Flight III changes.

If it were all that simple I would tell you to talk to my colleague, CAPT Seiko Okano, she’s the SPY-6 program manager. I would not have to do very much and she would just deliver me a different radar. But the radar requires us to do things to the ship to be able to accommodate it.

The radar takes about twice as much power. We had to take the ship from three, 3 megawatt (MW) generators to three, 4 MW generators because we never have three on at one time for purposes of redundancy. We always calculate what would happen if you had to run on two of the three. When we calculate what our battle loads are and can we handle them, we always calculate to whether we can handle them with two of the three generators if one of them is down for whatever reason. That’s how you design a redundant warship.

So when we up the power out of our generators to four megawatts we run into our first physics challenge. When we up the power we have to do one of two things, either increase the voltage or increase the current. At a certain level of current, it becomes difficult and at times unsafe to run a certain amount of current through the kind of wiring we would put on a ship. With what we currently have, if we had to up the power anymore we would be hitting those limits. So we have to up the voltage, which is easily done. We’ve got 4160 volt power on aircraft carriers, on DDG-1000, so we had to implement that for Flight III. There’s a separate 4160 bus for powering the radar, and then we stepped down with transformers for our 450 loads that exist. That allows us to power the radar, and at the same time power the rest of the ship the way it is powered in a Flight IIA. That was the first change and we’ve done a lot of work to make sure that electric plant design will be safe, stable, redundant, and survivable in battle. That’s been the work of the last two or three years, and a lot of work is put into splitting those loads out.We have a 4160 distribution system with the existing 450 distribution system that we could do that with. That was the first ship side technical challenge that I would say now we’re pretty much through. The new generators, the four MW generators, have gone through their critical design review and they’re just now starting production.

Flight III Electric Plant Concept.

The next thing we needed to look at was actually powering the radar. The radar runs off 4160 converted 1000 volt DC to AC. The equipment to convert that and condition it was similar to what DDG-1000 uses, they use that power conversion module on their SPY-3 radar. We competed, it was a full and open competition, we got many bids, and DRS (Diagnostic/Retrieval Systems, Inc)  won the work. They came to us with a box that was based on their DDG-1000 design, but had a couple of generations of power monitoring and power conditioning improvement on top of that incorporating lessons learned from the commercial world. That’s been through its preliminary and critical design review and its gone into production now. That gets us power to the radar, and power to the electric grid.

If you think about power what else does the radar need? The radar needs more cooling. A more powerful radar produces more heat. For reference, a refrigerating ton is the amount of cooling I would have if I rolled a ton of ice into this room and let it melt for 24 hours. A DDG 51 today has about 1000 tons of cooling. Once you install the SPY-6 you really need 1400-1500 tons of cooling. When we were starting the early preliminary design, NAVSEA already had an energy saving initiative. It was a plan to take the Navy standard 200 ton plants and equip them with a more fuel efficient compressor, and some other design improvements. All of that’s made by York Navy Systems in Pennsylvania that makes that standard 200 ton plant. NAVSEA works with them, and they are actually in the process now, and there’s a working prototype of the improved 200 ton plant that is putting out over 325 tons of cooling and it is just going through its equipment qualification to make sure  the new machine will pass all the Navy standards for shock survivability. We are getting ready to put the initial orders for those to deliver to the Flight III because when you put five of those you get an excess of 1500, and that will give us more than enough  cooling to accommodate the new cooling loads. So those have been the key components in changing the ship for the Flight III.

Prototype HES/C 300 rton A/C chiller.

In terms of weight, if you put everything that a SPY-6 uses and everything a SPY-1 uses on a scale they roughly balance. However, SPY-1 forms the signal in a signal generator and then transfers that up to the array, so that signal generator is lower in the ship. Because SPY-6 is an active array, the signal is generated on-array, so that means the arrays are heavier. Arrays go up high so that means the weight goes up high. If you are on a ship you are not crazy about high weight. You want to be like a running back, you want your weight low so it is hard to knock you over. The last thing we did is move some weight around in the ship. We thickened up the hull and  the scantlings, which are the ribs of the hull. That offsets the high weight by putting extra weight low, and moves your center of gravity back down. The center of gravity of a Flight III will be roughly where the Flight IIA’s center of gravity is now. We are still concerned about things like performance for flight ops and maneuvering, and what that means for the pitch and roll in different sea states. We have the advantage of  Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock’s great new MASK tank where they can do all sorts of different sea states all in one tank. We have the scale model of the Flight III being built out at Carderock and that will go through all its tank testing with an idea to make sure that as we are designing the ship we know where we are for maneuvering the ship.

Those are the big shipboard changes that facilitate the introduction of the radar. It is cool for me as the ship guy to talk about moving weight around to get good center of gravity,  or getting the new electrical plant, but all that has to mean something to the warfighter. What the warfighter gets out of the Flight III is that improved radar performance from the new SPY-6 radar tied into the existing AN/SPQ-9 radar and those synthesized together for better performance in the atmospheric regime and the ballistic missile defense regime. It offers tremendous improvement in capability in both of those regimes.

Because AMDR is such a tremendous increase in capability, how does this affect the DDG 51’s growth margins?

That is one of the reasons we looked at things like the extra cooling and the extra power. If you look at where the Flight IIA is, the Flight IIA has about one and a half MW of service life power growth, and about 200 tons of cooling growth. If you added up every load on a Flight IIA today you would get something just over 4 MW of load, and if you put two 3 megawatt generators on the load together to power those four megawatts. You pay an efficiency penalty when you parallel two generators together, so two 3 megawatt generators gives about 5.8 MW of usable power and about 200 KW of the generators fighting themselves at peak. That is about one and a half MW to one and two thirds MW of margin on a IIA today. The Flight III will have a heavier load. A full battle load will be up over 5.5 MW, but we will be well over 7.5 MW when we put two four MW machines online together. We will have another two MW of power. The total cooling reserve will be about 200 refrigeration tons to 300 refrigeration tons.

AMDR system overview.

At this point some people usually ask is 2 MW enough when you look at directed energy weapons and railguns. I can tell you the Navy is reevaluating its  historical standards for electrical growth in its future ship design. Will those historical standards be adequate for a future that includes railguns and directed energy? The Flight III will have as great or greater an ability to accommodate that as the Flight IIAs today. Whether or not we need to do something to make that more, and how that would affect ship design in the next ten years, is a question of ongoing discussion, both in the requirements side in OPNAV, and the ship design side in NAVSEA. What are we really going to need, and what does that mean for ship design? That’s the next step.

The Flight III tasking was to get AMDR on and give it the same cooling and power growth potential. Don’t take a step back from the Flight IIA today. I could have put AMDR on Flight III and eaten all the growth, and you would have had a ship with no growth margin. We looked at that extensively because it was the lowest cost option, and discarded that as not responsible. We are going to want to keep these ships around, so keep what we have today as far as margins, and that gave us a certain design and philosophy. I think you will see CNO staff and NAVSEA work together on other concepts of what will we do to grow that some more. But that is the next generation after this Flight III. That will be my relief’s concern to tackle.

What can you tell us about the process behind the Future Surface Combatant Study?

If you look at the way the DoD formulates future requirements, it is called the JCIDS process, the joint capabilities integration and development system, it starts with an analysis, an FCA, a future capabilities analysis. The organization that thinks they might have a future gap, must first analyze what capabilities in a given time frame does a given force structure need to be able to address. From the result of that you write an initial capabilities document and you address an analysis of alternatives. Where we are in that process now is that N96 is running that future capabilities analysis, that is going on now. That is really a requirements evolution, it is not really a technical or acquisition evolution so that is not mine to run.

N96 wanted to be very participative so they have got a team doing it. The team has regular meetings with a couple of oversight councils, one at the captain’s level and one at the flag level. N96 invited a slew of practitioners across the spectrum of operators, acquisition, technical, and budget to get regular briefings on what the teams were doing and get feedback. They thought I was one of the practitioners and I have sat in those meetings. I have seen the work they are doing, and they are doing good work. They are looking out into the future and asking what kind of capabilities will the surface Navy need to contribute to the force in the 2030s, 2040s, and what are we doing today and what modifications do we think we need to make in order to meet those future needs. Those are the questions they are trying to answer.

The question that comes after is more of an acquisition question of which I would expect, both the PEOs (Program Executive Officers) and NAVSEA to be more involved in, and that is the analysis of alternatives. Now that you have told us these are the things you need us to do, what are some of the different ways of doing it, and let’s determine which of those ways might do it best, which ways can do it most affordably. But the future capabilities analysis is where they are at now.

What best practices and lessons learned from the DDG 51 program should inform the Future Surface Combatant Study?

I would put those into two different categories. The DDG 51 program has been successful from a technical standpoint and from an acquisition standpoint. From a technical standpoint, the DDG 51, from its inception, was designed to be flexible, redundant, and survivable. We have proven this, look at the Cole. The ships have taken battle damage and lived to fight another day. The ships have been flexible enough that they were designed in the 1980s and with modification, and sometimes significant modification, could be made combat relevant in the 2020s. The systems engineering of both the design of the ship, and especially the systems engineering that went into the design of the combat system, is good solid systems engineering discipline. Know your requirements, break them down, formulate them, and integrate the pieces back together to provide an end-to-end capability.

To give you an idea, I want to be able to shoot down an air target at a certain distance that is moving a certain speed with a certain level of maneuver. The systems engineer asks how do I design that kill chain? How do I break that down? What capability do I want in the missile, radar, and illuminator?  What parts of that kill chain are going to produce which effects in order to get the end effect that you want? From its earliest days back when Wayne E. Meyer had the Aegis program, that has always been a disciplined engineering process. Whether you are talking about the ship’s survivability, mobility, or the ship’s combat capability, that has been a disciplined technical process. That is good for anyone building ships, or anyone building anything, that mind and that process.

On the acquisition side, there are several things I would want a future shipbuilding program to look back at the DDG 51 program and extract. The first one is a real careful, facts-based decision on what parts of the ship were we going to have the shipbuilder do, and what parts would we contract separately where the government contracts GFE (government furnished equipment) and delivers separately to the ship. There have been times when it has been thought advantageous to go one way or another with that pendulum.

Because there is a certain attractiveness, we could have the Navy buy everything and just have the shipbuilder assemble everything. That’s got problems. You can give the shipbuilder the performance spec for the ship and let the shipbuilder buy everything. That’s got problems. You have different problems both ways. The Aegis program, and especially DDG 51, has always been a point in the middle, and very carefully thought out. What do we want the shipbuilder to buy because we want them to be responsible for it, because it is within their wheelhouse and capability. This could be an engine, generator, or a fire pump. Alternatively, this is not in their wheelhouse, it is not within their capability, and frankly I want control over it like a sonar, radar, or a missile launcher.

Those were thought out decisions in the DDG 51 and I have changed some of them during my time as Program Manager in both directions. Times change, industry changes, but we don’t make those changes lightly, and we make them only after a very long analysis of thinking about the capability we are trying to get, and what is the best way to materialize it. We carefully think through what makes sense to contract directly for, what makes sense to contract out, that is called a make-buy, or the GFE/CFE divide. That is one thing I would have a future program look at DDG 51, and the way they made their decisions. Not that a future program would make all the same decisions, ten years from now industry might change and the requirements might change. They might make a different decision, but the process we used to make that decision was fundamentally sound.

The other thing that has always been key in our program is maximizing competition between the shipbuilders, using profit-related offer, at the sub-tier vendors, and using competition wherever it was possible and practical to get competition. Competition gives you good results in acquisition. From between having a good make-buy plan, and using competition as much as you practically can, marry those together and that provides a good foundation for any future acquisition program.

In Part Two, CAPT Vandroff goes into depth on his publications Confessions of a Major Program Manager published in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, and an Acquisition System to Enable American Seapower, published on USNI News and coauthored with Bryan McGrath. He finishes with his thoughts on building acquisition expertise in the military and his reading recommendations. Read Part Two here.

Captain Vandroff is a 1989 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. With 10 years as a surface warfare officer and 16 years as an engineering duty officer, he is currently the major program manager for Arleigh Burke – class destroyers.

Dmitry Filipoff is CIMSEC’s Director of Online Content. Contact him at Nextwar@cimsec.org.

Featured Image: CRYSTAL CITY, Va. (Jan. 12, 2012) Capt. Mark Vandroff, program manager for the DDG 51-Class Shipbuilding at PEO SHIPS, discusses new technology with guests and media during the 24th Annual Surface Navy Association Symposium. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom/Released).